Any retailer can relate to the idea of their store being not just a physical space of bricks and mortar, but an experience. From a customer’s point of view, it’s this experience—the appearance, attitude, selection, and overall feeling that they get—that will keep them coming back.
But I think it can also be easy to get into a groove as busy schedules may prevent you from stepping back and viewing your store objectively. After all, if we have fairly consistent business, we can get used to doing things the same way–but it might not be the best way.
With that in mind, there are a few ways to continually improve your retail operation and optimize the store experience for your customers. And I think that keeping these things in mind and putting them into practice, when necessary, will keep customers coming back and bring new people into your store, as well.
Keep Your Store’s First Impressions Friendly, Positive, and Welcoming
First, consider the physical impression your store makes, outside and inside. If you were a first-time visitor to your store, would it seem like a welcoming space? Does it have attractive signage outside? Does it feel bright and friendly inside? Is it well-lit, attractively stocked with eye-catching displays and full shelves? And is it easy for people in a range of physical conditions to navigate?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to all of these, then half the battle is won.
And I’m sure that you put this into practice, but I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge every customer with a warm smile and a “hello” as they come into your store. Truly be ready to help, not just to make a one-time sale. Cultivating an attitude of service is essential in every endeavor, but most especially in retail.
Make sure each of your customers feels like they are essential to your success–they are! Even if someone doesn’t buy anything their first time through the store, let them know in words and attitude that they are always welcome to come back.
One way to do this is to help your staff play to their interests and strengths. While being a generalist about natural health is a must for every employee, it is also common for each person to have their own areas of expertise. That can easily work to your customers’ and your store’s benefit.
For example, if you have a member of your team who is an expert on protein, and eagerly tries the varieties you carry (and can recommend them), they are exactly the person to take on customer questions about flavor, amino acid profiles, and whether concentrate or isolate forms are the best option for their regimen.
Likewise, if someone on your staff is a superstar when it comes to adaptogens and energy, enlist them to help plan a special event that features a guest speaker and a variety of the products you carry. During that event, they can be on hand to assist your guest speaker and answer questions, and by doing so, enrich the overall atmosphere and experience for your customers.
Encourage Browsing and Lingering
If your store is busy, and it seems like people simply want to browse for a while, that’s good news. Encourage it and welcome it. Because the more popular your store is as a destination, the more sales you’ll see.
Aisle layout and intriguing displays are a big part of keeping customers engaged and enhancing their experience. Allowing your staff to create appealing endcaps or special featured product sections can create curiosity in the minds of your customers. Clear and attractive signage that draws them toward your selection but doesn’t distract from it is part of creative marketing, too. And having aisles that are roomy enough for accessibility to a diversity of shoppers indicates that you value all visitors to your store, too.
When customers linger, it’s an invitation to get to know them better. You don’t have to be heavy-handed about this: let them browse and enjoy the space, but also let them know that you are available to help.
Engage Continually With Other Local Businesses and Local Events
There are very likely many other local businesses whose missions complement your own—consider building partnerships with them, whether that means getting booths together at seasonal festivals, advertising in similar venues, or having workshops or educational events together.
As for partnering with aligned local businesses, think about the synergy behind bringing in a local veterinarian who practices holistic care for a presentation and some of the same natural foods and pet-centered supplements you have in store. Or, if there are organic farmers or herbalists who would like to share their experience and expertise, it could help you build lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships.
Of course, it’s essential to be a good host by ensuring that your visitors have ample seating, printouts of the presentation, and time for questions-and-answers afterwards. This encourages the open discussions that keep people in the store and guarantees their return. And it gives you and your staff a terrific opportunity to get to know each of your customers better and enhance their experience a little more each time.
Host Educational Workshops Regularly
Similar to partnering with local businesses, hosting educational events is another way to enhance your customers’ experiences and to solidify your store’s status as a destination. Many of your customers are self-directed and want to learn more about how to stay healthy. With the top-notch products in stock, you have a lot to say about them, giving your store excellent potential for educational events. If your vendors offer educational opportunities from their own science team at your store, take them up on it. Or, if you have in-house experts or local practitioners with the background and aptitude to speak on the connection between common health concerns and supplemental nutrients, ask them if they’d like to present on a topic that corresponds with your promotions.
As long as you promote any of these events with plenty of notice to your customers, you should get an excellent turnout. And they are great reasons to update your social presence often, which brings me to my next point.
Keep Your Social Media Current
Consider your Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media outreach an extension of your business, and another forum to connect with customers. Your posts can feature health advice, interesting nutrient-related headlines, store events, fun photos of your store and your team, messages of thanks to your customers following events, and virtually anything that reflects your business and your mission.
If you have the capacity, consider offering the option of ordering products online from your store for pickup or local delivery. After all, even some of your most loyal in-person shoppers probably order products online occasionally, so it might as well be from you. And if you haven’t done so already, create a rewards program for your customers that they can apply either in-store or for special online promotions.
Also, using an email newsletter to connect with your customers often—but not too often—is a wonderful way to announce seasonal store promotions, guest speakers, and other traffic-driving events. Although social media technically occurs outside of your brick-and-mortar store, an active online presence adds to your businesses’ image and your customer’s overall experience, even when they’re not there physically.
Put the Product in Your Customer’s Hands
Whenever possible, walk your customer to the item they’re asking about and place it in their hands. It’s one of the best ways to engage them and discover whether or not they need anything else and establish a relationship with someone who is new to your store. But be willing NOT to sell something, too. Whether or not you ring up a sale at the register, you are always selling the most important thing to your customers—your trust. Ensure that they have a positive experience, and they’ll be back.
Last, But Certainly Not Least: Listen to Your Customers
Your customers aren’t just coming into your store to buy supplements or specialty items. They want to live a healthy, vibrant life and to address serious needs that they feel can’t be met by anyone else. Part of your vision with your store is to be the resource your customers are looking for. Train your brain to remember key facts and interests about every customer and encourage your team to do the same. It really helps you and your staff make more personal connections and build relationships with the people who shop there. And that truly optimizes the store experience for your customers–and for yourself.VR
A highly regarded leader in the natural products industry, Terry Lemerond is founder and president of EuroPharma, Inc. He also founded Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. and PhytoPharmica, Inc. and is currently co-owner of the Terry Naturally Health Food Stores in Green Bay & Suamico, WI, which recently won its eighth consecutive consumer choice award as “Best of the Bay.” With more than 50 years in the natural products industry, Lemerond has researched and developed more than 400 nutritional and botanical formulations that continue to be top-selling products in the market. Lemerond shares his wealth of experience and knowledge in health and nutrition through his educational programs, including a weekly radio show and newsletter, podcasts, webinars and personal speaking engagements. He is author of 13 books, including Seven Keys to Vibrant Health, Seven Keys to Unlimited Personal Achievement and 50+ Natural Health Secrets.