Each Wednesday, I write a post from my dissertation.
Industry workers emphasize that they do not pressure customers to purchase products, they offer better customer service, and they are more knowledgeable about scrapbooking than the competition.
Industry workers focus on their business as a scrapbooking business in comparison to other businesses that happen to sell scrapbooking products. This emphasis as a scrapbooking business, enables these industry workers to see themselves as the experts on scrapbooking.
In terms of pressuring the customer, however, brick and mortar industry workers see direct sellers as pressuring customers to buy only from the direct seller. Brick and mortar industry workers talk about how even when their store offers free classes, they never put pressure on customers to make a purchase. Direct sellers are viewed as a group as using pressure sales tactics but when brick and mortar industry workers buy from direct sellers, they point out that their consultants do not use these tactics. Direct sellers are lumped together as being pushy, yet individual consultants may deviate from this stereotype and be split off as different from the typical consultant.
The pressure does not seem to come directly from the consultant but from the structure in which the product is sold. Typically, potential customers are invited to a friend or family member’s house where a direct seller (often the host’s friend) will demonstrate or show available product. Industry workers talk about how they feel pressure to attend these parties because they had been invited by a friend or a family member and that this made them feel compelled to also make a purchase. Pressure—real or imagined—also appears to come from the other guests. One industry worker talks about how she did not like attending these parties because she cannot afford to buy very much compared to the other guests. Direct sellers, however, do not see themselves as applying pressure on customers and note that if they did, they would make more money than they do.
Direct selling works through using a person’s relationships to sell product. Brick and mortar industry workers may not invite their friends and family in for a sales pitch, but they do focus on building a relationship with their customers and retaining customers based on this relationship. Local scrapbook store industry workers explain that they are able to offer personalized customer service that large chain stores are not.
Another difference between the various sources of scrapbooking supplies is the knowledge of the employees. Industry workers talk about how they have customers who have taken scrapbooking classes at chains from instructors who were not scrapbookers and were assigned the class at the last minute. Brick and mortar industry workers explain that they are hired for their expertise as scrapbookers or for their experience in related activities (e.g., an art student or handmade card maker). Being a scrapbooker is seen as helpful to working in the industry because it means the employee uses the same discourse (or language), is better able to show customers how to use the products in addition to just selling the products, and is better able to share ideas and support compared to a non-scrapbooking employee. Industry workers regularly mention that employees at other stores are not scrapbookers and are not as knowledgeable about scrapbooking.
Even employees hired with little scrapbooking experience are expected to learn more about scrapbooking than the customer so that they can better serve the customer. When I was hired in a local scrapbook store, I had made a couple of scrapbooks but had little knowledge of the industry. I was encouraged to take classes offered at the store and flip through magazines and idea books sold by the store. I was expected to be able to demonstrate how tools work and offer suggestions to customers on what products to use on a layout or what they needed to get started scrapbooking. In other words, I was hired as a novice, but was expected to become an expert. By the time, I left that job, I was more of an expert than not, but am only now really considering myself to be an expert on scrapbooking as a hobby and an industry.
Do you expect industry workers to be experts? What are your customer service expectations for scrapbook businesses? Do you feel pressured by scrapbook industry workers to buy product? Join the conversation below or on facebook.
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