The media loves nothing better than an opportunity to tell us that shopping in physical stores is declining.
So is retail dead?
Business Insider tells us that even though more than $20 billion of sales in Australia were made last year, that amount accounted for around 7% of the dollar value of retail sales at traditional bricks-and-mortar stores.
That still leaves you, the bricks and mortar shopfront, with the majority of the population happy to browse around a physical store like yours.
The benefit that you have as the owner of a shopfront over an eCommerce retailer, is that you’re able to engage the customer more easily, plus you have a better opportunity to craft a customer experience and build customer loyalty.
When a customer comes in store, they need to be satisfied and sometimes it can be difficult to get inside of your customer’s minds, to see what it takes, to make them happy.
Here are three seriously simple ways that you can build customer loyalty in-store and create super-happy customers that will want to come back, time and time again.
1. Step out from behind the counter
So simple that it shouldn’t even be on this list, right?
I recently decided to test this out in my local shopping centre and after entering 8 stores, not one staff member stepped out from behind the counter (even if the store was empty).
In all my years of owning retail stores, I’ve discovered that many sales floor staff have a subconscious feeling of ‘safety’ behind the counter. Yet as a customer, it sends the message that you aren’t prepared to help – “You stay over there and I’ll stay here”. It’s almost impossible to ‘engage’ with a visitor, when you have a giant physical barrier between you and your customer. Training your team to step out from behind the counter costs nothing, but is likely to result in happier, more loyal customers.
2. Compliment a customer to build a connection
Leveraging the in-store experience to build rapport with your customers gives you a competitive advantage over eCommerce stores and even the big chain stores.
You’ve probably had a similar experience:
My local hardware store is a chain and there is always someone at the entrance, saying “Hi, how are you”. But it’s obvious that they don’t care, they certainly are not interested in your response and often, they’re busy chatting with another member of staff. Just about every time I venture in, I think that person could be more effective out on the floor, actually serving customers and helping them find what they’re looking for.
My seriously simple tip to creating an instant connection with your customer, is to pay each visitor a small compliment as they enter your store.
It could be something as simple as “I love your earrings, they suit your colouring so well”,
“that style of handbag is so on trend right now, good choice”.
Much better than an insincere, “Hi, how are you today, can I help you”. Right?
In that moment, your customer has a sense of being welcomed into your store and a connection is made.
The key (obviously) is to be authentic with your complement. Customers are smart and will instantly spot authenticity which will create the absolute opposite effect, distancing your customer and creating a negative association with your store.
3. Offer classes/workshops/product-maker talks
One of the easiest ways to build customer loyalty and engagement, is to offer a unique instore workshops or classes.
The best part – you don’t even need to do these yourself!
By teaming up with local service providers you’ll not only surprise and delight your customers, you’ll be forging professional partnerships that benefit both parties.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
If you have a fashion boutique, invite a local stylist in to give tips and strategies. The stylist is gaining access to ‘qualified leads’ and you’re able to show your customers how much you want to help them.
Perhaps you have a baby-centric store. A great workshop that you could collaborate on could be “how to ensure a baby seat is fitted correctly”. This is a win-win-win collaboration – the child restraint company gets to show their knowledge and expertise to their specific demographic, you get engage customers that will love coming back and your customers gain insight and information that could save the life of their child.
Building loyalty should be easy for independent retailers. The benefit you have over chain stores, is that you’re able to talk directly to your customers, see what interests them and get their feedback. Larger stores lack this intimacy, and as a result, it’s much harder for them to create that fierce loyalty within their customers base.
It doesn’t take a lot to turn your customers into raving fans – start with these 3 simple steps and build from there.