You don’t know it, but aspects of your store may really be ticking off your customers. And they won’t tell you – they just won’t come back. While some annoyances are cliché, like no greeting as customers enter, no open game boxes for demo, and long lines at the checkout, others are less obvious. Here is what Francesca Nicasio from Vend HQ, a company that provides cloud-based point-of-sale and retail management software, discovered in a recent poll among retail professionals who are also shoppers.
Requesting too much information but offering little value
“When the cashier asks me for my zip code, phone number or email – as if it is a non-negotiable requirement to complete the transaction – I get annoyed, decline or ask why,” says Sokmean Nou, founder and CEO, of retail software company Calixa Technologies. “If there is no clear value provided, don’t expect me to volunteer personal data.”
Devon Seidel, marketing and design specialist at liquor-marketing firm Loop Insights, agrees. “It’s big pet peeve of mine. The store already has a lot of information about me: how many times I shop, what I buy, and when I buy it. In return for the insight, they could offer a personalized shopping experience based on my customer profile.”
Collecting customer data is an important retail best-practice, and what Devon is asking for in exchange is not that unusual. Today’s consumers are often fine with imparting some information, as long as you make it worthwhile for them to do so. Two-thirds of consumers are willing to share their data with brands in exchange for some perceived value, according to global professional services company Accenture. Offer them a discount, a coupon, a sample, a chance to win a prize, or a sneak peek at new arrivals. When your customers see the value, they’re more likely to share even more details with you.
Unexciting and out-of-date loyalty programs
“Retailers who update their loyalty programs with easy and immediate redemption of rewards are the ones who have won my loyalty,” notes Ayesha Renyard, Loop Insights’ Communications Coordinator.
If you have a loyalty initiative (and you totally should), make sure you’re giving its members a smooth and rewarding experience. It’s one thing to get people to sign up, but another to have them participate consistently. Beef up your efforts by making it easy to collect and redeem rewards, and make sure your program runs seamlessly across physical and digital platforms.
MySelf Lingerie, with locations in Brooklyn and Lakewood, New Jersey, does this very well. It runs automated email targeting and customer feedback programs through Vend POS and Marsello, a loyalty and marketing automation platform. It runs the automated win-back loyalty program but can also send email marketing campaigns for sales, promotions and product launches.
“Customers love redeeming the coupons,” says MySelf co-owner Rachel Rosenthal. “It’s mostly just a few dollars off a purchase, but they feel like they’ve won the Brooklyn Bridge.” Since it was launched, the loyalty program has increased repeat purchase frequency, customer lifetime value, and revenue – more than $2 million from repeat customers.
Running promotions that can be redeemed only in-store or only online
Neither your customers nor your employees want to worry about whether or not an offer will be redeemable in-store or online. They just want it to work, period. That’s why your retail store should have a system that allows you to smoothly do business across online and offline channels. Your POS system must be able to “talk” to your ecommerce platform so that sales, customer, and inventory data flows smoothly from one platform to the next.
Not having items in stock
Stockouts are a major issue in retail. They lead to missed sales opportunities, wasted marketing dollars, and disappointed customers. Avoid them by paying attention to your inventory data. Regularly analyze your stock reports and keep an eye on metrics like turn, sell-through, out-of-stock patterns, bestsellers and slow movers. That way, you can optimize your ordering and merchandising to ensure that you have the SKUs your customers want at the right time.
The wrong assortment
One of the keys to your retail success is your ability to curate the products in your store’s mix. That means figuring out what should not be ordered – another advantage of keeping your eye on the metrics. Start by analyzing your inventory and then combine that knowledge with what you know about your customers and your market. Both are huge components of curating the right assortment.
Stay on top of industry trends and regularly converse with customers about the kinds of products they want to see, and buy, in your store.
After you’ve established what items make the perfect mix in your store, don’t sabotage sales with messy displays, or missing price tags and UPC codes. Make it a point to tidy up several times throughout the day. Instruct your associates to re-stock shelves that are missing items, and have them double-check product labels and signage for accuracy. It makes products easier to find and your store more inviting.
Associates with a bad attitude
“My pet peeves include customer service that lacks empathy; and associates who avoid customers, don’t make eye contact, and are generally unengaged and uninterested,” offered a manager at Victoria’s Secret. Here is a list of positive behaviors store staff should display.
• Greet customers in a sincere and welcoming manner.
• Practice active listening.
• Learn how to read different types of customers.
• Know when and how to upsell or cross-sell.
• Remember and appreciate repeat customers.
• Forge a relationship with shoppers.
• Put your product knowledge to good use.
More than a few people responded to our Pet Peeve poll with complaints about “long fingernails” and “long, fake nails.” The nails prevented employees from typing quickly at the checkout computer, picking up coins, and peeling off labels. As a result, the purchase process was slowed down. This may not be an issue in your store, but you may want to establish guidelines about fingernail length. The bigger point here is ensuring all employees can do their jobs to your high standards, and that their appearance is in line with the brand image you’d like to project.
Making the process of returns or exchanges difficult
While it’s important to have rules to prevent return abuse, don’t make the process too complicated. It’s a tricky balance, and what’s right for one retailer may be wrong for the next.
For some retailers, a generous return policy wins them more shoppers. Other merchants may find the need for strict rules or more stringent guidelines for specific products, like electronics or “final sale” items.
The best way to devise a policy right for your store is to analyze the shopping behavior of your customers and factor in the types of products you carry.
Hopefully, the shopper input we’ve presented here sheds light on things that you can improve. If you find that you or your employees are guilty of these pet peeves, use this as an opportunity to turn things around. Maybe you need an attitude revamp. Perhaps your store’s policies could use an update. Or maybe you need a new retail management system that lets you do business online and offline.
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert and content strategist at Vend HQ, a retail management software supplier that lets retailers run their business in-store, online, and via mobile. Vend’s solution includes POS software, inventory management, e-commerce, customer loyalty, and reporting analytics.