The customer is king

The customer is kingIn today’s retail market there is so much going on to attract customers… price promotions, greater accessibility to brands, click and collect, longer opening hours, reward points… the list goes on. So, how can you ensure your business gains loyal customers and repeat purchases? Well, the most important thing is to understand that “The customer is King” and without them your business is going to struggle to deliver prolonged sales.

For all businesses, but especially smaller sized outlets, it’s vital that you make time to understand who your customers are, what they want to purchase and why they want it but more importantly how they want to shop for it.

Well right now you may be thinking “Yes, I know my customers and why they come into my shop and buy things so my business is in good shape – I’m doing ok… ” Well, pause for a second and consider what if you made more of an effort to really understand customer requirements? What would that do to your profits and wouldn’t it be great if you could attract new customers that haven’t visited you before?

So, in order to help refocus you on “your customers”, below are some tips which, when used, should help ensure your business doesn’t just rely on passing traffic entering your shop but instead makes people want to come through your doors; making you a destination!

Understanding your 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotion and Place.

This traditional marketing principal is still hugely important today even amongst the digital buzz of SEO, web content, eCommerce and social media.

The 4P’s are the foundation for any retail business and I urge business owners to revisit these principles to ensure you are as successful as you can be:

1. Product: You need products that your customers want to buy and product ranges that will satisfy your customers’ needs and desires, whilst also making a profit for your business.

Always analyse what is selling, listen to feedback from customers and refresh specific displays each season (to keep the store environment inviting). Focus on a sell through strategy for poorer selling lines as this will free up space for you to add new lines that will make you more profit.

2. Price: Ensure your pricing is consistent and that you are competitive with any key retail competitors. Don’t feel the need to slash prices or deliver a ‘sale’ just because other are doing this.

Also, it isn’t always necessary to match competitors’ online prices – if a customer can buy the product conveniently from you there and then with great customer service and perceived value for money, they won’t mind if they could have saved a little more by buying elsewhere.

There is a variety of things that influence a purchasing decision – budget, timing and convenience but a key factor that underlines most decisions is the perception of value.

“Value is a subjective perception created through a combination of need, price and the belief that one product is better than another. Good value is seen as a high-quality solution which meets the customers’ needs at a reasonable price”*

3. Promotion: Ensure that you always plan the lifecycle of your products and ranges, identify seasonality, lower sales periods and then use promotional messaging to entice customers into your store.  Remember not all potential customers know your business is there and that you offer products they need. So tactical product promotion through avenues like PR, advertising, social media, YouTube, blogs, newsletters, events and your website could all attract new business as long as you target the communications correctly to a specific audience.

4. Place: Getting this right comes from truly understanding how, when and why your customers purchase.

To improve retail sales you need to identify the most effective distribution channel to reach your customer. Some key questions that could help you improve your ‘place’ in the market:

  • Where do your customers look when they have identified a need for a product you sell?
  • Who do you think they are currently buying from and why are they choosing that option?
  • Do you have the opportunity to drive sales through an online store as well as a physical store?
  • Have you ensured your distribution channels fit your customer purchasing patterns? E.g. weekend opening hours, late night shopping, free delivery for online sales etc…

First impressions count. Take a moment to look at your business from your potential customers eyes. Focus on curb appeal as your store window is the biggest advertising tool you have. Ensure it reflects your brand, shows ranges and bestselling products. Your window is a tool to subliminally “pull” customers through your door.

Hint – Remove any tatty posters or communications from the windows or front door and relook at your store opening sign.  It may be worth getting a new branded sign produced which clearly states when you’re open, how people can buy online if you’re closed and social media icons (so people can follow your business and hear about your news). Also, why not offer a bespoke personal message on the reverse of the door sign which customers will see when they leave… it doesn’t take much to acknowledge and thank them for their custom and it may increase customer loyalty.

If you currently support local community initiatives, have strong social responsibilities, buy products/ produce from other local businesses then don’t forget to tell your customers via positive in-store communications. Let them know where you have sourced or bought from; the big supermarkets have proven it works – I bet you’ve seen and remember Fair Trade bananas being displayed.

Try to talk to your customers and always offer great customer service. You should aim to train staff to communicate with customers in a friendly, open, honest and informative manner. If you can take time to tell people about products, you will create credibility. This makes it easier to up-sell and increase the basket spend of your customer.

Ultimately, if you’re putting your customers first in everything you do, making their in-store experience memorable, delivering good quality and value for money, then you will have a strong foundation and positive reputation.

For more advice on how to make the best of your outlet, why not get in touch for a no obligation chat. We also offer all new clients an hour’s free consultation either face to face or over the phone to talk through your requirements.

* Source of quote: © 2014 Richard Edwards, Quatreus.

Marketing’s job is never done. It’s about perpetual motion. We must continue to innovate every day

Beth Comstock – Vice Chair of Business Innovations at General Electric (GE)