Phylip Morgan, MD of IT dealer community Network Group, shares his views on five ways tech retailers can get ahead in the channel.
Last week I was privileged to attend the PCR Boot Camp 2015 at Towcester. If you did’t get the chance to make it there then sorry, you really missed a cracker. Why not consider attending PCR Boot Camp North later in the year?
I thought one of the best sessions was the noon Panel Session: 'Forget everything you thought you knew about being a PC dealer' chaired by Dom Sacco. The panellists were the three business owners of Black Bear Computers (Lancaster), PC Surgeon (Whetstone) and JR Linton (Park Royal) who were clearly upbeat and passionate about their businesses and plans. All three are growing too, and fast.
In my leadership role at Network Group I was well aware of some of the changes taking place on the High Street in independent retail. Black Bear is a member of our Network, so I am well aware of the changes that Richard is making in his business with other retailers in our group. I was so encouraged to see that others seem to be making the changes in their businesses too.
Unlike North America, independent PC retail is still going strong here in Britain. Whilst a quick internet search makes a customer savvy about products and prices, here in the UK consumers still want to buy from a retailer who is LOCAL, TRUSTED and provides great CUSTOMER SERVICE.
If all of the retailers in the UK are as clever as the three that were on the panel, then the future for the consumer is looking very bright indeed. Here’s the five things that clever retailers are doing:
1. They focus on service
Only few people buy on price. The majority of the public want to buy from a local company that offers outstanding service. What they want to experience when they walk in the door is an enthusiastic, informed person who puts their needs first and supplies them with a product and service that solves their current problem.
Retailers who do that with excellence win that customer - and all their friends. Retailers who focus on service spend twice as much time training sales people and focusing on the customer experience (both in-store and out-store and online) than purchasing and tech stuff.
2. They customise and specialise
The clever retailers are differentiating themselves from the competitors by being different and shouting loud about it. Whilst they provide the same products and services as all other retailers, they shout lout about the piece of the pie that is their strength. Here are five examples:
- PC Surgeon, London – Focus on their strength of PC repairs and Health Check.
- Black Bear Lancaster – Trust: Established for 17 years. Not “here today gone tomorrow”.
- J R Linton – Personal classy service: Basically “sorry, no” is not in their dictionary.
- Utopia Computers, Kilmarnock – Lead with their passion in PC gaming.
- Netgear, Gibraltar – Touch and experience: You’d swear you were in an Apple store.
What are you passionate about and what could your business be “the best in the world” at?
3. They provide a unique experience
We remember how we felt more than what we paid, and most businesses are now aware of the three currencies of spending: Money, Time and Emotions. For many, purchasing their new gaming machine or tablet is a day out at visiting a store, understanding the products and making the choice.
The retailers that get the business are normally the ones providing the best experience. In most cases they are not the cheapest option either.
Some of the best things they do is take what is a “transactional sale” (customer just wants to buy a PC) into an “informational/relational sale”. They take time to understand what the customer's intended use is, and before they finish, end up knowing each other on first name terms.
4. They turn footfall into fans
From the in-store experience they leverage two key bits of information (like email addresses and mobile phone numbers when booking a PC in for repair). These are loaded onto their CRM systems and they always ask for feedback on how they did. Plus, they ask customers to like on facebook, follow on Twitter and subscribe to offers, newsletters etc.
As well as building relationships with these customers, they slowly profile them over time. What are their hobbies, how many devices are in their home, where do they purchase their consumables like paper and ink? And so on.
5. They’re growing rapidly in services
“Attach” is so yesterday for the clever retailers. Selling a laptop and bundling it with a case and anti-virus is just diligence. They think it’s immoral to sell an expensive laptop without protecting the investment. What they are doing is moving their customers to services.
Most of their customers are now on a Microsoft Office 365 monthly subscription and pay for their anti-virus protection and after care. The biggest growth for them has been the huge upsurge in 'Total Care' packages. A £9.99 per month service that includes things like anti-virus, free phone support, remote login to solve tech problems and reduced labour rates for workshop services and onsite work.
The opportunity that retailers have, to win more business and grow, has never been so good. The modern consumer will gladly recommend, refer and compliment when they experience great service and the explosion in social media has given the clever retailers a great way to leverage this even more.
Whilst some of the points above (like setting up your own CRM) look daunting and complicated, the majority of the areas are easy to replicate and deliver with some thought, planning and action.
About the author
Phylip Morgan is Managing Director of Network Group and has over 25 years' business experience in the industry. He is passionate about small business and loves helping companies and business owners achieve their goals and "grow like crazy" (his words)!