So how do you do that? The experts say retailers need to become customer-centric—make gathering customer information essential to their enterprises. For example, you probably already know the gender and age group of your most frequent customers, but do you know for a fact that your most frequent customers are also your best buying customers? Do you know how far your customers travel to get to your store? Judging from past purchases do you know which customers are likely to remain loyal and which will go elsewhere for a good price? Do you know the best way to reach your best customers—newspaper ads, direct mail, e-mail? Forming one-to-one relationships with customers, the experts say, is the best way to gain insights into their needs and preferences.
But it seems many customers already have what they need and look to you to give them what they want. And as it turns out, it's not about stuff. People have enough stuff. It's about solutions. The subject of our cover story this month, Ron Zapfe, ASID, president of Creative House Interiors, takes it a step further. He says it's about ideas. Customers want new, exciting, creative ideas. Every year there are more places your customers can go to buy window treatments, wall coverings, bedding and accessories. Most of these places, Zapfe will tell you, sell the same or nearly identical looks. Canned treatments, he calls them. What the window coverings and interior decorating industry needs is to foster creativity and ideas to present customers with solutions they can't get anywhere else.
Zapfe also has an interesting way of qualifying potential customers using his site on the World Wide Web. Visitors to www.your-idea-store.com can't get beyond the home page without completing a brief questionnaire. Once beyond that, however, they have full access to information about the store, the employees, before-and-after photographs of past jobs and more. In effect, Zapfe's Web page asks customers, "Do you think we're someone you would want to do business with?"
Everyone wants to do more business, and fortunately advice is plentiful. The next step is to become part of the solution.