Be careful with the latest, shiny new idea

I came across a post (R Woolverton, Woolverton Consulting Group) sometime ago that describes the components of a quality shopping experience as follows:

S: Service: this is measured on the customer’s expectation of service not always the actual service provided. If a consumer doesn't expect help at a particular retailer and gets minimal service, that retailer has exceeded their expectation. Checkout tends to be the area here of most universal frustration.

P: Price: price becomes more relevant as this economy becomes more restrictive. On balance, the average consumer is a value shopper and is lured into retailers largely by the value proposition. A lot of consumers will forgive less than adequate service in the interest of a "good deal".

A: Assortment: a retailer’s depth and diversity of product mix can also differentiate them from a competitor. Consumers like choices... they also like to know it's there when they need it; it's IN STOCK! In this age of "Inventory Control" and continued pressure to create cash flow, many retailers are cutting inventories to the bone. Unfortunately, if you never order more than 5, your highest sales potential will ALWAYS be 5 even if you could sell 10!

C: Convenience: ever wonder why there is a drug store on every corner? They are trying to exploit the competitive advantage of convenience. How many other like retailers will you have to pass to get to my business? This is critical if you are competing with a retailer on par with you! Also, how quickly can you get in and get out?

D: Differentiation: probably the most critical element in the analysis; WHAT sets you apart from the competition? It really isn't a good thing to be a vanilla retailer in a Baskin Robbins world. What offering of services or assortment sets you apart? Do you create theatre for your customer; giving them a unique experience every time they shop your store? In my humble opinion this can be the deal breaker!

E: Environment: is the store clean, well maintained and up to date; or is it dark, dingy and dirty with poor displays and overflowing trash cans? Try going into a retail bathroom with your 6 year old in can be a very scary proposition.

Upon reflection, it really is nothing but the good, old-fashioned retail mix.

From this I can deduce:

1. Many people don’t understand difference between customer service and customer experience, and erroneously re-badge the old as the new.

2. The fundamentals of retail still apply: the more things change the more they stay the same. Beware of being seduced by the shiny new things when the old things work perfectly well.

3. A good framework is a valuable tool for thinking and analysis.