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Business is business - Do private members-only evenings add to the customer experience?

Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom

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Organising exclusive event parties can be complicated, require a lot of staff and need specific offers tailored for it, but it has a significant quality impact on loyalty and sales turnover.

It’s tricky and complicated to bring people back to a store, get them to buy, and bear the cost of the overtime you have to pay employees. A French retail chain selling cultural and electronic products, Fnac took the plunge - and came out on top.

Throughout December, French consumers can expect to be bombarded with messages, especially if they’ve shared their addresses with a retailer or signed up for a customer loyalty card. What do they get in return? An invitation to a store with the chance to benefit from exclusive offers. Our journalist made an undercover visit to Fnac Montparnasse for a members-only evening. Here’s what happened.

Rule of thumb and straight-forward promises

A range of special deals for customers selected and personally invited as Fnac cardholders. The people who pluck up the courage to make the trip to the store benefit from more attention (the sales staff have more time for you), a cocktail and, as the store is much quieter than usual, pleasant surroundings. In fact, the store is open only to members after 8 pm. This is the personalized and special attention that Fnac wants to offer.

A winning strategy?

Yes, according to some of the customers who shared their thoughts on the evening:

“Very pleasant evening, no rush. We could chat to other members (at the cocktail reception). It’s a very good way to shop. The cocktail reception was original and good.”

“It began with a very friendly welcome from the Fnac team. I then collected the little gift and the fact that the cup can be personalized is lovely! I bought an extra cup at the stand! I was glad to see the Michel et Augustin stand! After buying a few things, I went to get some more refreshments at the stand in the book section! I met some very nice people there. Many thanks to Fnac for a great evening! Having the time to leisurely stroll around each department is great too! When’s the next private evening? I can’t wait!”

“I loved this evening! The security staff and hostesses were kind and efficient. I liked the information leaflet, and the booth with delicious cookies and the cocktail. In the DVD and video game departments where I did my shopping, the salespeople were well informed, friendly, patient and had time for me. Finally, it was great to take advantage of the special deals and to get some vouchers. A big thank you for this privilege and for the evening.”

Evening formula

Everyone who served me and gave me guidance and advice was readily available and had a smile on their face. They were friendly, walked around and actually went out of their way to meet customers. There were so many visitors that all hands were on deck, from managers to salespeople. In the middle of the computer department, I came face to face with a man in a suit, who happened to be the store manager and, like the other managers, was there to give me information and point customers in the right direction. Of course, the price incentive is part of the package: they offer a 15 % discount at this exclusive evening, on a large proportion of products, in the form of gift vouchers to use on future purchases. It helps bring people to the store, which is the retailer’s main goal, supported upstream by a mailing campaign - paper is alive and well! They thought about the little details, like free bags for big purchases, if you wanted one, and longer opening hours. You could get advice and buy and pay for products at the checkout until 9 pm. This is when Parisians have free time, and because some come on wheels, the store director even plans to shortly offer a free storage service for the many cumbersome helmets carried by shoppers.

As Alexandre André, the brand’s communication manager, says: “The in-store experience is a priority and a key challenge: you have to get the customer to want to make the trip and show them that, once they get there, they’ll find something other than products and prices - pleasant services and special attention built around the purchase.” Our journalist, sometimes a fast-checker, has only one desire: to paraphrase Celine, “That came as a surprise!”* 18/20.

*Journey to the End of the Night, Arrival in New York.

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 Extract from the book Business is business, published by Malpaso and Diabolocom, in April 2019. Author Manuel Jacquinet. http://www.malpaso.org/publications/