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Attention, Retailers! How Convenient Is Your Convenience Strategy?

Many retailers proudly declare their commitment to customer convenience. However, few define convenience from the customer's point of view or systematically craft a convenience strategy. Confronting more retail options than ever, customers value speed and ease at every stage of the retail transaction. Pressed for time, they place a premium on such store features as one-stop shopping, clearly marked aisles, in-stock merchandise, clearly presented pricing, sufficient staffing, efficient checkouts, expanded hours, and easy returns. The retailer that meets these needs and spares its customers needless delays wins their loyalty and outperforms the competition.

Some high-performing retailers demonstrate genuine respect for customers' time and effort by viewing the retail experience as an integrated whole consisting of distinct but related parts. These stores enhance the convenience of their market offerings in four main ways: by ensuring that the store's services and products are easy to reach, by enabling customers to speedily identify and select the products they want, by making it easy for customers to obtain desired products, and by expediting the purchase and return of products.

The authors cite many real-life examples, including Walgreen, Staples, LensCsrafters, Dell, L.L. Bean, and Dial-A-Mattress, which demonstrate the innovative ways companies address forms of convenience. For example, access considerations may include physical location, parking, store hours, proximity to other stores, and telephone and Internet access. Intelligent store design and layout, knowledgeable salespeople, customer interactive systems, and clear signage are also critical aids in expediting the shopping experience. In regard to providing what a customer wants, in-stock merchandise, timely production, and timely delivery are relevant factors. Self-scanning at checkout counters, drive-through windows, and purchase guarantees are among the ways that retailers can make it easy for customers to complete or adjust their purchases. The most successful retailers invest in all four forms of convenience.

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