The Sales Process Is As Important As the Product

Whatever the product or service you are selling, the customer’s attention can be attracted and maintained, if your high-quality products or services also include customer experience with a wow-effect.

Retail sales struggle in America – nine US retail chains have filed for bankruptcy over the first four months of the year, having already reached the number of all chains that filed for bankruptcy the year before. Corali Lopez-Castro, a trustee in bankruptcy, has called this year the year of retail bankruptcy, for more than 3,500 shops are expected to close doors over the coming months, reports Business Insider. 

In the USA, the previous greater wave of retail bankruptcy took place in 2008, when 20 retail chains were closed. If filing for bankruptcy continues in the same pace as in the first four months, that number will be reached by autumn already. The reason is thought to be dramatic change in customer habits with which all retailers have not kept up – large traditional chains with big volume will suffer the most.

Although, the number of shop-goers has declined for years due to the increasing opportunities for shopping online – the number of online purchases has doubled since 2010 – the percentage of online purchases is only 8% of all sales, so retailers cannot only point at online supermarkets such as Amazon for their losses. Rather, consumer behaviour has changed namely in terms of preference – people rather spend on emotion than on items, more on good restaurant dinners, travelling and gadgets and less on clothing, footwear and accessories.

That more investments are made in experience is supported by the fact that if payments made at bars and restaurants have increased by 66% compared to the final years of the economic crisis, expenditure on groceries have only increased by 40%. However, it may not be the beginning of the end for retailers, but something that can be used in their advantage – customer experience is important in any business, be it a bank or a burger joint.

Survey company Gartner estimates that 89% of marketers deem their competitive advantage is namely the customer experience their company provides. If retailers wish to win back their mojo and customers, they need to understand that compared to the product itself, customers often value higher the emotion they receive while shopping.

A good example from the last financial year is the furniture manufacturer IKEA, who increased their sales by almost 5% at stores that feature children’s playgrounds and offer meatballs. Such success stories are possible due to service design. Companies need to understand that design is not limited to the logo and location, but is much more involved with product range and website – it is a conscious decision and desire to provide customers with the best experience at every contact point with the company.

This means that service experience is as significant as the product sold. If you think of shops that you love, such as Apple, Zara or the local bookstore, they undoubtedly sell high-quality goods, but that is not the reason why you love visiting them. Going there and making purchases there creates an emotion that you savour and that also meets the brand image – Apple offers high-tech efficiency, Zara stands out with funky music and eye-catching trendiness, and a bookstore features cosy reading corners. All the above does not mean that trading should be neglected. You should keep in mind, however, that you are not only selling products, but also the experience.

Good to know

A few check points that are helpful in improving the sales process of a company’s products/services:

  • What else could the customer shopping with you need/want?
  • What is the mood of customers when arriving in your shop? 
  • What is your preferred mood of customers when leaving your shop, what emotion would you like them to take along? A general answer is certainly the best experience, but what does that mean in your specific field? Does it mean that the person was entertained or were they able to operate more effectively, so that they feel satisfied by reaching their goals?
  • What customer problem are you solving? If you keep a wine bar, do you sell glasses of wine or the opportunity to find a date to fall in love with?

What is service design?

Service design is one of the youngest members in the design family, which has been acknowledged as a separate disciple since 1990s. It combines knowledge from leadership, marketing, research and design, analysing the functionality of services and the supply process from the standpoint of customers. The aim is that contact between customer/client and service provider in a service provision situation would be valuable, useful, user-friendly and desirable for the client and effective and distinguishable from competitors for the service provider. In other words, service design means the process of creating new services or improving existing services, which employs the methods of product design with certain modifications, as well as creative thinking.