Over the past decade or so, commerce has gone digital. From Google to social media, to tablets and iPhone apps, many consumers make a purchase these days without ever actually talking to another human being. And digital commerce is sure to only flourish even more over time.
But do we still yearn for that human-to-human contact when we buy something? Think the days of grand bazaars, or, today, even the marchés in Paris, where the cheese vendor passionately expresses his craft behind the local chèvre he offers that Sunday morning. Do we actually enjoy (and benefit from) the experience of going into the store, talking to the shopkeeper, where we learn where our products come from, how they were made, and who made them?
One business in Chelsea, NYC embraces this idea, and as a result, has managed to survive the proliferation of “online”. Alan’s Alley Video on 9th Avenue at 23rd Street continues to sell VHS tapes (remember those!) and DVDs to loyal customers. Open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, they’ve been in the same location for 25 years.
The shopkeepers and owners are genuine movie buffs, and they focus on providing friendly, familiar and personal attention when a customer walks through the door. According to patrons, Alan’s Alley Video is an authentic staple of the neighborhood; has been for years.
The takeaway from this story is that the spirit of a business can make it last, even if the service or product they sell isn’t as desired as the competition’s. Alan’s Alley Video doesn’t compare with Netflix, revenue-wise. But their customers keep walking through that front door, because they enjoy the experience of being in the store, and, perhaps, talking to a shopkeeper who truly takes pride in his service and sincerely believes in his brand.
Reinstating human contact in the buying exchange can be incorporated into every business, in some way. Get “back to the basics”, and figure out how to personalize your brand, and demonstrate the intrinsic value in what you have to offer.