Not so long ago, Long & McQuade, the largest chain of musical instrument retailers in Canada (I’ve mentioned the company in a previous article) made a significant change in its stores by moving accessories such as strings, picks and string winders out from behind the counter, putting them in an open display where consumers could hand-pick their needs just as one does at Walmart or the local hardware store. With this move, a camera (fake or real – I do not know) was installed in the area to dissuade theft and let the games begin.
Guess what? Not only did accessory sales increase, the company discovered that consumers bought a much broader range of products, including ones that never sold before. Why? It may be that when the product was behind glass, the selection was filtered by the sales associate, which limited the selection, and also limited or intimidated the consumer from trying out new options.
Further, because the sales associate was no longer stuck behind the counter selling $10 strings, he could use his time more productively by serving customers that had questions about buying a $1,000 guitar! Another win-win. Easy for the store to profitably manage accessory inventory, easy for the consumer to try new products.
More food for thought – a few years ago, touring production company Solotech managed to earn the Justin Timberlake account by making many things easier for the client. Unlike specialty houses that do one thing, Solotech offered a full-service deal that included staging, audio, lighting and video. One company to deal with, one finger to point.
Last year, I went to Staples to get supplies to help get my new office organized, buying a printer, laptop, file folders, and digital camera. About a month after, my laptop’s screen went blank. I went back to the store and asked for help. The associate asked if I’d purchased the service contract, and I replied that I had not. He said that I had to deal with the manufacturer directly to get service.
I then asked for the manager, telling her that I just spent a couple of thousand dollars at the store and am now being told that they do not service what they sell unless I pay for it. I was not happy. She responded by saying she’d been there for years and had never received a single complaint about their service. Amazing! The company lost the Easy Button and instead made things difficult. I’ve since avoided this chain. Why buy in person and pay a premium if you can’t get service?
All this to say, it takes more than a red plastic button to make things easy for the client – it requires planning, commitment and discipline to follow it through.