Every store has its own unique atmosphere. The feeling a customer encounters when they walk into your store comprises everything from the store’s appearance and the associates working, to inventory and merchandising. Establishing a distinct store culture and customer experience takes a huge effort, and maintaining it can be even more challenging. Let’s break down that process to make it more manageable.
The environment of your store is a major component of your daily business. It’s how potential customers perceive your business, and it’s a big part of not only getting them to stop in, but also keeping them as repeat customers. You don’t have to have the fanciest location or building, but how well you maintain the interior and exterior matters. Are things clean? Is the paint fresh? Are the signs lit? How about cords for displays and signage at the cash wrap area?
It’s about controlling what you can, and giving people the best version of what you have. Sit down and make a list of what you find most valuable when you visit your favorite shops, then use that as an audit list on how to improve your own store environment. Also, check out the industry-only P3 Facebook group for some posts of display contests and what other stores are doing, and take inspiration from your closest industry friends.
One of the most important things you can establish in your store is a customer approach that is easy for an associate of any level to master, and comfortable for guests to respond to. Consistency is key, and making sure each person receives the same greeting goes a long way in ensuring customers feel treated fairly upon entry. Adopt a friendly-but-still-authentic greeting like “Welcome to our store, so happy to have you.” You can ask what someone is looking for right away, or give customers a few minutes to browse and orient themselves before approaching them. Having a list of talking points can be helpful for awkward situations. What is your go-to icebreaker with a customer?
Creating a Customer Experience
The customer approach is based upon a greeting, but the customer experience is about their experience while shopping. Traveling so much, I get to have a lot of different store shopping experiences and they are all different. Take a minute to think about what you want customers to experience in your store. Is it a quick tour, followed by sitting back and waiting for checkout? Or is it making sure they are walked to each section of the store with a more aggressive approach? Plan out your shoppers’ experience and how they move through the store. Do test runs with staff so that you can tell if the layout makes sense and has a flow to it.
Your store’s checkout area is another important contributor to the overall experience. Are transactions seamless? Does allowing shoppers to test an item take up lots of time? Watching a sales associate tear apart packaging to test a toy can be discouraging, as is watching them fumble for batteries or cords. How can you streamline the checkout experience?
Maybe you want your store to offer an experience similar to that of a trade show, and host popup spaces for manufacturers as a focus for your customers’ experience. There are many possibilities!
Landing the Sale
“Four to the floor” may seem like a silly rule, but until I find one that’s more effective, I’ll continue to use it as the best retail tip for landing the sale. Always show two versions of a toy someone is interested in — maybe two different sizes or colors — plus a complementary toy and a surprise option, one the customer probably wouldn’t look for on their own. Look for brands with products that are designed to be merchandised together and have easy add-on products.
Ultimately, retail environments and customer experiences are exactly what owners, managers and staff make them. It’s an exciting opportunity: you have the capability to make the positive changes you want to see in your in-store experiences. I hope this article inspires you to take control of your store culture — and increase those sales.