Like others I also have experienced shopping in Pakistan. Since I live near a market, it helps me to observe how much shopkeepers take care of their customers. Usually if you visit a shop, say a shoe selling shop, you know what kind of stuff you are looking for. You already set some preferences in your mind while looking for the stuff which is closed to your match. Now if you trust a shop because you like your products and you continue giving them businesses, it is duty of the shop to help you save your time as well offering you the most relevant and best product. Instead of you go back to square one and waste your precious time to scan all shelves, shopkeepers should have a system so that they can proactively bring up the relevant choices to you. This is something which is similar to what you experience on online shopping sites like Amazon. Now how it could be implemented in real world shopping. Here are few steps which I propose. Since I am talking about a shoe shop therefore I would be using it as an example.
- Record customer dislikeness: When you enter in a shoe shop first time, you have no idea of varieties they are offering. All you know what kind of shoe you are looking for. You have few inputs like color(black,brown etc),type(moccasin, sports shoe etc), price range etc. Usually now in Pakistan shop keepers keep the price tag intact with items hence it makes life easier. Now if you finally select your item, you pay the bill and walks out. That's it. For you the life cycle of buying a shoe is over. Unfortunately the same process is used by shop keepers as well. They sold the stuff and forgets their customer. Even if you become a regular customer of the particular shop, the shop keeper can't tell you what kind of stuff you like. This is kind of a first step towards Umair Haque's Betterness Models. Unless you treat your customer like your family member, you will not be able to gain trust and for that either you need to spend days and nights with your customer or find a way to record their likeness or dislikeness in a system. Someone might say that it would be enough to record their likeness, that is, recording the kind of stuff they bought. I would say that it's much better to record their dislikeness as well because when you are in a family, you're usually aware of dislikeness of your loved ones too because that helps you to prevent things which they dislike rather than only do things which they like. So when you're sales person is busy in showing different varieties of shoes, you would see various NOs from customer's end. At that time if their NOs along with Item number can be recorded then it would be helpful in future. You don't need a typical gadget for that purpose. You can even do this on a piece of paper which is easily available or you can use mobile to jot things down. By giving used Palm pilots which are easily available under Rs.10K in Karachi.
- Assign and ID: When your customer pays you bill, assign a Customer ID(a user-friendly name) would be much better to them or either give it in form of a card or just give it on a piece of paper and ask them to keep it safe for future purchase. On other hand you note customer info,shopping details and both their likeness and dislikeness in your system. The system should have kind of intelligence that in future it can propose relevant items when customer steps in. I would propose to ask the customer his ID at the time he gets into the shop. I know it's quite hectic but then I am talking about lower common denominator. The salesman would have customer ID and now he would just be showing those shoes first which would be matching customer's taste. The most important thing is attitude of the sales person. He MUST be showing different items like he would be showing his family member. That's the key. Using technology only and behave bad with customers is not going to save you at all. There's need of a perfect combo of both humanness and technology.
- Trend based inventory: Since all preferences are being recorded in a system, you can build your inventory based on users' choice. It would not only help to put the right items but will also help both customers and business to grow.
- Promotional Campaigns: A customer will never like to be bombard with SPAM messages for new offers via SMS messages. The best way to use SMS technology to send messages during the season he usually buys new shoes. That kind of SMS campaign would be quite natural as he would already be planning to buy newer shoes. Also occasional campaigns like Eid etc can also help to bring the customer back. Since customer's history is already being maintained, there would be a clear picture to learn about your customer.
These are few suggestions which local business owners or anyone in the world can adapt. I particularly discussed Pakistan because here technology is not being used in a way it should be. Resources are available but they are being misused due to lack of awareness. If a business can afford hi-fi technology then entire business model could be automated. Do give your valuable feedback about the post