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Customer experience: The key to a great retail business

By Jim Connolly

Why do some retailers grow super-successful businesses via word of mouth, whilst others really struggle to attract customers?

A big part of the answer can be found in something known as Customer Experience.

Why should you be interested in your Customer Experience?

If a customer finds the experience of visiting your store remarkable enough, they are massively more likely to buy from you. However, that’s not all. They are also far, far more likely to tell their friends. This means more today than ever before.


Because just a few years ago, a delighted customer would tell an average of 7 people when they received a remarkable customer experience. Today, thanks to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, they can tell dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people how great your store is!

In fact, whether they know it or not, the retailers who get the most word of mouth trade are those who are offering the most remarkable Customer Experience.

Customer Experience is more than customer service

Whereas customer service focuses on the way a customer is served, Customer Experience covers their entire experience of you and your store, including customer service. It covers everything from your window display, advertising and lighting, to your customer service, promotions and signage.

In short: Customer Experience is the whole experience a person has with your business.

Another massive benefit of developing a remarkable Customer Experience, is that it encourages people to keep returning to your store. By retaining more of your customers, you build a stronger, more loyal customer base and a stronger business. This is one of the cornerstones of avoiding the dreaded ‘feast and famine’ trap!

How to make this work for you and your business

The best place to start, is to look at your business through the eyes of a prospective customer.

Here are just a small number of areas for you to review and, if needed, improve.

Assess the external impact of your store:

  • How remarkable is your window display? Make sure your main items are easy to see and that the display isn’t cluttered.
  • Do you have a large, clear ‘come in, we're open!’ sign to greet people? If not, you will be amazed what can happen when you add a highly visible ‘come in, we're open!’ sign.
  • Is the exterior of your store in good condition? This may sound obvious, but people are far less likely to enter a store if it looks untidy from the outside.

Assess the impact you create when a prospective customer enters your store:

  • Is your lighting nice and clear, too bright or too dark? Good quality lighting helps prospective customers find what they want. It also creates a better atmosphere, than a store that’s too dark or too dazzlingly bright.
  • Are your shelves stocked, so that your main items are at eye-level and easy to find? The easier it is for prospective customers to see and reach your stock, the more you will sell.
  • What fragrances / smells greet people when they enter your store? Smells such as coffee and vanilla are known to attract people and make them feel relaxed.
  • Is there music playing? If so, who decides if this is the right kind of music and the correct volume? If you use music, make sure it’s the kind of thing that the majority of your customers will like.
  • Is the temperature of your store set at a comfortable level? You want people to feel comfortable when visiting your store. If they are too hot or too cold, many will leave before buying anything.

Consider the way you look after prospective customers:

  • Do prospective customers get a chance to come inside and start looking for what they want? Some salespeople confront people within seconds of entering the store, asking if they can help. This may feel like great customer service to the salespeople, but prospective customers often find it intimidating or needy. Make eye contact, greet people, but wait until they have had a chance to look around before you offer to help.
  • Are customers offered help, to get heavy purchases to their vehicle?

That really is just a quick overview of a few things to consider, which can significantly improve the experience you give your customers.

Learning from what already works

One of the best ways to build a remarkable Customer Experience, is to find what already works… then adapt it to your own store.

Allow me to explain.

Think about the stores you have used in the past, which you were so impressed by that you told your friends. Preferably, these should be stores that are in a different marketplace to your own. What you are looking for, are elements of their Customer Experience, which you can adapt and apply to your own business.

Something that is commonly used to delight customers in one area of retail, is often rare or non-existent in another. Just imagine the competitive advantage you could gain, if you’re the only person in your retail sector offering that additional, valuable Customer Experience.

Finally, I hope you have found these ideas interesting. More importantly, I hope you do something with them.

To find out how CTS Wholesale can help your retail business, simply click here.