What could be easier than shopping for a cell phone, especially when you already know what you want? My wife had already decided that she wanted to upgrade her old Blackberry Bold so, being with T-Mobile, off we went to their store.
We wandered around, looked at and played with the two Blackberrys on display and asked a sales associate for advice. The youngster seemed technically competent but totally disengaged, probably having given the same spiel to customers a thousand times. It was obvious that, to him, our purchase was purely a transaction.
The Blackberry Bold was priced at $650 but as “loyal customers” we could purchase the phone for $360 with a $50 mail in rebate from T-Mobile. For this price my wife would have an upgraded phone with both touch screen and keypad, a faster camera, plus newer technology enabling the downloading and interaction with apps that hadn’t been possible on the older version. Ok, great – mission accomplished! I was getting ready to pay and leave.
My wife had other ideas. She was clearly not impressed with either the price or the salesperson. He had failed to connect with her and convince her that she was getting the phone she really wanted. She decided to “think about it”.
Our next port of call was the Target store. They hold wide range of phones – just no Blackberries. A very pleasant and competent salesperson explained that Target could no longer get hold of Blackberry devices. She empathized totally with my wife’s apprehension about transitioning to a large touch screen smartphone and explained that she herself had handled the switch over with remarkable ease. On her own phone, a Samsung Galaxy S11, she demonstrated with verve the swipe mechanism for texting, enthused about the high capability camera and beautiful images displayed on the large screen. She took time to answer questions and form a relationship with my wife, making the whole purchase exercise a fun and informative experience. Who would’ve thought that you’d find this degree of engagement at Target!
Ok, so what about the price? This was going to be the killer. As it turned out the Samsung Galaxy S11, after a trade-in refund for the RIM device and a loyalty discount for Target customers, retailed at … $137. That’s all it took to convince my wife – the offer and the phone were too good to resist!
So what are the “walk aways” from this experience?
- Firstly, purchasing a cell phone is not just a technical sale; it’s an emotional one as well. Even when a customer’s requirements are clearly voiced, the engagement with this customer is crucial and can result in surfacing and satisfying unmet needs.
- Secondly, RIM has a very hard job ahead if most retail stores do not have the product available to satisfy brand loyal purchases.
- Finally, mobile operators had better start thinking about improving their retail business model and experiences to compete with Target-type competition; otherwise Vodafone’s proud boast in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress 2012 of being the 8th largest retailer in the world could very quickly transition a precious asset into an expensive embarrassment.
After much apprehension, my wife is now an avid fan of the larger, touch screen smartphone and after only two days of intense interaction, became a total convert. Who says technology doesn’t evoke emotions? Not me!
Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global