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  • Christine Hourd

3 Steps To Increase Customer Retention At a Small Retail Business

We often talk about on-boarding our new employees, but have you ever considered using a similar approach for new customers at a small retail business?


Having a system to onboard new customers can increase customer retention rates, repeat business, and referrals. Improving customer engagement, especially for independent businesses, is key to building resilience and keeping the money flowing.


Why The First Visit Is Important to Increase Customer Retention


If you consider something that you've tried for the first time, such as getting behind the wheel of a vehicle, there are many things to familiarize yourself with. The position of the controls, adjustment of the seat, and then the sensitivity of the brakes and gas pedal. But the more you get behind the wheel, the more that the feeling of anxiousness subsides. You feel relaxed and know our way around.


This is the same experience when someone visits your store. At first they don't know what to expect, or where to locate things, but after the second or third time visiting they feel more comfortable and more familiar.


Although, that first experience can be a complete fail if the customer feels any sort of confusion or frustration—the customer will feel anxious and then walk out. But with a good on-boarding system the customer can have a positive experience and feel more confident on the next visit.


The More Unique Your Small Retail Business Is, The Greater The Need To On-Board Customers


Many national retail businesses follow a common blueprint of how the store is laid out. This is a valuable strategy because customers are familiar with this layout and have a positive experience locating items on their own.


When your store is more unique and offers a boutique type environment, the customer needs more guidance to get them familiar and comfortable in your store. If you find that people enter your store, look around and then leave, this is a sign that an on-boarding system will make a difference and increase customer retention.


How the Store Entrance Can Start The Customer Shopping Experience


The area at the front of your store, where people come in, is like a landing strip. They come through the door at a similar pace that they approached your store, and after a few steps in, they stop and assess what's before them. This is the perfect space to create a connection and start the customer shopping experience.


I've been in many stores where this space wasn't utilized and ended up doing the loop in the store and walking out and onto the next store. To feel comfortable people will look for something familiar, and if they don't find that feeling in your store they'll leave. There has to be some process to slow the customer down to start a positive shopping experience, rather than scanning the store and leaving.


3 Steps to Improve The Customer Experience During The First Visit


To help customers become more familiar and comfortable with your store, so they'll return and refer, here's three steps to improve the customer shopping experience on their first visit.


1. Is the potential customer a first time visitor or a repeat customer

When the customer comes in, ask if it's their first time visiting your store. This is something they can easily answer, and easy questions make us feel comfortable. This is more effective than the vague question, "can I help you find something?" At this point the customer is gathering a lot of information and will smile and habitually respond with "just looking," or "no thank you."


2. What is working to attract customers to your store

Show your appreciation that they chose your store, and then asked how they discovered it. This is another easy question, it will create interest in the client, and help them relax into the moment. It also tells us what's working to draw people to your store. If it works keep doing it!


3. What are the important features of your unique retail business that separates you from others?

After some easy questions, the customer can open their mind to listening. At this time provide a road map to help them navigate the store. But only point out up to three things with a bit of a story around it, such as, new product just shipped in from Italy, your flagship product and why, and how to get help if they're looking for something in particular. This highlights the important features and why you have a unique retail business. Anything more than three will be too much information and starts to sound like you're selling, not helping.


The key to good on-boarding is to get the customer familiar and comfortable with your store. People love comfort and lean to that experience far more than trying a new experience. They also would rather support local small retail business.


Please leave a comment or share this with others who would find it useful.


Christine Hourd, ACC is a certified professional success and leadership life coach from Calgary, Alberta. She works with business owners and professionals to help improve their customer relationships and increase income. Contact Christine to find out how Leadership Coaching can help you achieve your professional goals.

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