After hearing some sobering numbers from CPA Noah Barsky about the state of the independent retail industry, store owners received actionable advice from business consultant Robert Stevenson on ways to motivate employees and drive customer sales.
Stevenson noted that many retailers fail because they do not have a selling process — and if they do have a process, they don’t adequately train their salespeople to follow it. Another failure is to ignore the importance of social media and websites, especially among young consumers. “Millennials will research you online first. If they think your website looks cool, they’ll do business with you,” Stevenson said.
Overall, he explained, independent stores have a crucial advantage in the marketplace because they can provide the kind of customer service and shopping experience that builds loyalty. “Capture their mind and heart — show the customer how much you care,” said Stevenson.
Here are 10 suggestions for taking a retail business to the next level:
1. Create a robust customer database and market to them with regular communication, such as monthly emails.
2. Use dead hours wisely: Spend the time writing personal notes to customers or studying the product.
3. To drive traffic during quiet times, send out a text to customers offering a short-term promotion.
4. Optimize your website for search engines. “If you don’t know what that is,” said Stevenson, “hire a college kid to help you with it.”
5. Create a rewards program for your best customers.
6. Sell gift cards, especially during the holidays.
7. Utilize your sales counter space — or even build a bigger counter — to offer small accessories and impulse items.
8. Set up a Facebook and Instagram account for your company, and add your store to Google Maps.
9. Make all your company purchases with an American Express cards, and use the membership rewards to get gifts for staff and customers at the end of the year.
10. Send customers emails reminding them of upcoming personal dates, such as a wedding anniversary or the birthday of a spouse, for which they might want to buy a present.