Win or Lose, Retailing in an Omni-Channel world is a Team Sport

I have been a player, captain, coach, referee, and spectator of team sports for the better part of three decades. I have always been amazed at the parallels between business and sports. When reflecting on the day’s events, be it a game or a business challenge, I often find myself concluding “it all comes down to fundamentals…right players, right training, right coaching”.

That said, a friend recently shared a very interesting story about his attempt to buy a basketball pole. On the previous Saturday afternoon he visited a local discount sporting goods retailer, and spent a little less than an hour evaluating his options. Eventually he settled on a pole that cost about a thousand dollars. He pulled the inventory ticket (they don’t store these kits on the sales floor) and headed to the cashier. With credit card in hand, along with his customer loyalty coupon, he presented the inventory tag to the cashier. That’s when things got a little weird.

She informed him that the item he had selected wasn’t in stock, and that he, the customer, should  call around to other stores to see if they had one in stock.

Not a word of it a lie.

Then he dropped the punch-line. He informed me that he went home, with the intention of finding the phone numbers for the other stores, and found himself shopping for the item on-line. The net-net of the story he proudly announced was that he saved $300 by purchasing the item on-line. “I never would have thought do that, if the cashier hadn’t recommend it” he chuckled. “Free shipping, and no sales tax. What a deal!”

In sports parlance, what the cashier did by encouraging the customer to do the inventory availability research himself, and in essence showroom the product, amounted to nothing short of a “forfeit”. In retrospect, I would say this is a team loss, not just poor play by an individual.

What went wrong? Where do you begin? And most importantly what do you need to do today to prevent losing this way again in the future? This loss was due to a combination of poor players, poor training, and poor coaching.  Below I will delineate the most glaring short comings by functional area.

Basic Sales Training – The cashier could have completed the sale, by recommending
o A specific store that had the product in stock and offering to put a “Hold” on the item
o Offering to have the product shipped to the customers home
o Offering to have the product shipped to her store, and allow the customer to pick up the item later in the week

Inventory Management – If the product was on display on the sales floor, why wasn’t the product in the back room?

Pricing Management – Why was there such a gap between the retail price, and what could be found on-line?

Systems – Did the cashier have the ability to see inventory availability at other stores?

Systems Training – If the system functionality existed, was it user friendly, and had the cashier been trained on it?

Unfortunately, retailing  isn’t a game, and with the advances in technology, and the growth of internet retailing, the retail playing field is only going to get more competitive. For those retailers that have started investigating  different interpretations of omni-channel marketing as a new way to compete, it’s important that they stay focused on the fundementals of retailing.  Winning the sale, either in store  or online, starts with the right people, inventory, tools and training in place.

With cashiers turning down thousand dollar sales, working on showrooming solutions can’t begin soon enough.

David Coleman is the CEO and Founder of Brandoogle ( and can be reached via e-mail at Brandoogle works with both Retailers and Brands to improve margins and combat showrooming using a proprietary suite of software and services. 

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