How To Build Retail Customer Loyalty

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Lower footfalls, conversions, and margins haunt many retailers, from the biggest box to the tiniest boutique.

When I ask retailers what their greatest challenge is, they often respond like this, “Keeping customers interested and motivated to shop at our store when they can often order the same items online for a lower price.”

In case a few of you haven’t figured it out yet...

You can’t beat online retailers on price.

There’s always someone cheaper. Not long ago, everyone complained about how unfairly Walmart priced items…

Then why are so many brick-and-mortar stores so focused on online retailers?

Because brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t properly leveraging their true advantages.

Most have forgotten they must build loyalty to your brand, crew, and location. Wanamaker’s knew it in Philadelphia, Neiman Marcus knew it in Dallas, and the Container Store knows it throughout the United States. The only way to compete is to control everything within your own four walls.

To ignore that reality is foolish.

Once a shopper enters your store, they’re in the perfect setting to enjoy everything that sets you apart from competitors - both online and off. Your salespeople must differentiate between button clicks on an app and a true shopping experience. With the right tools and techniques, they can create an exceptional experience and build a loyal base of fans along the way.

Your first step in developing a customer loyalty program is with your sales staff.

You want customers to be loyal to your well-trained employees who act as trusted advisors to make each of them feel special and valued when shopping in your store.  

A Ticking Clock

Every browser that walks through your door brings their own motivations and schedules. When the door closes behind them, your time to create an exceptional customer service experience is running down. The amount of time on that clock differs from one customer to the next, but it’s always winding down.

Engage and Connect

A person wandering around your store could be thinking about anything. At best, they’re trying to find a product they want. At worst, they’re frustrated they can’t find it and are considering looking on their smartphone to see if they can get it shipped directly to their house. By engaging, building rapport, and creating an atmosphere of trust, your salesperson can keep the customer focused on the current shopping experience.

Theory vs. Action

It’s easy for me to tell you that there’s a ticking clock and you need to engage your shoppers, but that doesn’t give you actionable information.

There’s a big difference between knowing what you need to do and how you need to do it.  That’s why so many customer service programs fall flat - value every guest, be there for them, go beyond - what exactly does any of that look like to a 24-year-old man?

Who knows...

Here are four tips to help ensure that your customers have a great experience from the moment they enter your store and build their loyalty so they keep returning for more.

1. The Greeting. Your salespeople should be greeting people within 15 seconds of the person entering your store. They don’t need to follow the customer around like a lost puppy or, worse, like a stalker, but they do need to say Good Morning and engage them just a bit before ever trying to pitch a product. This lets the customer know who to talk to if they have questions, makes them feel welcome and appreciated, and encourages them to ask questions. Miss this, and loyalty is impossible to build.

2. People Reading. Customers give a wealth of information, even when they’re not talking. The goal is to get them talking, but there are always cues to help begin the conversation. What they’re wearing provides insights. A luxury timepiece or designer handbag tells your salesperson about the customer’s preferences and purchase habits. Knowing how to recognize and understand these cues will give your salesperson a way to connect with the customer. If you sell to high-end women and want to build trust, your crew must know the difference between a Michael Kors bag, a Henri Bendel bag, and a Ferragamo bag upon sight.

3. Helpful, not Pushy. Your shopper already feels that they want to buy something. There’s a reason they call it retail therapy - they don’t need a pushy canned pitch from your salesperson. They need useful information to justify a purchase to their inner critical parent. Using what they learn from the shopper, the salesperson needs to be able to create value for the customer over the price. When they do it authentically, it will seal the deal without your salesperson ever resorting to outdated and unwanted closing techniques.

4. Show Appreciation. A simple thank you for your business can go farther than all the marketing dollars you could spend on wasted advertising. Most buyers of luxury items share some type of contact information, whether email or phone number. Drop them a line a few days after the purchase to let them know you appreciate their business. This note or call should have nothing to do with coming clearance sales (it’s really all about future sales). Leave the marketing to the marketers. Thank the customer, let them know they’re appreciated, and make sure they know you’re available for any questions or follow-up. They will remember you for it.

Unlike Luxury, Loyalty is Not a One-Off Product

Customer loyalty is a relationship that is built and maintained over time.

When leveraged properly, your store provides a venue for building loyalty based on value, service, and experience. When compared to those things, price alone becomes a distant consideration.

Use your store and your salespeople to the greatest advantage, and you’ll build a loyal following that online retailers can’t hope to match.