Last week I unexpectedly found myself having a few minutes to spare in the centre of Birmingham and being near the Bullring, I thought I’d head for the nearest bookshop and take a look at the new Robert Harris novel*.

Which is how I came to be in a large Birmingham high-street chain bookstore and as I loitered near the till I overheard a conversation which went like this …

  • Customer – “No sorry, I haven’t been clear – it’s £5 cheaper on your website?”
  • Staff – “Yeah, we don’t price match online”
  • Customer – “But it says I can click and collect to this store tomorrow?”
  • Staff – “Yeah but that’s still an online price”
  • Customer – “Err… but it’s the same book? Can’t I just have this one at that price?”
  • Staff – “Nope – sorry”
  • Customer – “OK but that seems a bit odd”

At which point the customer walked away and undoubtedly just went and bought the book online at Amazon.

Now I know there could be numerous reasons that this member of staff couldn’t do what the customer wanted – ‘Computer Says No’, ‘Stock levels’, ‘Reserved Stock’ or whatever. But ultimately the fact remains that the store could have sold that book to the customer and replaced the book on the shelf the next day with one ‘click and collected’ overnight – but instead they just let a sale, a customer, and more importantly a potential brand advocate, walk away.

It got me thinking – whose issue is this? Is it online’s fault or the shop’s fault? In truth, it’s probably neither – it’s a wider brand ‘fault’; a brand that is still operating in ‘internal’ silos.

Many of us who work in marketing are guilty of thinking that our brand is multi or even omnichannel, simply because we have a website, whereas in reality there are still barriers to our customers experiencing this retail nirvana. We need to put customers front and centre, first and foremost – the above is a simple but concrete example of how we all should be continuously identifying and knocking down any barriers we artificially place in front of our customers.

I know it’s difficult to find space in the general hubbub of the working day, but I honestly believe that a marketing team should act as a customer advocate within the wider business, ensuring other parts of the business work together to remove issues. Ultimately many marketing activities are measured on sales or conversions and it’s often too easy to concentrate solely on removing ‘on-site barriers’ rather than taking a step backward occasionally to consider the customer’s whole journey holistically.

So if you get a spare hour this week, why not consider your customer journey from a perspective you wouldn’t normally? If you’re an online person then consider the offline journey and vice versa!

*ps it’s called Conclave and is highly recommended!

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