Many retail stores are skating on thin ice these days with the increasing pressure from the e-commerce sector. But there are still plenty of shoppers who will make a trip to a brick and mortar location—and they are there for a purpose. Here are the top six reasons customers still show up in person at a retail shop:
1. They want to handle or see a particular item or a variety of options before they buy
2. They aren’t sure what they need and want expert input—someone who will answer their questions in person
3. They want a convenient, immediate solution to an unmet need (and even rush shipping isn’t fast enough)
4. They are looking for inspiration—something that will make a positive impact in their life or that of a recipient
5. They are lonely and looking for a reason to get out of the house and interact with other people
6. They enjoy the activity of shopping and the satisfaction of a smart purchase
As you can see, searching for the lowest price isn’t on this list. It’s about the experience they have in your store. That means making the customer experience exceptional is paramount. Retailers who recognize these motivating factors are most likely to succeed while others fail. Here are a few of the errors that retail stores still make today.
Are Your Retail Stores Making These Mistakes?
Failing to Train Retail Staff to Sell
Sadly, the art of making a sale is often lacking among today’s retail employees. They may only be equipped to answer simple questions, provide service, and help customers locate items in the store. But a retailer that wants to boost margins must give floor personnel the training and tools to inspire customers to spend more on each visit.
Technology can augment the ability of staff to locate goods and answer questions quickly and effectively. But it takes training and an understanding of human behavior to help them be better salespeople.
Sales staff must know the types of questions that turn off customers—and ones that help them open up. For example, if a salesperson asks, “How much are you looking to spend? Are you planning to buy today?” the customer hears, “Are you worth my time? You should hurry up and make a decision and leave.” In contrast, if a customer asks for a specific item, a salesperson might take the conversation in a more conversational direction. “Do you know someone who has one of these? How do they like it? What’s the most fun or interesting thing you’ll be able to use this for?”
These no-pressure questions elicit a relaxed response, remind the customer of positive things about the item, and help them visualize how much they will enjoy it. The answers also give the salesperson more information about what the customer wants to achieve and opens the door for suggestions regarding upgrades and add-on purchases.
Alienating New or Returning Customers
There’s a fine balance to strike between using low pricing to attract new customers and offering special treatment to loyal customers. It’s easier to keep customers than it is to acquire new ones—but adding to your customer base is essential for your business to thrive. If you are offering a deep discount to new customers through social media, online ads, or other highly visible venues, be aware that your existing customers may see these deals and wonder why they are stuck paying full price. At the same time, it’s not a good idea to risk alienating prospective customers by ignoring their needs and giving better, faster service to repeat customers (like in this story). The solution is to make everyone feel special. But how?
Personalization goes a long way toward making every customer feel that they matter. Repeat customers provide you with data that allows you to tailor your rewards program to their particular tastes and purchase history. These loyal shoppers likely won’t feel upset if you offer a great deal to new customers when they are still getting a small but highly targeted reward as a thank you for their repeat business. It’s also smart to leverage your existing customers to help you land new ones—for example, by offering additional incentives to those who refer new customers your way. Then, make it your mission to make those new customers feel as special as possible to keep the cycle of growth going.
Not Aligning Your Online and In-Store Strategies
Cody Landefeld at Mode Effect has a number of good tips in this area. For example, customers shopping online should have an experience that’s branded in a similar way to the one they would have in store. That includes being made to feel welcome and having access to knowledgeable representatives who can help them navigate their decision-making process. The look and feel of your digital and physical storefronts should also be similar.
Little touches go a long way. Let’s say your customers always get a small gift when they come into the store in person to shop. Consider including that same item with each order that ships out—reminding the customer of one of the reasons they like to shop with you. However, you don’t want the experience to be completely identical. For example, Cody recommends not making everything in the store available on your site. You want there to still be a reason for customers to come out in person to explore your store.
Are Your Retail Stores Making These Mistakes: Letting Inventory Get Out of Control
If you don’t have it (or can’t get it quickly), you can’t sell it. But just because you do have an item doesn’t mean it will sell. Inventory that stays in the warehouse or on the shelves too long is costing you money. It may go out of date, out of style, lose value in general, or end up mysteriously missing. Depending on where you house inventory, you may also have to pay taxes just for holding on to it! Obviously, just-in-time delivery is a growing trend in lean inventory management. But this approach requires intelligent implementation of technology along with some common sense.
A smart approach to inventory management involves several factors:
- Integration of ERP with POS and other systems to automate as much of the process as possible
- The use of BI dashboards that give near real-time visibility into inventory
- Analytics for forecasting on an ongoing basis to capture seasonal opportunities
- Small, frequent inventory checks that maintain accuracy without shutting down operations
- A backup plan in case one or more vendors drop the ball on their end
Are Your Retail Stores Making These Mistakes: Leaving Staffing Issues Unresolved
Remember that list of reasons customers show up in your stores? They must be the top priority in every interaction.
Personnel should prioritize:
- Acknowledging customers as they enter and leave
- Checking in with customers during their shopping experience
- Answering questions, locating items, and helping customers make decisions
- Attending the registers so there are never long lines
Keeping the store clean, organized, fully stocked, and accented with attractive displays is also important. But if your customers are left to fend for themselves because personnel are busy answering phones, managing administrative tasks, and pulling items to fulfill online orders for in-store pickup, you have a staffing shortage.
What’s the solution? In terms of face-to-face interaction, sales staff should know to treat returning customers like treasured friends and greet new customers with excitement as honored guests. In-person interactions should always take precedence over other interactions. This means not asking a customer to wait while staff answer the phone or attend to other matters. It also means you should maintain a strong candidate pipeline to quickly ramp up headcount as needed. And these workers should be onboarded as rapidly as possible to get them out on the floor where they can positively impact the customer experience.
Are your retail stores making these mistakes? For tips on onboarding and software that makes the process seamless, contact our team today.