Retail storefronts have taken a big hit in the form of foot traffic in recent years, especially with the growth of online shopping and ecommerce giants like Amazon, Walmart, among others. However, there are plenty of ways that brick and mortar stores can stay competitive while offering things that internet sellers can’t. Here are five important steps that business owners can take toward achieving retail success.
1) Give Customers More to Do, Not More to Buy
Studies have shown a direct correlation between the time people spend in stores and the amount of goods they buy. But how can store owners keep customers in their stores longer? The answer: keep them busy!
For starters, interaction and engagement between employees and customers should be increased. So should interaction with actual products. Retailers need to remember to create opportunities to make their stores more interactive, which will drive engagement and inspire the imagination of their shoppers. Of course, this is easier said than done, but it goes beyond simply adding a coffee bar or popcorn machine to a store.
Letting customers actually touch and feel items serves as a way to enhance the shopping experience. On top of that, thoroughly educating customers about those items essentially gives them something for free. This is a great way to not only get them to purchase a specific item, but helps to gain their trust and almost guarantees they will be a repeat customer.
Giving people a reason to be at a store is crucial – and shopping can’t be the only reason that customers are there.
2) Create a Community
Because we live in an age of instant gratification where shopping is as simple as tapping the screen of a smartphone and adding things to a virtual shopping cart, customers are hungry for real human interaction and meaningful connections. On the brick and mortar side of retail, since the shoppers that patronize a storefront already have something in common with the other shoppers that visit it, it’s imperative that they not only feel a sense of community but that merchants help foster it.
How can they start? As Forbes mentioned in a recent article, the founders of the Beekman 1802 brand began calling their customers and future customers “neighbors.” By doing so, this essentially conveys a message of togetherness rather than the typical “what you can do for me” message that that the word “customers” sometimes implies.
Additionally, increasing the reach of a specified community and showing the inclusivity of it helps attract more potential customers (“neighbors”). Regularly-scheduled workshops and seminars are a great way to do this, as are creating opportunities for creative and artistic involvement in what that store specializes in. This could include store guests creating personalized goods like jewelry, clothing, home décor, stationary, and much more.
3) Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Planning ahead can save a business – in many aspects. Being proactive while anticipating the latest trends and planning for them months in advance or for an upcoming seasonal change, for instance, can prove to be very advantageous for businesses of all types.
Reactive store owners tend to miss out on a lot of opportunities because by the time they react to the latest fad or evolving trend, it’s already too late, and they’ve lost a chance to capitalize on it or salvage what might have been. Similarly, if competing businesses have already done the same, a merchant that’s late to the party might find their business model quite stale and unimaginative.
Being proactive also means understanding a store’s future needs, including everything from inventory to personnel. Business owners need to use all available information to run their stores effectively. This includes analyzing target markets, learning ways of enhancing customer service, promoting sales events, and pricing strategies, among others. Merchants that dive deeper into these are always much better prepared and able to predict certain things for their stores.
It’s helpful for business owners to proactively train and coach their employees about the common goals of their business. This not only builds awareness, but grows a team-first mentality and makes communication much easier when everyone is on the same page.
4) Sale and Clearance Items
Every storefront is familiar with the concept of “out with the old, in with the new” – that’s why they have clearance sales or offer various discounts throughout the year.
The important thing to remember is that having regularly-scheduled sales is a great way to increase customer traffic in any store – so is advertising them via social media. Additionally, having a dedicated “sale” space where customers are able to view discounted merchandise separate from regularly-priced merchandise can go a long way in helping sell more product. Returning customers are also likely to head straight to the sale section when they enter a storefront again.
It’s all about location as well. Placing discounted and “on sale” items towards the back of the store will force customers to walk by regularly-priced merchandise before coming across the sale items, ultimately increasing the probability for sales of regular merchandise. Or, at the very least, allowing them to compare prices and choose a sale item because of the difference in price. Sales prices on all merchandise and on signs should be clear and able to grab customers’ attention. Storefront signs will also increase traffic flow and let customers know there’s a reason to stop in a store.
5) Rewarding Loyalty
Loyalty and rewards programs provide a great way to increase a brand’s visibility and increase sales. Furthermore, implementing loyalty programs, especially for brick and mortar stores that are also online, ensures future success.
“Rewards programs drive loyalty and spending. It has been shown the 80% of profit is driven by 20% of your customer base. Most retail shops profit because of loyal shoppers. Reward programs help businesses increase sales, while increasing their reach,” according to Tim Reynolds, NMA Director of Member Support.
So how should you notify rewards members of discounts or other special sales opportunities? Last year, an eMarketer’s report found that 48% of users preferred the use of SMS (text) messages, while 22% preferred email, and 20% preferred app notifications. Only 8% of internet users preferred to receive updates and news via standard/direct mail. It’s clear that not only is digital the way to go when contacting users, but, additionally, quicker is better.
The key to remaining relevant is to keep rewards current and valuable while catering to the unique needs of users. Brands today need to focus on making sure that the experience is not only simple and pleasurable, but that it’s extended beyond simple discounts as well.
Sure, dollars and cents are the end game, but in order to get there, merchants should be focusing on the kind of experiences people want that ultimately make them feel engaged, surprised, invigorated, and rewarded. Otherwise, they might find themselves with stores filled with plenty of product, but empty of shoppers.
Contact NMA today to learn more about how to boost your business with custom payment processing solutions!