Small business retailers continue to thrive, even with the online competition they face. Convenience pulls consumers to digital options over in-store shopping, so how do brick-and-mortar locations keep up with, and even surpass, the consumer’s couch? Entrepreneurial experts are talking up the importance of selling an experience more than a product to get people to break out of the screen world and walk into their stores. Consumers may love what you sell or serve, but if they can also access it on their phones while they stream Netflix, you have to make your store a place where they want to be and make them want to stay awhile.
The best part is, it doesn’t have to be flashy or over-the-top. You can do this in a way that suits your business’ personality. There are plenty of simple ways to make a big difference. Here are some ideas to improve the overall experience of your business.
Sit them Down
The idea is to get people to come in and stay. If you go into a coffee shop with WiFi, you’ll see it’s packed with people sipping and surfing. Every now and then, people even look up from their screens and talk to three-dimensional people. You may not sell coffee, but transforming a small area in your store into a pleasant place to sit will boost the experience of your store. It doesn’t have to be huge—just a small couch and a couple of chairs with a coffee table in the middle will do. If your space is limited, some high tables with stools where people can either stand or sit are a great start.
Here are some details to include in your in-store living room. Put this space in front of the display window so passers-by can see it. The window also makes the space bright and homey. Dress up the space with table cloths or other accents that give it a little flair that fits your store’s image. Make sure there’s free WiFi and a place to charge devices.
Accept the Devices
You can’t get your customers to put their phones down. It’s just not going to happen. But you know what they say: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
According to Forbes, “Most new customers are now mobile or digital first as a result of the devices and apps that shape their lives. These products with their pinch, swipe, zoom, and instant delivery have reshaped customer preferences and decision making. A great customer experience today requires an acceptance of these engagement models and building on them, rather than ignoring them.” To cater to this expectation, stores are seeing a lot of success with a fusion of their physical and digital offerings. Last holiday season, almost a third of shoppers chose in-store pickup for their purchases. Picking up their items in the store clears that hurdle you’re looking for. They come in the door. According to the ICSC, 69 percent of consumers who picked up their items bought more items once they were inside.
Check-Out That Isn’t a Chore
According to studies, “Americans will abandon a checkout line and leave a store without making a purchase after eight minutes of waiting in a checkout line. British shoppers won’t even wait around that long. They’ll walk out after just six minutes.”
At the Apple Store, there is no check-out line at all. Customer service reps are empowered and equipped to check out customers on the spot. If this isn’t practical for you, you can incorporate the model in your own way. In addition to your traditional registers, have some iPads ready as additional, mobile POS to release people from the line in peak hours and busy holiday seasons.
Lendistry Brand Manager, Erin, has this tip to add: “I would also advise that if a retailer insists on keeping your info in their system and looking it up each time you buy something, they should make it easy to do, like just using a phone number. It makes me nuts! Two stores I go to frequently ask me for my last name, first name, address… I’m doing work to give them money.”
Host Your Community
Events bring people together inside your store, and they’re also great ways to create publicity. Becoming a host for local programs gets your name in the news and local social media. It also establishes you as a central figure in the business community.
What should you host? A craft store can host an event with a local artist as the speaker, or offer that local artist a chance to show their work. This draws in the community and also taps into the artist’s network. If a new product has come out, host a class on how to use it. Of course, ask your customers what kind of events they would like to attend, and incorporate their suggestions. Technology-related stores are the perfect venues for workshops that help people get the most out of their devices. Host a “figure out your phone” night for baby boomers, or select some apps you love and show people how to use them.
If you’re a “Mom & Pop” store with no specific product category, there’s no limit to what you can do! Invite authors, local leaders, even chefs to come and share their knowledge. Invent a holiday and have a party, or team up with your business neighbors and throw a block party. Good food, good music, and good will are a winning combination.
Check out this video on how to create a consumer community.