February 2015 | Vol. XIV - No. 2
4 Ways To Improve Your Retail Customer Experience and Sales
Many retail stores offer the same or similar products as you do, and anything is available online.
If the only thing your customers can hope for is a product, then you’re in direct competition with every other retailer online or down the street.
That puts you in a bidding war that, in the long run, you can’t hope to win.
And once you have to rely on discounts to set yourself apart, it’s a quick spiral to low margins and insolvency.
So how do you approach customers who are looking for a particular product? You make the product secondary to their overall shopping experience.
You want customers to leave your store with products, of course, but you don’t want the merchandise to be the only driving motivation that brought shoppers to your store.
The product should be a souvenir of an outstanding shopping experience, an experience they want to remember and repeat. One they tell their friends about, using a specific employee's name because it was exceptional.
Creating that experience isn’t difficult, but it does require training and planning.
Here are 4 tactics to remember and improve your customer experience:
Remember, Satisfied Employees Make Satisfied Customers. Your employees are your frontlines. They’re the public face of your business because they deal directly with customers. If they’re unhappy or uninformed, customers notice.
On the other hand, employees who are informed, educated, and well-trained have greater confidence and job satisfaction. They know they’re good at their jobs because they’ve been given the tools and knowledge needed to succeed. That satisfaction and confidence will be clear to your customers.
Remember, It All Starts With Engagement. The first impression a customer gets as they walk through the doors of your store comes from your sales team. If they’re disengaged, that first impression is one of apathy. When employees can be seen standing around talking to each other behind the counter, checking Facebook while leaning against a display table, or playing invisible because they are hiding out in a stockroom, customers know it.
That does not make a great first impression.
Retail sales training teaches your employees to get in the game and engage with customers as soon as they enter your store. Delivering a basic greeting and having a genuine desire to connect lets your customers know that there are helpful, interested people waiting to assist them. This is the first step in engagement, which is the first step in rapport building.
Remember, Be Happy that They’re Happy. Many times employees cannot afford the luxury products that they’re selling to others. In the wrong salesperson, this can lead to feelings of jealousy. Those thinly masked feelings will affect your salesperson’s ability to build rapport with the customer. In fact, I think that is a leading cause of customers choosing to try to use their smartphone over ever trying to talk to an employee.
The right retail sales training program teaches your sales staff to live vicariously through the sales process. They learn to enjoy the thrill of having someone else buy the item, and they see the value in the experience they provide.
Remember, Buying With the Heart, not the Head. A purely analytical sales approach always comes down to one thing: price. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t win on price. The more your employees harp about what is on sale – and what isn’t – the more they will elevate price to the top of the consideration to purchase an item. With customers' smartphones at the ready, you can unwillingly be pitted against online retailers on your own salesfloor. Then price is a losing conversation. The winning strategy is providing an exceptional customer experience, with the product as a souvenir of that experience...the feeling that at that moment, the shopper is the most important person in the store.
Well-trained, confident salespeople know how to read customers and get them talking about their motivators to buy. Once they have that information, great salespeople can create a narrative that connects customers personally with the items they’re interested in. This takes price out of the equation.
When was the last time you heard a customer say in your store, "I love it! I'll take it!"?
Your customers want to buy due to emotion – this dress makes me look sexy; this watch will show my mother I am successful; this pair of skis will make our vacation the best. When emotion is allowed and encouraged in a sale, it is something far more powerful than price.
Differentiation with a Difference
Discounts and price-matching may move your sales up in the short-term, but they’ll also move your profits down in the long-term. Customers will leave with products, but not much more.
To increase sales and keep profits high, you need to create a shopping experience that sets you apart from the competition.
When you do that, the product simply becomes a souvenir from that great experience and your customers will return for that experience again and again.
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Writer's Bio: Bob Phibbs is the Retail Doctor®, a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete. His new book, The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business has received praise from both Inc. magazine and USA Today and can be found at your local bookstore or ordered at http://www.retaildoc.com/guide. He and his work have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur magazine. Questions? Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article was reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Phibbs, aka The Retail Doctor®. Read more articles by this author
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