“Most consumers don’t want to be equal,” according to Scott Galloway in The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. “They want to be special.” Galloway goes on to say that a sizable fraction of the consuming population today will pay a premium for that attention.

He points out that this segment of consumers is looking for “expertise and a social signal of something aspirational about their lives,” giving rise to stores such as Pottery Barn, Whole Foods and Restoration Hardware.

There are two ways that your store can fulfill this desire by consumers to feel that they are in some ways superior to the average shopper. The first is by offering knowledgable and personal service, which is sadly missing in most big box and department stores. One of the greatest challenges facing independent retailers today is finding and keeping great employees (subjects I discuss in detail in the new edition of Specialty Shop Retailing). But without an exceptional sales staff, we cannot provide the type of shopping experience that is out of the ordinary.

The second is by offering a carefully curated merchandise selection that is targeted to your customers. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, focus on what you can stock that is not available elsewhere. Going to trade shows out of your region and reading trade magazines faithfully are good ways to source unusual products — but you should also consider working with local “makers” to create goods exclusive to your shop.

In addition to providing goods and services that make your customers feel special, you might want to offer a preferred customer program that rewards regular shoppers. The rewards are always appreciated, of course, but one of the main perks of these programs is that they help you recognize which shoppers are “members.” Letting these customers know that they are very special is a great way to increase their loyalty to your business.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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