Retail Today with Bob Phibbs – The Retail Doctor Pt. 1

LS International

Nowadays, the retail industry has a lot of challenges coming from a fast-paced society which is constantly evolving. Creating exceptional experiences is a key component that companies should have in order to be competitive and remain relevant. To discuss this, we’ve invited Bob Phibbs.

Bob Phibbs, CEO of the Retail Doctor, is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, marketing mentor, author of three books, and motivational business speaker. He has appeared on ABC, Fox, MSNBC, PBS and he and his work have been featured in articles in the Entrepreneur, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

This is part 1 of a two-part episode with Bob, please look out for part two where we will address the topic of recycling and waste management. We will also discuss the role of retailers in this process and what can be done by everyone to create a more sustainable world.


Topics covered

-How retailers and manufacturers show their purpose-led brand from the shelf

-Tips for a brand to be competitive

-What good in-store execution looks like today

-What retailers get wrong when managing their brands

Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the Career Success Podcast. Today we will be taking a deep dive into the retail industry. We will be joined by Bob Phibbs. He is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, marketing Mentor and author of three books and a motivational business speaker. In 1994 Bob Phibbs started his retail consultancy company – The Retail Doctor. His clients include some of the largest retail brands in the world including Lego, Omega, Vera Bradley and Yamaha. He has been named one of the top retail influencers of 2018 and a top voice on LinkedIn. He has appeared on ABC, Fox, MSNBC and he and his work have been featured in articles in the Entrepreneur, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Welcome, Bob.


Bob: Thank you so much for having me.


Lauren:  Yes. Thank you for joining us. So we opened up some questions to our audience on social media and we have a lot to cover today. I’m very excited about and some burning questions from their side. Before we start I see that from your LinkedIn. It says that you’re helping brick-and-mortar retailers beat the online competition by creating exceptional experiences. So looking forward to digging deeper on that, one question that I’d like to start off with is around purpose-led brands that they are really all the rage now. So, real Hot Topic across the retail industry. How do you think you can show that your purpose-led brand from in-store both from the retailer side, or as well from a packaged goods side.


BOB: And in two sentences, please, give us the right answer, the magic answer. All I would say is yes purpose-led brands are the rage. I think there’s a lot of marketing speak that goes into it and it’s putting the space on a brand. I look at it that a purpose-led brand should be what attracts the right people to your store to work there. That’s its main mission. For me, it’s people who share that like Patagonia, like Lulu-lemon and several others who get it. Their purpose is clear that lets the employees understand “Oh, so this is what we’re about”. It helps them choose the right person and then ultimately helps that brand engage the employee because the employee is ultimately who engages the customer and you know selling is nothing more than a transference of feeling. So that’s how you show it. It is because the people that you have working in you I think putting a little sign up on your back wall, “we are sustainable and we’re doing all of this stuff”. I think it gets a little “look at us, look at us”. I was in the Levi’s store in SoHo recently and it was interesting that the very friend I saw, they by the counter you could recycle your jeans, you know if you put them in there, but what was interesting is when I went to try on a pair of pants, all the hangers just a little sign on the inside of the hangar says “these are all made from recycled Denim”. And I was like what that’s really interesting designs that they ended up doing. So I think every brand is a little different but I honestly believe you got to take it out of the marketing speak and be able to live it and then I think people see it, they sense it, they’re attracted to it, they’d like to shop, but also particularly to work there.


Lauren: Yes do you think purpose-led brand is anything new? Because a part of me thinks that some of the greatest brands, throughout history, have been purpose-led anyway. It’s just more at the forefront of discussion.


Bob: Well, it’s funny you say that because I think there’s enough lot of Brands out there right now to think they’ve got a purpose and therefore they’re better than somebody else and at the end of the day you look at their numbers and then not selling at all and it wasn’t for VC’s we wouldn’t even know who they are. So I think purpose-driven brands have limits and to your point, I think they all have been. But let’s just not forget a business exists to make a profit. That’s your mission statement. That to me, that’s your purpose anything else you’re kidding yourself; you know. I can have the prettiest or I can have the best employees, I can have the most exclusive merchandise. But if nobody buys it that’s not a business. That’s a hobby. So really important we make that distinction because it is about “did someone convert and give you money for that product?”. If enough don’t it’s not the customers’ fault and it’s not going to be because you got a purpose statement. It’s ultimately because you didn’t connect with a customer and that’s why they get an awful lot of retailers just seem to want to turn their head and say oh, but you know, we have comfy couches for babysit in and we’re giving out the events. “Yeah, but are you profitable?” “Well, no, not yet.” “Well, when are you?” “Well, we’ve been in business only two years”. Well by two years, you know, you should know – are we going to make money or not? So I’m very shy and retiring on opinions just so you know Lauren it’s very hard for me to give an opinion.


Lauren: That’s fine thank you. Looking at instore execution what do you think that good in-store execution looks like today?


Bob: You know it’s interesting I just came back from national retail federation about a week ago and what I discovered in all of my storage tours and everything is it seems the footwear retailers get it. I mean I went into the Nike store and you know store design is great, but the employees are well-trained and they are looking up. I went into converse and they all seem to have a version of personalization and customization and the young woman couldn’t have been nicer. I didn’t realize converse have been there so long. I hadn’t seen that. And then I went to the Adidas store. Beautiful store. The woman just walks up to me. She’s like “you look lost” and I said, “yeah, I don’t want to make the mistake of looking at the Women’s Clothes. Men’s are up, right?”. She goes “absolutely”. So I went up the people was nice. They were engaged. They were curious about the customers. That’s what great retail is right now. Rotten retail is people standing around behind the counter waiting for someone to come up to them and do asked and answered “Hi, can you help me?”. “Yes”. “I’m looking for a red shirt”. “Oh, do you have a budget?”. “Oh, you know, something around $40”. “We don’t have any like that”. “Oh, we could go online. Here’s our tablet. We can ship it to your house”. And it’s this whole kind of a dismissive feeling when you’re in a lot of brick-and-mortar retailers. And the smart ones really understand what does engagement feels like, what does it look like and ultimately have crafted a branded shopping experience that is duplicable from one store to another. I think rituals I think is an amazing brand from the Netherlands. I went by one other store. I had a horrible experience at a designer Boutique in one of the best malls on the east coast and the employee literally stood there in the middle of the store looking out without saying the word as people walk by for like 5 or 10 minutes. I mean, I was livid. I even told the guy you the worst salesmen I have ever had at retail. And then I left and I went to have lunch now. All right, this is bad Karma. I went back and I feel the guy right, “I’m really sorry, but I said you are the worst person that I have ever done.” And he goes “I am really sorry.” And I said, “well you know, who else could help you?”. And he goes “I’m here all alone today”. And I looked, he had merchandise had to come in, stuff you’re supposed to get out for online orders and he shut down and so I looked at that brand like, well you’re the ones responsible for this. I mean don’t get me wrong that kid certainly didn’t have the right social skills. So couple of hours later. I’m walking around the mall and I go by this cosmetic store and what I noticed it is big beautiful like a hydrangea tree right in the middle. And I go like “wow smart design”. I mean, it caught your attention. This Woman’s right the front and she goes “ah you should come in”. I said, “no, I don’t use skincare. I got my skincare routine down.” And she’s like, “well, where are you from?”. And I say “Well, you know, I’m Upstate”, but I said, “you know I am tired of it at the mall all day”. It’s like the week before Christmas. And she was “why don’t you come in and have a cup of tea before the long drive”. I was like, all right, she had me at low fine. So I go in $125 later, she’s sold me the skincare, which is great and then invites me to write a note for their customers to hang onto their hydrangea tree. What sre your wishes for other people shopping this store. Great brand so then I’m backing a buddy of mine who does training and he said, “you know what they do that’s so different is when you get hired as soon as you get hired you on a app and you’re learning about each of your employees you are going to be working within the next two weeks and what they like what they don’t like and about the products in this the Brand store”. And I was like, that’s how you win.


Lauren: Yeah


Bob: Because everybody is aligned. You respect your employees. They can deliver, they are encouraged to deliver and there’s a really tight brand Focus, you know, it wasn’t like buy one get one free and 30% off this weekend. It’s like, no we’re a premium brand we’re going to be ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen, and I think that’s possible no matter what you do, you know, if your average check is $4 is a cup of coffee to find dining to luxury retail. If you don’t solve that engaging the employees before they can possibly engage the customers then I think you are going to be struggling mightily.


Lauren: Sure and let’s switch a bit to discuss another hot topic which is – let’s say – online and ecommerce. What advice would you give retailers which are intimidated by online and Ecommerce?


Bob: Well two point. One, we are going to be moving to the new idea of unified commerce. This is what Alibaba is done in China. It’s what they have pioneered that you can be in the store, you could be on an app, you could be on a website, you could be on a catalog, you can be on Instagram. It’s all one check out basket and that’s huge because the Shopper can go across all of these and it becomes one channel. And that’s why they call it unified commerce. So maybe you’re afraid of it or you are worried. It doesn’t matter. That’s where we’re going because customers don’t want to have to check out separately on your app or on Facebook because then when they go into a store they don’t have any that transparency. So that’s where we’re going. But as far as being intimate by online or e-commerce, you should be most of you because you have treated the customer as disposable for generations and the customer is saying “ºyou know what? I’m not going to roll the dice and going to your brick-and-mortar stores. I’m going to stay away until I find something better.”

If you’re intimidated, it means you also know that your customer service is little more than asked and answered and in this day and age you can have a brick-and-mortar store that’s essentially a warehouse for a bunch of products because you know 70%, Lauren, of what you carry in one store I can get from somebody else


Lauren: Yeah


Bob: All you have is a customer experience. That’s it. That’s all you can trade on. And so, you know buy online pickup in-store is also huge. Why? Because a customer doesn’t want after roll a dice and go down and get on go back to my red shirt. That’s what they want. So, if they know you have it, then they are more likely to buy more by online pickup in-store. I think the add-ons is somewhere in the 40 to 50% region, which it took me a while to get my head around that all they’re trying to solve is a customer not being disappointed.  So what that means for a retailer is you better have transparency in your inventory. You better make sure that your POS system can handle it and can really know if we have three in stock because nobody likes that right. You ordered online and then all a sudden it’s like “yeah will ship it tomorrow” and then like 5 minutes later “oh we’re out of that. We’re waiting for stock.” Nobody wants that. So that’s where we’re going and you have to realize that brick-and-mortar exist in the discovery phase. What do I mean by that? Because people go out and shop in a brick-and-mortar store because they want something they don’t know what it is, but they go to the mall or the high street or in the US and In the Main Street and 60% are in consideration face. I want something. I don’t know what it’s going to be. So they are Curious they don’t know what it is. 30% and consideration. I was half watching Game of Thrones. I’m on my iPad. Do I want this washer another I want to I have to go in and see it. Do I want it in the plum? Do I want it in white? I got to go see it.

In 10% I’ve already decided, like the guy with the red shirt, “I want a red shirt 16,33.” Well, here’s the thing most retailers treat all customers like they’re in that last buying part of the decision, which is only about 10% of people. Most people are in consideration. They don’t know what they want. So when you ask him something stupid like “can I help you find something?” They all answer what? “No”, because they aren’t looking for some special thing like that red shirt. They’re just looking for something. And so the smart retailers understand the brick-and-mortar provides what online by Design can’t. And that’s a feeling and people who feel they matter buy more. And so if your store is struggling, your brand is struggling, I will guarantee you dollars to doughnuts that people feel nothing when they go in or actually feel more alone more stressed or more worried from having encountered your brand and nobody wants to repeat that. So you look at the smart ones like a Lulu lemon. You look at the smart ones like Starbucks, Roastery, you look at Rituals. You look at the brands who have really figured this out and said, okay, it’s got to be different when you walk in here.  That’s a long answer to a short question.


Lauren: Thank you for that. I was going to ask what do you think is the best thing to do? I would imagine it’s not asking him a question.


Bob: Good afternoon! That’s all you have to say. Good morning or people will say good morning back or they’ll say thank you. Isn’t that a better way to start than to say something stupid? Like, how are you today? Do you really care? How I am Lauren? Be honest.


Lauren: Well maybe if it was the first person I saw, then probably not after the 50th person I saw


Bob: Lauren you don’t, so we don’t get into that stupid robot dance Lauren. I said “Hi, how are you?”, “Oh, I’m fine. How are you?”, “I’m fine”. Meanwhile, that phone is going to clock or cheap or do something and take their attention away. And frankly, most of us are going to end up with, you know, an aging parent, a kid in Rehab, something Financial stress, a friend who is going through some health crisis and you expect them to lie and say “oh everything is just fine here”. Why even go down that road because I could just as easily have said you Lauren. “Oh, you know, I was walking around the mall and I got this blister on my heel and it’s bleeding into my sock and it’s sticking…”. Do you want to hear that? Of course not. So why ask it and that’s why I am a sales trainer for some of the best brands in the world because they understand it’s all about conversions and add-ons. And that’s what makes the difference. You have a branded structure just like, you know a Broadway musical hazard, a movie, a book. They all have a structure of how they come together with the same thing with a ball game of the Yankees fan. You don’t put all the guys on all the bases and then say “now hit”. I mean, there’s a process and if you don’t have it, the game doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work and it’s the same thing in a sale. So you really have to understand, how do I build rapport with someone who doesn’t like me probably doesn’t even want to trust me. How do I get them over that and then how I get to discover the needs that they’ve got and I’m finally how do I make them a customer and get them everything they need for the project? Not just the one thing that they might have asked for. And you know what that list average sales by anywhere from 3 to 13% in three months and I’ll tell you the most brands would give their eyeteeth to do that. But when you tell them it’s going to come down to training, they “poo-poo” in like, oh, yeah training, hard to qualify. We’ve tried training and you have to change the culture to say training is something we do, not something we did. And if we don’t do that, I think then you end up having people say it’s hopeless and then you’re worried about online because you really are doing the hard work which is, how do I hire the right people who are passionate about my brand who can represent my purpose and who can follow this in a way that feels totally natural and converts. When you do that, you got a powerful retail brand. If you’re looking to create an exceptional experience, check out That’s my online retail sales training program. And if you’d like to have me come speak to your group or conference, we’d appreciate that by visiting

Lauren:  Thank you to all our listeners for joining us today on the carrier success podcast. This is part one of the two-part episodes with Bob. Please look out for part two where we will be addressing the topic of recycling and waste management. We’ll discuss the role of retailers in this process and what can be done by everyone to create a more sustainable world.