How One Micromoment Spells Merchandising Genius

by Jeannie Walters

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Do not touch! You break, you buy.

Stop! Have you thought this through?
Stop! Have you thought this through?

I’m sure everyone has seen signs like this, especially in retail stores. So many times, in fact, that we no longer really need to see them. We often assume these rules apply in most places. Why do many retailers feel the customers don’t need to touch anything? Maybe it has something to do with this:

Satisfaction Guaranteed! No-Questions-Asked Return Policy!

These are wonderful promises to make and keep, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking an excellent return policy takes all of the pain out of having to return the merchandise. We can make it smooth and pleasant but we can never erase the experience of having to do without the item when it is needed. And if it’s too late, our customers will want a full refund, not an exchange.

Real-life shopping means touching

Before we ask customers not to touch things, before we post accusing signs, we need to consider why our customers are still getting dressed to visit our retail locations in the first place. Our in-store customers want to experience merchandise with as many of their senses as possible before making a purchase. If they didn’t, there’s a good chance they would be shopping online instead of visiting our locations. Discouraging touch is a merchandising folly that just does not make sense in today’s marketplace.

And with online shopping increasing annually, customers who actually visit our locations are more valuable than ever. The exit is not a click away. They’re prepared to spend some time with us, so we need to make it worth the trip!

Von Maur gets it.

March 2014 micromoment of the Month


Von Maur understands the power of touch. They understand that their real-life customers are there to experience the merchandise on a higher level than possible online. So not only are Von Maur stores devoid of the accusing “don’t touch” signs, they actually have signs encouraging customers to handle the merchandise. And the results can be incredible. Not only do these signs help make customers feel more comfortable to inspect merchandise and shop on their own terms, but the sense of touch can have a powerful influence on buying behavior.

Shrinkage is not the supervillain we make it out to be

It really is a drag to see totes full of damaged merchandise in the stock room awaiting return to the suppliers, and even worse to see the non-returnable items being disposed of or marked down below cost. “Look at all of that shrinkage!” But thankfully, in most cases, items are indeed returnable. And the items which are not? It’s a small price to pay when you know your customers are getting what they came for- to look, feel, and experience the merchandise a little before purchasing. If they can’t do this, or feel inhibited to do so, there is a good chance they won’t come back.

I challenge you to consider your  Customer’s Lifetime Value and weigh that against your shrinkage. It will become clear that churn has the potential to become a much more formidable enemy.

So let your potential customers experience your product or service. Let them connect with it, and make it their own before the sale.

Image credit: Phil and Pam Gradwell via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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