Despite recent headlines warning of a “retail apocalypse” (a claim we recently debunked), over 90% of consumers still shop for goods at traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. That being said, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the shopping experience. Not all retailers, however, can afford to completely renovate and provide customers a fresh new look. Nor can they necessarily invest tens of thousands of dollars in fancy, new retail technologies that require endless hours of staff training. So what’s a budget-minded retailer to do? Here are some simple, cost-effective ways retailers can improve the in-store shopping experience and drive sales:
Provide Exceptional Customer Service
First impressions matter. When a customer walks into your store, the last thing you want them to see is, well, nobody. In a recent ChargeItSpot survey, 63% of consumers said they considered store associates “extremely important” to their shopping experience so make sure your sales team is well trained and your floor is well staffed. A member of your sales team should always be visible, accessible, and attentive. It’s no longer enough to simply provide good customer service – retailers today must provide exceptional service. That means going above and beyond for customers, ensuring they enter – and leave – with a smile on their face.
Hire the Best Sales Team – and Keep Them Happy!
They say the customer is king but, really, it’s your sales reps that can make or break your bottom line so it’s high time you started treating them like royalty too! Once you’ve hired the best sales team your budget allows for, have a plan in place to ensure employee retention. If you’re a small business, get to know your sales staff on a personal level. Ask them what they need to increase their job satisfaction (eg. More control? Flexible hours? Better company perks?). If it’s a larger company, one-on-one discussions may not be feasible but you can issue company-wide surveys or have an open suggestion box. And remember: while listening is good, it’s not enough. You need to act on the information you’ve been given: find a way to give your best employees more of what they want. Happy employees = happy customers.
Delight Shoppers with In-Store Treats
One of the easiest ways to delight shoppers is also one of the cheapest: offer them a (free) treat! A hot cup of cocoa in the winter or a fresh-squeezed lemonade in the summertime can go a long way to creating a positive shopping experience – and both can be sourced relatively inexpensively. You can even try joining forces with a neighboring food or beverage vendor who may agree to supply you edible treats at no charge, in exchange for the exposure. Brooks Brothers recently partnered with Stumptown Coffee and Balthazar Bakery to create a cozy Wi-Fi-enabled cafe in the lower level of their Flatiron boutique. The Red Fleece Cafe turned out to be a huge hit with customers (4.5* on Yelp!), earning the fashion retailer some serious brownie points!
AND Practical Conveniences
While a chocolate fix is certainly delightful, the modern consumer is plagued with an even bigger addiction: their phone. A recent survey found that 62% of Americans would prefer to go a week without chocolate than lose their phone for just a single day! Power-hungry consumers will appreciate the convenience of a free phone charge while they shop. Free phone charging stations and Wi-Fi are two amenities consumers can always enjoy from the comfort of their own home and they’ve now become expected everywhere they shop. A retailer that provides these in-demand amenities can not only expect increased customer satisfaction, but also a larger basket size.
Make Checking Out Fast (& Seamless!)
According to a 2015 study, the vast majority (88%) of Americans want their in-store checkout experience to be faster. If you’ve already followed our previous suggestions, the worst thing you can do is spoil a positive shopping experience by having your customer endure a lengthy or problematic checkout on their way out. Retailers can gain significant loyalty and value from customers by updating their barcode technology (to reduce scanning issues), equipping sales reps with Square-enabled iPads, hiring more cashiers, or installing self-checkout kiosks. Choose the checkout solution that works best for you (and your budget). Just remember: Long lines kill bottom lines.