Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thanks Verne

Last week I went shopping for a pair of running shoes. I wasn't looking for anything too outrageous but just simple pair to replace the one I had. I wound up visiting two stores and had two very different experiences.

The first stop I made was to a well-known national sporting goods store. While I was browsing the shoe wall I was greeted with a "can I help you" but didn't get much help once I asked for it. Looking over the shoe wall, I debated the prices in my head and eventually found a shoe displayed that was close enough to my price range and was a style I could live with. Without the help of an associate, I helped myself to the shoes (stored underneath the display) to find the right size. I tried on a couple of pairs, found one that fit but it was the wrong style of shoe for that display. After a few helpless minutes, I tracked down an employee to get the right size from the back room. The employee walked to the back room and came back empty handed.

He quickly told me "we don't have that shoe in that size. If you want I can order it online." I replied with a "no thanks" and walked out of the store empty handed and the employee went about his business. I thought about how flawed their customer service was Their one size fits all solution was to order the shoes online? Couldn't I just do that? I came to the store because I didn't want to wait. I wanted them for my run the next day?

The next day I continued the search for my shoes. I visited a local shoe store that specializes in running shoes and the experience I had was good enough to share. I was helped by an employee named Verne who was also a runner and was clearly an expert in the product that he sold. He measured both feet (I learned they're different sizes) and recommended a few pairs. I tried each one on and was told to take a lap outside after each fitting. Verne even laced up the shoes, checked the fit at different points around the shoe and even insisted on tying them for me. Also during the trip I learned what type of shoes are best for my feet and running style and how long of a life the shoes should have and how to techniques for healing aching joints.

After my visit I walked out of the store with one of the most expensive pairs of shoes I have ever owned - and I'm happy I did. The experience I had buying the product made the price of the product worth it. Verne sold more than shoes. He sold an intangible.

This critical component is not of marketing. Yet, even brands looking to selling premium items simply have a transaction mentality with customers. Whether these brands believe the "premium" is obvious to the customer or not, marketers don't focus on the intangibles enough because they're often what differentiates premium from ordinary in the eyes and expertise of the customer.

The intangibles could be the expertise and knowledge of an employee, they way they enthusiastically care about helping and customer, whether a client or customer can have a product delivered to them as fast as they need it or even how a brand reacts when they make a mistake. All of these are intangibles that affect purchase decisions for customers everyday.

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