Do you ever wonder why a customer would come to a smaller store instead of going to a larger chain store where the prices may be lower? They do it, every day—just drive around your local shopping centers and look at all the small stores. The ones that have been there a long time or have opened other locations are doing something right, so what is it?
Here are some ideas to make your store the preferred destination over the larger chain stores:
- Provide better customer service.With the owner present more often, customers expect to receive more attention. As a small-business owner, you can train your employees better so they are happier in their jobs, which will show in their actions.
- Have an informed sales staff. Staff members at a small store tend to have better merchandise knowledge, training, and supervision, so they are better able to help customers decide on the correct items. That also means fewer returns and complaints, as well as happier customers.
- Have the owner on the premises. Customers love to see and talk to the top person at a business; it gives them a feeling of importance. Saying hello and thanking customers in your store goes a long way in building loyalty.
- View every sale as important. A small store needs every sale and every customer, and that need is usually conveyed across the counter. Without repeat business, how can a small business survive?
- Get to know your customers and your employees. Employees usually stay longer at smaller stores because they are treated well, and customers feel comfortable knowing the staff. Nothing makes a customer feel more important or comfortable than a greeting by name: “Hello, Mrs. Mitchell.”
- Offer specialty items. These are things customers can’t find elsewhere and chain stores don’t carry because of lower demand. This might include different items for special occasions. Customers will visit more often to see what’s new.
- Stock quality products. A small store can’t take the chance of selling inferior or poorly made products. Products that perform well will build loyalty and encourage repeat customers.
- Offer faster checkout. Most customers want shorter waiting
times. When they’ve made their selections, customers want to pay for them and move on to something else; waiting in line is wasted time. If you see a checkout line building up, you can jump in and help.
- Provide customer education. An informed staff can advise customers on how to complete a project, how to select a color scheme, how to use special features of products, and so on. Time spent helping a customer cements a relationship and keeps customers coming back.
- Feature a comfortable store layout. Have more interesting and pleasing displays with related and complementary items grouped together. It makes a pleasant shopping experience.
- Offer easier returns and exchanges. Show that you value your customers’ time by trying to efficiently resolve returns or exchanges of merchandise.
- Allow special orders. As a small store, you can order items that customers request and know that the customers will be back in to purchase them.
- Have consistent quality and prices. This way, customers are secure in the knowledge that there won’t be any surprises, such as higher prices or poorer quality, when they come back to the store. They feel there is fair value in their purchases.
Are these the things that customers feel about your store? Can you implement the ones you’re missing? Doing so will make customers forego the hassle of the big stores and will keep your cash register ringing. A small store not only can stay in business; it can prosper in spite of big discount competition. Price only comes into play when you don’t have much else to offer.