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Keeping up with trends and meeting customers’ needs is key to retail innovation. The IAA’s Nicola Stewart joined the Post Office’s David Gold and Paul Simmonds at Alpesh Patel’s London store to see how it’s done.
Alpesh would like to improve the display and promotion of wine in his store to make it more exciting for customers.
1. Try new things regularly to catch shoppers’ attention.
Alpesh knows his customers well but is always searching for new ways to interest them. He has introduced a range of whole foods into the store and has found customers are happy to pay more for quality.
He is now looking to improve his wine display and David and Paul advise him to put together a dedicated area to draw customers in. “It needs that wow factor,” says Paul. He suggests introducing some theatre, using wooden barrels and crates to create a rustic look and feel. “You could even offer single glasses of wine, so people can buy a glass to take away with them,” he says.
David adds that wine tasting sessions could help promote the section and recommends Alpesh cross promote wine with cheeses and other meal options. Paul also recommends he take a look at category advice website Winning With Wine.
2. Train staff to listen to shopper feedback and act on it.
The store has a suggestion box and staff are encouraged to listen to customers’ ideas and implement them where possible. Alpesh says a customer asked if he could locally source premium salmon, he got the product in stock and, four months later, is now selling an average of 41 packets per week.
David and Paul are impressed by Alpesh’s commitment to his customers and advise him to make sure they know when suggestions are acted on. They recommend he install a notice board above the suggestions box and post messages letting customers know the outcome.
Paul advises Alpesh to use the store’s Twitter account as another opportunity for customers to give feedback. This will also allow Alpesh to engage more with customers, offering information and inspiration, rather than just promoting products and offers.
3. Invest in new ideas and take risks to stay ahead of the competition.
David and Paul are drawn to Alpesh’s coffee and hot food counter and note his deal offering a coffee and croissant for £1.50.
Alpesh says he introduced the deal to appeal to morning commuters and adds that he has put a poster up by the bus stop across the road to promote it.
Paul asks if Alpesh has considered setting up a free wi-fi hotspot and explains some of the benefits, including collection of customer data, the ability to track customers as they move through the store and to send marketing messages directly to their phones.
He suggests the provider Purple WiFi as an example and Alpesh agrees to look into it.
“We want to do as much as we can with technology but need some help setting it up and implementing it,” he says.
What we learnt:
“It was interesting for us to come and see a retailer who doesn’t have a post office, and look at how they run the business and engage with their customers without that,” says Paul. “Whenever we meet a good retailer, who is always looking for the next thing and is constantly looking for ways to improve, we walk away energised,” adds David. “It’s refreshing when a retailer isn’t scared to try something new.”
David Gold & Paul Simmonds, Retail relationship managers, Post Office.
“The visit has been an excellent opportunity for us. Sometimes you think you have done everything you can possibly do, but we have talked today about 10 or 12 ideas that are very simple and that we can act on. Customers are always changing and there are always ways to improve, even if you can’t see them yourself. It has been fantastic having experts come in and look at our store with a fresh perspective.”
Alpesh Patel, Londis, Haringay, London.
Alpesh’s action plan:
Create an engaging wine display that draws customers in.
Introduce a notice board to tell customers when suggestions have been acted upon.
Investigate free Wi-Fi and emphasise the coffee and croissant deal.