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A human approach to retail success

By Jim Connolly

In recent years, one of the biggest threats to traditional retailers has been the surge in Internet commerce. Lower overheads and fully automated systems have allowed some online retailers, to compete in a way that’s hard for traditional retailers to match.

Thankfully, as I have shown in previous retail marketing articles, there are things you can do to not only match the online guys, but beat them! (There’s a full list of all previous articles here.)

In today’s article, I’m going to share another way to play to your advantages and increase sales.

Whilst what I am about to share with you has a huge, positive impact, it’s maybe the easiest tip I have ever shared. I was prompted to write about this, after an experience I had yesterday when visiting a local, independent store.

Hi Jim!

I needed a new saddlebag (or pannier) for my mountain bike. So, while I was in town I went into an independent cycle store and started to look around. I knew the style and size I wanted and was trying to find it.

As I looked around, I made eye contact with the guy who owns the store. As I did, he welcomed me by saying, “Hi Jim!” I don’t use the store very often and I was really impressed that he remembered my name.

Obviously, once he’d greeted me by my name, it started a whole conversation, which would not have happened had he’d not used my name. 

Humanizing business is good for business!

Here’s the thing: Initially, the conversation had little to do with me buying anything, but it had everything to do with building a relationship with me, the customer. 

As a result, I asked him where his panniers were and he showed me. However, because we were engaged in a general conversation, it was easy for me to ask his advice on replacing my bike’s tires. I wanted to know what were the most puncture-resistant. These tires were something I wasn’t looking to buy yesterday, but they were in stock and I had my car with me, so it would be easy to get them home. So, I bought them too.

Around 10 minutes and $200 later, I left the store. Moreover, I left the store with a great customer experience story to tell my friends. 

A closer look at what happened there

By starting my customer experience, welcoming me by my name, a number of things happened: 

  1. It humanized my shopping experience. I immediately felt a lot more comfortable, which is extremely valuable to a retailer. When customers feel at ease, they feel safer. When the customer feels safe, their natural “buyer resistance” is lower. This leads to a more enjoyable experience for the customer and allows the retailer to speak to the customer, without the usual barriers.

  2. It provided me with something I can’t get online. This is huge! No matter how smart online stores are, at using software to “greet” you with your name, it’s still just a computer. It’s nothing like as powerful as making eye-to-eye contact with a real person, who greets you with your name.

  3. It opened a channel of comfortable communication. In other words, the storeowner was able to learn a little about me and my needs, but in an effortless, non-pushy way. We were just talking about bikes, which is something we’re both passionate about.

All this started, because of something as basic as a storeowner remembering my name. Those 2 small words transformed a customer experience AND increased what I spent in the store, by around $170.

The simple things

It’s worth remembering that some of the most valuable gains we can make in retail sales, come when we do the simple things, correctly. Business is all about people, so the more we can humanize the shopping experience, the better it is for the customer and the retailer.

I hope you found this information useful. More importantly, I hope you do something with it.

Don’t forget, there are lots more retail marketing articles and guides for you, over in our free resource section.