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How brick and mortar franchises, competing in a digital world, can go beyond customer service to offer a customer experience that builds brand loyalty and drives foot traffic. Published in Franchising World Magazine, November 2017

When Sally (name changed) and her mother walked for the first time into their local Monkee’s – a women’s upscale fashion boutique franchise – they looked tired and deflated. It was clear no one was excited about the prospect of shopping for Sally’s graduation outfit. The college student didn’t have the stereotypical “boutique bod” and her mother later confided how difficult and demoralizing clothes shopping could be for her daughter.

But as is her custom, the store owner greeted the mother-daughter duo warmly, engaged them and invited them to pick out a few items “just to try.” Once she saw what Sally liked, she offered more suggestions based on Sally’s shape and her expert knowledge of her inventory. The result? Sour faced turned into smiles, laughter, and not one, but three outfits were selected to get Sally through graduation and started in her career, plus, a loyal new customer was gained. Sally’s mom even followed up with a personal note saying how much the shopping experience had benefited her daughter physically and emotionally with a boost to her self-confidence. Great customer service had turned into a great customer experience by connected emotionally.

A recent Harvard Business Review study, “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” found customer experience is dictated in large part by emotion. The more emotionally engaged customers are, the more likely they are to remain loyal, repurchase, and recommend a product or service to others. Emotionally connected customers are even less price sensitive.

Today, creating a great customer experience – also knowns as CX – is ranked as the single most exciting opportunity for all businesses, according to the 2017 Digital Marketing Trends Report by Consultancy and Adobe.

That’s good news for brick and mortar franchise stores, as the ability to connect with clients face-to-face allows them to use multichannel customer experiences to their advantage. Don’t buy into the hype that online sales are killing in-store sales. In fact:

  • 50% of millennial shop in stores, according to a Smart HQ Survey
  • 98% of Gen Z’s prefer in-store purchases, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Less than 10% of all retail sales happen online.

Even Amazon and Bonobos are experimenting with brick and mortar stores.

Here are some innovative strategies brick and mortar franchises are using to connect with customers, maximize foot traffic and create and in experience.

CELEBRATE UNUSUAL HOLIDAYS

The Wayback Burgers franchise celebrates the first day of summer by giving away free, small, black and white shakes – 27,000 in 2017 alone. In the process, the company experienced a 70% increase in the number of in-store transactions from the same day a week before and a 35% increase in total sales from the weeks prior – not to mention picking up 700 new facebook followers and receiving media coverage worth millions. It also celebrates National Cheeseburger Day with an eating contest that keeps people talking about and buying its burgers. We all know the emotions a good burger can evoke.

MASTER SOCIAL MEDIA

If you aren’t on social media sites your customers frequent, get there now. Monkee’s franchisees have seen firsthand the effects of posting “outfits of the day” on Facebook and Instagram Stories, or even posting from behind-the-scenes at the apparel market, to engage customers in the buying process. The phones start ringing and clients head to the store to grab the latest fashions – people still like to go shopping. Stores also use local “influencers” to blog and create digital buzz around new styles. Using social media to enhance or initiate the customer experience allows brick and mortar stores to have multiple touchpoints.

CREATE IN-STORE EXPERIENCE

Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt franchisees are always on the lookout for opportunities to use their square footage to connect with customers in usual ways.  When the pink moon and solar eclipse captures the nation’s attention, the franchise invited students to in-store viewing parties. It celebrated with concoctions of pink frozen yogurt (for the pink moon) and yellow cake batter and chocolate syrup (for the eclipse). It even created homemade pinhole cameras to view the eclipse. SweetFrog also created a nationwide, educational field trip program to bring students into the store for hands-on activities on weight, measurement and currency.

COMMUNITY-DRIVEN CHARITY

Writing a check is always appreciated but getting involved is always remembered. Scooter’s Coffee hosts a yearly Day of Giving during which each franchisee chooses a day and a charity, and donates 100% of proceeds for that day. In Blue Springs, Mo., the local franchise owner helps fund a mission trip to Jamaica for two high school football teams. Cars line the highway in both directions to get into her store.

WOW! MOMENTS

We encourage every franchisee to look for opportunities to create WoW! moments and every franchisor to recognize them, because customers will, and they will tell all their friends and post about them on social media. Recently, a Scooter’s in Omaha, Neb., heard from a soldier serving in Afghanistan who was concerned his wife had rushed out of the house that morning without breakfast or coffee. Scooter’s made a surprise, one-of-a-kind, delivery (it usually doesn’t make deliveries) at her office with coffee, a muffin, chocolates, and bag of Scooter’s coffee. That’s WOW!

Beef Jerky Outlet found a way to combine these strategies when stores, franchise-wide, celebrated Random Act of Kindness Day, Feb. 17, by making surprise deliveries of free baskets of artisan beef jerky to local law enforcement officials and broadcast it on Facebook Live. The spontaneous reactions of police officers were priceless and the company cemented its already strong relationship with law enforcement and the military through this unique and emotional experience.

We are not suggesting “reinventing the wheel.” After all, personalized customer service is a long-standing business practice, but it’s not just business. At Monkee’s, we make sure flowers waiting at a client’s home when they lose a loved one because we consider them family and we want them to know we care for them, not just what they can do for our bottom line. The greater the technological advancements, the more important those human connections will be. Brick and mortar franchise stores have the challenge and the opportunity to embrace the best of both worlds to keep clients crossing their thresholds and ensure the great customer experience stays alive.

 

Published in Franchising World Magazine, November 2017