Seventy-eight percent of satisfied customers will go someplace else to shop if it’s more fun.
When it comes to breathing new life into an established toy store, it can be a real challenge to dream up rewards for loyal customers, incentives to attract new patrons and ways to get a leg up on the competition.
Customer diversity experts Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender say retailers who opt for stealthy advertising can get a jump on competitors by watching newspapers to predict when competitors are most likely to have sales and events. By anticipating the next moves of competitors and craftily beating them to the punch, retailers can “stealthily” advertise a sale that is likely to be even better than the ones competitors will have. By signing up for a membership on competitors’ Web sites, retailers can be privy to special promotions, sales and events. “If you go out and sign up for everybody’s Web site, you’ll know what they’re doing,” Kizer said.
In addition, retailers can jump-start dying trends by hosting events, showcasing displays and having sales related to those trends. For instance, if remote-controlled cars were going out of style, a retailer could host a remote-controlled race and feature such items on sale.
Brian Miller, owner of Geppetto’s, a small chain of toy stores in the San Diego area, said he uses a small advertising agency to promote his business. Miller employs both direct mail and print ads, but he also partners with local schools to get the word out. “We do a lot with schools and nonprofits, and we donate a lot to school fundraisers,” said Miller, who explained that the publicity builds customer awareness of his store. He also occasionally hosts in-store events to boost customer traffic.
Bender suggests that hosting a major event — like a family-fun festival or a cookie-decorating session — is an essential means of building relationships with customers who will come back to shop again and again. In addition to the major event, Bender suggests hosting two minor events, like a demonstration or a class, every month, as well.
Recognizing employees and making certain staff engage customers is another crucial component to good business — particularly because independent retailers have to work harder to make a good impression, Kizer and Bender said. “If you talk to parents and grandparents, they’ll say they if they go to a new place, a place they aren’t comfortable with, and the people who work there aren’t happy or accommodating, they’ll go to a big-box store [e.g., Toys R Us, Target and Wal-Mart] instead,” said Bender, who added that 78 percent of satisfied customers will go someplace else to shop if it’s more fun.