Retail is tough enough without doing everything you can to maximize each and every customer, and to get them to return to your bricks and mortar, or on-line store, again and again. Here are some key principles to wow your customers (and earn repeat business) year after year.
Offering thousands of products can be an advantage where prices determine your placement in many search engines or websites. However, learning how to beat the pricing game is always the best strategy. Try offering bundles of your best selling or complementary products at a discounted price. You can hire a graphic artist, make your own labels, and prepackage several items to make a new or bundled product that no other store offers. Most customers will buy in bundle if they feel they are getting better value.
Cost of Shipping
There are a variety of online shipping price strategies. They include a weight-based shipping price (actual shipping costs), bundled items (lower shipping prices) and an average built-in shipment cost (“free” shipping). Most customers prefer the third option. Even though the cost is built in, the consumer likes to believe they are getting something for free.
Provide “Value” To Your Customers
Value is a combination of price and experience. Giving great prices is a starting point, however I’m talking about making your store worth doing business with. If you are charging top dollar for your products or your getting at least as much as every other retailer, what are you doing to make your store the place customers want to buy. It may be education, technical advice, great service, a fun or unique experience. Create an atmosphere and experience that people want to be a part of.
Make The Customer Experience The Beneficiary Of Every Decision You Make
Everything you do and every decision in your store should be prefaced by the question, “Does this or will this benefit my customers in the end?” It doesn’t matter whether your efforts are aimed at scheduling, merchandising, marketing, cleaning, hiring, training, signage etc. If it doesn’t ultimately benefit the customer, then you must ask yourself how important your effort really is when it comes to priority setting. Once you decide to make the customer experience in your store the ultimate deciding factor behind how you and your staff prioritize your efforts, you have taken a major step towards making your store more relevant, more important, and more friendly to your customers. Your employees will be more in tune with the purpose and ultimate goal of your store and your customers will be another step closer to becoming loyal advocates of your store and brand.
See Things Through Your Customer’s Eyes
See your store through the eyes of someone on the outside, through the eyes of your customer. This is critical if you really want to set yourself apart from the competition and become special to your customers. Look at your store as it really is. Ask yourself if this feels like your customers would want to experience. Put yourself into the mindset of your customer. What do they really want to see and experience? What would make them feel comfortable? What would help them save time? What appeals to their egos or what would appeal to their self-image?
As a retailer, there are a number of things that you would want customers to know about your merchandise and your shop, as they peruse through your store. Are the most important things you want/need your customers to know being communicated effectively by your store, your people and its atmosphere? Customers are looking to satisfy some emotional need or feeling and they want to take that feeling home with them. Can your store make your customers feel the way you’d want to feel in order to be enticed to buy something right now?
Follow-up Communication is critical – Thank Customers For Their Purchase
Online, consumers don’t want to feel like a number. They require the same care and courtesy as a customer you deal with face to face. Send them a thank you email, along with any information pertaining to their order and a means of contacting your store in the event of an issue with their purchase. A simple follow-up email goes a long way to building a relationship and encouraging repeat loyal customers.
Make your customers feel valued by expressing sincere appreciation. I’m not talking about the quick, often insincere “thank you” that’s often rattled off as you hand the customer their receipt. A thank you card or a phone call the next day can make your customers feel valued. While you’re at it, ask them if they are happy with their purchase and if they have any suggestions for your business. This lets them know that you value their business and opinion. We all want to feel valued and appreciated. A personal phone call once in a while from the owner does just that.
Learn & Use Your Customer’s Names (this goes for employees as well)
Greet your customers by name, and if you can’t remember their name, make sure you let them know they’re regulars and you’re glad to see them. Make it a top priority for you and your people, and you’ll find remembering customer names can be easier than you think. It makes customers feel valued and important!
Be Unique & Surpass Expectations
Make a commitment to surprise customers and exceed expectations in every way that your business touches your customer. Answer the phone immediately. Treat customers with undivided attention when possible. Figure out a way for your business to put a smile on your customer’s face. Learn customer preferences. Constantly be looking for ways to make your customers feel valued. Make up your mind that their visit to your store will be the highlight of their day! No matter what your budget is, you need to find something that will impress and delight them!
Mistakes and Errors
Mistakes are bound to occur. After making a mistake, work quickly to fix it. The first thing you should do is apologise. Then, inform your customer of your intentions to get it corrected, when it will be corrected, and the timeframe in which you will provide them with a refund. For example, when an error occurs in the shipping department, send the corrected item the same day, throw in a free item for the consumer, offer 10% off the customer’s next purchase. This gives you a chance at future business and makes them feel appreciated. It also gives you another chance at making things right. While customers acknowledge the error, they would also acknowledge how quickly you worked to fix it.
Make sure your return policies are clear. The first thing your return policy should say is the length of time allowed for a return. Do not hide important information – display the return period, any transfer stock fees and what you do and do not accept. The return process should always be handled very delicately with an offer to exchange an item for one your customer needs. Most customers are returning items because they weren’t right (too small, too large, wrong color, doesn’t work). Help them find the product they do want, or offer assistance or recommendations.
Take Care Of Unhappy Customers
If something is wrong with the merchandise or the service you’re providing, take immediate steps to correct the issue. Do not make them wait and wonder what you’ll do. Assure them they’ll be taken care of. Same thing goes if they’re not happy with their purchase for any reason. When customer’s are confident that you’ll take care of them, they are much more likely to be confident about any and all future purchases. Trust is important in business of any kind.
Invite all of your customers to leave feedback regarding their experience with your company. Feedback is an important way to inform other potential customers of the way you do business it allows you to reflect on any errors made and how you can fix them. The interaction with customers is the most integral part of an online business. Your online customer could have chosen any company to do business with, so you need to make sure they remember your company positively and come back next time.
Listen & React To Your Customers
Consider a survey. You need to know what your customers are thinking and why they come to your store. What do they like and not like. What would they like to see in product or services? It’s also important to know where they would go if you didn’t exist, and what they want to see that they’re not seeing. Don’t just settle for an answer. Find out the “whys” of everything they do and say, wherever you can. Once they have given feedback for you or your business, react when you can. They will feel appreciated and important.
Be Part of Your Community
Give back and make a difference, and let people see your business name involved in the community. Becoming a good community citizen and giving back to your community should be considered an ongoing part of your retail marketing efforts. When you make the effort to do this, you are helping the charity as well as getting the attention and familiarity of lots of other people who otherwise might not know about your business. Be sure whomever you align your store with, they are well-respected causes.
Support Your Customer’s
You are part of a broad community. If your customers also own a business or they’re in sales, reciprocate and give them your business when you can.
A Final word
If you follow these simple yet underrated guidelines the next time customers need to make a purchase your store or site will be the first place they go. A win-win for everyone! A little customer service can go along way.