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Are they ever coming back?

Establishing a Strategy for Customer Retention

Think about a customer that has come into your business looking to make a purchase. Perhaps it is a customer who has just moved into your community, looking for a store in which to buy some sheet music for their piano. It may be the parent who is bringing their child to look for a beginner guitar. Whatever the scenario, someone has crossed the threshold and is now considering making a purchase.

Our interest and discussion point today is to ask what can you do to increase the odds that the person will come back. And in doing so, we may surprise you by showing how you can be proactive instead of leaving it up to chance.

The problem that you are wanting to overcome is the statistic that shows over 80% of the buying public cannot distinguish one business from another. Want proof? Think about how many times someone has come into your business, selected an item, and then at your register asked, "Who do I make this check payable to?"

You may think this is a customer that is pretty dumb to not know where they are. Actually, the situation is that the business has not made enough of an impression on that customer so that the customer would make an effort to observe and remember the name of the business.

In getting the attention of a customer, it actually begins long before they ever come inside. If you are a free standing business, or one in a strip center, you can begin your efforts by making sure there are easy to see stripes on the parking lot. As customers walk toward your business, how well lit is the parking lot and front of your business? Are there signs on the outside that would peak their interest? Can they hear music as they approach the business?

Each of these concerns, handled successfully, add to the likelihood that the customer will return to you again. Statistically, it has been shown that over half of the customers are making up their mind based upon their experience from the time they enter the parking lot to the first 15 seconds in your business.

Once they are inside, is there an area where they can stand, look around without feeling they are in the way of someone? Can they get a feel for your business? Can they easily determine who are the employees and who are the customers, in the event they would like to ask questions?

As they move about the business, are they drawn from one area to another by way of an attractive display that is well lit? The customer should be drawn to move about the business, much like that stainless steel marble can move slowly about in a pin ball machine. Is that customer being exposed to all areas of the merchandise within the store?

When someone does speak to them, do they hear, like they hear in that 80% plus group of stores a "Can I help you?" Or do they have someone who says "hello", "welcome", or "I'm glad you came in today"?

As they converse with the salesperson, is the customer asking all of the questions? This indicates the customer is controlling the situation. If instead the salesperson is asking the questions, they are in control. By asking brief questions, and then listening to what the customer says, we learn more. And as they are listening to the answers given by the customer, the salesperson is narrowing in on which product or products best meets the needs of the customer.

Think about a customer coming into the store and asking for a set of drumsticks. Our example store could be like most others by telling the customer where the stick rack is with a word and a finger pointing in the direction. At this point, the customer is probably going to base a lot of their decision on price as the store has done little to assist the customer.

Our example store could go a step further by walking the customer to the rack and giving a brief explanation of how the sticks are arranged. The salesperson will probably point out where the expensive ones are as well as where the inexpensive ones are.

Of course, the better than average salesperson could ask a couple of questions. They might ask about what stick the customer has previously used or the type of drums the customer has. With a situation such as this, our salesperson is likely to be making some suggestions with regard to which stick the person should purchase.

At this point, we know that we have definitely eliminated the majority of retailers with regard to customer service. It is now that we enter that rare space where few businesses venture.

At this point, our salesperson takes a bigger interest by asking the customer, "Have you seen these new sticks?" And with that, they take the sticks out of the sleeve and hand them to the customer. The idea of getting the sticks in the customers hands has been shown to increase sales by approximately 19%. And as the customer grips them, the salesperson walks them to a drum set and invites the customer to try the new sticks.

There may be a suggestive comment from the salesperson such as, "You do play with gloves on, don't you?" And with that our salesperson would hand a pair to the customer to try with the sticks.

As the customer decides they like the sticks, and says they will also take the gloves, our salesperson asks, "Is one pair enough? Or would two be better?" About 14% of the time the customer will decide to take a second pair.

You may think this is the cream of the crop. But there is another step that can be added. As the sale is completed, what if the salesperson were to say, "Every so often we have a demonstration given by someone from the drum manufacturer. I would be glad to send you an invitation if you would provide me with your name and address".

And in sending the invitation, you can probably get the manufacturer to pay for the postcard you would send. One great source of postcards can be found on the Internet at For you see, this retailer understands it is not enough just to have an add on sale. If the retailer can do things which help to grow that customer's interest in their drums, this customer is going to return to make more purchases - not only for more sticks and gloves, but for better and more expensive drums and accessories.

It takes all of these steps if you want to do the best job possible to retain and grow as many customers as possible. And as the owner or manager of the business, there is one more step that you can take. Do some reading of business books. Many of the ideas expressed in this article come from great books such as "Marketing Warfare", "Why We Buy", "Predatory Marketing", and "The Experience Economy". This reading will be good for you, good for your business, and real good for your bottom line.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179