Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lavish Hugs in Your Shop

The National Retail Federation’s Annual Convention concluded yesterday in NYC. The confab was brimming with great ideas for small to midsize retailers. As one example, at “Independents’ Day,” Linda Hundt, owner/operator of Sweetie-licious Bakery CafĂ© in DeWitt, Michigan, suggested you hug your good customers.
     Maybe that strikes you as a crazy idea, but crazy ideas can inspire really good ideas. It’s easier to tame down a wild idea into something sensible than it is to jazz up into profitable creativity the same old ways of thinking.
     With this in mind, be inspired by the results of a consumer behavior study done in the mid-1970’s at a university library. As the clerk returned the library card to some of the students, the clerk placed her hand directly over the student’s palm. Other student patrons of the library didn’t receive the brief touch. When the students were surveyed outside the library, those who’d received the touch rated the library significantly more favorably than did the non-touched students.
     Decades later, researchers at Tel Aviv University assessed the results of a retail employee touching customers in settings that included a supermarket, a restaurant, and a bookstore. There, a brief touch on the arm of a customer led to the customer feeling more positive about the retailer. And positive feelings toward a retailer increase the potential for financial profitability.
     Touch soothes and energizes at the same time. However, I’m obliged to point out that touch also can freak out a customer. What worked in the mid-1970’s might not work now. What is welcomed by Sweetie-licious customers in DeWitt, university students in Connecticut, or Israeli bookstore patrons might be offensive to the people frequenting your store. Keep the touching pleasant, but keep up actual and virtual hugging.
  • Shake hands, bump fists, place a hand on the arm—whatever is culturally and socially appropriate
  • Reach out toward customers with palms facing upward, or whatever else in the customer’s culture projects a welcoming attitude
  • Maintain the style of culturally appropriate eye contact to stay psychologically in touch
     Ms. Hundt reported hugging her employees as well in order to keep that loving feeling. Here, your version of the hug in your store might be personal delivery of paychecks or direct deposit advice slips. Not something you’ll do every pay period, but on occasion to individually recognize each employee as a crucial contributor to the profitability of your business.

Click below for more:
Touch Customers
Personally Deliver Paychecks

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