The sign that you are not ready for social retailing

Do you make this big mistake?

If you see customers as ‘traffic’ – and by that I mean website traffic or patrons walking through your door, then you have a problem.

You can’t have a real relationship if you view customers as traffic. Referring to people as ‘traffic’ shows a cultural ‘attitude’ that lacks (or will make it difficult to acquire) authenticity.

You can’t say you love women if you think of them as bitches – even as a ‘joke’. (And vice versa of course.)

As a centre manager I worked hard, but with limited success, to change the language in my centre:

  • I wanted our tenants to be called retailers.
  • I wanted our cleaners to be called housekeeping.

I am pretty sure my team thought I was strange, but I know that if you change your language, you will change the culture. Take for instance what happened at Enron.

Amidst Enron's excesses were the unmistakable cultural cues that drove employee behaviour. "We're an aggressive culture", "Guys with Spikes", "Money is the only thing that motivates" and "Rank and Yank" are but a few of the statements heard. Is it any wonder traders thought they had the right to manipulate the market?

The CEO of one of the biggest culprits in the recent US mortgage meltdown had a vanity numberplate: FUNDEM (fund them) – with reference to their philosophy to give a loan to anyone that can , as his employees subsequently described, ‘fog a mirror’. Say no more.

I know old habits die hard.

I know you think it is an ‘innocent mistake’.

But it is not.

Two interesting posts on language and culture can be found at Harvard and Leaderchat.

So here is evidence of the type of language that reveals an organisational culture that is not yet ready for the era of social retailing:

  • Consumers
  • Target Market
  • Traffic
  • Segments
  • Hits
  • Yield

I could go on, but you get the idea. What can you add?


GANADOR: Architects of high-performance retail environments.

TOMORROW' POST: If your only tool is a hammer...