Attracting Customers To Experience The Store Is Only Half Of Retail Success

By Bob Phibbs

attracting customers to storeI used to be the Chief Marketing Officer of a coffee franchise.  

My office provided all kinds of marketing support for new stores, a complete promotions kit – even a costume character.

We knew how to get people to the stores.

The best operators took advantage of this and understood all our efforts stopped when the customer reached their front doors.

For it was then that the brand promise morphed from a digital or printed image, to the face of the person working behind the counter.

And that is when the brand was judged adequate or found wanting.

All that money and time to get shoppers to try our brand once could be dashed in ten seconds after they opened the door.

The best franchisees trained their employees daily to deliver on delivering an exceptional experience.

Others who struggled would tell me, “I’m paying them little more than minimum wage. What can you expect?”

When that’s your attitude, you’ve pretty much thrown in the towel.

If you pay little more than minimum wage, you have to give more than a paycheck if you want an employee to drive sales.

You have to give them tools to succeed in a heads-down world.

You have to give employees the people knowledge they need to connect in an authentic, human way.

You need to give them the confidence to approach and engage a stranger in a meaningful way.

If you don’t, you are letting associates whose people skills have atrophied roam your salesfloor ruining your customer experience. If you don’t, they’ll ask questions that elicit a quick No from your customers. They won’t understand that the goal is to get yesses and that the word no translates as I don’t trust you

Their missing soft skills of how to build rapport and engage shoppers keeps them from doing much more than responding to a question, grabbing the item like a warehouse worker, and scanning a credit card.

And you can forget those employees using any product knowledge you may have taught them to sell more customers the better products.

Without the tools to really engage, those employees are left alone.

And that’s bad because many people shop to relieve their own feelings of being alone, unappreciated, and in turn, to feel better about themselves. That’s why we call it retail therapy.

In a story at Medium, Robin Marantz Henig shared, “People grow lonely because of the gloomy stories they tell themselves. And, in a cruel twist, the loneliness itself can further distort their thinking, making them misread other people’s good intentions, which in turn causes them to withdraw to protect themselves from further rejection —  and causes other people to keep them at arm’s length.”

And according to The Wall Street Journal , the share of lonely Americans has doubled since the 1980s, to 40 percent.

Attracting More Customers

I feel like I’ve been banging this drum for years that in order to sell more, you have to give employees tools for what to say and how to say it, so they can build rapport before you spend more money on advertising. And yet the number one question retailers ask me ... still ... is, “How to attract customers?”

In fact, a recent check of Google trends found it still gaining in popularity…

And the number one answer found from experts for any retailer whether they sell electronics, books, furniture, jewelry – anything found in a brick and mortar store – is to discount it.

It is the one lever that never stops giving your profits to people who have no relationship to your business and no intention of returning after you play Santa Claus with a deal.

FullSizeRender-1At the same time, Google reports searches for retail training going down. 

Many retailers look at the cost of sales training as an expense and marketing as income producing.

How about we turn the tables…

How much is it costing you not to train your employees on how to develop rapport and engage browsers before trying to pitch your products?

Look at your number of units per transaction. It is the number one indicator of how much your employees add to the sale. While our goal is 2+, when it is 1 or 1.1, you’re leaving money on the table.

Why? Because when a customer says yes once, it is much easier to say yes again to the add-on.

And a good sale is just a first chapter, it’s not the whole story.  That takes being the store of choice among many. And that takes having an experience that is authentic with associates trained to sell the merchandise.

Because customers are loyal to people; not stuff.

As a character in Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, says, “All I want is not to die on a day when I went unseen.”

Being seen is more than having someone ask, Have you been helped?

It takes more than telling an employee when they are scheduled to work or a customer that you’ll be right back.

It takes being curious about the other person.

It takes hiring employees who want to connect but may not know exactly how. And that’s where sales training can give employees their own voices back so they too can feel seen and heard.


In Sum

The experience in a brick and mortar store should balance the effects of all of our technology used to connect to a virtual planet. It is a deceptive planet, one that always asks us to comment but in reality, doesn’t really care what it is you have to say.

The moment in your store when we find humans meeting other humans begun with a spark of conversation allows us to buy something we want, not necessarily need. We feel better ... before we are called back to that virtual planet...

A virtual planet that leaves us still lonely when the high of posting is over; when the smartphones are shut off, and we are alone again with just them to communicate to.

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