Prince Convenience

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Scott WebbMy great grandmother actually made her own soap. (Or so she said.) My mom bought her soap at Woolworths. Now my wife says she wants to sign up on the Internet to have it delivered regularly along with everything else we don't think we have time to pull off the shelf at Target.

Perhaps the next generation will eliminate that last inconvenient step and work up a lather for us.

This we know: Every year our lives must become a little more convenient. And the reason is simple and obvious — they will collapse without it.

North American consumers are almost frantic for convenience. We'll do anything for it — even kill, in the right circumstances — because we still believe that if we can buy or steal or engineer just a little more convenience into our lives, just a few more timesavers, just a couple more cut-corners, we will get what we're really after — a little more time.

That's all we want: just a few panting minutes to catch our breath and get a grip. Maybe even stand up and look around.

Of course it's all a mirage. We create this feverish pace for ourselves because deep down, for some reason, we truly want to live this way. And the moment we actually do figure out how to contrive a few extra minutes, we immediately fill them up with something new and just as crucial to our existence as everything else.

But that's not the point. The point is we believe in the myth of convenience and we are eager to pay for it. Just tell us where to sign.

And knowing this obvious fact, specialty retailers need to make sure, that when it comes to the transactional part of the business, the work of obtaining the product, that they are the convenience kings. Or at least princes.

The big box offers the efficiency of the one-stop supply run, and the Internet offers the quick click solution. It's difficult for the pool and spa retailer to compete with that; we need to keep the convenience gap as small as possible, while offering the expertise and shopping experience they can't.

How? Evaluate your business model with a focus on customer convenience. Look for every place in the chain of sale for moments when your customers are just standing still, waiting, and kill that. Find ways to retain your charm and your huge knowledge advantage while boosting your convenience factor.

If that means chemical delivery, if it means a scramble alert for administrative staff to help when there's an overload at checkout, so be it. Just don't waste your customers' time. This is the 21st century. They won't put up with it.

Scott Webb

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