Is your business missing a trick?

These are tough times. For most businesses. Whilst large organisations such as banks are worried about survival and solvency, smaller businesses are collapsing for want of short-term loans, suppliers collapsing or bills receivables remaining unpaid.

The simplest management 101 type solution is two-fold: maximising the revenue opportunities and minimising costs, without cutting into the flesh of the business. But are the businesses really doing all they can? 

Earlier this week, I was looking for gift coupons or vouchers. On Twitter, Shel Israel suggested Dell and Starbucks. That was a useful suggestion but I was looking for something more personal, such as a fashion or lifestyle brand in the UK. So I continued looking.

Surprise! I found that most of the UK’s big-name fashion and lifestyle brands came up croppers when it came to purchasing electronic gift coupons. The “luxury-is-for-a-special-few” etc argument does not apply here because all of these brands are big on e-commerce; indeed some businesses exist entirely as web businesses. 

There is no way to purchase a gift voucher or coupon at the  well-known fashion department store Browns. The search for ‘gift voucher’ or ‘gift coupon’ returns partial results, i.e. those that focus on the word ‘gift’ rather than on ‘voucher’ or ‘coupon’. For some reason, Selfridges distinguishes between a gift card which can only be bought in-store and a gift voucher, which apparently is another gift card which will be physically delivered. As a favour to customers, next-day delivery is available for £5.50!  At my favourite store – MatchesFashion – too, they want me to go in-store. Their online shop is a great experience and their service is fabulous but why this extra requirement? Multi-brand skincare and cosmetics store SpaceNK wants you to email them for a gift voucher or buy in-store, but at any rate, the vouchers cannot be redeemed online.  Net-a-porter, the online-only mecca of high fashion brands, has no gift vouchers or coupons. Shame, seeing as it is a web-only business selling products worth a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds so it is not as if people wouldn’t like to buy gift vouchers from them! Their outlet business, The Outnet, where average price tags are far lower, isn’t doing any differently. 

These businesses, all with a solid online presence and customer base, are missing a trick by not using their web stores to ‘spread the love’ so to speak.

Electronic gift vouchers are easy to do. They can make pre-existing customers spend more; they can bring new customers; and since vouchers may not fully cover what the customer ends up buying, they can increase the retailer’s share of the customer’s wallet. By enabling electronic delivery, you are reducing the customer’s effort in making the purchase. Please don’t ask us to come in-store when the real reason why we are seeking vouchers is to avoid making that trip. Make it easy for us to buy, ok? 

I know most of my clients are not in the consumer retail business, but some of them were missing similar tricks. 

What about you? Is your business missing the obvious tricks too?

3 thoughts on “Is your business missing a trick?

  1. And furthermore, outfits like Selfridge’s, with sister companies, such as Holt Renfrew in Canada, do offer the opportunity to buy a gift certificate in Toronto’s Holt Renrew for Selfridge’s in London. In a way, similar to the way telcos separate their online stores from their high street stores. “i cam to understand” (and have been for over a decade!)


  2. I am surprised that well known companies are doing this. In India it is the easiest thing to get a gift voucher but when it comes to buying them online, I guess it won’t be possible most of the time. But then Indian customers are not really into e-commerce in a big way.


  3. Wonder why Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus and Barney’s don’t open in Europe – they’d make a killing. Nordy’s does customer service best – including gift vouchers, to free samples (for cosmetics), personal shopping appointments, 24 hour turnarounds for alterations (and no questions asked if you show up without your receipt/ stub), store returns for online orders (tough to handle, but they do it!). And there’s a guy at NM who now emails me (and a bunch of other customers) before sales are announced, so I can come in and choose merchandise that he sets aside. And he’s figured out my tastes, so if I wander in randomly (he recognizes me), he’ll come up and tell me what all is new. Needless Markups or not, they’re certainly good at maximizing revenues!

    @Romit: Thanks for your note. It appears that you presume that the great customer service/ revenue focus at NM/ Nordstrom/ Barney’s etc is a product of corporate culture. It probably is, but I’d argue that the contribution of corporate culture is way smaller than other factors at work such as compensation structures. Many salespeople in these stores are compensated in commissions which may not be allowable in Europe, where a minimum wage must be met. The incentive to work harder is therefore limited. It is hard to say if NM/ Nordstrom/ Barney’s would make such a killing in Europe, under different constraints.

    Many of the better stores, including Selfridges and Brown’s mentioned here, offer personal shopping; free samples are par for the course at cosmetic product concessions; alterations are increasingly common too but some people, like me, may prefer to ask their own tailors to deal with them. But e-vouchers remain elusive hence this post. Thanks for reading.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s