Technology — Having the latest and greatest technology is always helpful, but simply having what your customers need for a frictionless experience is often good enough! Whether that’s an upgraded POS system that makes your loyalty program easier to access, or gift cards that offer contactless payment, or simply an online store for customers to purchase products whenever they need it, is extremely helpful to creating a fantastic experience.
As part of my series about the “How To Create A Fantastic Retail Experience That Keeps Bringing Customers Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brittain Brown.
Since joining Givex in 2003, Brittain Brown has held various managerial roles in the National Accounts and Operations divisions and has been responsible for some of the company’s largest client successes. He is an incredible collaborator and team builder, qualities which have allowed him to build relationships with partners and industry leaders.
As President, Brown has driven Givex’s international expansion efforts and overseen the successful acquisition of new additions to the Givex family of companies. His leadership and passion for people have been instrumental in the company’s explosive growth. Brown graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. in Economics.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My backstory has Givex written all over it — when I began in 2003, we were a much smaller company, and there was no role that didn’t wear multiple hats to help make us into the success that we are today. Even as we have grown, we thrive from the ability of our team members to be nimble to the evolving environment around us.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I’m not sure that I can recall a funny mistake, but I do know that I’m still making mistakes every day and I get the opportunity to learn from them each and every time. The biggest takeaway overall is probably that most mistakes are recoverable if you’re open about them from the beginning and seek help in resolving them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Don Gray, the CEO and founder of Givex, has always found in each of our team members an ability that could be challenged and shaped not only to the benefit of the company but to the individual as well. I find myself in the current position I’m in based on the ability to accept that challenge.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I really enjoyed reading Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Talking to Strangers.’ I found it to be very insightful to how we communicate with each other in various circumstances, and I find it resonates anytime I’m discussing a point with someone that has a different point of view.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Givex has a mission to enhance our clients’ ability (as a merchant) to communicate, interact and build a relationship with their customer (consumer). We began as a company that would facilitate stored value transactions between our clients and their customers using gift cards. We’ve been able to expand that conversation to loyalty programs, consumer websites, and Point of Sale solutions.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Roll up your sleeves and plan on working through the challenges.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. The Pandemic only made things much worse for retailers in general. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
The consumer experience needs to be key, and that experience needs to be great both online and in brick-and-mortar. A retailer E-commerce solution needs to be able to provide the consumer with the product and availability that will surpass what may be available at retail, and the retail experience needs to be able to provide in-person expert advice alongside a pleasant shopping experience. Each has their specific benefits. Offering a balanced approach to both is important.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Not all competition is going to be based on pricing. Quality, availability, and trust are going to play an important role in these transactions.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a retail business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Based on my previous thought around mistakes, I wouldn’t necessarily classify a mistake as an error, or something to avoid doing once. The important thing would be to adapt and learn.
This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business in general and for retail in particular?
A consumer transaction can be an experience that incorporates some emotion into the process. One type of experience is the customer that needs something as cheap and quick as possible and they’ll go lengths to get it and accept the way in which they got it. That would be one end of the spectrum where the experience is not as essential as the product itself. But, on the other end of the spectrum, where there are competing products offering similar benefits, the experience of getting the product and the support of that product become all more important in that customer’s view of the seller. In today’s environment, where many similar products can be made available quickly and at a fair price, the additional service and experience that surround the ease of getting or using that product become the game changers.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
It’s easy to become blinded by metrics such as cost and overhead that accompany service. Good service is an investment in the company’s long-term ability to grow, but that is not always apparent in real time or short-term achievements.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
Without stating the client, I can say that the most rewarding feeling is when you are able to provide something to your client that is outside of your specific product or service that gives that positive emotional response. It can be as simple as a quick reply to a call or email, or an extended walk-through of how the product would work well within their company’s structure.
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
They’re still a client, and still looking at Givex for new services.
A fantastic retail experience isn’t just one specific thing. It can be a composite of many different subtle elements fused together. Can you help us break down and identify the different ingredients that come together to create a “fantastic retail experience”?
Something that everyone is looking for in their retail experience these days is customization. Targeted offers and discounts come from analytics — gathered data through loyalty programs, customer accounts, and buying habits. Then comes marketing. Businesses should try to stay top-of-mind for customers, offering up discounts and products that suit their needs. Lastly, the experience itself, whether it’s online or in brick-and-mortar stores, needs to be frictionless. This is often best achieved through technology — self-serve kiosks to find items in store, contactless payments, and a wide range of integrations to ensure compatibility with other vendors, services, and companies required by customers.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Online presence and online store — The pandemic has proven that having an online presence is essential for businesses to stay relevant and keep consumers informed. Online channels are the best ways to update customers on business hours, current specials, and current options for shopping. An online store is also important. Taken from the Canadian point of view, we’ve seen a lot of big US businesses close up shop here as they did not have an online store for their Canadian market. Our client Box’d has had great success with their Customer Websuite that has given them the opportunity to reach customers online and maintain a fully contactless restaurant experience.
- Gift Cards — Gift cards are your customers’ way of investing in your company! The majority of gift card users spend more than the amount loaded on the gift card and gift cards can help businesses reach new audiences when they’re gifted. Gift cards are also amazing incentives for promotions and Givex clients, such as Costa Coffee, have had great success with promotional cards and gift card programs, especially around the holiday season.
- Technology — Having the latest and greatest technology is always helpful, but simply having what your customers need for a frictionless experience is often good enough! Whether that’s an upgraded POS system that makes your loyalty program easier to access, or gift cards that offer contactless payment, or simply an online store for customers to purchase products whenever they need it, is extremely helpful to creating a fantastic experience.
- Integrations — Businesses need to ensure that their POS is properly integrated with their gift card and loyalty programs, payment peripherals, and backend reporting systems. Without proper integrations, systems become bloated and information access becomes limited. It’s best to have a fully integrated ecosystem to ensure that both employees and customers have a streamlined and frictionless experience with the system from beginning to end.
- Analytics — Increasingly important to ensure consumers have a targeted and fantastic experience, analytics is one of Givex’s greatest strengths! We’ve had a number of businesses come back to us this past year for our POS products in order to gain access to more analytics so they could better understand and market to their customers, as well as cut costs and become more efficient in their use of resources.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Going back to the book that I had referenced, if the collective ‘we’ (humans) were to develop not only ways to communicate but to truly understand each other in our interactions, we would likely all head to a place that is grounded in positive appreciation for one another.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!