4 Tips to Increase Customer Retention
I'm an exemplary customer. I'm willing to subscribe to email specials, loyalty programs and attend store events. When I buy something, there are few things that can change my mind and keep me from revisiting a store.
I've worked in various retail settings, from corporate brands to small boutiques, and the dedication to customer interaction is a surefire way to increase sales, today and in the future. Regardless of the target, the approach should be the same.
I enjoy feeling like I'm friends with the store associates that help me. I'm not trying to get swag or have extra time to shoot the breeze, I just like being appreciated when I decide to make the trip. It makes me feel like the brand has my best interests at heart because they know me.
When I make a return visit to a given store, it feels great when the store associate remembers me and chats me up about my last purchase. This is what customers lack when they shop online — a human connection.
Not every customer has their mind made up when they walk into your store. They need guidance and expertise to make the best purchase. That's what keeps them coming back. When I worked for a large beauty brand, the most important aspect of my job was discovering customer needs and equally possessing extensive product knowledge.
Customer loyalty programs and store specials are lucrative when attempting to engage customers after the sale. Whatever customer program you decide to employ, knowing your customer must come first.
Here are some tips to increase customer retention:
1. Engage with an open-ended greeting. With a smile on your face and the willingness to help, approach consumers and start to discover their needs. Greet them with the following: "Hello! What brings you in to see us today?" It's way better than asking, "Can I help you find something?" By asking the former, you have a variety of responses that can open up a conversation and help discover needs. With the latter, you're giving them the opportunity to say no. As a store associate, that's the last answer you want to hear from a shopper.
2. Know your inventory … well. If you successfully open a conversation with a customer, you should know your inventory like the back of your hand. A simple way to test yourself is by entertaining multiple scenarios for a customer entering the store — e.g., I need a dress for my vacation; I need new toner for my printer; I'm buying a gift for my brother; I'm checking out what kinds of accessories you have for my phone.
When you can anticipate possible buying scenarios, you can mentally fill in the holes and have recommendations ready for your customer. The most important thing here is to be sincere. There are times (hopefully minimal) where you can't find a solution. In these situations, honesty can go a long way. Even if you don't make the sale today, you have the opportunity to make a sale with the same customer in the future because you had their best interests at heart.
3. Make them feel special. Whether you're pushing a loyalty program or trying to obtain customer information, make shoppers feel like they're gaining from the experience.
Phrase your pitch similar to your greeting, where "no" isn't an option. For example, "Your purchase qualifies you for our next round of upcoming specials! Let me get you into the system so you can save 15 percent on your next purchase (or get rewarded for every purchase you make)." You can also tailor your pitch to a specific need you discovered. For example, "We just started a customer loyalty program (or insert name of program), we need to sign you up so you can get your favorite candles for free!"
Although super quick checkout can be nice at the grocery store or pharmacy, it doesn't work for most retail businesses. Use that time at checkout to leave a lasting impression with customers. Regardless of your point-of-sale system, most retailers need to ring up items and process payment. If customers are standing there anyway, turn up the charm and make their checkout a great experience.
4. Never say good-bye. When customers have completed their purchase, don't just let them leave. Remind them of your next special, sale or when new products are coming in. Accordingly, never say good-bye. There's no need to say goodbye when you've made a good connection with the customer. For example, say "I'm so glad you found what you wanted today! We will see you soon!"
Paying attention to customers and treating them like your best friend inherently builds loyalty that no program can touch. On paper, they earn rewards (which is important), but in person they have their own sales associates that know what they need and what they may like in the future. Your sales associates are your greatest asset. They alone have a tremendous ability to increase customer retention and convert new visitors to loyal patrons.