There was a point in time that access to stuff, things, or simply a variety products drove many people to stores and online marketplaces. The thought that you could buy whatever you wanted was very appealing. Even things that you didn’t really need. This can explain the success of big box stores and the early days of eBay and Amazon.

This gave way to creating an shopping an experience that was conducive to people buying more products. Both in physical stores and online, companies were striving to make it easier and more welcoming for people to buy products and services. It was about easy access.

The online experience is changing quickly and has left most brick and mortar stores behind in terms of the level of service provided. I see this especially in stores at the lower to middle end of the market.

Discerning customers at higher ends stores still demand a high level of personal service. Apple in particular understands that value in this.

Ok, so what?

Customers want good and services provided on their terms.

What they want, when they are going to get it, and where it is going to be received is entirely up to them. As a service provider, this makes your job much harder to meet their demands.

Stores can dispense with theater and compelling shopping experiences and get back to simply working to meet the specific needs of the customer. If you can’t, then they are an easy click away from finding someone who can. Or they may drive to the next store down the road because your service is terrible, or worse, your employees don’t really understand what they are selling (which translates into not being able to fully meet your needs).

Balancing an immersive, customer experience with exactly what a customer needs is tricky. Knowing who you are serving is the best way to gauge how to treat people. Creating an environment that guides people and makes them feel welcome and comfortable should be a priority.

However, it is important to realize that customers change over time. No only in terms of the products they demand, but also how they want to receive them.

You should strive to make every customer the center of your world.

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