What if you were honest with your customers?


Have you ever gone into a supermarket/grocery store simply to buy milk or bread and found you had to walk right to the back of the store for what are core staples customers always need? This is traditional merchandising, designed to get you to walk through the store to buy what they really want you to buy, all designed to maximise to metrics such as “£/$ per square foot/metre”.

In short, you go in to buy one thing, but they want you to end up buying more. If you do, they have “won, they have increased their profit from you, irrespective of what you actually needed and wanted to buy.

In the UK there is even a discount pharmacy chain called Superdrug which is deliberately designed so that there is no apparent order to where things are in the store, so you can never find what you want. They want you to ask for help, perhaps so the assistant can then upsell you to, again, buy more.

So, using traditional profit maximising as a goal, sales strategies and tactics are really based on “winning” the “battle” for “share of wallet”, it is about hidden ways to part you with your money. You are simply someone to extract money from, a purely transactional relationship. No wonder trust in brands and corporations is often low!

What if, instead, we chose to operate from a space of doing good and we could, as a business, do well by doing good?

IF we weren’t trying to maximise profit through merchandising and psychological tricks to make people spend more than they want, then perhaps we could be honest in what we are really offering them and so build real relationships between people and brands and organisations?

In Psychology, all relationships are either transactional or transformational. Imagine a world where businesses aimed to build transformational relationships and what might then be possible!

Come with me on a thought experiment…

What if we changed the use of the “Snake” away from Duty-Free

For at least two decades airports have looked to maximises revenue they make from their space by entering agreements with Duty-Free retail, such that you always now have to wend your way through a snake of retail outlets between clearing security and getting to sit and relax at your gate before your flight. Did airports ever ask passengers if they want this mandatory detour? Of course not, they are not doing this to serve passengers, they are doing this to maximise revenue per square foot/metre.

We are so enmeshed in corporate paradigms around shareholder value and profit maximisation that all too often the focus on the customer is transactional.

What if, instead, we were to focus on building a relationship with the customer, for however short a time we interact with them.

Imagine, then, a collaboration between airports and airlines (commercially) that moved the duty-free outlets to an area where people could choose to visit instead of making it mandatory to pass through the “snake”. Now imagine that, in this decade where humanity simply must make radical changes to address the climate crisis, that the “snake” is then retooled to focus both on education and (yes) retail/service opportunities for each person passing through the airport to first build their awareness and understanding of the part they can play, then give them easy options to act on right then to make a difference now and into the future?

After all, air travel is perhap the single greatest area where individuals can reduce their carbon footprint, so when they are right in the airport about to fly may well be a great time to talk to them!

If this is done from a place of genuine intention (rather than “green-washing” or “purpose-washing”), imagine the impact of such genuine sharing of both education and current and longer-term commercial options for individuals to contribute to change themselves?

Imagine also the trusting and positive relationship those individuals might then begin to form with the airlines, airports and others responsible for sharing all of that with them in support of the global human effort to address the climate crisis?

I have lots of other thoughts on where we could be more open about what we truly offer, perhaps a future post. For now, are you, your business, your organisation, truly honest with your clients/customers about what you are truly offering them? If not, could you be honest with them? If you did so, would it deter them or would it, instead, build deeper relationships with them?

Also published on Medium.