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Creating the Complete Retail Experience



Mitch Goldstone

Here's how to justify charging a premium and transforming your business into a "user-friendly" retail experience.

Now that you have toiled to transform your online photo service into a modishly, responsive place to shop, don't undermine your retail store's value. Does your retail photo center also pass the "user-friendly" test? You know, the one that you use to choose which store to shop at. Would you shop at your store?

The same amiable online ordering experience you designed for your website should be replicated at retail. Both should be seamless and user-friendly to enhance your sales and empower you to charge a premium.

Think Disney

Image is important, but so, too, are credibility and the value you create for your company's unique brand. It's one thing to have your staff appear presentable and properly groomed, but they should also wear store uniforms with your company's logo embroidered on their unsoiled polo shirts. They need to "walk the walk." Does the Disney mystique apply to your retail environment? Employees who smile and boast expert communication skills are the first step toward enhanced sales, but they should also be trained in how to sell and answer questions, too.

One of the least expensive training tools is for you to buy them Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People. This manual, first published in 1936, teaches expert communication skills and provides all new and current employees with lifelong skills. The value you place on your employee manual is derivational to the greater reward gleaned from this renowned tome. The manual lists all the "don'ts"; this book teaches all the "dos."

With your employees now perched to maximize sales, you should also evaluate your retail store's environment. Study the big things like signage and store design and also explore ways to make sure the lab looks just as tidy midday as it did upon opening. Trash should be emptied throughout the day and all clutter removed; every shopping experience must be balanced with a polished and professional image. The functionality of extra-wide space between merchandisers helps create a kids zone so children and strollers can easily be navigated through the store. More spacious room also helps provide inclusionary comfort for accessibility issues for those in wheelchairs.

Look to the Eastman Kodak Company and its $800 million annual R&D budget as guidance for you to also invest in your future to enhance your operation and make things even more user-friendly. In relation to Kodak's net income, their R&D investment is staggering and proof that any size company must always be upgrading, investing in and funding its future. But it's the little things, too; even your energy-efficient interior lighting matters. Do you have 5000K full-spectrum store lighting to emphasize photographic print quality? When your lab technicians are viewing images under fluorescent lighting, the results will differ from optimal outdoor lighting conditions. I even had our exterior channel-lettering neon lighting pulled out and replaced by low-wattage LED lighting. The former neon standard used about 13,000 watts of energy, while the new LED lighting uses a paltry 400 watts and is a tiny fraction of the cost to operate. It's even substantially brighter and longer-lasting.

Make sure that your user-friendly experience includes adding photo kiosks to your retail space. Their easy-to-use features boast connectivity to your digital photo lab and speed up orders.

Check that your air filtration system is functioning to limit any chemistry odors. We have ducts that pull the exhaust from the processors to the outside. Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze Silent Air Purifier works very well to clean the air and remove odors; it also covertly projects an image to customers that you care about their health. Several of our purifiers are intentionally placed on the retail counters and throughout the store.

Quality photo processing translates into more than just perfectly printed photographs. Your store's value proposition should include the entire experience, from design to knowledgeable staff to trusting the leading photographic brands.

Become a community leader and contribute your services to many organizations and programs. An ancillary benefit is that you can post the plaques, award recognitions and news articles about your business throughout the store. This is a wonderful way to differentiate yourself from the innocuously uniformed chain stores.

Think Starbucks

Transform your store into a retail lounge where people can hang out to foster a soul and enhance your image. Randomly strewn chairs and leather couches harvest more ambiance and further specialize your store. Häagen-Dazs ice cream and Hershey's chocolate provided free to customers makes for an extra-special experience. We even randomly include free Starbucks and other national brand retail gift cards, plus all types of candy (from Good & Plenty to M&M's) as extra spiffs. These are packaged inside our national online photo orders when customers choose the Priority or FedEx mail options. The results and word-of-mouth marketing are similar to the emotions brought on by the prizes included within boxes of Cracker Jacks.

Transform your store into a retail lounge where people can hang out to foster a soul and enhance your image.

One example independent photo specialty retailers have to offer a unique retail experience and gain instant credibility is to hook up with the Kodak Image Center Solution (KICS) to design a co-branded retail environment. This fosters a top-flight way to stand out while offering a variety of unique products and services. The KICS store package provides full-service instant credibility.

Make sure that your user-friendly experience includes adding photo kiosks to your retail space. Their easy-to-use features boast connectivity to your digital photo lab and speed up orders. A customer presses one button and instantly completes the transaction. Kiosks encourage picture-takers to order photos. It adds a new revenue center to your store and helps differentiate your services. Just like the now-famous, new Kodak national television advertising that features children shouting and waving their hands in the air questioning "Where are my pictures?" these kiosks provide the answer with effortless production of high-quality photographs in seconds. Enhancements to the kiosks include Bluetooth wireless and infrared technology to enable printing of photos from camera phones.

These are several ways to smooth out the customer experience and provide a seamless and memorable in-store experience. In fact, when you create a seamlessly easy-to-shop retail experience, the consumers' question becomes not which physical retail location to use, but rather which company to trust. And the great news is that the decision is no longer based on location. Today your customers are nationwide and choose those services that provide the easiest and most convenient shopping experience. When you offer both online and in-store services that are user-friendly, you both win. But once you have everything in place, remember to always smile!

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