PMA November 2008 : Page 29

Business & Marketing that you are there for them.” In addition to employee and manager visibility, Shay advises retailers not forget about the store itself. “The store needs to look good,” he says. “Start at the curb. Is the parking lot area neat? What does the landscaping look like? That’s a customer’s first and biggest impression.” Shay says retailers should focus on the indoor appearance as well. “Are the floors and carpets clean? Is the paint fresh and new? Are lights working? Is the tile floor waxed? All these things say something to customers, whether they realize it or not.” How to do it Every retailer should know customer service is important; but not every retailer knows how first to get customers in the store. “This season, as retailers will all be compet- ing for the same shoppers, standing out from the crowd can really mean big things for business,” says Grannis. “Offering com- petitive promotions will definitely help get those shoppers in stores as returning guests.” Shay believes retailers need to work to find business – it usually doesn’t just come on its own. “Regardless of the industry, retailers need to maintain a customer database and use that as much as possible,” he says. “Mailing invitations to customers to come to the store, possibly for an open house or product demonstration, is important.” Fleener agrees on the significance of contact with customers outside the store. “Mail Christmas cards,” he says. “Use your database to run a list of who has come in lately and who hasn’t, and send additional mailings to customers who haven’t been around in a while. Get those customers back in and maintain regular contact. There are always emails and enewsletters as well.” The NRF also highlights the importance of customer communication. “Send targeted emails to loyal customers,” says Grannis. “Advertise half-off and off- peak sales for those shoppers who have less than conventional shopping times. These are creative ways to really get in front of your five tips for better seasonal sales Holiday sales predictions are here. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), sales may rise 2.2 percent this year to $470.4 billion, below the 10-year average of 4.4 percent, marking the slowest growth in six years. Holiday sales are crucial for retailers because that’s when many of them make their profit for the year, says the NRF. With that in mind, here are five sales tips from Kathy Grannis of NRF; Doug Fleener of Dynamic Experience Group LLC; and Tom Shay of Profits Plus. 1. Don’t pay attention to media hype about economic trouble. Read material on how to become a better retailer instead. 2. Use your website. Most consumers begin their shopping online. It’s also a marketing tool. 3. Engage consumers. Demonstrate products and make employees visible. 4. Appearance matters. Make sure everything, both outdoors and in, presents a good image. 5. Go the extra mile. Use your database to target loyal shoppers through mailings. Offer special events and discounts for returning customers. customers.” Besides targeted mailings in anticipation of the frenzied shopping season, retailers can engage holiday shoppers by hosting special events and becoming involved in their communities. “Become involved with charity events,” says Fleener. “Show consumers you care about local causes. That will catch their attention.” Fleener accentuates the value of special events for returning customers. “Host a private after-hours event for the most loyal shoppers,” he says. “Offer special education and demonstrations for custom- ers on the hottest Christmas gifts in the industry.” Fleener suggests retailers stop and ask what they are doing to pull customers in for the holiday season – and all year round. He admits preparing for the holiday season is not easy and it is time consuming, but it’s necessary. Tips and tricks Using the store website as a main marketing tool will get customer attention. “Many shoppers will head to the internet before ever leaving home, to do comparative shopping,” says Grannis of the NRF. Shay believes retailers need to meet custom- ers where they are – and often that’s online. “People have various choices on how they want to do business now,” he says. “Whether that’s online or in person, retailers need to be present where their consumers are.” Fleener suggests retailers offer special incentives to catch customer attention in light of the holiday season. “Reward customers for coming to your store,” he says. “Offer gift cards for custom- ers who try out different products. Make an investment in your top 100 customers by sending them a $10 gift card.” Shay wants retailers to focus on getting products into the hands of customers as they shop for the holidays. “Hand consumers a product, let them touch and use it,” he says. “This technique enhances consumer interest and is far more effective than the traditional ‘Can I help you?’ approach.” Pay attention What’s the bottom line for retailers? Pay attention, work hard, and be open minded, says Shay. There is a choice in how to do business – to do it well or poorly. He believes the most successful businesses make themselves completely available to customers anytime, anywhere – especially during the holiday season. Retailers also need to make consumers aware of what they offer. In light of shoppers with less cash, the NRF expects unique gifts of quality rather than quantity to be in demand this year. This would include custom photo products. “It doesn’t matter if we’re in economic trouble or not,” Fleener says. “The issue is we still need results for business. We have to make a choice on how to do business: If retailers go into the season planning a bad holiday, they will certainly have it. But if retailers work to have a good sales season, they will succeed.” n PMA — November 2008 — 29

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