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With over 5 billion internet users and $870.78 billion in online sales in 2021, store operations have struggled. They had to raise the bar and customer experience to survive. They can no longer get by with the same old, same old. However, there is some good news here. Even though the digital market is about to get bigger, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials are more than happy to participate in a shopping experience. You might even occasionally run into a Generation Zer.
According to Morning Consult, more than 2 in 5 adults prefer shopping in-store over online. There’s something to be said about the feel of the experience whether we’re shopping with a friend or wanting to try something on. So, it’s time for retailers to step it up and compete in the world of online sales.
As a corporate trainer, I’ve consulted entrepreneurs through Fortune 100 companies and found four common points in storefronts that increase traffic and revenue while dramatically improving the customer shopping experience. Here’s what you can do:
Related: The 6 Essential In-Store Experiences Your Customers Want to See
1. Use employee meetings as a proactive tool to understand customers
Customer reviews can be abstract in their content, sometimes fabricated to get a 5 star rating. If you can’t specifically mention what your employees do to get five stars, there’s no point in this review. There is no way it will help you solidify or improve practices. It’s done with numbers.
To avoid this pitfall, add a few questions to your weekly agenda. First, “what can we do to attract more customers to our business?” It is the collective creativity of your employees that will drive innovation. Adobe lives this mantra. Your employees are your front line. They listen to customer likes, dislikes, wants and needs. The perceptions of these employees can lead you to do things differently. Then, whether it’s promoting a specific product, hosting an event, or advertising a new product launch, make it big. Create an experience customers want to attend with food, entertainment and freebies — the bigger, the better.
Second, ask employees to identify customers who left happy and what specifically made them happy. All those happy feelings tell you what you are doing right. Likewise, ask your employees to share a customer experience where the customer left unsatisfied. Ask your employees to identify specifically what happened to make the customer feel this way. This will allow you to assess processes that need to be changed, inventory requirements or training that needs to be carried out.
2. All hands on deck with all clients
Instead of allowing employees to direct customers down an aisle to find a product, have employees walk through the product area with the customer. During the walk-through, employees should ask customers two basic questions: “How often do you shop with us?” and “What are your two dominant markets?”
Inventory lists may tell you what the customer is buying, but your employees can tell you why the customer is buying. When we know why a customer buys, we can stay ahead of the trend. If customers purchase a particular hair conditioner because it has a proven track record of resisting humidity, new product offerings may reflect those reasons. These questions may even allow you to change the layout of your store to make finding these products easier for the customer.
Related: 3 Keys to the Future of Retail: Online, In-Store, and Both
3. Share the revenue
Pay your employees well. If your employees are contributing to a larger wave of customers and your storefront is thriving, your team should be thriving. Offer bonuses, incentives, employee of the month and other awards. Buy lunch for the team. Let them know you see their efforts and appreciate them.
4. Innovative training
Education is your secret weapon. There is no more room for greeters, associates, cashiers or stock jobs. Your employees are now salespeople and will need to be trained to do so. Chances are, they don’t think of themselves as salespeople. This is where training becomes critical because the heart of selling is providing high-level customer service. Selling is about caring and you ask your people to do that. You’re asking them to care — to treat the customer as a friend. To relate, ask them questions and then give them solutions.
Recently, I called an airline to rebook a ticket. While the rep worked out the details, we talked about the vacation. She shared a part of her life with me. It was a very positive experience, but unusual. Typically, customer service representatives focus solely on the customer. But this time, it connected with me as a person. One of the most revolutionary topics noted in my book, Sell like a cockatoo, is that a relationship is not just about getting to know the customer. The customer also needs to get to know you. There must be reciprocity in every relationship. This is a relationship.
Related: 4 Ways Bricks and Mortars Can Beat Online Retailers
Training will also teach your employees how to increase sales. It’s the difference between the customer heading down an aisle to get a screw for a ceiling fan and the employee helping the customer find the screw while informing them of the latest ceiling fan models that have arrived. Customers can’t buy if they don’t know — and the more your employees care and share, the happier your customers will be and the happier you’ll be with the bottom line.
To keep your storefront strong, maximize employee engagement. Today’s digital world offers so many options that when a customer walks into our storefront, it should feel like home.