How Retailers Can Prioritize Customer Experience

Female customer and female merchant in a furniture store.

Creating a great customer experience is one of the most crucial steps to bringing in new customers and retaining your current ones. This blog will share customer experience tips to engage and turn them into repeat customers.

Creating a great customer experience is one of the essential steps to bringing in new customers and retaining your current ones. But how do you prioritize the customer experience? 

Focus on Ease of Access

When Podium polled consumers for the State of the Business report, one of the most important questions was why customers shop where they do. 60% of consumers say that ease of business is among the top reasons. This finding ties into a Harvard Business Review report that said reducing customer effort is the leading contributor to customer loyalty. You can take advantage of this by creating a seamless experience that doesn’t seem out of the customers’ way. Do what you can to create a frictionless shopping experience. 

We saw plenty of examples of this during the pandemic. And just because the pandemic is over, that doesn’t mean things like curbside pickup or various ways of ordering and collecting merchandise should disappear. Some customers will want to keep those for their convenience. 

Don’t Focus on Prices

As a brick-and-mortar store, your main selling point should be something other than your price. You want to be in the ballpark to be competitive but don’t try to offer the best price. You are likely to lose to online retailers with lower overhead costs. If you focus too much on price, you will keep reducing your profits. Instead, focus on the other positive actions on this list. 

Turn Inventory Challenges into a Positive

All businesses, including local brick-and-mortar ones, face inventory gaps due to supply chain issues. But you can turn elements of this into a positive with some creativity. 

→Use Challenges as Touchpoints 

Use supply chain gaps and delays as a touchpoint with customers. Reach out to them with updates about delays or changes to your inventory. When using these challenges as touchpoints, try to avoid mass messages. Instead, keep things more customer-specific, such as updates on orders or products they may be interested in. 

When talking to the customers, let them know how you handle the situation. The simple fact that they know you have a plan will reassure them and improve the customer experience. 

→Offer Other Products That Are in Stock–And Potentially Boost Interest in Them 

Remember to use inventory gaps as a cross-selling opportunity. If a product isn’t in stock, suggest something similar. The customer may find a new favorite item. 

→Text Customers About Delays  

Texting is the way to go when it comes to reaching out to customers about delays and keeping them informed. Texting delivers a personal touch and more benefits we’ll get into. 

Use Texting in General

Texting is great for more than just updating customers about delays. Brick-and-mortar businesses should use it regularly throughout all interactions. It makes the conversation feel more personal, as people typically text with family and friends. Texting also makes customers feel seen and heard. They get direct feedback and responses in a way they wouldn’t with email. 

Thanks to its benefits, texting should be part of every business’s strategy. Customers prefer texting, which is reflected in text messages’ 98% open rate. That high open rate is due to the intimacy of texting, which also helps with loyalty. 

→Over-Communicate, Don’t Under-Communicate

When keeping customers updated on store changes or their orders, err on the side of over-communicating. Customers would rather know what is happening and have clear expectations than be in the dark. They will get frustrated if they don’t know what is happening. 

Of course, don’t take this too far. Sending too many messages will frustrate customers and prevent them from revoking their consent. Then, it would be best if you had a means of contacting customers. So, find the right balance for your client base, but you need to communicate more effectively, especially about orders. 

→Use Your Name 

When sending texts, play up the personal connection. Introduce yourself by Name, such as “Hi, this is [Name] from [Company]. We have a great new product I think you’d love!”

Open sign in a merchant window.

Take Advantage of Being Local

The good news is that you already have an advantage as a local business. The Podium State of the Local Business Report found that 70% of consumers visit at least one local business weekly. Meanwhile, 90% say they will go out of their way to do business locally. 

But you must also offer a good customer experience to take advantage of these benefits. So, remember the following tips to take advantage of being local. 

→Use Your Knowledge of the Community 

Start by using your knowledge of the local community. For example, if you know that your community has a lot of people from a particular religious group and items related to a holiday are hard to find, keep these items in stock. Your knowledge is highly adaptable to whatever groups are within your community. 

→Make People Feel Special 

When people walk into the store, make them feel welcome and special. Think how special you feel when you go to a store, and they know your Name or other details you’ve told them. These actions are easier for local businesses, as you likely already interact with your customers elsewhere. As a bonus, you also have fewer customers to remember than massive retailers. 

→Sponsor Teams or Events

Ensure that you aren’t just in the community; you are part of it. For example, participate in local events or even sponsor them. Or support local teams. 

→Use Word of Mouth Marketing  

Encourage people to use word-of-mouth marketing—referrals, whether in-person or via online reviews are an excellent way to drive business. 

Create an Experience by Letting People Test the Products 

One of the most important differentiators of brick-and-mortar stores is their ability to create a customer experience. Online stores can’t do that. Please take this to the next level and address the issue of people buying and returning items, then rebuying them online for cheaper. 

For example, you can offer the option to rent or try out your product. If you sell board games, for instance, you could rent them out. Or you could host events where people get to play the games. Creating an experience will make people willing to spend a few extra dollars to buy from you. 

Put Your Expertise to Good Use

One of the reasons that people shop locally is to get advice from experts, so take advantage of this. Put your experience to use to make recommendations to customers and offer guidance. A board game store, for example, can offer suggestions based on other games the customer likes. Or a craft store could help customers decide which supplies work best for their projects. 

Use Tech to Boost Efficiency and Overcome the Staff Shortage 

A common challenge in retail is the need for more staff. But most retailers say their staff is excellent; they need more. You can overcome this challenge by maximizing your team’s time with efficient tools and tech. 

→Web Chat

Compared to talking on the phone, web chat delivers a 7:1 efficiency ratio. In other words, one person can handle seven webchats at once. 

→Email Marketing and Marketing Automation Software 

Use email marketing and marketing automation software to boost efficiency in messaging. You can even incorporate other channels, letting customers reach you on their preferred channel. 

→Phone Technology, Including Texting 

When done right, phone technology can also dramatically increase efficiency. This is especially true with texting, as you get that same 7:1 ratio from webchat. Consider that businesses in this tech see an increase of about 60% in inquiries overall and texts. 

The Bottom Line

Retailers prioritizing the customer experience should start by making the experience as easy as possible. Emphasize your interactions with the local community, harness the power of texting, and put tech to good use to maximize your team’s efficiency. You should notice improved customer engagement and loyalty because of the better customer experience.

Learn more about how Podium can help you with Text Messaging and other Customer Engagement Tools.

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