Building Repeat Customers to Increase Sales

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Customers are your livelihood. You know this! And yes, seems like a very basic statement, but often we forget just how important ONE customer can be. Especially in today’s environment where one bad review online can easily impact your business’ reputation in a matter of minutes, much more so than a positive comment, unfortunately. This means that taking care of each and every one of your customers is of utmost importance and much like it is easier to keep an employee versus train one, it is easier to keep a customer than get a new one! Let’s look at how to build repeat customers through customer service and customer experience.  

Customer experience has taken on new meaning over the past year. For months customers could no longer physically come into your store, so your online presence was escalated...quickly! Maybe you were ready and had an ecommerce set up, and maybe you weren’t and had to scramble to be able to offer this service to your costumers. Now that some of the world is opening back up and people are able to enter physical stores again, it doesn’t mean they want to. I know several people who say they will never set foot in a grocery store again and only do online order and pickup. Customer experience now becomes twofold: online and in-person. Let’s tackle in-person first.  

In-Person Customer Experience 

First, you need to be realistic and ask yourself, what can you do to make your customers’ experience the best possible without breaking your budget? Here are some categories to consider, and some are at absolutely no cost to you.  

Product Group 

Grouping products together in your store will make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for, or something they might not even know they are looking for. It is like one-stop shopping. This will also help with incremental sales . For example, if you offer diabetic supplies, those can be grouped with wound care products as many diabetics also have open wounds. Some product groupings will seem obvious, such as all home safety products being in the same location, but don’t be afraid to be creative with other pairings.  

Showroom Space and Flow 

You know the feeling. You walk into a store and you immediately feel welcomed and relaxed, overwhelmed, or completely turned off and want to turn around and leave. There are so many elements that fit into this ‘feeling’ your store or showroom gives a customer.  

  • What colors are you using?  
  • Do the fixtures match your products and look?  
  • Is your store clean, including the back corners and bathrooms? 
  • Are products cluttered or on the ground? You don’t want your shelves to look bare, but having too many products makes it difficult for customers to even see what is available.  
  • Are you employees smiling and inviting? (see below for more on happy and helpful employees) 
  • Are products easy to find? You will know from watching your inventory which products sell the best. Make sure they are in a prominent, easy to find location. Chances are that customers are coming to your store for that specific product. 
  • What type of signage are you using and is it clear? Make sure you have category signs, specific item signs for new items or clearance items so your customers can take advantage of seeing something new or something that is potentially on sale. 
  • Where are you putting the price of your items? You can price each item, label the shelves, offer price checking systems, or use a combination. It is helpful to give the customer all of the tools they need to make a purchasing decision. 
  • Can your customer’s get around in your store easily? Make sure your isles are wide enough for wheelchairs, carts, two people, allow them to social distance if they choose, etc.  

Employees 

Employee are an extension of your store. They can turn a bad experience into a great one, or a good experience into a bad one. This means hiring and training your employees is crucial to the success of your store. Your employees should be inviting, empathetic, engaging, knowledgeable, and helpful. Your employees need to know what products you offer, where they are located, and how well they work or don’t work. Employees should ask open ended questions to help customers find the prefect product they are looking for, and be able to build a rapport with the customer. Do your employees go above and beyond to make a customer’s experience out of this world? Do they take a customer to an item they are looking for instead of just pointing in the general direction of the product? Obviously, there is a lot more that goes into your employees. Having a strong training program to address these, and many other key areas, is very important.  

Feedback and Offers

Have a way for customers to leave their ideas behind. Make customer experience cards available, or have a digital option for customers to leave behind their ideas or experience in your store. Your employees should always ask during the checkout process if a customer found what they were looking for, but some people won’t voice their opinions. Offering a frequent shopper card or some type of discount card is also a good way to encourage repeat customers. 

Online Experience

Online shopping is much like in-person in the respect that is can be amazing or frustrating. Let’s face it, we are an instant gratification society now, even when it comes to ordering online. I can put anorder in for groceries and pick them up before the day is over. Or, I can order from Amazon and have it delivered in two days, and for free with Amazon Prime.  

Here is the great news: you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here. If there is an online experience you think is exceptional, model your online experience after it. Here are a few details to keep in mind when customizing your online experience.  

Continuity 

Make sure your online store looks like your physical store. It should have the same look and feel with colors and branding. Categories listed online need to be the same categories you have in your store, and they should be grouped the same. All products should be easy to find and have images to go along with them so customers can be confident about what they are buying. Pricing should also match, for the most part. You can always offer different online and in-store promotions depending on where you’d like to drive traffic.  

Usability

Your website should not be difficult to use. If customers cannot easily navigate and find what they are looking for, they will shop somewhere else. Again, find a website that you think is easy to use and model yours after that. What type of filters are they using? Are the filters at the top of the page or on the side? Are there drop downs or check boxes? How many buttons do they have? How big are they? What do you have in place for visually-impaired customers? Is there any audio or video that goes with the site to describe what you offer or an easier way for them to shop? Maybe they can call and order over the phone. How do assist hearing-impaired customers? If you have videos, you need to make sure there is closed captioning. You also need to make sure adding and deleting items from their online cart is a seamless process. You don’t want customers to have start a search over if they’ve been to their cart and want to continue shopping. They should be able to pick up where they left off. All of these elements play a role in how a customer ‘feels’ about your website.

Your website should also not be difficult to find. Make sure to claim your business on Google My Business and keep store hours, your business description, pictures of your business, and your website link updated on Google. Facebook is the second most used search engine. Make sure you have a basic presence, your company’s logo as your profile picture, and your updated website link available for people to find you. 

Shipping

Shipping has increased over the years, so offering free shipping on all orders may not be feasible for your business. However, could you do free shipping on orders over a certain amount or after they’ve had so many purchases then you offer free shipping? Get creative with how to add value to your customers. It could be free shipping on returns. You'll also want to provide easy tracking or text and email updates for their shipments.      

While the above is merely a highlight of the areas you need to consider for both in-person and online shopping, hopefully it is a place for you to start and will trigger some additional ideas for you and your team when looking at the total shopping experience.  

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