opinion

Creating an In-Store Experience That Outshines Online Competition

Kim Airs

I continuously am marveled and amazed about the power of the web and now smart phone apps. I know some of you are snickering at this probably simplistic statement but being a woman of a certain age, tapping the single Shazam button to know who recorded a song and then reading the lyrics in a fancy, ever-changing layout while it’s playing is something I always fantasized about being able to do (and you thought it was all about sex, right?). Or accessing "Find A Grave” to see where a famous person is planted when I’m bored as I wait in the grocery line. I’m not even going to share with you my constant playing of Solitaire or Bejeweled, either.

But the one type of app or web search that really chaps my hide are the apps and web searches one can use to find a better price than what is offered in your local bricks and mortar stores. And yes, that includes your friendly neighborhood adult stores too.

Just try with something as simple as a Ladies Night, which always packs them in. Contact your distributor for some goodies to give away on that special evening and throw in some door prizes or extra discounts for a few products.

I’m sure you’ve seen these people stumble into your store, look at products, see and feel the way the newest and latest vibrator works, try on that skimpy lingerie (and perhaps stretching it a tad too much and leaving a pesky lipstick stain on the part that you have to slip over your head), then say a bit too loudly, “Oh, I’m gonna go home and see if I can get it cheaper on the Internet.” Or even have the audacity to blip the UPC code on the product and compare the price right under your roof — in your store. The one that you struggle to pay the rent for, the one you have to buy the light bulbs for so they can read their smart phone, the store that stays warm for them to shop in the winter months, the store that you’ve poured your life savings in to so they can have a comfortable place to shop. The store that they’re now standing in, comparing against how much you have to charge to keep those lights on, the rent paid, and most of all, give money to your staff to cover the place when you’re not there.

And the companies that develop these apps tout them as the coolest, must-have apps for any savvy consumer. They can “warn you if you’re paying too much for an item,” as the advertisement for one of them says. I would be willing to put money down on the fact that they don’t even think of basic overhead that’s needed to add to the price of goods you have to cough up to sit on your shelves. Sitting there until a savvy consumer realizes the services you are providing in a retail store which will add to the price and comfort level in buying a product, especially one of an adult nature.

I had my own bricks and mortar store from 1993 to 2005 and anyone who knows me, knows I am a retailer through and through but if I still had a store, I personally would probably throw out anyone who has the nerve to crack out one of those apps in my store while I was there.

But I got to thinking… if I had a store today, as many of you do, what would I do to distinguish my store from the online sellers that compete with my bottom line? I would do what I did when I did have my store – make the experience that much more special by offering things one can not get with a purchase on the computer.

This issue of XBIZ is chock-full of information for you to be a better retailer, as they always are. Education, education, education seems to be the rallying cry which is repeated over and over again in print, in seminars, and yes, even on websites. Educating your staff and educating the customer and even offering your information on your website.

For example, many of the progressive sex toy stores often include video links of products they have in their stores, which often leads the consumer to buy their products online or even come in and visit their store. Or vice versa. They also include reviews of the products that both consumers and the store owners or staff can contribute to, all of which add to the buying experience both online and in the store. In other words, they create interactive, engaging involvement for the consumer and a return customer for you.

And don’t overlook events that can be the lifeblood of your store, too. Don’t think you can? Just try with something as simple as a Ladies Night, which always packs them in. Contact your distributor for some goodies to give away on that special evening and throw in some door prizes or extra discounts for a few products. Have some knowledgeable staff members on hand to be specialists in different areas of your store. Make it an event – something that can’t be duplicated online (and if you aren’t doing this already, make sure you try to capture your customers’ email addresses so you can contact them confidentially – as in don’t share their email address with anyone). Use that list to promote your events as well as offer specials just for the email list buyers. Advertise your event online, on your website, on your FB page and every other social media connection you’ve established, which you’ve already done, right?

So become the competition to those online buyers, those price comparers in your store, wow them with that little extra “sumpin’ sumpin’” they can’t get on a two-dimensional screen.

Kim Airs is the founder of sexuality boutique GrandOpening.com. She is a consultant for all aspects of the adult toy industry: training, sales, marketing, etc. She loves her job!

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