achiever brick and mortar customer experience small business

We’re in the business of making businesses—particularly retailers—better. And we have to say, business is booming; the majority of retailers aren’t delivering the experience their customers want, which means they need help from folks like us. Great retail experiences are few and far between these days, so when we have an experience that defies our expectations, we take note, then incorporate those strengths into our clients’ lessons.

We tapped everyone in The Mann Group and asked, “What was your best retail experience of 2018?” The answers are varied, but they all highlight the importance of connection and catering to your customer. Read through and gain some inspiration for your own business!

“I entered the packed setting that is typical of the eclectic downtown bookstore [Malaprops] in a tourist city and began enjoying their selection of available books. I was looking in particular for The Gulag Archipelago, which is a bit of a dated book (1974 in English). After finding a selection of books by Carl Jung, I meandered to the front to pay. The woman behind the counter greeted me with a warm smile and commented on the author and the broad topic of Psychology. I replied that it is a new subject for me and was looking for my aforementioned book. She quickly checked their inventory and found that they did not have the book in stock and added it can sometimes be a difficult book to find due to it being a translation from Russian. After calling two other bookstores to inquire with no luck, she also gave me a website suggestion where she had found books that can be a bit hard to track down. Despite not having the book I was looking for, I walked out with five books which included suggestions from the cashier.”
—Kent Mann

Lesson Learned: Even if you don’t have the particular product your customer is looking for, your willingness to help in their hunt—whether that means suggesting other products you have or other retailers—will earn you their loyalty.

“If your name is Leslie, there is a thing when you meet another Leslie. And only Leslie’s know. You always ask what their middle name is; more than likely, it is Ann (without an E). It is instant connection. Which brings me to my retail experience, which happened to be at Lowes. I was on a hunt for a fireplace insert and the woman was amazing. She knew that she had what I was looking for, even though the computer told her that they did not have it. She got the ladder devise that allowed her to scale all the way up to the top shelf and nudge in between the boxes, and there was the insert I was looking for! Upon checking out, she had to ask my name, and well, you guessed it. Icing on the top of an already delicious experience. Her name was Leslie. She spelled it the RIGHT way. And her middle name was Ann with no E. We were basically sisters and were able to take our experience to a very fun interaction.”
—Leslie Cunningham

Lesson Learned: We’ve spoken at length this year about our preference for connection over technology, and this is that lesson in action: the sales associate was warm, engaging, and knowledgeable—even more knowledgeable than the computer system.

“My family and I decided to eat at Cracker Barrel on our way out of town in November. Bear in mind, it was a VERY busy night as it was the evening of Black Friday. Our waitress was a cute, friendly, elderly lady whose name I fail to recall at this moment. She was perky and nice from the get-go. She joked with all of us and made sure we knew our meal choices were ‘fantastic.’ She teased my stepsons and made them laugh. She made sure our drink glasses were always full, and that we had everything we needed. Her cheerful attitude and attentiveness made for a much more enjoyable experience for my family.”
—Jen Keith

Lesson Learned: Your customer experience is always your priority. Even in the midst of what was likely one of the busiest nights of the year, the waitress took the time to make the table feel special, creating fans for life.

“After a long day wearing my consultant’s hat, I decided to put on my consumer’s hat, and go in for a little retail therapy at Next Adventure. Shortly after walking in, I ran into Bryan, one of the owners. What followed was a frenzy brought about by two people who genuinely love retail. Bryan was excitedly pointing at everything that was cool in his store (and there was a lot of cool in his store!). I was bouncing back and forth between the fixtures touching, looking, and trying on. Once we made it back to footwear, he asked me how I liked the shoes I was wearing. They were functional running shoes, I had chosen not for running, but for comfort. Bryan pulls a pair of Blundstone Super 550s off the wall: ‘Dude, you’ve gotta try a pair of these.’ I agree, and while he finds my size he vividly shares his story of wearing these boots for a week straight while traveling through China. The comfort, the simplicity, the durability, the waterproofness! He was right. They felt great. But before I could settle in, he remembered one more thing: Superfeet Carbon Insoles. Win-Win! He had a twofer sale, and I had the boots worn round the world. Easily the best retail experience of 2018!”
—Dan Mann

Lesson Learned: Enthusiasm! You’re likely passionate about your job and your sports, and your customers thrive off of that! When you share your passion for your products, you transfer it to your customers (and make a sale).

“I love—love—a good thrift store, but they’re generally manned by dissatisfied and lonesome owners or, in the case of thrifty chains, clock-punchers. But every once in a while, I’ll find someone rearranging a dusty corner or tinkering behind an old till who shares my same nonsensical passion for old stuff. Such was the case on a thrifting excursion in my hometown last winter. When I mentioned I was on the hunt for an old record player table, the owner walked me through the narrow channels of his shop, climbing over buffets and rusted coolers and curio cabinets to dig out every record player table he had in stock. In the end, I chose a little maple number with hairpin legs and a nice coat of dust, which he helped load into my car. And for my mom, a rusted metal rooster, which he gifted her for free (though we’ll credit that as much to my mom’s persuasion as to his inherent kindness). Now the shop has become a regular stop on my trips back south.”
—Emily Glaser

Lesson Learned: Do the work. You’re going to have needy customers: someone’s going to want the last item on the highest shelf or ask to try on 30 products. Even if it’s a pain in the ass, help with passion and patience and they’ll never forget it.

“At sixty years old, I have raised two children and been keeping house for 39 years and I have never purchased a recliner just for me. My time had come to finally have my own recliner. My sister gave a great recommendation for a sales lady at a local furniture store so I went to meet Tracey. We hit the recliners and sat in all of them, and there were a lot of recliners. We laughed and talked while I threw questions at her about the simplest details. She was honest and open, checked behind herself on all my questions and never left me on the sales floor. Two hours later I settled on the chair I wanted, but that was just the beginning. My chair had to be ordered, so the final details had to be decided. As the features begin to add up, I got nervous about the price, so started backing down. Sensing my nervousness, she suggested different options and combinations to get the best chair for my budget, but she never pressured me. She got on the computer to complete the order and to finish the transaction when she stopped and asked me if someone recommended I shop with her. I told her my sister had. She remembered her and continued the transaction. When she was done she gave me a Referral Discount, which was enough to cover the missing features but stay within my budget. My sister also received $20 for her referral. I waited 5 weeks for my chair, which arrived last week with all the features I wanted and I absolutely love it.”

—Deidra Mann Mason

Lesson Learned: When it comes to big-ticket items, it’s extra important to show empathy for your customers! The best part is that since folks are more likely to ask for recommendations from family and friends for expensive purchases, your happy buyers are likely to refer your services!

“I hate to say this, but I didn’t really have a great retail experience in 2018—it’s pretty bad out there. The only good experience I had was when I bought my new MacBook Pro at Apple. After the data transfer from my old MacBook Pro to the new one, I wanted to take the old one back to its factory settings and give it to my wife. The ‘tech’ that was helping with the transfer said I would have to schedule a new Genius Bar appointment to take the old one back to factory settings. On my way out, the lady who greeted me when I can in and got me set up for the data transfer asked if I got everything done. When I told her that the tech told me to set up a new Genius Bar appointment, she said ‘No, I can take care of that for you right now so you don’t have to come back.’ So, she was awesome, but the guy who was the tech either didn’t know what to do, or didn’t want to take the time to finish up with me. So, even with Apple there is good and bad.”
—Tony Tanner
Lesson Learned: If there’s a solution, give it to your customer. Even if it’s inconvenient for you or technically outside of protocol, they’ll remember that you went the extra mile to help them—or didn’t.
“Earlier this year the Nintendo Switch came out as the new game system. It looked like something that I would enjoy, but I wasn’t sure if I was willing to spend the money on something like that. Like many people, I knew that I had to figure out from my friends if it was worth the buy. Unfortunately, only one of my friends had purchased one, and I didn’t feel like that was enough input to decide on the purchase. Therefore, I needed to get some advice from the people that sold them. With that in mind, I visited several stores and had minimal luck finding someone to help me. After several weeks of popping into stores, I went into a Game Stop. I walked straight up to the section with the Switch and just looked at the price and games. A sales associate saw that I was looking at the Switches and asked if I had any questions about a switch. I told him I was thinking about buying one and he asked me if I liked a certain game and I replied yes. Once I said yes, he told me about an option to preorder a themed Switch and the deal that came along with it. I preordered it and preordered at least three games. When I finally came to pick it up, he was there again and suggested several accessories to go with it. It was a very easy decision to make once he offered the assistance that I had been looking for.”
Lesson Learned: Your customers are looking for help, and you’re the person to give it to them. Even hesitant buyers are comfortable investing in your products when you validate their decision by offering practical, implementable insight into their purchase.


Great Mann Group content, right to your inbox.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.