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With over 5 billion Internet users and $870.78 billion in online sales in 2021, storefront operations have struggled. They have had to raise the bar and the customer experience to survive. They can no longer get by with the same old, same old. There is some good news here, though. Even though the digital market is going to get bigger, baby boomers, Generation X and millennials are quite happy to participate in a shopping experience. You may even occasionally bump into a Generation Zer.
According to Morning Consult, more than 2 in 5 adults prefer shopping in-store versus online. There’s something to be said about feeling the experience whether we’re shopping with a friend or want to try something on. So, it’s time for retailers to step it up and compete with the online sales world.
As a corporate trainer, I’ve consulted with entrepreneurs through Fortune 100 companies, and I’ve found four commonalities in storefronts that increase traffic and revenues while dramatically improving the customers’ shopping experience. Here’s what you can do:
1. Use employee meetings as a proactive tool to understand customers
Customer reviews can be abstract in their content, sometimes contrived to get a 5-star rating. If you can’t cite specifically what your employees are doing to get five stars, there’s no meaning in that review. There’s no way it can help you solidify or refine practices. It becomes about numbers.
To avoid this trap, add a few questions to your weekly agenda. First, “what can we do to attract more customers to our business?” It’s your employees’ collective creativity that will foster innovation. Adobe lives this mantra. Your employees are your front line. They hear what customers like, don’t like, what they want and what they need. These employees’ perceptions can lead you to do things differently. Then whether it’s showcasing a specific product, holding an event or advertising a new product launch, make it big. Create an experience customers want to attend with food, entertainment and free gifts — the bigger, the better.
Second, ask employees to identify customers who left happy and what specifically made them happy. All of these happy feelings tell you what you’re doing right. Similarly, ask your employees to share a customer experience where the customer left unhappy. Ask your employees to specifically identify what happened that left the customer feeling this way. This will enable you to assess processes that need to be changed, inventory requirements or training that needs to occur.
2. All hands on deck with all customers
Instead of allowing employees to point customers to an aisle to find a product, have employees walk to the product area with the customer. During the walk, employees should ask customers two key questions: “How often do you shop with us?” and “What are your two predominant purchases?”
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 is buying, we can stay ahead of the trend. If customers buy a specific hair conditioner because it has proven effects to withstand humidity, new product offerings may reflect these reasons. These questions may even enable you to change up your store layout so finding these products is easier for the customer.
3. Share the revenue
Pay your employees well. If your employees contribute to a bigger customer wave and your storefront is thriving, your team should thrive. Offer bonuses, incentives, an 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
Training is your secret weapon. There’s no more room for greeters, floor associates, cashiers or stocker jobs. Your employees are now salespeople and should be trained to do so. Most likely, they don’t consider themselves salespeople. This is where training becomes critical because the heart of selling is delivering high-level customer service. Selling is about caring, and you’re asking 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 provide solutions.
Recently, I called an airline to rebook a ticket. While the representative looked up the details, we conversed about the holidays. She shared a part of her life with me. It was a very positive experience, but unusual. Typically, customer service representatives are focused on the customer solely. But this time, she was connecting with me as a person. One of the most revolutionary topics noted in my book, Sell Like A Cockatoo, is that a relationship isn’t just about you getting to know the customer. The customer must also get to know you. There must be reciprocity in every relationship. That’s what a relationship is.
Training will also teach your employees how to upsell. It’s the difference between a customer being directed to an aisle to get a screw for a ceiling fan and the employee helping the customer find the screw while updating them on 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 your bottom line.
To keep your storefront going strong, maximize employee involvement. Today’s digital world offers so many choices that when a customer enters our storefront, it should feel like home.