Customer perception is your reality ...
Updated: Mar 23, 2022
Perception is too commonly considered by retailers to be unfair as we work hard to create what we feel is an enticing and pleasant retail environment full of bargains only for the customer to “miss the point” and perceive it as nothing for them … how dare they not get it. The answer is simply to stop fighting it and use the concept of perception to your advantage as perception can be the most powerful tool and conveniently covers up a multiple of sins.
A travel retail store may offer competitive pricing, an unprecedented selection of goods, sustainability across all brands and a customer experience similar to a 30 mins ride on the world’s best rollercoaster … but a perception that it doesn’t makes this irrelevant.
Whilst no one is suggesting the “pile it high and messy” approach that some discounters use (whilst maintaining perfectly healthy margins to that generates profits that could pay airport rent !) to travel retail the general perception skill though is one that should be embraced by travel retail. Travel retail research companies have produced numerous reports showing that travel retail suffers from a perception issue of a lacking in savings and bland ranges with the result being lower than average conversion rates but the answer can be found in 1 of Plato's words of wisdom ... “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and for us beholder is the traveller..
The phrase “customer perception is your reality” was ideally highlighted in part, but that is another blog, in the demise of the in-flight retail sector when research repeatedly came back with findings that travellers considered that the ranges didn’t offer significant saving and that assortments were similar across nearly all airlines. Whether the perception is true or not is irrelevant as it resulted in travellers not even bothering with the catalogues and even when they did they weren’t convinced that a purchase was benefitting them financially. The in-flight ranges may have been exciting and superbly priced but that would simply be fact and perception trumps fact every time.
But this is also the good news as we must unfortunately be able in travel retail to sell at higher than normal margins in order to justify the costs that are associated with travel retail and in a world of smartphones and instant price checking this makes for an increasingly difficult retail environment. However, and as making the complete terminal a black wi-fi spot isn’t a viable option, use perception to your advantage. If travel retailers can create the perception then, in the same way that we rarely price check Amazon as they have created a superb perception of being the cheapest, then we remove the problem of travellers price checking in the store. The classic “for a limited time”, “get it while it lasts” or even simply “duty free is nice, duty free is cheap” may be old fashioned cliches but they work in creating a perception, don’t allow yourself to get bogged down in over thinking retail but also don’t become lazy to believing the customer will “get it”, they wont.
So whether we like it or not a retailers actual reality is the mental perception that the customer has – perception is 9/10ths of the law - however if perception modelling is incorporated into in-store marketing and product promotion then perception becomes the best member of your sales staff. We work in a sector called duty free when in fact a considerably large amount of our goods are not free of duty so we have proved that we can create perception, and very successfully, so we just need to transfer these skills to the shop floor.