Upon arriving back from a walk yesterday, my neighbour approached for a chat and asked if I’d finished my Christmas shopping yet. “To be honest, I haven’t even started” I said. He smiled and proudly replied that they were done. I don’t mind admitting I was more than just a little envious. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas... just not Christmas shopping.
I’m often amused by the romantic notion that Christmas shopping is meant to be a joyous occasion filled with the spirit of Christmas and something to look forward to each year.
The reality for many people is that the annual grind of Christmas shopping means facing over crowded shopping centres filled with stressed, confused or just grumpy fellow shoppers and equally frustrated, tired and stressed shop assistants.So, as we dive into yet another “Silly Season”, here’s my Top 5 recommendations for retail outlets to take the Crazy out of Christmas and add more to your own Christmas stockings too.
It’s a long one folks but read on for some great ideas on each of these topics to help you maximise your Christmas sales.
My grandfather used to sweep the footpath infront of our shop every morning before we opened. I remember as a little bloke asking him why he did this.
He explained that firstly it gave him a chance to warmly greet passers-by. More importantly, he wanted every person to appreciate how clean and tidy our shop was as they arrived. He wanted them to feel we’d prepared for their visit, just as we would for a personal guest. He wanted them to feel special.
“But Grandpa” I said, “I don’t think everyone will notice how clean and tidy the shop is.” He smiled and replied “No, but I bet they’ll notice if it isn’t!”
My suggestion is to develop a “Get your shop in order” checklist and make it part of your daily routine. Floors, windows, shelves, fittings, toilets, even stock should all be kept clean and presentable at all times.
Remember, if the shop is busy and full of people, it’s likely to get messy faster too. Do a walk-through, mentally checking off the items on your list at least a couple of times a day and finish the day with a tidy-up to make opening easier for those on duty in the morning. Your customers will appreciate this and so will your staff when they arrive in the morning to find everything in order for the busy day ahead.
Be mindful of all the senses that come into play when a person walks into a room. What we see, what we hear, how we feel, even what we smell will influence how comfortable we are in any environment.
Light levels are a critical factor. There’s a reason most big retail chains have improved lighting and taken out tall shelving units. This creates a sense of open space that is far more inviting than the long dark aisles of shelves stacked to the ceiling that were often the standard in large department stores.
While I do encourage the use of music to help create the atmosphere, I discourage the use of radio stations because doing so means you don’t have control of the content that may even include adds from your competitors.
I would also suggest the music preferences of your staff should not determine the music selection. It really needs to reflect the preferred genre of your target market. Playlists should also be vetted to ensure the ever-increasing use of explicit lyrics is excluded.
Whatever the music choice, it should only be played at an appropriate volume. I agree, loud music can create a good vibe but there’s nothing good about music so loud your customers can’t hear you, or each other, as they discuss the items they’re considering purchasing.
The same can be said about temperature levels. Keep the air temperature at a level your customers will be happy to stay in not want to escape from.
And finally, it’s hard to walk past a shop that smells divine. Like pheromones, we are drawn to beautiful aromas that waft out and invite us in. So, consider the use of scented candles or oils to enhance the ambience. I know I’ve even spent a little longer in places that seemed to create a sense of tranquillity and walked quickly away from those that don’t.
Avoid filling the air with unpleasant smells. It doesn’t matter how busy you are or how good your lunch tastes, it can be a real turn off walking into a small shop that smells of hot food that has been consumed at the counter.
Which brings me to a final comment on smells. Let’s just say, on really busy days, it might be necessary to duck out to the staff room for a quick squirt of deodorant. Just a thought!
In addition to keeping your stock clean, it’s important to keep it looking ordered and accessible. While it’s a bit of a balancing act making sure you have plenty of stock on hand without creating a situation that’s a bit more like ordered chaos, too much stock can feel cluttered and make browsing an overwhelming prospect.
Shop layout will also play a big role in helping shoppers find what they’re looking for. Most people will appreciate an intuitive approach to floor layout where related items are displayed nearby, and bundled or packaged suggestions are displayed relative to where you can find those items.
Themed displays can also tell a story to create interest by putting your products into context and helping shoppers appreciate how they would fit into their lives.
I remember back in my supermarket days as a kid, having to walk the aisles several times a day ‘facing-up’ the stock. This simply meant keeping the stock neatly stacked and pulled to the front of the shelves. Presentation matters as it is part of the first impression shoppers get when they arrive.
Products need to be clearly marked with relevant information and pricing so those browsing can do so without having to wait for you if you’re busy with other shoppers. One of the most significant factors that makes online shopping so easy, is all the information is on hand for quick decisions. You can bet if online shoppers had to submit questions about everything they looked at before buying, it would dramatically impact sales for that website.
People don’t get excited when what they get is just what they expected. They get excited when we surprise them unexpectedly. If we want them to remember and tell others about their experience with us, we need to create memories that will stand out amongst the dozens they will walk away with after a day of shopping.
The good news is, while many businesses appreciate this point, most don’t deliver on it. So, look for creative ways to surprise and delight, because even the littlest extra effort will likely hit the spot.
The most important element of a Five Star Customer Experience is how you and your staff greet and serve everyone who visits your store.
Unsurprisingly, during busy times like the lead-up to Christmas, our own good grace can get pushed aside by the hectic pace and the less than pleasant behaviour of some shoppers. However, it’s in these same times that it will be most noticed and appreciated if you and your staff can maintain your standards and deliver these key elements:
Most customers have a long memory when it comes to how they feel about you when they leave so if you do all this successfully, there are numerous benefits to reward your efforts.
The bottom line... your goal is to make the shopping experience for your customers as easy & enjoyable as possible.
Happy shoppers are likely to stay and browse longer. The longer they stay the greater the chance that the single purchase they came in for might just turn into multiple purchases.
Staying longer also gives you more time to build rapport and establish a level of relationship that may turn them into regular shoppers. Even if they don’t buy from you today, they may return at some point in the future, just because they left feeling like they’d been well looked after, and it was a nice place to shop.
Happy customers are nicer to deal with and will often become excellent referrers who tell others about the great experience they had with you.
And finally, don’t give customers any reason to resort to online shopping! You need to give them a reason to be glad they didn’t and that they bothered to get in their car and come to your store the old-fashioned way... or why would they bother to come back?
For more information on this topic or to arrange a Customer Experience Assessment of your business, please contact the author.
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