Recent news stories are touting a “retail apocalypse” in progress now. Some are suggesting that brick and mortar stores are facing impending doom because customers are running elsewhere.

The problem is, the reason offered for why they assume customers are bolting for other alternatives is wrong.

My wife, for example, has complained for the past several years about one lingerie retailer filling our mailbox with catalogs — yet delivering an inferior product and experience at the mall. Why should she continue to shop there?

This past Christmas, she and I were shopping for toys for family members. At one retailer, we entered a dirty store to be met by surly employees. Why would we continue to shop there?

Customers aren’t loyal to your building or store. They only become loyal to your customer experience.

In other words, if you chose to deliver an inferior experience to a competitor — whether next door or online — you have decided to gamble on customer loyalty and word-of-mouth.

The arrogance of some businesses — who presume that because they open their doors so customers can encounter untrained employees and crappy merchandise that they deserve repeat business and a break over online stores and other available alternatives– is asinine.

WHY should a customer be loyal to your business?

You used to be able to say, “We’re nearby in their community.” That doesn’t work any more. You could say, “We have the largest selection around.” I’ll bet you can’t win that battle anymore, either.

The ONLY aspect that will drive long-term loyalty from customers is a consistent delivery of the Ultimate Customer Experience.

If you aren’t willing to invest in your business — and in your people — to achieve that goal, it’s NOT a “retail apocalypse.”

It’s that you lost the game you thought you could play the same old way and win in today’s marketplace. You failed to provide your customers a compelling REASON to be loyal.

(PS: If bricks and mortar stores are dying — why did Amazon purchase Whole Foods and the Wall St. Journal report they’re trying three more store concepts?)

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