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Recently, the CEO for Harrods criticized US department stores “that they are committing suicide” ( https://goo.gl/DpGyTk ). The point that I took away from this CEO was simple. When it comes to customer experience you have to continuously invest in your retail brand culture so that you can create moments of truth.

Over the last five years, retailers globally have been pursuing every online social media tactic and digital marketing strategy available to them to drive traffic and conversion. You can't survive without it!

They have replaced thousands of Senior to mid-level executives. Who they felt were no longer a fit for the new direction of their brand.

Everyone is scrambling to create a seamless experience between online and offline, with the hopes that they will retain loyalty and grow revenue.

More retailers are talking about creating a stronger in store customer experience after years of cutting labor at the store level.

Online revenue is growing but not enough to replace declining brick and mortar retail revenue.

The only retailers that are truly growing and adding stores are off price.

Let’s not kid ourselves affordable and accessible is what’s driving online traffic and sales.

It’s the mid-market retailers that will continue to take the beating.

So what’s missing?  Is it their strategies?

The talent they hired?  Is the brand just too far gone?

Is it something that no one see’s?

Perhaps you can realistically only be a retailer that is dominantly either online or brick and mortar? That’s not to say you don’t need an online presence or stores in the case of online retailers.

Are the retail board directors and executives wrong about their strategic direction? What if in their pursuit to rebuild their brands retailers have inadvertently dismantled something very important? Have you lost too much of your corporate DNA and Retailing Culture?

The fact of the matter is that consumers still shop in retail stores, they are not dead. What’s dead is how retailers have been operating their stores over the last 15-20 years, perhaps longer!

Many executives have known about the risks of pushing to improve productivity at the retail level and therefore diminishing the means to improve the customer experience and close sales.

When I first started in retail I learned a valuable lesson and it’s something that all retailers striving for successful change should keep in mind.

“Always Start With The Store First, That’s Where The Moment Of Truth Begins”

It is a lesson that retailers with a high level of service and customer touch points really understand, specialty, premium and luxury retailers have always known this. Mid-market retailers have a lot to learn from premium and luxury brands (https://goo.gl/tbchoU).

Retailers need to rediscover their roots and remember that their stores represent their brands signature. This starts the moment a consumer views your window displays, walks in your store, greeted by your trained employees, strolls down your aisles, browses your product, uses your change rooms and asks a few questions. If they are impressed with your choices in merchandise they may even buy something and end up at checkout.  Every touch point is an experience that represents the image and perceived value of your brand. It has to be a lasting and memorable moment.

Each step in the customer experience is a moment of truth.

How else can you create a great experience online? If your customers memory of their store visit was poor. What compelling reason do they have to visit your website? Or for that matter buy online from you and be asked to pay a higher price?

The CEO for Harrods is correct retailers are committing suicide. They replaced store retailing with their pursuit to get online to drive e-commerce and grow views, likes, shares and followings on social media, this is all just new marketing, it’s not retailing and unfortunately this focus has blindsided many from their core business…Stores!

If you want to make a difference, I strongly recommend that all retailers do three things:

Embrace as much as you can from the past and what it meant to be in retail and create those moments of truth internally so that you can gain buy-in and execute against them.
Grocers for example are or will be racing to launch home delivery; this idea isn’t from someone pioneering futurist. This is from the past when home grocery delivery was a normal part of retailing, it was part of the value chain only diminished by the push to reduce costs.
Rehire some of the people you have let go over the last five years. What’s missing in retail is a lot more than just culture.  It is the intellectual DNA that knew how to operate stores and execute flawlessly.While conducting research for my new book I have visited a number of retailers. Retailers need to improve service, merchandising, cleanliness and the lack of focus with engaging customers. Retailers need to also create very clear operating standards?
Continuously create experiences, your marketing teams need to be divided into at least two groups. One team that drives e-commerce and the second that drives stores with one oversight, operational execution that drives traffic and conversion.Consumers are not algorithms, they are human beings that have senses, memories and are looking for relationships that they can trust. Give them great moments and they will give you loyalty in return.

My name is George Minakakis, I am the CEO for Inception Retail Group Inc. I have led retail chains in Canada, USA, Hong Kong and China. I am also the author of Last Retailer Standing Relevant Leadership Relevant Brand.!