Use Your Origin Story To Shape The Experience In Retail

I recently had what might be a typically Colorado retail experience. Meeting a friend for coffee, we tried a new place that had gourmet doughnuts. It was the afternoon, so just us and the employee, but for love or money we could not get more than one word answers from the employee about each of the doughnuts.

“What’s this one?”


“What’s this one?”


and so on for a while as we tried to figure out of the delicious looking doughnuts (by the way, is it doughnut or donut?) which was going to get in my belly. The employee’s lack of enthusiasm for the doughnuts was palpable. All that changed when I noticed a flyer against the side of the case.

“You have doughnuts with CBD?”

And I kid you not, the employee’s affect changed completely, and she spoke passionately about CBD and doughnuts and which apps help you learn which combos of CBD work for which ailments and so on. It was pretty clear she should be a budtender (real title) at a dispensary, and that her time at the doughnut shop was wasted. Admittedly it is difficult hiring environment now for retail, so the challenge becomes how to work with the team you have to inspire them to shape the retail experience.

Inspiring your employees to be as passionate as you are every day begins with making sure they know why you are there – what is the origin story of the business? Why doughnuts? or artisanal bread? Or 3D printed figurines? The company came from somewhere – most shoppers are curious, and also want to be a part of something bigger. Everyone should know the story, and how to tell it in as much or as little detail as necessary.

Secondly, help the employees connect with the story and make it personal to them. “I came to work because I love the story of the doughnuts” or whatever the reason is. If your team is just trudging in because they have to, there will be no passion from them, no engagement with customers, and lost value for the owner.

Finally, give the employees the opportunity to succeed telling the story. Use secret shoppers, intercepts, and just plain old being there to catch your team doing it right.

Retail management is tough, demanding work – but when it works you can see the result in engaged customers that keep coming back, employees with true job satisfaction, and a growing, thriving business.

Interested in learning about how to get more people into your business? Read The 5 Ways to Make 2018 The Year of More Foot Traffic.