Our world has changed as of late but that doesn’t mean that shoppers don’t expect as much as they did pre-pandemic. Now they expect even more, craving a memorable experience each time they visit your store. Keep customers coming back for more with these “non-stop traffic-building, profit-producing, attention-grabbing, sales-generating, competition-miffing, customer-winning strategies every retailer should embrace”™
Continuous COVID Prep
1. Continue to keep store associates and shoppers safe by following the COVID-19 mandates as required by your state. Social distancing, masks, a limited number of people in your store, plexiglass shields at the cashwrap, cleaning the sales floor as necessary, and hand sanitizers will be with us for a while. Failure to keep up can cause a negative perception about your store, and as we know, perception is everything. Don’t risk it.
2. BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) and curbside pickup will continue to expected standards of operation because customers love the ease of shopping. Add additional conveniences such as personal shopping services, both in person and virtually, and your store will stand out among competitors.
Windows that Wow
3. Choose a theme for your monthly window displays. There are plenty of national and fun holidays to choose from each month or make up your own. Carry that theme throughout the store.
4. Keep it simple. People need to be able to take in your window displays in eight seconds or less.
5. Chose a backdrop that makes the merchandise pop. A vertical backdrop – a tall sign pertaining to what’s in the window or fabric that hangs from floor to ceiling – will draw the eye up and down as well as forward causing shoppers will see more of your window display.
6. Add your telephone number and web address in 10-14” white reflective vinyl letters at the center bottom of your main windows. Now, potential customers can easily get in touch or check your website even when your store isn’t open for business.
7. Light your window displays at night. This is especially important if your store is located in an area where people tend to walk, and areas populated with restaurants and bars. You can’t buy what you can’t see; lighting entices people to come back when your store is open.
8. Create an instant display with window graphics. Use photos you own, or have permission to use, that are blown up to fit your window space. We like perforated window graphics that offer vibrant photos on the outside while allowing you to see out of your windows from the inside.
On the Sales Floor
9. Work Your Decompression Zone. Remember, its job is to transition customers from whatever they were doing outside of your store and refocus them on shopping. People don’t start thinking about merchandise until they are at least 5-10’ inside the door, this means that the baskets and signs that fall within the decompression zone will completely missed on the way in. Place these items just beyond the Decompression Zone where shoppers are more likely to see them.
10. Provide customers with carts or baskets to increase sales. Customers stop shopping once their hands are full so offer every shopper a cart or basket. At the very minimum, ask to hold items customers are carrying at the cashwrap until they are ready to check out.
11. Place Speed Bump displays just beyond the decompression zone. These important displays are the customers’ first impression of the store upon entering. Use small fixtures or stacking tables to group irresistible products together. Make sure each speed bump tells a product story.
12. Cross merchandise everywhere.Always think about additional products you could add to a display that will save customers time and increase sales. Around the store look for places to add J-hooks, clip strips, power panels, and other inexpensive fixtures designed to help you sell more.
13. Implement the Pyramid Principle in displays by placing a tall item in the center of two smaller items. This causes the eye to unconsciously seek the tallest item before scanning the smaller items and the rest of the display. The more they see, they more they are likely to buy.
14. Look for props in unusual places, like thrift shops, garage sales and on trash days in tony neighborhoods. We have a friend who does very well collecting unwanted furniture she then paints and sells to retailers for props, and to customers for home décor. It’s okay to have fun with your fixtures, just make sure they are sturdy enough to safely hold product.
15. Sign your displays.Most indie retail stores are undersigned, yet it’s a fact that displays that are signed outperform displays that are not by 20 percent. The message should be simple, indicating important features and price. Use both upper and lower case letters, and don’t use a font smaller 30 points so customers who wear reading glasses can easily read your signs without them.
16. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires store aisles to be a minimum of 3.6’. On your sales floor can shoppers easily navigate the aisles without bumping into product? Can two customers easily shop the same aisle/area? And do customers in wheelchairs or motorized scooters have enough room to shop comfortably?
17. Do our 360 Degree Pass-By every morning before you open for business. Start at the front door and walk every aisle in the store. Finish with a look at the cashwrap, service counter, other customer areas, and rest rooms. Note areas that need attention before the store opens for the day. Require all associates to do a 360 Degree Pass-By at the start of each shift.
18. At the close of business each day prepare a Store Opening Checklist that lists the tasks to be completed the next day. Drop us an email for a customizable copy of this form.
19. Set a daily sales goal and post it at the cashwrap. Your associates will perform better when they know what’s expected of them each day.
20. Hold a ten minute Jog Your Memory (JOG) meeting each morning or at the start of each shift. Discuss products, policies, promotions – anything and everything store associates need to know that day.
21. Take time to visit other retail stores for ideas. Not just stores like yours, all types of stores. Visit popular chain and indie retail websites and social medias. With your creative mind we guarantee you will come up with dozens of ideas you can tweak to use in your own store.
At the Cashwrap
22. Policy signing should be framed and displayed in a prominent place at the cashwrap. Your return/exchange policy should be comparable to other retailers in your area that sell what you sell. Try to eliminate the word NO, writing your policies in a friendly voice. “No refunds or exchanges without receipt!” becomes customer-friendly when changed to “We gladly accept returns and exchanges within _________ days. Your receipt guarantees it.”
23. Place a variety of impulse items at the cashwrap. High margin, inexpensive items work best. Choose impulse items like candles, costume jewelry, and body lotions. Women are big impulse buyers so give them a selection they can’t resist.
24. Sell gift cards year round at the cashwrap. A small display is all you need. Remember that the majority of gift card shoppers spend more than the face value of the card and require more than one trip to your store to spend it. That’s good news for you!
25. Use the wall directly behind your cashwrap to display product. You never want customers to stop thinking about product, even when they are checking out. Instead of notes taped to the wall and piles of product, use that space to display featured items, new arrivals and impulse product.
26. Keep a stash of frequently forgotten items at the cashwrap. Now, when a customer says, “I forgot to get __________, I’ll get it next time.” you can reach under the counter, grab that item, and save the sale.
27. Be open when customers expect you to be open. There is no perfect answer to when you should be open because the answer depends on time of year, your competition and what shoppers expect. It’s important to note that a big percentage of retail sales happen after 7:00 pm, which explains why malls and chain stores stay open until 9:00 pm. You should be open some evening hours and on Sundays as well.
28. Answer your telephone within three rings. Choose the way you want your phone to be answered and share it with all associates. A simple answer might be, “Thank you for calling ______________! This is ______________, how may I help you today?” Requiring the associate to tell the caller about a sale or hours or whatever is happening in the store that day before asking how they can help drives customers crazy.
29. Manage your customer response times. Best practices say you should return phone calls and respond to email requests within 24 hours, and reply to text messages within an hour. Don’t hide behind an automatic reply unless it’s absolutely necessary. Not being responsive gives a bad impression of your business.
30. Control your back stock. Before you reorder check to ensure there are no additional quantities of that product already in your stock room.
If you need a physical reminder, place a green dot sticker on the shelf or bin ticket indicating that there is more of this merchandise in the stock room. When there is no more of the item in the stock room replace the green dot with a red dot, indicating that this item needs to be reordered. Add a black dot if the item is not to be reordered or mark it down and move it to the sale aisle.
31. Take physical cycle counts. Even if you have a POS system it’s still important to take periotic physical counts at shelf level to compare actual inventory versus what’s on the POS report. If they don’t match you need to find out why.
32. Create and maintain a Never Out Item List. These are the items that can never be out of stock. Physically check this product against the list daily and re-order as necessary.
33. Don’t wait too long to take a markdown. Merchandise that isn’t selling doesn’t do you any good collecting dust on a shelf. It needs to go to free up cash to buy fresh, saleable product. Add a “sell by” date to price tags and bin tickets, and mark down items as soon as sales start to slow down. Packing away product for next year is rarely a good idea.
34. Control your delivery dates. Yes, you can tell vendors when you want to receive your orders. Accepting a late-season delivery doesn’t make sense if it arrives too late in the season to sell, as does receiving and paying for goods far in advance of actual sell time.
35. Create a weekly bag stuffer and hand one to every shopper. Getting them into the customers’ hand is what’s important. Regardless of the name, if you pre-stuff them into bags they will not get read, or worse thrown out with the bag without a glance. Use your bag stuffers to advertise specific product, events or whatever is important that week.
36. Build a Brag Sheetthat’s loaded with the services your store provides, awards, conveniences, merchandise categories, brands, social media handles, return policy, hours – everything that’s important to your customers. Print it on the back of your weekly bag stuffer, add it to your website, social medias and email blasts.
37. Send an email blast 1-4 times a month. Choose a professional email marketing company to create your campaigns. Constant Contact, Email Contact, SnapRetail and MailChimp are just a few retailer favorites that offer a free 30-45 day trial. Try them all and then go with the one you like best.
The Litmus’ “2020 State of Email, Fall Edition” found that 78 percent of marketing executives indicated email marketing is vital to the overall success of their company, up from 71 percent last year. The Litmus survey from 2019 found email marketing delivered a 4,200 percent return on investment or $42 for every $1.00 spent. (4,200 percent – you read that right!)
38. Collect customer email addresses organically. Place a sign-up sheet at the register and on your website. Host contests where the winner is notified via email and make asking for the shoppers’ email part of the regular checkout process.
39. Every email blast should have a clear message that encourages the reader to take action by visiting your website or coming to your store.
40. Pepper your emails with large photos and less copy. Customers don’t want to read long blocks of copy so keep the message interesting, but short. Make every photo clickable, taking the reader to your website for more information or to purchase. It should take a reader no more than 20 seconds to fully understand the message you are trying to convey.
41. 64 percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line alone. Make sure yours are compelling.
42. Measure your results. Every email marketing company provides you with detailed reports on how customers responded. Keep the techniques that work and tweak those that don’t before sending your next email blast.
43. Host one major in-store event and 1-2 minor in-store events each month. In good times, major events fill the store with shoppers, while minor events like classes and trunk shows limit the amount of participants. Until the pandemic is under control you will need to manage your in-store events according to your state COVID-19 mandates. In 2020 retailers improvised by setting appointment times to enter the store, offering bottled and pre-packaged refreshments and by hosting the event virtually via Facebook Live. Events under COVID restrictions require more creativity and prep time but customers will appreciate your effort.
44. Create a marketing and promotions calendar for each month of 2021. List dates and deadlines for each part of your marketing efforts, including in-store events, promotions, Facebook Live broadcasts, classes, email blasts, blog updates, social media posts, etc.
45. Toot your own horn.Contact local medias and pitch stories about your store. 80 percent of the stories presented by local media come from a press release, so send one for each newsworthy thing you do in your store including awards, big events, trunk shows, famous visitors to your store, contest winners, charitable works, newsworthy associates, etc.
46. Ramp up your social media presence. Unless you have a dedicated social media person, choose one to two social media platforms and commit to keeping them up to date. You should definitely be on Facebook and Instagram. Posting daily is the optimal goal; three times a week is the very minimum you can do to keep followers interested.
47. Continue to boost your business online. Online selling isn’t going away and in 2021 and beyond it will continue to be a focus for retailers of all sizes. Keep your website up to date and choose a selling platform such as Comment Sold, Shopify, Big Commerce, or Woo to help you automate.
48. Make Facebook Live broadcasts a major of your marketing. We know so many retailers across the U.S. who literally saved their stores in 2020 by connecting with customers via Facebook Live. If you haven’t tried it yet it’s time to get on board. Choose a daily or weekly time slot and stick to it. The same selling platforms listed in number 47 will also help you easily sell via social media.
49. Instagram is more than just posting photos. Instagram Live is similar to Facebook Live; Instagram stories allow you to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Reels is where you create and post videos of up to 30 seconds, and IGTV hosts longer videos. The options are there but if you choose to just post photos on your Instagram grid that’s okay, too.
50. Use hashtags to expand your reach. Posts with hashtags have more engagement than those that don’t. Without a hashtag your posts only go to the people who follow you, but posts that include hashtags can reach anyone who follows that particular hashtag. Google “best hashtags for ______” to get you started. Be sure to include a hashtag for your store, as in #nameofyourstore .
One more: Make time for yourself. 2020 was hard and 2021 hasn’t been a picnic for retailers either. The pandemic caused your bricks and mortar store became a clicks and mortar store because ecommerce was no longer an option. You closed your store and opened it again, maybe more than once. You worried about your family and your store associates and your customers. You found new ways to source product, became a star on social media, and juggled a gazillion other things. You are probably exhausted so give yourself a break. Set priorities; do what you can and delegate the rest. You made it this far, proving there is no limit to what you can do when you put your mind to it!