Performing In a Competitive Market Place?

The Wire 

In the hit US cop series The Wire, a drug dealer called Stringer Bell (played by Idris Elba) asks his economics teacher, what do you do when the market becomes saturated?

For those that haven’t seen this award winning show, (of a few years ago), the teacher has no idea his student is dealing major drugs!

Like everyone who has goods and services to sell, legal or otherwise, customer loyalty is influenced by (amongst others)

  • Product quality
  • Supply and demand
  • Competition
  • Price point
  • Customer Service and Customer      Experience (which are not the same thing)
  • Customer Emotions (Which we’ll talk about a little later)

Market Saturation

You can tell when you live in one of the riches economies on the planet; yes that’s us in the UK. And you notice this at a local level too.

My home city Brighton is a good point in case. There are no mega-sized employers but it’s awash with unlimited coffee shops (and hairdressers) with more opening; seemingly on a weekly basis.

Apparently, we won’t survive unless we get more coffee and better hair! J  So let’s take one of these saturations; coffee.

  • Last year in Britain, £730 million was spent on coffee.
  • The USA is the world’s largest consumer of coffee.
  • More than half of the United States population consumes coffee, typically drinking 3.4 cups a day.
  • Caffeine is, according to New Scientist, the planet’s most popular “psychoactive drug”.
  • Both the US and UK governments are concerned about the affects of over caffeinated generations, regarding adolescent and adult concentration, attention deficit and lack lustre performance.

In the last few decades, the UK has a fully established cafe culture, (the word barista was unheard of when I grew-up) pumping out millions of gallons of this legal high.

If coffee (and alcohol) consumption were Olympic sports we, in the UK, could confidently prepare a team!

Coffee shop saturation is happening and because caffeine is a psychoactive drugs it can affect the Dopamine receptors in our brain that egg us on to want more, even if it’s not healthy to have more. 

What can all These Coffee Shops Do?

Tactics to keep a leading edge against competitors vary, depending upon whether the coffee shop in question is a corporate brand or an entrepreneurial start up. However, loyalty and advocacy is king in all business models. But often, just giving out a customer loyalty cards isn’t enough.

One popular entrepreneurial establishment in Brighton is probably the coolest cafe in the city. It doesn’t offer loyalty cards. Its décor, music and atmosphere are truly unique and unrivalled. It’s grown its service and product proposition incrementally since start up a few years ago. With a greater range of food options, evening drinks and entertainment that has helped to broaden its appeal and the reach of its customer experience. Its quality of product is good to high and its price point is strong value.

And Then There are the Employees

Cool place, cool staff. More “hey man or hey buddy” in their relaxed, friendly style rather than “good morning”. There’s nothing wrong with that style when you consider the discerning customers they attract, (Creative Brighton and Hove-ites, entrepreneurs etc) the style of the business and the values of the owner.

But the challenge they have is they always appear to be enjoying work so much, you as the customer sometimes come a second priority. Lots of banter while the queue grows; a seeming inability to change gear, when an up tempo energy is required to focus on the number one – the customer and their all important feelings.

After all, loyalty is made up of a whole bunch of human emotions and specifically the emotions you help your customers feel, compared to your competitors.

In a recent business meeting held there we sat upstairs and asked a waitress if she could get an extra coffee as she was returning to the till/serving area. But she said she couldn’t as customers had to go downstairs and order themselves. Really!

Never Return Empty Handed…

… Is a common saying in the restaurant/hospitality industry. You are trained to always take something useful, back with you; normally used plates and cutlery.

So a customer asks to spend more money; placing it in the hands of the business and she decides to return to the till empty handed.

An alternative response could have been, “certainly, I can order that for you”, shall I take the money now or can you come to the till and pay”?

Because there are a whole set of different emotions triggered in the customer when the staff member says the above compared to, “You’ll have to go downstairs”.

Customer Emotions are king in the fight against competition because we return to those places that help us feel good. And once our brains like this, by secreting Dopamine, we often want more so we return to spend more with those businesses that understand feelings and brain chemicals!

The Search for More

Inherent within the fight against competitors is the search for more.  More than the business next door, more than what we sold this time last year etc.

The capitalist model depends on our species sustaining the appetite to have more and because a part of our brain is sometimes influenced by our active Dopamine receptors – That give us cravings even when we don’t need more.

After all, do five blades on a razor really shave me so much closer than three?  Of course not, unless I fall for the marketing and the craving Dopamine feelings that more is required?

The appetite for more creates the beating drum in a saturated market place – We see this currently in the mobile phone industry with its recent technology boom but it’s also the seemingly small things that count in your total customer experience that keep your competitive edge.

When so many organisations are serving the same thing, it’s your people that can be the difference; helping customers to become loyal advocates of your business by triggering the emotions they feel.


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