“The high street’s dying!,” cries the media. However, in spite of several large chains going bust, the fact is that independent retailers are picking up the pieces and excelling. In 2011 the number of independent retailers increased by 2500 and accounted for 67 per cent of retailer and leisure units in the UK Consumers chose to spend their money at independent retailers. Despite these independent retailers’ higher prices consumers were still willing to shop at them, the reason? The shopping experience.
ITProPortal may be all about the tech, but in this article we focus predominantly on the non-technological methods to create an experience to keep customers returning.
Although the focus is on the these non-technical aspects, bear in mind that to effectively have a business in the retail environment it is essential to be supported by many technological components such as website, email, and PoS systems..
Independent Retailer Popularity Explained
The concept of the independent retailer appeals to the consumer because there is a perceived transparency to independent retailers. In addition, buying from local independent retailers carries the notion that the consumer contributes to the community and improves the environment in which both they and the retailer reside.
Independent shops tend to specialise and often cannot afford the same levels of staff enjoyed by the larger chains, this is not a disadvantage. The fact that smaller retailers cannot afford masses of staff means that:
- A stricter vetting process is used which ensures more dedicated and passionate staff are employed
- The specialised nature of the store and the smaller amount of staff means that the staff spend more time absorbing knowledge about the product
- Regular customers get to know the staff and vice versa which helps to build concrete customer relationships
Independent retailers enjoy a greater level of freedom when they design and implement special offers and promotions.
If an independent retailer doesn’t stock an item, they have the ability to change this situation quickly and with little hassle.
Similarly, if a grocery or an off licence retailer wanted to celebrate 'International Talk Like A Pirate Day’ (19 September) and offer a 20 per cent discount on rum, they could quickly set up that promotion and give the consumer a unique shopping experience.
Great Experience by CRM
Consumers will pay more for an improvement on their shopping experience especially when retailers can upgrade the consumer relationship from ‘anonymous shopper #24601’ to ‘Ms. Stevens, likes aubergines, cats and dark chocolate’.
In other words, retailers should get to know a customer’s likes, dislikes and shopping habits. From my experience at Lanix UK Limited, several specialised CRM (customer relationship management) programs were installed to help retailers effectively manage their customer relationships.
These CRM programs keep a record of what customers have purchased, how often customers replenish their stock and whether customers like to try out other products.
This information can then be used to email customers regarding special promotions and offers, whether it be the customer’s favourite wine, perfume, or film genre.
The data also lets the shop assistants know exactly what has been purchased and where.
The WInParf CRM is aimed specifically at the perfumery and spa industry and has several additional components and add-ons that help make customer interaction simpler and database updates easier.
For example, in addition to the normal CRM components of tracking what the customer has purchased, the WinParf system also supports an add-on that allows the retailers to update their perfume database with the latest perfume releases which will save a retailer much time and money having to manually update the database themselves.
If budget is an issue, a smaller retailer’s CRM could be a simple spread sheet detailing customer information.
Great Experience by Customer Interaction
Consumers will also pay more for an improvement in the level of staff knowledge, getting useful information for their questions. Recently I was in an off licence looking to buy a bottle of red wine, I asked a member of staff to direct me to the wine and instead of pointing to the bottles and saying “here they are”, he turned around and did something that shocked me.
The member of staff stopped what he was doing and asked me the following questions; “What’s the occasion?”, “What food will you be serving?”, “What’s your price range?” I was in awe. I left that off-license with a greater understanding of the product and a story my friends wouldn’t believe.
After an initial great experience shoppers will do two things:
- Come back (loyalty)
- Tell their friends (free word of mouth marketing)
Repeat visits provide the retailer with the opportunity to learn about the customer. Due to my repeat visits to that off licence, they now have a greater understanding of my palate. As a result they were able to make recommendations of other wines they thought that I would enjoy based on the data stored in their CRM. In addition, I gained as I now know that I enjoy less acidity in my wines and that I have an affinity for Californian merlot.
And this is where CRM programs come into play. Or, if you have a PoS (point of sales) system, a CRM integrated with the PoS can greatly help.
In today’s world, online shopping has made huge cuts into store shop revenues. Retailers need to go one step beyond customer expectations. To make an impact on the high street, retailers need to offer an experience that isn’t currently offered or offer an experience better than anyone else. To make a real difference, staff need to:
- Expand their knowledge about your customers
- Expand their knowledge about the products
- Expand their customers knowledge about the products
Other articles in this series
Where the cloud can benefit retail outlets provides insight into the different types of cloud service offerings and where they can make a real difference to the retailer.
How online retail can boost your outlet sales shows how a combined offering of online and physical outlets can boost sales in-store.
Customer loyalty through CRM and the personal touch looks at how customer knowledge combined with a good customer relationship manager software will ensure you can keep your customers for more and more business.
Five tips on how to use WiFi to increase sales examines the challenges of free WiFi offerings and how to use free WiFi to be an asset to each of your outlets.
Social media for your business provides essential information on how to effectively use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, to increase footfall and provide your business with an effective online presence.