Nightmare in the Guitar Shop

Greg Nathan, Franchise Relationships Institute


I recently popped into a guitar shop to buy some electric guitar strings and enquire about an effects pedal. The guy behind the counter was friendly and after a brief chat he got my strings and started to look for the pedal. I surveyed the glass counter filled with all sorts of seductive guitar accessories and was getting a little excited as he placed the pedal on the counter.

Then he dropped the clangor. “You’re probably best to go online as they’re cheaper.”

I blinked, slightly stunned. I was hoping he was going to say “Would you like to try it out and see how it sounds?” I looked at the pedal, then at him, then back at the pedal. “Oh…umm…okay…” He picked up the pedal and put it back in the counter. “Anything else I can help you with?”

“Ah, no thanks.” I took my strings and left.

The real reason people buy

I love going into that guitar shop. I love the smell. I love asking about the products, picking them up, hearing what they sound like. I love chatting to the repair guy downstairs. I reckon I’ve spent a thousand dollars there over the past year. And I would probably have walked out with the pedal in my hand if that employee (obviously not the owner) had not killed the sale.

Here’s the lesson. Most of the things we buy today are not necessities in the true sense of the word. What we are buying is enjoyment or the promise of a happier future.

The true art of retailing is not about the product, it’s about the experience. If a customer can get a better experience online than in a store, why would they bother going to a store? Never before in the history of retailing have those little things that make customers feel better about themselves been so important.

“But,” I hear you say, “What about the price?”

Let’s go back to marketing 101. People buy value not price. Here’s an important equation worth committing to memory:

Value = Convenience + Enjoyment + Quality Over Price

In other words we can increase value, without dropping the price in three ways:

1. We can make the shopping experience more convenient (e.g. faster, easier to get started using the product),
2. we can give the customer a more enjoyable experience (e.g. more fun or excitement), or
3. we can enhance the perceived quality of the purchase (better guarantee or additional features).

The challenge when comparing a store with a website is the website can usually offer an equivalent quality product with greater convenience at a lower price. The jury is out on who wins in the enjoyment stakes. One thing is for sure. If the in-store experience is nothing to write home about, the website is going to win hands down.

But what if we could get a physical store and a website working together to increase convenience and enjoyment. Wouldn’t that be a winning combination of bricks and clicks! For instance, two respected Australian digital media consultants, Matt Forman and James Horne, tell me that retail chains with a well thought out website can expect to attract 20 per cent to 30 per cent of their online visitors into one of their stores. This is why business commentators are urging retail groups to get serious about re-engineering their store strategies to accommodate the growth in online activity.

Some facts about bricks and clicks

So how fast is online retailing really growing? Based on the research I’ve seen in this area I would say “pretty fast”. For instance spending by Australians with online retailers is expected to grow by 15 per cent per year over the next three years. We also recently hosted a special “Bricks and Clicks Forum” for franchise companies with retail stores and all the speakers urged franchise companies to get moving on their bricks and clicks strategies or get left behind.

By the way I did buy my guitar pedal online. After some browsing I decided to pay a little extra and purchase it from within Australia. Well sort of - I ordered it from a store in Tasmania!

Greg Nathan is Founder of the Franchise Relationships Institute (FRI), leading global providers of learning programs to help franchisors and franchisees create profitable partnerships. He is also author of several popular franchising books including Profitable Partnerships.

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