As a marketer, I know that a customer's in-store experience greatly contributes to his or her overall impression of a brand. Although Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic are owned by the same parent company, the experience in and target customer of these stores are very, very different.
As a customer, I understand that the little things matter. When these little things aren't correct, it becomes a very big deal. I also know that a great first-time shopping experience can turn me into a loyal customer, whether I'm shopping at a big box warehouse or a local jewelry store.
9 Ways to Improve the In-Store Customer Experience
- Keep it clean. A store that's dirty, dusty, or otherwise untidy is unattractive to customers. It can be damaging to your merchandise and your reputation. A simple cleaning schedule that includes basic tasks like sweeping, vacuuming, and window-washing can help you maintain a clean store with minimal effort.
- Get Organized. On the sales floor, make sure it's easy for customers to find the items they're interested in and items similar to them. Often, it makes sense to display items by type rather than by manufacturer. Other times, color or size is an important organizational tool. Be sure your stockroom is also well organized. When an employee needs to restock or check stock for a customer, it's important that they know where to look and that everything is where it should be. This will ensure you don't keep customers waiting or miss sales opportunities.
- Train employees well . Your employees are your face to the world. If they don't know about your products, services, inventory, or brand, they're probably going to give customers incorrect information. Be sure to give employees material they can reference when they don't know the answer to a question. Using eLearning methods can help with the training process.
- Play music. Shopping in silence is awkward and unnecessary. Shopping should be convenient and enjoyable; it shouldn't feel like you're visiting a ghost town. Playing overhead music in your store can make customers more comfortable, keeping them in the store longer and increasing the amount of their purchases.
- Play the right music. As we just reviewed, overhead music is necessary. But it's not enough to play just any tune. If you're playing the wrong music, your target customers won't spend any time in your store and you won't accurately reflect your brand. Choosing the right overhead music isn't difficult--think about what your ideal customer likes to listen to, what your staff likes to hear, and what suits your brand. Consider the products you're selling
- Give your employees reasons to smile. Everyone wants employees who are helpful, and happy. But employees who don't like their job or don't have a reason to be cheerful won't be. The best way to have happy customers is to create a culture in which they enjoy coming to work. Make sure they can have fun and be themselves while they work hard for you.
- Don't neglect customers. I can't even count the number of times I've walked into a store and been ignored completely, even while standing in front of the register or--this is true--next to a salesperson. Without customers, you wouldn't have a store, so make sure you treat them with respect.
- Don't overwhelm customers. Sometimes salespeople are just a little too eager. Sometimes, shoppers want a little bit of space. I have found myself leaving many stores because of employees who wouldn't give me an opportunity to browse by myself. Everyone shops differently, and many people prefer not to be hounded while doing so.
- Build relationships. Every business has customers who come in once or twice and those who will make a daily or weekly visit. To build relationships with customers, get to know what they like and dislike and what kinds of things they purchase frequently. You can also get to know them on a personal--but appropriate--level. When you form a real connection with a customer, it's likely that you'll turn monthly guests into weekly or daily visitors.
Some of these suggestions go deeper than just the way your store appears, but the overall customer experience is affected by a lot more than appearance. There are a number of ways to use audio to improve the customer experience in your store. Store atmospherics are important, but don't ignore the contributions your staff make to the customer experience.