In order for her retail enterprise, called Ciliac Supplies, to avoid the fate of Borders Books or Blockbuster Video, her store started to charge people who “just look” at products a fee of five dollars. The fee would be refunded – if the customer bought something at the store that day.
She reasoned that the time and expertise it takes to advise consumers ought to be worth something. The $5 collection was the only way she could think of to gather some revenue in this case since the clandestine “customer” wasn’t actually a customer at all. They fully intended to buy the product – just not from her. They would use her knowledge to snap it up for the cheapest price on the Internet.
Worse yet, if this practice of helping these information freeloaders was allowed to continue, her store could become known as the best place in the region to get no-cost counsel. That was unacceptable. She argued on behalf of brick and mortar retailers around the world: “I had to wake people up. Everything in life is not free”.
Rather than imposing a fee to help people make buying decisions, I think it might be more profitable in the long run to help them AND compete with other sources like internet, big box stores and warehouse clubs. This would take a lot of effort and a bit of crisp differentiation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Resistance to Change Can Be Fun! It sounds like Ciliac is at least a bit resistant to the change in consumer shopping habits. So in the spirit of a Change Agent wanting to help a retailer adapt to their new external reality, today I’ll suggest nine tongue-in-cheek ways that Celiac could raise more revenue.
I’ve also added one serious recommendation that might help them survive if they eventually have to deal with the same market forces that others already face…
Top Ten Ways for Celiac Supplies to Raise Revenue While Combating The Evils of the Internet
2. Hey! That Was Our Idea! Set up a gate on the sidewalk and charge $1 to walk past the store – after all, customers might be viewing your adverts to get ideas of things to buy elsewhere!
3. Live and Breathe Your Strategy: Charge $1/liter to breathe the air in and around the store. After all, the oxygen in “your” air ends up in “their” brains and indirectly fuels all of this deadbeat research. Might want to capitalize on that…
4. Learn to Love the Internet: Leverage the viral publicity you’ve generated! Launch a website to sell concrete blocks online at “BrickN-Mortar4Ever.com”. Charge $10 each to ship your bricks anywhere around the world.
5. Demonstrate Visual Commitment to the Strategy: Build an actual brick and mortar wall between the customers and the products to match the customer service wall you’ve just erected with your new browsing policy. Add a door and you could charge people $2.50 to walk in and $2.50 to walk back out!
6. Go All In! Save electricity and maintenance costs by replacing your current POS system with an abacus and a change drawer.
7. Be Jammin’ Mon! Install a limited-range cell phone jammer and charge people $4.75 for a code that unlocks it for 30 minutes while they’re in the store. You’d only need a couple victims per month to start showing some real profit!
8. Be Green to Make Some Green: Declare a rule that all customers need a $5 eco-friendly shopping bag to enter the store. They could also rent the bag for $10 and get a $5 refund when they return it after not buying anything.
9. Hire a Band! Serve free drinks, but have a $5 cover charge. Just like on the Titanic, folks could listen to them play “Nearer My God to Thee” as your store sinks to the bottom of the retail sea after hitting that undetected iceberg they call the Internet!
10. …and finally, Raise Your Sails to Raise Your Sales: My only serious suggestion of the day is to lean into that tailwind you just stirred up. Go on Radio and TV to explain your marketing plight. Tell us that you were scared and frustrated, so you felt like you just had to do something. Then while you have our attention, recant your ill-conceived strategy and introduce a new one where you:
– Acknowledge that you have real competition and it’s everywhere.
– Provide real live people who know their products as well as anyone.
– Encourage comparison-shopping by offering reasonable price matching. (You’ve already admitted your prices are close to those of your competition.)
– Tout your local expertise and local accessibility to local shoppers.
– Leverage your website and beat them at their own game! Aggressively market those unique products shoppers can get from you and no one else.
– Advertise your red-blooded employee’s ears and eyes as being better organs of customer service than anyone could hope to come across if they were to buy the same product from the sorry raft load of fly-by-night, rented warehouse, basement-operated, drop-shipping, big-box desperate, internet commerce hacks that they would potentially subject themselves to if they blindly bought something off the web based solely on price. In other words – get to know and exploit your competition’s weaknesses even as you respond to their strengths!
– Serve your true customers while attracting new ones by actually meeting their needs for good products at a reasonable price with an emphasis on (free) value-added human interaction.
Summary: I know adapting to externally-driven changes like this is rarely easy, but these techniques do seem to be working for the stores who are leaning into this new form of competition.
The challenge might be getting past the urge to vilify people who naturally do what’s in their own best interest and dig a little deeper so you can make a profit by fulfilling a new unmet need.
PS: I’d love your comments on this story!
Use the “leave a reply” feature below to tell me what you think!