Once upon a time, when people needed clothes they would make them. Over time a few people got very good at it and called themselves “tailors”. People would pay very good money for tailors to make custom clothes that fit their wants and needs.
Eventually the sweatshop evolved and clothing could be mass produced. There was a huge difference in the clothing’s quality, build, fit and features. This mass produced, off-the-rack clothing was the less expensive alternative to custom clothiers.
Fast forward to the 1980’s, when a clothing retailer used the tag line “an educated consumer is our best customer.” They believed there was a consumer who knew high quality, great design and would recognize their lower (not lowest) pricing! This was the on-ramp to the Retail Paradox.
The Apocalypse Arrives
Now we are on the cusp of the 2020’s and we are in a bolder, louder, faster world! Technology has radically altered the world’s manufacturing, design and information systems. It has also ushered in new challenges to retailers on every level.
Advances like the internet, augmented reality and AI have, in many cases, marginalized the retail sales professional. Between these amazing advances and cutbacks in training, some retail sales people have have become characatures and retail clients have become jaded. Society has embraced a nostalgia for an imagined past when quality was better, stores had more choices and the sales reps were much more helpful.
The internet is creating customers who walk into retail showrooms with boatloads of information. However, when that information is not contextualized it can create a poor buying experience. Without the context of, say, budget, usage and location that information will be, at best, misleading and at worst, useless.
Consumers wandering in the retail sales space need assistance. They need the support of a sales professional. Even with the well advertised cutbacks, sales professionals have a wealth of knowledge and experience that consumers should take advantage of.
Information Is Not Knowledge
This brings us face to face with the Retail Paradox: Information is cheap. Knowledge is expensive. Customer want knowledge’s value at information’s price.
The old sales adage still rings true: “You can have it fast, cheap or good, but you can’t have it all.”
Today’s consumers have the ability to acquire all the valuable knowledge and experience of a live sales professional, then convert it into simple data input for an online retailer for a lower price.
Consumers don’t realize this is killing the goose that lays the golden egg. How long can the tailor take the time give the customer the exact measurements, help them choose the fabric and make suggestions for the suit and have the customer take that information to an online retailer?
Without paying the premium for that knowledge that tailor will close her shop. Without those expert measurement the online retailer can’t help the customer… the whole thing grinds to a halt.
This paradox holds true for clothing, auto sales, furniture and any other area of retail touched by the so-called “apocalypse”. Not only do we need to recognize and accept this paradox, we need to point bring it to the client’s attention early in the sales process.
We, the experienced sales professionals, are the “value-add” in every transaction! When you provide the amazing client experience on the sales floor, the internet will pale in comparison.
See you on the sales floor!