Ian Baldwin: 19 Questions To Make Sure Your Store Is In Sync With The Rest Of The World

Ian Baldwin: 19 Questions To Make Sure Your Store Is In Sync With The Rest Of The World

Ian BaldwinEditors Note: The following is from industry consultant Ian Baldwin’s Bits & Bobs blog

It’s good to know that some things are just like they used to be. In an era of rapid, irreversible change that the digital world has brought us, there are some things in life upon which one can depend.


Don’t you sometimes wonder if there are some aspects of shopping which, despite our fears that the online world would have completely turned things upside down, have remained as they were, solid, dependable and seemingly unfazed by 2015?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the auto mall!

Yes, for those who worried about car salespeople becoming an endangered species, fear not. They are still very common in auto malls (and with what looks like a good crop of youngsters coming through, too.).

Yes, they still operate under that same assumption that everyone wants to deal. Still spouting that rapid fire of features jargon from brake horsepower to bluetooth. Still the total lack of interest in the customer’s situation, needs or even current vehicles. Still that same derisory offer on your pride-and-joy trade-in. Still that disrespect for the competition. Still that testosterone-infused showroom with high-fives, private jokes and the all-knowing, all-powerful finance guy. (Gosh, we even spotted one in a blue shirt with a white collar — memories of Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street.”)

After two long days, we changed our mind and invested in our current fleet instead, realizing why we keep our cars a long time. Replacing a car is such an unenjoyable experience. We were prepared to spend as much in one afternoon as many of those people make in months — which in itself is an interesting observation — yet we felt like pawns in a game. Their game.

So the auto industry failed to relate to us and make the sale, but it did get me thinking about how retail home and garden teams are keeping up with the times. I would be interested to hear from readers as to how you and your companies have modernized the sales process to reflect today’s consumer lifestyles.

First Impressions Are Now Digital And Increasingly Mobile

Here are some questions I have for you:

1. Is your website mobile-friendly, or does it feature impossible-to-navigate, crowded screen pages?

2. Do you offer an online Q&A (in real-time) and problem solving?

3. Are there mobile-friendly how-to videos of solutions to at least the top 20 garden questions you receive?

4. Are in-store classes filmed and filed as a library for loyalty club members?

5. Can customers bring their garden pics to be put on a big screen for discussion and suggestions?

6. Are garden/landscape designers available in retail at weekends?

7. Is there a fast-track for online-order pick up and pay?

8. Can customers never shop on-site and still spend lots of money easily and happily?

9. Does your company offer personal shoppers, coaches or in-home consultations?

10. Is there a VIP program for “spendy” loyalty club members (credit card on file) to avoid register lines?

11. Has your inventory been expanded to fulfill one-stop-shopping for most common garden projects?

The Local Garden Center Is A People Business

Here are some more questions:

12. Does your retail team put the customer before a task? (50 years and counting on that one!)

13. Has your company adopted a strategy of “It’s Showtime!” between, say, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.?

14. Are there separate teams for receiving/maintenance/merchandising and for one-on-one selling?

15. Does everyone on the team recognize shoppers’ time value and do their best to get them in and out?

16. Does your team’s product knowledge relate to Gen X and Gen Y needs and inspire them to buy?

17. Does your layout encourage “silent selling” through merchandising, signage, product groupings and solutions?

18. Do your company image and facilities (and team!) look/feel/smell/sound different to 1995 or even 2005?

19. How has your overall shopping experience improved since the advent of smart phones in 2007?

It Better Be Better!

The shopping experience has to be better than good in the days of Yelp to at least avoid a bad review, and it makes no difference whether the product is a $40,000 car or a $40 shrub. Hopefully your store doesn’t create an unsatisfying experience like ours at the auto mall. The final judgement about the shopping experience (and consequently the company’s brand value) comes from the customer’s reflection: “Was the end result worth the process and cost?”

Let’s start a dialogue here, I’d love to know how many checks (or ticks for the Brits) your company scores on these questions, and where you see opportunities for improvement. Thanks!