Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Downfall of Retail Shopping

Like many Americans this past weekend, I went shopping to take advantage of Labor Day deals. Not online, but in physical stores and shopping malls.

It's also been a while since I've had a chance to write on my blog. (Work and personal life priorities!) So I thought I'd share some disappointing experiences from my shopping this weekend at brick-and-mortar stores. It's no wonder so many of them are dying off like dinosaurs. They do not really offer benefits to counter online shopping.


Bed Bath and Beyond may be Beyond Saving

Last week Bed Bath and Beyond announced major store closures and layoffs, due to various well chronicled missteps. It's actually no surprise, given the horrible in-store experience I had this weekend. First of all their stores are cavernous and you can never find anyone for help! They really need those cool price scanners and kiosks that Target has in its stores if workers are going to be MIA.

Then at checkout, I had the worst experience highlighting the operational inefficiency and poor store work culture. There were 4 registers, but no cashiers. This was at 3pm, not near closing time, and I was the only customer in line. I saw 3 workers about 5 feet behind the registers talking and doing something amongst themselves (not helping customers). After waiting and looking around for about a minute, I ask one of them if there's a cashier and he calls for one on his headset. (Silly me I thought he might actually ring me up personally.) 5 minutes pass and now there are 4 customers behind me in line and still no cashier. Meanwhile the 3 workers in front of me are still "working." I would have left if I didn't really need what I was buying that day. Eventually someone worked their way from the center of the store towards the register to check us out. This is why consumers are shopping online and not going to BBB, people!

Foot Locker's Dishonest Email Acquisition Tactics

As a marketer, I know how valuable first-party data is for a retailer and its CRM program. Nike has built an incredible DTC business that is grounded in its ability to capture customer emails at point of sale or online. For a successful email acquisition campaign, there has to be a good, honest value exchange between the business and customer. For Nike, at checkout, the cashier often asks if you want to sign up today and can get a discount offer. For Skechers, you get 20% off just for signing up for email updates. You get even more benefits if you join Skechers Plus, their loyalty program.

Now let's talk about my experience at Foot Locker. When I went to pay in-store, the cashier asked me for my email. I ask why because I'm not interested in signing up for anything and I just wanted to pay for my purchase. She said she needed my email in order to send me an e-receipt. I asked if I could just get a print receipt and she did no. She said they were trying to go green and she needed my email address to move forward. Fine, I gave her my email address. She proceeds to ring me up and then prints out a paper receipt and puts it in my shopping bag! I said, "Wait. You said you couldn't give me a paper receipt and that I had to give you my email address to get a copy of my receipt." She was speechless and I was disgusted by the lie I was told. This is either poor employee training or employees have quotas or incentives to capture as many customer emails as possible. Either way, it's an unethical practice, and maybe even illegal in some states. If you're going to acquire emails, be honest about it and give customers a proper incentive to do so – back to my point above about value exchange.

Side note: I went to Champs Sports later that day and was shocked to experience the same dishonest request from a Champs cashier. He required my email address to ring me up, even though he printed me a paper receipt. Is this an industry issue now? Or did one company copy the other?

Target Misses the Mark with College Students

While shopping at Target, I overheard some college student and his family ask a store employee for help to take advantage of a 20% off entire purchase offer for college students. There was a huge sign with a QR code at the front of the store about this promotion. Looked like a good in-store marketing campaign to me…so far.

The student scanned the QR code, which took him to a Target Circle registration page. He completed the registration process while he and his family were filling up his cart to take advantage of this offer. But he said he didn't see any 20% off coupon in his account and that's when he asked for help.

At first, the cashier did not know about the offer so she sent them to another worker. That worker had to call a manager. Then they finally told them it would take a few days for him to answer some questions and for a Target person to verify the responses. So they could not redeem the offer TODAY. I can see why they were disappointed. Here they had a packed shopping cart with probably $500 worth of college student merchandise – comforter, bed sheets, pillows, towels, storage containers, hangers, bathroom supplies and toiletries, school supplies, etc. – that would have saved them $100.

The takeaway is to be more clear in the marketing communications that it will take a few days to activate the offer. In this day and age, people expect instant gratification, especially if you're going to show a QR code that implies immediate call to action from your mobile device now. 

I hope your Labor Day shopping experience was better than me. I'm going back to online shopping!


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