Friday, 1 January 2016

Fetish Shopping - Lets Make It Better

As people shopping for fetish kit, clothing and toys we are a niche market.

This usually means two things - there aren’t many customers for companies to market to, and secondly for us customers there are even fewer suppliers for us to choose from.

And because the niche we are talking about relates to sexuality that also means big £££’s are involved. Too often a fetish / sex store will sell an item that you can get at another regular store for half the price, you have the sex mark up. We have all seen them!

This premium pricing, particularly for specific fetish products, to me should also come with premium customer service and experience. And that premium service should happen for each and every customer. When I walk into your store you don’t know if I am just gawping, browsing, buying cheap lube / poppers, or looking to spend £2,000 on custom leathers, or to kit out new dungeon as a pro-dom.

And whichever I am, when I walk in I expect to be treated exactly the same. You don’t have many competitors in this industry, and you want to make sure I spend the money with you and not one of them.

On a trip to the USA this year I had the pleasure of visiting three of the best known and largest fetish stores. That really highlighted for me how bad the experiences I’ve had from most UK fetish stores – though there are one or two exceptions. Speaking with friends it appears I am not the only one who feels like this.

How Not to Treat a Customer
A great example of this failure in service is when I made a trip specifically down to London to buy a pair leather chaps, and look at options for a full leather uniform.

After a two hour train journey I made my way to the store, and walked in. Offered a good morning and asked if I could leave my bag at the desk whilst I browsed the store. Greeted with a “yeah, I guess”. I’m not being made to feel very welcome at this point.

I wandered around, looked at various things, toys, restraints, gear etc. Finally finding the chaps I was after. I find the size I was looking for – 38” waist (the largest available on the rail, and only one in stock). I asked to try them on, was pointed in the direction of the changing room and left to it. After a few minutes trying them on I wandered out to the assistant and asked about different sizes as they whilst fit around waist they were too slim around the leg. “Oh. That’s the largest we do anything bigger needs custom fit”.

That was it – no advice, no other help, no offer to find out about pricing or measuring for custom fit. Just a brush off that I can’t fit into anything off the rail. I was made to feel like I wasn’t at all valued as a customer, and not worth their time.

And it does raise a big frustration … why do fetish stores only cater for small and thin people? Have they not seem all the amazingly hot bigger guys and bears out there? This isn’t about getting a hundred of each size made up, just a few larger sizes for guys to be able to try on!

This experience summed up how I am made to feel in most fetish stores I have visited. The staff usually give the impression they aren’t interested in helping someone who is nearly 40, has a few more kilo’s body fat then he would like, isn’t a twink or American jock porn star, nor a known fetish ‘celebrity’, friend of the staff or part of some scene clique. Basically they don’t fancy you or know you – so not that interested in putting in much effort or helping out.

I left not having spent any money, feeling quite despondent with the experience and not at all valued and not particularly keen to spend money with them again. On my next visit to London I did buy some chaps, and full leather uniform – but from a competitor.

Make It Right
There is a hotel chain that asks tells customers to let them know of any problems with their stay so that they can “make it right”. Instead of just bitching and moaning I want to offer some suggestions on what for me would make a great shopping experience for every customer.

Remember the phrase first impressions, and make yours count. Greet the customer, welcome them to your store. Introduce yourself if you like, offer them a drink for whilst they are looking around and ensure they know to ask you if they have any questions or are looking for anything particular.

Once they are in the store, don’t ignore them. If they are just wandering around make sure they aren’t looking for something specific they can’t find. Some people don’t like to trouble staff, they may even be embarrassed about asking for a douche or they could be looking for their first harness and aren’t really sure how you put them on. Staff are in the store to help customers and to help them make informed choices, and to answer questions on products, their use, safety etc.

There is a fine balance here too, don’t stalk them round the store – give them space to explore but know you are there to help. Some people are more than happy to be left alone.

If a customer is trying on some gear, do they have the right size – is a Levi’s 501 36” waist the same size as your 36” waist jeans? If they are trying something on, check if the size is ok – offer to fetch an alternative style or size that they may be interested in.

Also if you need to … offer to help them get into it! A full rubber suit isn’t always the easiest of things to squeeze into by yourself. Or if they are looking at a leather shirt in the summer for example and arrived in shorts and trainers, why not offer to fetch some jeans and boots to complete the look so they can see how it will work as part of the complete outfit.

As you are chatting to a customer think about inspiring them. If you have ever watched Great British Bake Off no matter how much of a disaster a contestant’s effort is Mary Berry always finds something positive to say. You need to do that with your customers.

If a customer is interested in electro kit, get it out and let them play with it and feel it, if they are looking at dungeon furniture let them try it for size – strap them in! And if you don’t know about some of the stuff you sell, get someone else in the store to show you it and to train you in it so you can help your customers.

And most importantly you need to do this for all customers, you need to make each and every customer feel welcome and important – even the ones you don’t fancy!

And just as important as first impressions can be last impressions, once they complete their transaction don’t just hand the bag over the counter, carry it around to the front and thank them. Hold the door open for them as they leave and wish them a good day and thanks for visiting. This small step makes them feel so important and appreciated. And if the store down the road doesn’t do it, they are more likely to come to you.

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