The target audience

Opinions_Targeted-audience-768x513.jpg

Why retailers’ preconceptions are insulting to the customers

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan 6, 2016

Just browsing, I’m always just browsing—at least I used to be. I tend to panic a little when a retail clerk pops out from behind a rack of clothes and inquires: “Can I help you look for anything?” Nope, just browsing. However, recently I’ve started making some bigger purchases, and I’m not talking about televisions, hockey gear, or computer software. I’m talking about appliances, furniture, and an engagement ring. Not exactly kid’s stuff, these are bona fide adult purchases. It’s a next step understandably, and hey, I’m proud to be making strides.

My problem is not with having to grow up and buy expensive things seldom advertised as “action packed,” my problem is with the service I get upon buying them. It’s subtle, but like all forms of discrimination, it’s apparent. I look younger than I am, I’ll admit it—and if I don’t, people will insist that I do. It’s a gift and a curse. Whenever a liquor store employee doesn’t ask me for identification, I feel they should be fired. Yes, I look young and so in many adult situations, I’m treated that way.

It doesn’t matter how old I look, though. It doesn’t matter how much money I may have. What matters is that I should feel welcomed and be kindly guided through the shopping or buying process without feeling like a kid taking food from the adult’s table.

Many retailers make status a commodity in their stores. If you are seen buying something there, you are of a higher class or tax bracket. When young people enter the store, they are perceived with suspicion. It’s uncomfortable and that’s probably why they do it. Capitalism has turned retailers into machines that only focus on those who have and ignore those who don’t. And sometimes when those who do have look like those who don’t, they experience a less than satisfactory customer service. It’s as if a server at a restaurant only served those who tip well and disregarded those who don’t. That’s kind of a shitty way to deal with customer service—as if it’s a commodity, sometimes with a monetary value.

To the people working in retail, I say this: don’t ever assume that someone doesn’t have money to buy your product. Don’t ever make it sound like they need help paying for it. They might, but they might not. Your job is to facilitate a sale, not to make assumptions about their livelihood. While statistics and data on a given demographic are useful in determining marketing strategies, isolating or alienating outliers—discriminating against age and wealth—is not.

The cause of mass retailer extinction

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy

Why Target, Sony, and other retailers may be missing the market

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 27, 2015

Remember Zellers? I do, and that is why Target failed. The same everyday brands presented in the same everyday fashion with prices as high as any other major retailer. Target’s failure is no surprise to me.

I wanted to shop there, I tried to shop there, and on occasion, I have spent some hard-earned money there; nevertheless, I often found myself at Wal-Mart, Superstore, and Costco instead. There is absolutely no reason to choose Target over their competitors, except perhaps that it was closer to home. In my case, it was not.

Although Target’s demise is clear, the retail closure trend is a little scary. I hate to see Sony stores go, but I can’t remember the last time I went into one. Heck, I’ve been into more Disney stores than Sony. Another retailer that has disappointed me is the flagship Chapters on Robson. I’m going to miss walking through the four-storey space, killing time before an appointment, and never actually buying anything. I’ll miss that very much.

It’s obvious why those stores are failing, and if your behaviour is anything like mine, you would not be surprised either. The thing is, people still want to shop and browse, they just might not commit to a purchase or wait in line at the checkout anymore. Unless you have a unique product or a loyal customer base, you are going to have trouble surviving in our tough economy. New and old retailers need to understand the game: if you are going to take up space, you’d better have value.

Ask yourself this, what makes you go out to stores? Why are you choosing to buy something in person, instead of ordering it online? Why are you choosing that store instead of the others? The stores that are dying out are a part of natural selection. The power goes to the consumers. We’re at a crossroad and we get to determine which companies succeed and which fail.

As for brands, they can no longer act so big and arrogant. Any giant can crumble now. In a matter of weeks, a retail giant like Target collapsed. Whatever company that is taking over that retail space had better have a plan.

Canadian economics is a whole other ballpark and companies entering from the States must recognize the different culture. The next big brand to set foot in Vancouver is Nordstrom. I can’t wait to wander around their aisles, touch their fabric, acknowledge some of their employees, and then leave quietly out a random exit. Yes, I wish them luck—they’ll need it.

FinanceIt Launches New iPad App Enabling Businesses to Offer Consumer Finance

FinanceIt celebrated the fourth of July not with fireworks, but by launching their new iPad app, which will be available to the public in early August. For those who are tired of fussing over finance, the app is worth the wait even though access at first will be limited due to its first-come, first-served registration basis.

By using the iPad camera to scan a photo ID for an instant loan approval, FinanceIt’s mobile app will allow businesses to reduce the consumer funding process to less than five minutes and is completely paperless.

Businesses in retail, healthcare and home improvement will be the first to utilize the new app. Some other businesses that the app will be initially available for are furniture and electronic stores, dental practices, home renovation contractors and other retail businesses.

FinanceIt launched in 2011 and since then they have enabled over 2,300 retail, home improvement, health and vehicle businesses to process over $380 million in loans.

“We provide small and medium sized businesses with the tools they need to compete with big box retailers,” said FinanceIt COO, Casper Wong. “By taking advantage of marketing programs like ‘0% financing’ or ‘don’t pay for 12 months’ these businesses can gain a significant competitive advantage at no additional cost.”

FinanceIt’s mobile app is expected to cause some disruption in the retail credit card industry with 80% loan approval rates and no cost to merchants. The app provides instant point of sale financing for loans under $5,000 with a simple scan of a driver’s license.

FinanceIt is planning to release the second version of the app in Fall 2013; the new features will include the vehicle program and maximum loan amount of up to $60,000—features that are currently available on the web platform.

Canadians Savvy Shoppers, Believe They Should Never Pay Full Retail Prices: Study

Here’s a stunning fact: people want to save money.

Duh! We don’t need to conduct a nationwide survey to know that. But what the inaugural Canadian edition of the Shoppers Trend Report shows is that Canadians are starting to become savvier with their money.

RetailMeNot.ca, a Canadian digital coupon site and Angus Reid Forum conducted the study. The monthly report highlights the public’s shopping habits, attitudes and behaviours on retail spending. Nearly half (49%) of Canadians believe that they should not pay retail price, and 47% seek out discounts and coupons online or on their mobile devices.

“Our survey reveals what we’ve known for a long time and highlights one of the reasons we expanded into the Canadian market,” said Josh Harding, vice president of global operations for RetailMeNot, Inc. “Consumers from Victoria to St. John’s are smart shoppers who are looking for great deals. We are giving our new consumers the experience they are looking for with easy-to-find digital coupons that provide great value with little effort.”

Alberta ranks highest among Canadian provinces with 56% of respondents saying they look online or on their mobile devices for deals. Ontario is second with 52%, British Columbia is third with 50% and Manitoba/Saskatchewan with 44%.

When it comes to non-grocery items, such as clothes and electronics, Canadians are spending quite a bit, with 49% budgeting over $100 a month to nonessentials. Men tend to spend more than women with 32% of them exceeding $200 a month, where as 24% for women. Age does not play a factor in how much a person spends, 30% of people from 18 to 54 spend more than $200 a month.

Half of Canadians are spending less money on smaller-priced items than they were five years ago. People are attempting to cut back anywhere they can without effecting their lifestyle. Consumers are cutting back on new furniture and travel, 56% of people 55 and over and 24% of 18 to 34 year-olds have admitted to saving on furnishing. While 32% of Canadians said they would cut back on their vacations.

The new digital coupon trend is quickly gaining traction and is helping people save. 55% said it is easy to search for or find digital coupons. It offers a lot of benefits including accessibility and convenience. 31% of people who use digital coupon are always able to find something available they can use.

But the study also gained a lot of quality information to improve the new couponing format. Almost half of Canadians want coupons or discounts that are frequent and relevant. Also 70% of Canadians prefer offers from well-known retailers rather than the less common brands.

At the moment Albertans are the ones embracing digital coupons the most with 61% using them regularly, while Atlantic Canadians are most eager to save with 55% saying that they should never have to pay retail.