I had a great question come in today asking why I spend so much time reviewing bitters on awesomedrinks.com. It is a great question, but I think the answer goes far beyond just reviewing bitters as a single niche product area. The question should be broader, in my opinion, covering all items in a store. Here is the question I propose...
"Why do you review the products you carry in your store?"
I imagine fifty or sixty years ago we would never ask why a storeowner wants to embrace the products they sell and understand the in's and out's and the who's and the why's to their products. A storeowner would know what they sold and why they sold it and make intelligent recommendations across the broad spectrum of product offerings on a daily basis to customers. They'd also know their customers by name and have background about their kids, their family and know how the family dog is getting along.
Companies are now focused purely on profit margins and getting the sale as soon as possible (humanly or computerized). It isn't about knowing what you sell but how fast you can make the sale to whoever mentions the product by name. The "big box stores" and "supercenters" are a perfect example of this activity. Without naming names, let's just say you need to buy a new computer monitor and you go to the store to do some research. Will those employees be helpful? Will they be able to guide you to the right product to fit your needs? Would they even ask you your name or say hello to your kids? 99.9% of the time the answer is a resounding, "no."
There is no personalization in todays economy because there is just "no time." You need to get your customers in and out so you can move on to your next customer, whatever their name happens to be and how many kids they happen to bring. The goal is high margin and fast turn around times. Customer service is just too expensive, caring requires too much work.
Hell, most of the employees only worked there because they needed a summer job while out of college or a new high school kid that needed money to afford their car insurance. Those students were never educated in customer service and they're not waking up in the morning happy to go to work. If they have a heartbeat and show up for work at least 80% of the time, they're the best employees! No time is put into training them in customer service or teaching them about the products they handle.
And Then Came Social
Yeah, the game has changed. In the early 1900's a company would live and die by the loyalty of their customers and world-of-mouth marketing. If Billy down the road had a bad experience at your company his friends and neighbors would know about it and before long the entire town would be shopping elsewhere. Up until a few years ago, however, we did not have much of a choice when a big box store came into town and put the little guys out of business. You shopped at the big stores because they had cheap prices and inventory that climbed to the rafters. Customer experience is terrible, customer engagement is lacking and service was non-existent. Susan would ask, "where can we find Star wars legos?" and a random employee would point in a general direction and say "there."
With social networking life begins to turn around again because the entire world is your backyard. If you have a great experience on an online store you can tell your friends in a nanosecond on facebook, twitter, pinterest and all place social. Even a quick text message to a few buddies about your experience can span oceans, lakes and regions.
I take the time to review my products, especially those more mysterious products like cocktail bitters because people want to know what they're buying again. The days of just blindly clicking "add to cart" are leaving and the days of reading online reviews and looking at the 1-5 star review headlines are now the name of the game. Especially in our current economic conditions, people want to buy products that are worth their hard earned cash.
Customers are asking their friends about likes and dislikes and recommendations for online purchases. Why? Because it's easy and only takes a few seconds to crowd source from a crowd of people that share your same interests. When Johnny says, "oh, I buy from AwesomeDrinks.com because they know their stuff and they ship out their orders the day after I purchased it." What customers say about us says a lot about our value, experience and motivation to do the right thing. That one line recommendation can mean five to ten new sales from all the friends that saw it. Most importantly, the customer loyalty means Johnny and his friends will come back to our store in the future to buy more stuff! We can become one of their friends and be the point person to answer those important questions such as, "what do cherry bitters taste like?"
Recently I had a conversations on the phone with a customer asking about collins glasses. I took the time to explain some of the key differences in our highball vs. our collins glass to see what would fit the customers needs the most. I sat down and measured some of the sizes and diameters to see if they matched the glasses the customer recently broke (and where now trying to replace.) They were very appreciative and, a week and a half later, the sale came in for the frosted collins glasses. Did they have to buy from us? Nah, there are plenty of people selling glasses on the Internet and perhaps some are even a bit cheaper than ours. But, sometimes a customer wants to buy from a place they trust over a random website that they have no history with at all. They called our 1-800 number, got more than enough information to complete their buying decision and went off to think about it.
I will risk giving a customer all the information they need to make a smart buying choice even if they do not select us as the final purchase place. Those are the risks a good company has to take to build customer loyalty. I only need a few customers out of all those I talk with to buy from us and build a loyalty to our business to become a success. While I have plenty of customers that find us, click add to cart, and are happy with their product, I've got many customers that come back for repeat business and continue to use us as their trusted source.
Awesomedrinks has become the trusted source for glassware, syrups, barware, bitters and more. Our customer base of both loyal and random customers continues to grow. I believe the reason I continue to find success in our niche area of the market is because I care about our customers and care about the products I sell. There is nothing in the store that I sell because it has massively high margins with no real value; everything I decide to carry in the store is there because I'm excited about the product and what it can do to better my cocktail lifestyle. And, if I like it, others are bound to share the same level of excitement that I do. That's why I understand what a customer wants, because I put myself in their shoes and remember that I share one big thing in common with the folks that visit awesomedrinks: we're all human.