Successful retailing during a downturn means taking stock of your store’s appeal to the senses, providing smarter service and never, ever letting your promotional wheels grind to a halt.
Shoppers decide in just a few seconds whether or not to enter your store. In an instant, they put your shop front, displays and signage through personal filters before deciding whether to move inside or move on. When sales are low, retailers should make their own quick evaluations to help convert browsing to buying.
Personal shopping is a sensory experience that the online alternative can never match, so make the most of the chance to captivate shoppers with sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures. When you engage the senses, you entice longer visits that increase the likelihood of sales.
The basic visual appeals are attractiveness, neatness, cleanliness and maintenance. Then strive to reflect the mood and store identity you want to convey using colour, lighting, furnishings and creative displays. Consider the appeal of sound as an attraction or addition to your store’s ambience. Loud, booming music might attract young fashion buyers, but ambient sound for other stores should reflect your product range (e.g. classical for high quality merchandise) or the time of day, whether hustling and busy or reflective. Use music to cover the background noise of transactions, shop assistants’ conversations, traffic or other distractions.
Personal shoppers are always more likely to buy if they can touch the merchandise. Readily available samples prevent the need to call on assistance, so make sure all possible items are available to hold and inspect. Many products, such as silks, sell themselves on how they feel.
The secret to excellent service is to establish a shopper’s position in the buying cycle and lead them to the next step – preferably to a sale in your store. Remember, not all visitors are ready to buy, but may simply be researching. If so, their decision to return is hugely dependent on the in-store service experience, which largely depends on information collected. Being seen as a good source of product information and ideas is an incentive to visit again. Simple signage in-store can back up the staff’s helpfulness by encouraging curiosity, featuring new products or providing interesting details or return policies.
Stay in touch
An economic downturn is no time to reduce marketing and promotions. Shoppers hear about the financial crisis too, so if you stop communicating, you could be mistaken for an economic casualty. If you must cut back general marketing efforts, sharpen targeted offers to those with the best chance of sales conversions. They don’t need to be discounts. Create loyalty programmes like point systems or rewards to transform one-off buyers into repeat business or better still, to turn them into advocates. Keeping existing customers is a lot easier and cheaper than attracting new ones. This tactic will keep you focused on promotions with the best chance of working when you need them most. Email contact (with permission of course) is the simplest and cheapest way to maintain regular customer relations with announcements, offers and news and to generate website traffic.
So if your sales have dipped, don’t despair. Use the extra time you may have as a result of quieter trading to sharpen your focus. Test your store for sensory attractions; boost your sales assistants’ confidence with extra customer service training and plan clever offers to set your store apart from the competition.