The following blog, “Decline in Physical Retail Sales Provides Insight for Portable Sanitation” was written by Karleen Kos, PSAI Executive Director. We found it so insightful that we couldn’t help but share it! Enjoy the information and in the future, consider becoming a members of this great organization. Links to apply below.
Physical Retail Sales – Customer behavior is changing.
Whether portable sanitation operations have typically had customers walk in the front door and buy things on site doesn’t really matter. The Internet has taught people new ways to shop, and it is now much more “normal” to shop online than to shop in person for a growing number of things. Consequently, when people need your products and services, the first place they are going to look is the Internet. Statistica (2108) has polled online shoppers, and learned they have a variety of reasons for preferring to buy online as shown in this chart.
Customers expect to be well informed.
Today it seems almost quaint to use the process of “shopping around” as a learning experience. Some of us remember a time when the only way to get information was to talk with sellers. If you had an urgent need and little time, heaven help you. This meant you were at the mercy of the seller, and the seller had all the cards.
Today that calculation has shifted in the favor of buyers. The Internet is a great equalizer, allowing customers to compare products, prices, availability, and other variables that matter in the decision process. Even when people go to stores, they often use their phones to look up reviews, competing products, and alternatives. Today’s customers do not take kindly to feeling “in the dark” about these things and are more likely to be suspicious of information provided by a seller if they can’t corroborate it independently.
Shifts bring opportunities for portable sanitation companies.
Our industry is low-tech in many ways. While that has advantages (nobody is off shoring our work!), it sometimes causes us not to see certain opportunities. Internet shopping may be one of them. Even today, 10% of PSAI Member companies don’t have a website at all, and far more than that have sites that are extremely basic, outdated, or both. This tells more potential customers every year that your company is – at best – behind the times. At worst, you never get a chance at certain types of business because potential customers can’t find you.
The opportunities that exist on the web are plentiful if you have the vision to take advantage of changing customer behavior. Look again at the chart on page 2. Customers want to be able to:
- Shop any time, any where
- Understand the products and services available
- Compare options
- Compare prices
If you and your website provide this – and provide it better than the other providers of portable sanitation in your area, — it’s a competitive advantage. As time goes by, if you fail to provide it you will simply not be in the running for certain types of business.
You may be thinking “I already have a reliable, loyal customer base and they don’t shop online. This isn’t important to me.” You may be right in the very short term. But think about this:
- Even if your company’s main revenue comes via decisions that are made through bidding or by loyal customers, as time passes the absence of a professional web presence will diminish your company’s brand. You may not be asked to bid in the first place if you cannot be found on the Internet. Loyal customers may go out of business or turn things over to younger leaders who lack the loyalty on which you depend.
- You may want to sell your business one of these days. The absence of a strong online presence and selling channel will probably diminish the value of your firm. The impact of low- or no-tech operations on your selling price will increase each year as time goes by. Buyers will look at your assets, your current customer list, and your history – of course. But buyers are planning to do business in the future, not the past. They are also going to look hard at your business’ future prospects. If you haven’t invested in things that will grow the company in the future, they’ll have to do it. And the cost of that will come off your selling price.
Remember: this is not the first time a disruptive technology has forced business models to change. Back in the day, guys who delivered milk with horse-drawn wagons eventually had to get a truck – and eventually had to sell their products in grocery stores. Those who stuck with horses were sooner or later out of business because times changed and their business model didn’t change. But forget the guys who were left behind. Think about the ones who got the first trucks. They were able to expand their businesses more quickly than their horse drawn competitors. They could serve a wider area, serve more customers, and get there faster. Sure, they had to invest in one of those mystifying, new-fangled machines, but their businesses benefited from their willingness to take the step.\
It’s not all about technology.
Technology has not made face-to-face interaction obsolete and probably never will. Most customers, even when armed with all the information they can find on the Internet, still value personal advice, And this is not limited to older people. As part of a survey conducted at two US malls, 67% of shoppers between the ages of 18 and 35 said that help from store associates was extremely important to their buying experience.
In the context of better-informed customers and competition from e-commerce (whether you get on board with it or not), the role of your drivers and other customer-facing team members will have to change too. All indications are that employees who come into contact with customers will need to be more informed, better at dealing with people, and better at influencing them than ever before.
You want to build a brand where people feel good about what you do for them. That’s always been true, but it will be even more vivid when the majority of the human contact they have occurs after the sale. According to a survey of top retail executives, they expect that future sales will depend largely on:
- Emotions. If customers feel good about the product, service or buying process they will be more likely to make purchase and/or to make a repeat purchase.
- Experience. The process of doing business with your company will continue to be a huge driver of ongoing or repeat business. The easier you make it to do business with you, and the more your technology is up to date with what customers expect, and the more competent your team is, the more likely you will be to earn and keep customers.
- Social/staff. We all know that good people make a good company. As a customer experience expert said recently, “Developing and nourishing a personal bond between customers and employees is still one of the greatest potentials to truly connect customers to companies in a technology driven world.” In other words, your team can be the “secret sauce” that helps you stand out from the crowd. You knew that, of course. What’s different, though, is that in the future customers will take technology and the advantages it provides for granted. The great team will be the “something extra,” but it won’t be enough if the basic technology your customers expect isn’t there.
This is a big topic and one we will undoubtedly cover from many angles as things progress. How is technology impacting your business? What questions do you have about how to make it work for you? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At PolyPortables, we pride ourselves in offering the best sanitation business advice in the industry, on our blog page. This time however, the PSAI hit the nail on the head. If you find this information as useful as we do, then you may want to consider becoming a member. For all of the information you’ll need to become a member, CLICK THIS LINK!
We hope you’ve found this information as useful as we have! For any more specific advice on running your portable sanitation business or for help on any thing PolyPortables, contact us at any time.
Phone: (706) 864-3776
Toll Free: (800) 241-7951
Fax: (706) 864-8111