Articles

Solutions Not Products

One of the hardest things for many specialty merchants to wrap their head around is the fact that customers don’t really seek out products today. They seek solutions.

A product is really only a means to an end for many customers.

This is not meant to be insulting either to the product itself or the person who slavishly toiled to bring it to market. But great retailers get over product and price chauvinism and go straight to the productive art of presenting their product to the customer in the context of a “solutions set”.

Visual merchandising is the first part of the persuasion. Creating a “scenario display” which tells a story and sales aids which explain problem and solution and rational and emotional features and benefits, allows the customer to self diagnose and identify their needs and wants.

Training staff in the skills of selling forensics – skills that utilise subtle interrogation to unearth the issues or problems to be solved – is another critical part.

By far the most important element however is patience.

Customers given the right cues, volunteer the path to up-sell and cross-sell at optimum price-levels by gradually verbalising their issues and problems. This takes more patience than putting a product and a price on a shelf. It requires layers of attraction, suggestion, scenario setting, interrogation, information, packaging and resolution. The equivalent of charm and seduction instead of wham, bam thank you ma’am.

It requires not just fixtures, fittings and merchandise but the warmth and empathy of people. It requires a sense of care and intimacy to find a way of making the product seem like part of a customised solution to the customer’s unique situation. The customer’s perception is their reality.

At the end of the day, the right solution is valued far more by the customer than a cheaply priced commodity bulk stacked to assault them. They may consume and dispose of the commodity because it is cheap, but they won’t value you as a retailer.

They value a retailer who proves their relevance to them everyday through a clearly recognisable demonstration of understanding of their needs, wants, issues and problems in a cleverly constructed environment that is capable of solving them efficiently, effectively and without any hassle or stress.

It takes a little more thought than simply flogging stuff. But it is so much more productive for everyone.