As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression! If you’ve made a good enough initial impression to entice someone through your door, it’s crucial you keep it up with the second, third and forth impression. In fact, every single touchpoint along the entire customer journey must be considered and seamlessly deliver on the brand promise. However, the most important factor to consider along this journey is the messages you and your store are giving customers both actively and subliminally.

1. Say it loud, say it proud

Signage is one of the oldest retail advertising strategies in the book when it comes to grabbing people’s attention, promoting products and offers and driving customers to certain parts of the store. Just as an email subject line entices you to open it or a newspaper headline gets you to read it, the best signs are clear, concise, easy to read (especially from afar) and often, just funny. Signage is crucial for a good customer experience as relaxed customer is a ready-to-buy customer! Nobody wants to be stressing about looking for a toilet if they need one and they shouldn’t have to work hard to locate your checkouts.

2. Lay it out so they come in

Take the time to study and improve the layout of your store. Consumers are people and people like personal space! Do you like crowded, busy, product-pushing places that scream ‘buy, buy, buy’? Us humans are drawn towards more comfortable surroundings. Things like wide aisles are a must for capturing target audiences like the valuable mother-with-child segment. And when it comes to targeting young people, clever lighting brilliantly draws their attention to certain areas and displays within the store. As well as drawing attention, lighting can even affect the mood of consumers.

3. Your staff are your brand

In retail, a final impression is just as important, and possibly fatal, as that first impression. So ensure your staff are polite, friendly and have confident eye-to-eye contact from the minute a customer walks in the door to the moment they leave. The brands that you stock on your shelves have worked tirelessly and spent millions to ensure the packaging of their products are undamaged, appealing and correct. You must ensure to protect your brand (the store) just as much and ensure it and the people that work there, are properly groomed, informed and are a perfect representation of your brand and its values.

4. If you sell it, stock it

“Oh we’re all out of that…” Have you ever been on the receiving end of that closed statement? There’s nothing more frustrating for a shopper. No more information, no more enquiry and most importantly for you, no more chance of a sale. While it’s not ideal to run out of a product or no longer be able to offer a service, of course it happens. The trick is to give the once keen buyer the chance to buy it again. The way to do that is information! Tell them why it’s out of stock (if possible) so they don’t feel so bad. Tell them when it might be back in stock so they know when to return. Offer them the chance to give you their details so that you can hold it for them when it gets back in and then contact them to inform them. If they see you’ve gone to the trouble, they are much more likely to come back to purchase it.

5. Make your marketing match

Make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing! If you have marketing somewhere saying one thing, whatever you do, make sure it corresponds to what’s going on in store. Your marketing simply must match up with your in-store communications. There is nothing worse for a customer than bringing in a coupon they received somewhere only for the person behind the till to say they know nothing about it or that they don’t accept them. This breaks down trust, causes frustration and can, in the most extreme cases, lead to legal action. Also, if you are doing a marketing push on a product, ensure you have enough of the product available, because only Apple and PlayStation get away with running out of stock during a big promotion, and they do it intentionally!

6. Make way for modern-day merchandising

It’s no longer enough to just throw things on shelves and hope somebody notices them. From the biggest brands in the world, to the smallest local butchers, those that want to stand out from the crowd are creating unique experiences to get people in store, keep them entertained and informed while they’re there and even allowing them to purchase items they don’t have on site. Digital Signage like information kiosks, menu boards and interactive gamification are giving the most forward-looking brands an edge, removing customers’ barriers to success and making it easier than ever for them to understand offers, pricing and where everything is.

7. Get 21st century on your communications

It used to be enough to just plaster the front of your store with fifteen-foot high ‘SALE’ signs and watch as cost-conscious consumers flocked to your store. Now that everybody’s using the same messaging tactics, most in-store communications have become invisible wallpaper, with tired consumers simply ignoring it. However, the power of 21st century print and digital merchandising is attracting a new era of tech-savvy purchasers who now expect this kind of communication and will actively seek it out as long as you’re not annoying them and your intentions are good. So have some fun with free gifts, interactive in-store games and even mini events that could have them coming back in store multiple times. Set aside a budget, invest in what you’re doing and whatever you decide to do, make sure you advertise your efforts – there’s no point doing it if it’s only you and the recipient that gets the joy from it!

8. Improve your print and adopt digital

In this digital age, there is still a role for print. Digital Signage needs a well-formed retail advertising strategy, a healthy budget and a real commitment in order to become both successful and financially viable. So don’t just blindly leap off the cliff to follow the big boys like Telstra, who removed the majority of their printed materials over two and a half years ago. It’s all about objectives. If you use small-scale, affordable print pieces like loyalty cards, discount fliers or menus, it’s probably not broken and doesn’t need to be fixed. However, where Digital Signage is flourishing and why it’s set to become a multi-billion dollar sector for the retail marketing and advertising industry over the next five years is the flexibility, cost-reduction and effectiveness it gives you instore.

9. Add a little loyalty to customers’ lives

We’ve all heard of Big Data. While it’s a bit confusing, quite complex and awfully grand, it basically comes down to one thing – knowledge. In retail, knowledge really is power and knowledge is playing a huge part in the search for the holy grail of business-owners everywhere – loyalty – because the more you know the more use your brand can be. Think of it like a date. You spend the entire time trying to get to know the other person, so that next time you can impress them, and hopefully keep them coming back for more, until they can’t imagine going anywhere else. Today, technology is giving retailers the ability to know more about their customers than ever before. It’s allowing them to offer a more tailored service to their customers, build stronger, more personal relationships with them and offer real value, so that everybody wins. So consider gathering and using data and information to help you understand your customers better and them shop with you more.

10. Get moving on mobile

At the beginning of April, Google announced that they would be making one of the most significant changes to their top-secret search algorithm. In this mobile-driven age, websites that look bad on mobile phones will drop down Google’s search rankings, cutting off a major traffic source. Annoying on one level and potentially very damaging on another, it’s a sign of the central role mobile phones now play in our personal, social and consumer lives. It goes without saying that if you haven’t already, ensure your page is ‘mobile-friendly’. But don’t stop there. Do you Instagram your products? Do you talk to current and potential customers on Facebook? Do you email out discounts that allow people to scan their phones at the Point of Sale? All of these are signs of things to come and you might as well act now rather than get left behind by your competitors.