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  • How to Use the Panorama Approach to Organize Your Store

    Panoramic photo from the top of Mt. Kobau

    One of my most memorable experiences was when I first stood on top of Mt. Kobau, BC. The landscape spread out below, in a wide panorama from one horizon to the other.  Beyond the trees, and the sage covered hills, the mountain peaks stretched as far as I could see. At sunset, the view was simply stunning. I had to stop to take in the breathtaking vista.

    The customer’s first view of your store has much in common with this mountain top view. When the customer sees your store, the view is a panorama, not a detail view. She gets an overall impression of the store. If this impression attracts and connects with her, she’ll stop to take it in.

    In that moment, the customer gets oriented to the store. There are several questions she has to answer for herself:

    What is the store about?
    Do I like it?
    Do I want to go inside to find out more?
    Where do I go first?

    The way the store is organized helps the customer answer these questions.

    The panorama approach

    The panorama approach organizes the store to make it easy for the customer to understand at a glance. It focuses on the big picture because that’s what shoppers see first. When a store is organized with this approach, the shopper can easily figure out what the store is about, and decide to venture inside. She’ll understand the layout in a glance, so she’ll know where to go.

    So, how do you use the panorama approach in your store?

    Using the panorama approach

    To learn how to apply this approach to your store, there are three steps:
    1) Choose 3 stories to tell
    2) Group merchandise by story
    3) Create a scene on each wall

    Let’s look at each of these steps in detail.

    1) Choose 3 stories to tell

    The first step of the panorama approach is to simplify your merchandise selection. We all get overwhelmed by clutter. When the customer is presented with a huge selection of options, it all starts to look like clutter. By choosing three main stories the product selection, we get rid of the clutter. The product selection becomes more streamlined and organized.

    What is a story?
    A story is a theme, or a message, that you want to convey to the customer. It is a method of grouping merchandise together. Different types of stores are going to have different types of stories.

    A store that is fashion oriented like clothing or home décor tend to have colour or style stories. For example, a colour story could be black and white. A style story for home décor could be French Provincial. Depending on the store, these stories might change with every season.

    A store that sells a wide variety of products such as pet supplies or hardware would have very basic stories. A pet store’s main stories might be food and nutrition, pet care at home, and pet care on the go (traveling, in the car, at the park). A hardware store could have home and garden, building and renovations, and seasonal. These main stories would not change, even though some of the products within each story change from season to season.

    The customer can understand three visual stories quickly and easily. In a glance she can decide if one or more of the stories attracts her enough to step inside.

    Now let’s look at how stories are used in the store.

    2) Group merchandise by story
    Once you’ve decided on your three stories, it’s time to look at your merchandise layout. The products in each story need to be grouped together. Each story needs to be allocated to one section of the store.

    Three examples of story layouts are:
    Balanced: One story on the left of the store, another on the right, with the third at the back.
    Sequential: One story at the front, one in the centre, one at the back.
    Grocery style: One story on the floor (free-standing or on tables),  one on shelves in aisles, one on the walls. Think of the way supermarkets are laid out: produce on tables/bins, canned/processed foods in the aisles, basics (meat, dairy, bread) around the perimeter.

    The way you layout your product stories will depend on the shape of your store, as well as the type of product you are selling. Some products are best displayed on tables, shelves or walls. You’ll need to decide which layout suits your situation best.

    The panorama approach works because you have one section of the store for each story. And that all the merchandise for that story is placed in that section. It is easy for the customer to know where to look for the products she wants.

    All the products are now grouped with their story into one section of the store. Let’s look at how to attract shoppers to that section.

    3) Create a scene on each wall
    The walls of your store are powerful attraction tools. They play an important role in the panorama approach. As customers pause at the front of your store, they quickly scan the store in a glance. As they look across the store at eye level, they will see the merchandise presented on the walls.

    You could think of the walls as the main scenes of each of your stories. For example, when they see the back wall of the store, the shoppers should immediately understand the story for that section of the store.

    The most prominent walls that shoppers will notice are the ones to the immediate right and left of the entrance, as well as the back wall. If your entrance is not located in the centre of the front of your store, you’ll have to determine which walls are most prominent. Do this by standing at the entrance and looking into the store. Take note of which walls you notice the most.

    Focus your merchandise presentation on these walls. For the panorama approach, we are not paying attention to individual displays. Consider the wall as a whole. Plan a balanced arrangement of coordinating merchandise. At this point, you just want to make sure that the arrangement of fixtures and merchandise on the wall is organized, balanced and neat.

    It’s also important to consider what merchandise to place on the walls. It’s not the place for clearance merchandise, or mismatched odds and ends. These feature walls are great for new merchandise and items that will catch the customer’s eye. They will help you to use the feature walls to draw shoppers deeper in the store.

    So, you know how to use the panorama approach in your store. But what if you have too many products that don’t fit into your three stories?

    When products don’t fit into 3 stories
    If you’ve just started using the panorama approach, you might end up with some hard-to-merchandise white elephant items. This is a common challenge. You’ll need to fit them into one of the stories that seems to work the best. And work hard to sell this merchandise as soon as possible. It might take some time to eliminate those white elephants.

    Once you do, you’ll find it gets even easier to use the panorama approach. Once the three stories have been developed it’s going to be easier to avoid them in future. Buying and merchandising will get easier because you’ll know your three stories in advance.

    Give your customers the mountain top view
    Use the panorama approach to get shoppers to pause, take in the view and be drawn into the store.

    You know what to do:
    1) Choose 3 stories to tell
    2) Group merchandise by story
    3) Create a scene on each wall

    Next Step
    In next week’s article we’ll start to look closer at merchandising with ‘medium shots’.
    Missed the first article in the series? Click here to read about The Zoom Effect.

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    The Secret To Running ‘Automatic’ Store Events

    Sleepy cartoon woman pouring coffee

    Some people are morning people
    I’m not one of them. When I get up, I stagger around with a foggy brain at first.
    Until my head clears, I can’t do anything that requires me to think.

    So, I put my morning routine on automatic.
    I can make coffee and get my day started, when I’m barely awake.
    I can do this without thinking because I have a system.

    A system can put your events on automatic too
    Events have the potential to be your best marketing tool.
    Events can bring in new customers, and keep shoppers coming back.
    But, events can be a lot of work.
    To reduce the workload, events need to be on ‘automatic’ setting.

    What stops you from holding store events?
    What stops most people is the planning.
    It seems like too much work to hold an event.
    It’s overwhelming.
    There’s too much to think about.

    It’s hard to even come up with a good idea for an event.
    Once you’ve done one event, you have to come up with another idea.
    And another plan. Just thinking about all the planning discourages people from getting started.

    How can you get past that barrier?

    The secret is to have a system
    That system is an annual calendar of store events.
    You sit down with a calendar, and plan all your events for the year.
    The best way to do this is to get out of the store.

    Go to a cafe, order your favourite beverage, and start thinking.
    By doing your thinking now, you don’t have to think as much about each event later.
    You can get all your thinking out of the way in a couple of hours.
    For the rest of the year, you can just follow the plan.

    The system puts your events on automatic, so you can focus on other things.

    What does your automatic calendar system need?
    To create an annual calendar of events, your plan needs three factors:

    1) Simplicity
    2) Repetition
    3) Variety

    1) Simplicity
    The events that go in your calendar need to be simple, or they won’t get done. To be automatic, the events need to be easy to produce.

    Don’t get carried away with elaborate catering, a DJ, a huge guest list, door prizes, gift bags and expensive marketing. One big event per year might be okay, but only if it builds relationships with new customers, or results in big sales.
    Otherwise, it’s just a big effort and big expense.

    Instead of going big, think small.
    Small and simple.
    Fill the calendar with education events that solve problems for customers.
    Then you don’t need lots of entertainment and free giveaways.
    The value is the information.

    A simple event recipe:
    Valuable information
    A small and personal guest list.
    Add a few light snacks, and sparkling water. Or tea and coffee.

    Voila! A simple event that will build your customer base.
    Especially when it’s paired with the next factor.

    2) Repetition
    Once you’ve had a successful event, repeat it. Most people try to come up with something new. If something works, keep doing it until it stops working.

    To encourage customers to return regularly to your store, events need to be held frequently. Holding only a couple of events per year will not build your customer base as effectively as holding events more often.

    There are three methods you can use to repeat your events:

    Method 1)
    Schedule the same event, on the same topic, multiple times. Perhaps on an annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If the event is only scheduled annually, you need to fill the calendar schedule other events as well.

    Method 2)
    If you had an education event on one topic that was successful, use that format for other related topics. Present a series of topics on a weekly or monthly basis.

    Method 3)
    Make the events into classes or workshops. Get participants to sign up for a class that runs for several weeks. Or a workshop that is completed in a day, or over a weekend.

    3) Variety
    An effective events calendar will have a variety of different types of events. There are three main types of events to choose from:

    Sales and promotional events
    Sales and promotional events are easy to overdo. Keep these events to once or twice a year. Put some effort into making this a special event. Put it on your annual calendar, and promote it well in advance. Build it up, so your customers look forward to it each year.

    Community events
    Neighbourhood events that usually happen on an annual basis. Choose one or two that are the best fit for your store. Use these events to meet new people and promote your education events.

    Education events
    The education events are your bread and butter. Fill the calendar with these events.

    Consider choosing topics that relate to the seasons or annual activities. For example, if you sell computers or office supplies, host tax seminars during tax season. Or for a dress shop, offer a talk in the spring on How To Save Money In Wedding Season: 5 Great Ways To Wear One Dress.

    An annual calendar is the secret to creating an automatic system of events.

    It’s like having a system in place for making coffee in the morning. Setting out the coffee and pot the night before makes it easy to brew that java with your eyes closed.

    Once you have the calendar in place for events, you can run them without getting bogged down in the planning. To put your events on automatic, your calendar needs:

    1) Simplicity
    2) Repetition
    3) Variety

    With those three factors, events will become so effortless, you could do it in your sleep!

    Next Step
    Want to find out more about education events? Click here to read Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business

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    Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business

    It was a six year old boy’s dream come true
    A birthday treasure hunt. The young treasure hunters discovered a battered map in a bottle on the rocky ocean beach. Following the clues to the ‘X’ on the map, the boys found the right spot and started to dig. It didn’t take them long to unearth the buried chest. Imagine the boys’ delight on finding a pirate flag and handfuls of jewels.

    Real treasure!

    Customer relationships are the treasure in your business
    Relationships with loyal customers that come back again and again. These repeat customers are the ones that make your business thrive. One of the best ways to get customers to return is with regular events.
    But not all events attract the right customers.
    And keep them coming back for more.

    What type of event attracts repeat customers?
    Not just any customers.
    Customers that want more than just a product.
    Customers that want to know how to solve a problem.
    Customers that are hungry for information.

    The most effective are education events.
    These events offer that information.
    They solve problems for the customer.

    That brings us to the next question.

    How do you create an education event?
    You need to find a map that will lead you to the repeat customer treasure.
    Sometimes we search all over to find the map.
    We don’t realize the map is right in front of us.
    The landmarks on the map are the customers’ problems.
    The customer problems will lead you to the treasure.

    ‘X’ marks the spot
    Your customers’ biggest problem is the ‘X’.
    That’s the first problem to tackle with an educational event.
    Once you’ve identified the problem, you dig deeper to get more information.
    That’s where you’ll find the treasure.

    But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

    How do you find the X?
    Your job is to find a problem your customers want to solve. And create an educational event that provides a solution to their problem.

    It isn’t as hard as it sounds.
    As I said before, you start with problems.

    1) Discover the customer problems
    2) Pick one problem to solve
    3) Provide the solution

    1) Discover the customer problems
    Talk to your customers in the store. Listen to their questions. What do you find yourself explaining to your customers most often?

    Ask questions. Ask for honest feedback. Find out what bugs your customers about any of your products. What bugs them about shopping? What would make it easier for them to buy?

    For example, let’s imagine you sell women’s dresses. What makes it hard to buy a dress? Let’s make a list of some problems customers might have.

    Problems with fit:

    • Dresses are too long, or too short, in the waist
    • Hem is too low, or too high
    • A dress fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top

    Problems with selection:

    • Can’t find a suitable colour for skin tone
    • Can’t find a dress for figure type

    Other problems

    • Need a dress for a formal occasion, that can also be worn for casual events
    • Need a dress that can be part of a work wardrobe

    These are just some of the problems that customers could have when shopping for dresses. If you have a wide variety of products, you may come up with many more potential problems that customers encounter. At this point, start with a list of 10 of the most common problems you hear from your customers. In the next step, you’ll reduce the list even further.

    2) Pick one problem to solve
    Yes. Just one.

    You can come back to the rest of the list later. For now, you need to focus on just one problem. If you try to solve too many problems at once, you get overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start. The project seems too big to handle. When you choose just one problem, you start to see how to tackle that one issue.

    Multiple problems lead to unfocused messages. Unfocused messages alienate customers. When you focus on just one problem, you attract all the customers that struggle with that one issue. The message is clear, and the customer feels like you are talking directly to her.

    So, just one problem. Let’s go back to our example.

    How do you choose just one problem?
    Well, in this case, problems with selection are more difficult to solve with an educational event, although it can be done. Let’s put aside those problems for now.

    Problems with fit are very common. The other problems listed are also common. However, fitting problems likely cause the most stress for customers. This is a clue that customers may be interested in a solution that you have to offer. Remember, start with the ‘X’. The biggest, or most common problem.

    I’ll pick one fitting problem: A dress fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top

    Now I’ve isolated a problem from my list, but what do I do with it?

    3) Provide the solution
    Now that you’ve chosen a problem, you need to identify a solution to the problem. A solution that you can deliver with an event or a class. This is where you go back to brainstorming.

    What is the solution to the problem?

    What advice would you give to a customer with this problem? Make a list of these points, or steps, to solve the problem.

    Back to the dress shop example.

    The problem: A dress that fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top
    The solution: A dress that fits just right (in the hips and the top)
    To get a dress that fits just right:
    1) Wear the right foundation garments to try on the dress
    2) Buy the dress to fit at the fullest point -> either bust or hips
    3) Find a good seamstress or tailor
    4) Have the dress professionally altered to perfect the fit
    5) Accessorize to visually balance the figure

    Now you’ve got enough points to give a seminar or class. You’re ready to start planning your event.

    But, I’m not a professional speaker
    It’s best to deliver the seminar yourself, or use your own staff team. You may not be a professional speaker, but your customers perceive you as an expert. The more you can encourage your customers to use you and your team to solve problems, the more you’ll improve your relationship with them. You want your customers to see you as a solution provider, not just a product seller.

    When customers see you as the solution provider, or expert, they’ll keep coming back over and over.

    And that’s the hidden treasure in your business.

    To uncover the treasure of repeat customers, start digging.
    1) Discover the customer problems
    2) Pick one problem to solve
    3) Provide the solution

    Next Step
    Does running events seem like too much work?
    Come back next week to learn the secret to ‘automatic’ store events. Or subscribe here, to get the next article sent to your email inbox.

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    How to Create Events That Bring In Customers (And Avoid Those That Don’t)

    Cartoon of happy woman talking and holding a glass of wine

    Charles was worried. It had been over six months of slow traffic in his store. This was usually his busiest time of year.

    But sales had dropped right off. In this previously busy shopping district, stores were closing, or being sold. He didn’t want his store to be the next to shut its doors.

    What could Charles do?
    Slow sales had nearly erased his marketing budget.
    Charles needs to get customers in the store, fast.
    He’d like to host some events in his store to get people in the door.
    But, he doesn’t know where to start.

    What kinds of events are effective marketing tools?
    Shoppers need a reason to go visit your store.
    An event gives them a reason, a date and time.
    Events attract attention.
    They’re special.
    They’re limited in time.

    Events help new shoppers discover you, and get to know you.

    Not all events get results
    Some events can be a whole lot of work, with little payoff.
    Which ones will give you the best payoff?
    Let’s find out by looking at four different types of events.

    Which events are the best marketing tools?
    1) Sales Events
    2) Community Events
    3) Entertainment Events
    4) Education Events

    Not all events are great for building customers.  Let’s have a look at each of these and see which one is the best for building a loyal customer base.

    1) Sales Events
    When we talk about retail events, we often think of sales promotions. These include VIP shopping nights, late night shopping, fashion shows, discounted price specials. These are common in retail, especially for fashion retailers.

    There’s nothing wrong with these events, in moderation. They can be used effectively as bonuses for loyal customers. Or rare special promotions.

    But as an attraction tool, they’re boring. Shoppers have all seen fashion shows. They’re used to discounts. They won’t give up other activities in their busy schedule for yet another promotion. You have to spend a lot of money and energy to promote these events, and make them enticing.

    So, retailers use discounts as an attraction for these events.
    And end up training their customers to only buy on sale.

    Stay away from sales events as a primary customer attraction tool.
    Let’s look at another type of event.

    2) Community Events
    Community events happen in many neighbourhoods. They might celebrate a theme like the Calgary Stampede, or Car Free Days.

    They could be cultural or charity events. Local businesses are encouraged to get involved by sponsoring events, holding sidewalk sales, in-store activities, and displays.

    Participating in these events often adds extra costs. You’re promised a big increase in traffic. More traffic means more sales, right? With high expectations, you buy balloons, add extra staff, create a themed display.

    And what happens?
    Crowds come to the event to eat. Or listen to music. Or participate in activities.
    Your store might be empty of customers.
    Or you might be run off your feet with browsers.
    But one thing is sure, almost no one is at the event to shop.

    After all the hype, and all the work, it’s disappointing when we don’t get the results we expect. We might start to think that community events are a waste of time and resources.

    Community events may not be good for generating immediate sales.
    But they can be effective as a way to connect with people in the community.
    However, that’s another article.

    As a regular customer attraction tool, you can’t rely on community events.
    So, what’s next?

    3) Entertainment Events
    Entertainment events can include hosting live music, DJs, and movies. Entertainment events work well for the right business. They can be effective for art galleries. Music events or art movies are the perfect fit for a gallery. Entertainment is also great for youth oriented products like clothing, skateboarding and snowboarding. For young people, entertainment has high value making it a good addition to a youth oriented store. Of course, entertainment events are great for entertainment oriented products as well.

    Not all products fit into one of these categories. There’s another type of event that works well for most, if not all, products.

    4) Education Events
    Education events include any kind of training or information sessions. They include seminars, workshops and classes. And you don’t have to stop there. Education can be a creative blend of entertainment and learning. It can be a special guest speaker. A demonstration. An artist-in-residence.

    The key to successful education events is to solve a problem for the customer. If you don’t know what kind of problems they have, listen to their questions in the store. Do they have questions about how to use your product? Or about which product is best for them? Think about how you could turn those questions into a seminar. For example, one of my clients sells travel gear. He hosts a regular packing seminar on how to pack for a vacation abroad. His seminars are always full.

    Scrapbooking and sewing stores have classes. Home renovation stores have woodworking workshops. Book stores have author talks, book clubs and writers’ clubs. An art gallery offers pottery and figure drawing classes. Fashion apparel stores provide workshops with image consultants. A home décor store gives decorating seminars by interior designers.

    Whatever product you sell, there are topics you can use to offer relevant education. And when you offer the education shoppers are looking for, they turn into regular customers. They bring friends with them. They want to know more.

    Not only do customers appreciate the education, but they buy more. Education helps the shopper understand what you’re selling, how to use it, and how it helps them solve a problem. And so they’re happy to buy from you.

    So, why does education transform window shoppers into customers?

    Education builds trust
    When the customer learns from you, they learn to trust you. They realize you’re not just after a quick sale. They’re not afraid of being on the receiving end of a pushy sales pitch. Instead, the customer realizes you understand their problem, and you really want to help. People like to buy from someone they know, like and trust. Providing education to your customers builds relationships and builds trust.

    ‘I’d love to have events, but I need more traffic first’
    It’s tempting to think you need a big customer roster to start having events. But it’s actually just the opposite.

    Education events are the tool you need to build the traffic right from the start. Education events provide value for the customer. For example, the chance to learn to dress for your figure type has a high value for the right shopper. More value than just another dress on a hanger. Offering a valuable learning opportunity to the right customer sets you apart from the competition.

    Use your unique offering to start with just a few customers at a time. Try an event for 5 people. Make it exclusive. Tell people about it for a few weeks ahead of time. Have people book in advance. When your first event fills up, don’t just say it’s full. Start booking for the next one.

    There are four types of events you can host in your store.

    1) Sales Events
    2) Community Events
    3) Entertainment Events
    4) Education Events

    Each of these events has a purpose, and may have a place on your retail calendar. But only education events steadily build the customer base without breaking the bank.

    If you’re like Charles and need to start building your customer base right away, you know what to do, right?

    Next Step
    How do you find out what kind of education events would be right for your customers? Next time we’ll look at finding out what your customers want.

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    Events: Why You Need To Start Small

    Cartoon woman pressing button labeled repeatA few years ago I went shopping for blueberry bushes for my yard.  The nursery offered a couple of choices. There were large bushes that would produce a crop of blueberries the next year. Or the ones in my price range. These bushes were small and would need regular care and tending to grow into a large, productive bush.

    Caring for these blueberries to make them productive, is a lot like caring for your business to make it productive.

    Store events give regular care to your business

    Regular events help your store grow and thrive. Regular events attract new shoppers, and bring existing customers back time and again. When you hold them on a consistent basis, events don’t have to be grandiose to be successful. In fact, small events can be better than large ones.

    Think small

    If your budget is large, you can host large, lavish parties. You can spend money of advertising campaigns. You can hire someone for public relations. But most of us don’t have a large budget. Most of us are trying to do as much as we can with small, even miniscule, budgets. Small budgets equals small events. And small events have advantages over big events.

    Small events are easy

    Retailers often shy away from events. An event seems like a big commitment. A lot of energy. Extra time. Big costs. Big intimidation factor.

    Small events don’t have those drawbacks. They’re casual. They have zero intimidation factor.

    What makes small events easy?

    1) Easy to afford
    2) Easy to manage
    3) Easy to repeat

    1) Easy to afford

    Small events don’t require a large outlay of cash. Small events keep costs to the bare minimum. Plan events that might hold 10 − 20 people at the most. If you’re only inviting a small number of people, you don’t need a big marketing budget. You can invite people individually. Invite 10 customers and ask them each to bring a friend or two. Make it personal.

    Stay away from lavish food. You might choose to provide some sparkling water, tea or coffee. Maybe some cookies. Keep it simple.

    Avoid giving away pricey gift bags. Instead, provide an incentive to return to the store. Offer each guest a gift card or gift certificate that can be redeemed for a bonus with their next purchase.

    You can even consider charging for your event. If the event has enough value for customers, you could charge a small fee to cover the cost. For example, if you are paying to have a special guest or speaker, customers don’t mind paying to attend.

    Remember, events don’t have to break the bank. And they don’t have to be take a lot of time to plan.

    2) Easy to manage

    Small events are less intimidating to plan than large ones. There’s no big marketing plan. No catering to arrange. No venue to book.

    For a small event you can fit all of the guests into your store. You don’t need extra staff. You can easily host a small event with one or two people. And the clean up is minimal.

    When the event is small and casual, it’s a lot less pressure. And a lot less stress. When an event is easy to manage, you’ll find you can hold it more often.

    3) Easy to repeat

    When an event is easy to afford and manage, it’s easy to repeat. The best events for building your business are the ones that you can repeat over and over.

    Why do events need to be repeated?

    Repeating events brings in a steady stream of regular customers. The same customers come back time and again. And sometimes they bring friends. And they tell others. Word gets around. You’re no longer just a store, with passive products sitting on the shelves. Your store is a place where things happen. Where people get involved, with you, and with each other.

    Repeating events is also efficient. You don’t have to create a new plan each time you hold an event. You create a system for your event. Each week, or each month, you hold the same event. You use your system to invite the guests, pick up the snacks, set up the room, and clean up after.

    Soon the event becomes a routine you don’t even think about. A routine that brings customers into your store time and again.

    But, I need more traffic right away!

    Some people want lots of traffic right now. OK, well, we’d all like that.

    The truth is big traffic equals spending big money. And big effort. You have to start planning months in advance. And you might only be able to afford to do that once. Besides, one off events aren’t going to keep people coming back. Those events will attract the customers that come for the big party. And then go home.

    Wouldn’t you prefer a marketing tool that cost you less than a hundred dollars a week? And could add at least a couple of new customers each week? If you get started right now, you could host your first event within a couple of weeks. Sure, you might just have 5 people. Or even just a couple. The next week you might have 6 or 7 people. In six months you’ll have an established marketing system. And you might just have a waiting list for your events.


    Small, in store events give regular care to your business. Just like my young blueberry bushes, your business will be thriving and fruitful before you know it.

    Next Step

    What kinds of events can you run? Next week we’ll look at how to come up with ideas for events for your store.


    Recommended Product: Another great way to start off the new year. Learn more about Why Customers Aren’t Buying (And How To Fix It): The Pinwheel Principle

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    How Events Get Customers In Your Door

    Sarah’s bookstore hummed as customers milled about, chatting with each other.

    Nearby store owners complained about the economy, and competition from big box stores. They closed at 5:00 pm on Wednesday & Thursday nights, because of slow traffic.

    But Sarah’s store was open late, filled with customers those two nights of the week. She seemed to have a secret formula that kept her store thriving.

    Events are the secret formula
    Events give shoppers a reason to visit. If you don’t give them a reason, shoppers may intend to visit, but put it off. Or they may never have been to your store before. An event gives them a reason to check it out for the first time.

    What’s Sarah’s secret?
    Sarah knows that events are the key to getting customers in the door, predictably and reliably. She knows that two nights a week in-store events draw a store full of customers inside. Customers that are happy to tell other people about their experience.

    Why is Sarah’s store busier than the others?
    Every week Sarah hosts a writer’s group and a book club. Each event draws 15-20 people. Most of those customers are regulars, but occasionally they bring new friends with them.

    You can learn to use Sarah’s secret in your store
    There are three steps to creating events that get customers in the door:
    1) Decide on a goal for the event
    2) Create the event
    3) Invite guests

    1) Decide on a goal for the event
    What do you want to accomplish with the event? Events are about customer relationships. Set goals that relate to building those relationships, and getting shoppers into the store.

    Your goal might be to attract new customers to the store. It could be to get customers to sign up for a series of workshops. Or it might be to build relationships with your VIP or best customers.

    Set goals that are specific. For example:

    • • If your slowest day of the week is Monday, plan to bring in 5 new customers every Monday
    • • If the store is dead in the middle of the day, create events to bring in shoppers midday
    • • Increase visits by regular customers from occasional to weekly

    Once you know what you want to achieve with the event, the next step is to plan the event itself.

    2) Create the event
    The events you run should relate to your customer needs. Create an event that helps your customer learn or do something.

    The event you choose will depend on the type of product you sell. Ideas could be book club meetings for a book store, running club for an athletic shoe store, or style and fit workshops for a women’s apparel store. Events can be free or paid. They can include clubs, classes and workshops.

    Whatever event you choose needs to add value for your customer. To help you come up with event ideas, ask yourself:

    • • What kind of questions do customers ask about using your products?
    • • What do they need help with?
    • • What kinds of problems do they have that you can solve?

    By helping your customers learn, they come to see you as an expert to turn to for information and advice. That is the value that will keep customers coming back to you, instead of the competition.

    Now that you’ve figured out what kind of event you will have, let’s move on to the next step.

    3) Invite guests
    Don’t make the mistake of trying to make the event a big, mass media event. Or printing up hundreds of cheap flyers.

    These events are about building relationships, so the invitations need to reflect that. Make it personal, like you would if you invited them to your home. Customers want to feel special like your friends do. Invite guests when they are in your store. Hand them invitations. Email invitations to customers you haven’t seen in a while. Put an invitation on your blog. Link it to all your social media; facebook page, twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

    Consider making the event exclusive to make it more desirable. Sarah’s writers group was exclusive. Only writers allowed. You can make events even more exclusive by asking for RSVPs, or charging a fee. Make sure the RSVP or fee information is clearly communicated in the invitation.

    Once you’ve gone through these three steps, you’re ready to host your event.

    What if no one buys anything?
    This is a fear for many retailers. Hosting an event takes time, planning, and money. With all that investment, what if there are no sales?

    The truth is, you may not sell anything. If the main goal of your event is to get new customers, you probably will sell very little. The event just gets the shoppers in the door. It’s like a first date. The shopper is just getting to know you. It’s a chance for you to start building a relationship.

    In Sarah’s case, she often had nights that went by without sales at the event, but she wasn’t worried. These people were some of her best customers. They were book lovers. By visiting her store every week, they would see what was new on the shelves. They would place special orders. They’d come in throughout the week to pick up something they’d seen during the book club meeting. And they told their friends about the bookstore.

    Sarah was happy to invest two nights a week hosting events. She knew they generated more business than an expensive advertising campaign would. And other than her time, the costs were minimal.

    To create Sarah’s secret to get customers in the door, use these three steps:

    1) Decide on a goal for the event
    Choose a goal that is related to building customer relationships.
    2) Create the event
    Plan events that meets customer needs.
    3) Invite guests
    Create invitations that are personal and build relationships.

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    Does Your Store Need An Exercise Plan?

    We all know exercise is good for us. It keeps us fit and gives us energy. If we exercise regularly, we can maintain a healthier weight. We have fewer aches and pains.

    We know the benefits. For many of us, it’s a challenge to fit into our busy lives. We have so many urgent things to do, that it’s hard to fit exercise in. After a while, we start to notice that a short walk leaves us puffing for breath. Or our clothes fit a little snugger than they used to. We realize that our habits have left us out of shape.

    Our stores get out of shape just like our bodies
    When a store first opens, everything is shiny & new.
    Clean windows.
    Fresh paint.
    New fixtures.
    Shining spotlights.

    And then we get busy with running the store
    Each day is so full.
    There’s marketing to do.
    Calls to make.
    Inventory to buy.
    Displays to build.

    Staff to manage.
    And then there’s customers to serve!
    With so much to do, we stop seeing the store as customers do.

    The bright shiny shop starts to lose it’s sparkle
    The floor gets scuff marks.
    Table corners chip.
    Paint gets worn.
    Windows get dirty.

    When you’re in the store everyday, it’s easy to overlook
    those little changes over time.

    What happens when the store starts getting out of shape?

    Customers notice.
    The image of the store starts to slip.
    The shop no longer makes an attractive first impression.
    New shoppers aren’t wowed anymore.
    Existing customers start to drift away.
    But the change is slow.
    And hard to see.

    One day the shop is fresh and new, a couple of years
    later it looks a little worn around the edges.

    What can you do to your store back in shape?

    Or to keep it fit in the first place?

    Just like exercise, it takes regular discipline.
    And a little bit of planning.

    Plan maintenance tasks in your daily activities
    Because maintenance is rarely as urgent as ordering or unpacking merchandise, serving customers or managing employees, it doesn’t get done. Planning a few maintenance tasks every day is a way to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten.

    For example, every morning wipe all the glass in the store, clean dust bunnies out of displays and replace burnt out lightbulbs. In the evenings, sweep or vacuum the floors. Once a week schedule fixtures, furniture and cupboards to be cleaned. And at the end of every month, walk through the store with a checklist and look for fixtures, walls, or flooring that needs to be repaired or repainted. Schedule the repairs to be completed within the next thirty days.

    Scheduling maintenance will keep the sparkle your store
    Maintaining your store sends a message to customers that you value quality, and pay attention to the details. They will appreciate your commitment to creating an inviting atmosphere. They’ll show their appreciation by coming back again. And again.

    If you don’t have a maintenance plan for your store, today is the day to start.
    Just like regular exercise keeps you fit, scheduled maintenance keeps your store in tip top shape.

    The new year is a great time to get your store in top shape. Mark your calendar now to set up a maintenance schedule when your holiday rush as over. You’ll get the new year started off on the right foot.

    Recommended Product: Another great way to start off the new year. Learn more about Why Customers Aren’t Buying (And How To Fix It): The Pinwheel Principle

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    How to Create Customer Dreams in Your Store


    Have you ever walked into a store and just fallen in love?
    It’s as if the store was created just for you.
    It smells heavenly.
    The lighting is beautiful.
    Each display is exquisite.
    The products are calling you.
    It’s perfect.


    it’s out of your price range
    But you enjoy the atmosphere of the store
    so much that you stay to browse.
    You feel the fabrics.
    Examine the fine stitching.
    Feel the weight of the silverware in your hand.

    You imagine…
    …what that table would look like in your kitchen.
    …what you’d look like in that sweater.
    …how the bbq would look on your deck.

    You dream of the day…
    when you’ll be able to go home
    with a table, sweater or bbq like those.
    For now, you’re happy to take home just a little piece of
    the dream. A table cloth, scarf or bbq accessories.

    Shoppers want to take home the dream
    Even if it’s just a small taste of the dream.

    You can help your customers dream
    There are three methods you can use to
    help your customers dream:

    1) Vignette displays
    2) Varied price points
    3) Visible pricing

    1) Vignette displays
    Vignette displays are small scenes. The purpose of a vignette is to show shoppers how products work together.This type of display works best with stores that sell furniture, home décor or gifts and tableware. When you have furniture or housewares, it is easy to create a scene that could be a part of someone’s home.

    Set up a vignette in one section of the store, or as a window display. Using furniture, linens and décor items, create a scene that looks like a room in a house.

    Vignettes can work for other stores too
    Vignettes can be used in stores selling clothing.
    Pet supplies.
    All it takes is a little thinking. And maybe a few props. A vignette doesn’t have to spell out all the details. It can just suggest a scene.

    A clothing store could create a vignette that suggests a bedroom at night. Hang clothes on hooks on a wall. A chair nearby has a coat over the back, and a sweater folded on the seat. A pair of shoes are lined up neatly next to the chair.It looks like clothes laid out for the next day.

    If you sell pet supplies instead, create a vignette to suggest an outing to take the dog for a walk. Include a leash, treats, clothing and toys.

    Vignettes don’t have to be large displays
    A few books stacked on a table, with a pair of reading glasses and a teacup are enough. The glasses and teacup add personality to the display.

    A magazine opened to an inviting page demonstrating a building project can be transformed into a display. Add a toolbelt and workgloves with a circular saw, a handful of nails, hammer and some small scraps of lumber to suggest a building project underway.

    Vignettes like these are just one way to help shoppers dream. That brings us to pricing.

    2) Varied price points
    How you price items in your vignettes can attract or repel shoppers. To attract shoppers to dream about your products, use a variety of price points.

    High price
    Large, key pieces in the vignette will be the high priced items. These are the products that attract the customer to the display. They are visible from a distance.

    A home décor store would use furniture, such as a table and chairs. A museum shop would use a beautiful artwork. A clothing store might use a beautiful coat, or a leather jacket. A hardware store could use expensive tools.

    The high price items command attention.But a display that consists only of high ticket items will quickly turn off many shoppers. They won’t stick around if everything is priced out of reach. Mixing some lower priced items into the display keeps the attention of the aspirational shoppers.

    Low – medium price
    Fill in the vignette display with small items affordable products. Lower prices don’t mean lower quality.Maintain the same high standards for quality and design in your lower priced items.

    Some customers may not be able to afford the table and chairs, but perhaps they can afford the vase. Or the wine glasses.

    The museum shop would display high quality art notecards, calendars or books. The clothing store would use a scarf. The hardware store could use copies of Fine Woodworking magazine.

    Customers want to take a piece of their dream home with them. The high priced items are what they dream about– the table and chairs, the artwork, the leather jacket. But they can take a lower priced product home today. When they use that item,they remember the dream. And savour it.

    But, what good is affordable pricing if shoppers can’t see the price? That brings us to the third method for helping your customers dream.

    3) Visible pricing
    Shoppers want to know the price of the items on display. When prices are hard to find, shoppers turn away.They assume that if products aren’t priced visibly, the items must be expensive.

    To attract shoppers that will dream about your big ticket items, and save up for them–you need to tell them the price. Pricing the items clearly will let the customer know that the products have a range of price points. They’ll realize that not all the items are out of their price range.

    Create unobtrusive, but visible price signs that complement the identity of the store. Use custom hangtags attached with string. Or elegant tent cards. Or a price list in a picture frame.

    Why would you want shoppers who can’t afford to buy now?
    These shoppers take up a lot of time.They browse. Or buy one or two small items. They aren’t the most profitable. So why would you want to attract them to your store? Loyalty.

    Not the kind of loyalty that is given in exchange for earning points on a rewards card. I mean real loyalty. The kind that keeps customers coming back, year after year.

    These customers develop a relationship with you and your store. Treat these aspirational shoppers well when they buy just one item. Or come in just to browse and dream.

    Where will do you think they will go to splurge on a luxury for themselves when they land that new job? Or get a promotion? Where do you think they’ll shop when they save up the money for that new sofa? Or a piece of art they’ve been eyeing in your store?

    Get customers to dream in your store
    Get them to come back when they’re ready to make that dream come true.
    Let’s recap how you can help those shoppers dream:

    1) Vignette displays
    Create small scenes in your displays to show shoppers how products work together.

    2) Varied price points
    Within your vignettes, use a variety of price points to attract a variety of

    3) Visible pricing
    Don’t hide your prices. Make the pricing visible, but attractive.

    Get your shoppers to fall in love
    Use these three steps together to woo them.
    Give them the store they dream about.
    And keep them coming back for more.


    Recommended Product: Why Customers Aren’t Buying (And How To Fix It): The Pinwheel Principle

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    How to Help Shoppers’ Dreams Come True

    At first, no one paid much attention.
    The sisters ogling the netbook computers were seven and ten years old. No one thought of two little girls as customers.

    Even though they had been coming to the store for four years with their dad. And every time they visited, they stopped to look at the tiny laptops displayed near the door.

    Every visit, they dreamed about having their own computer.
    The laptops were so small.
    Just the right size for a kid.
    But the laptops were just something the girls talked about.
    And dreamed about.
    For years.

    But, this time the girls’ visit to the store was different
    They’d learned to understand the prices. They could read the signs.
    They realized if they put their money together, they could almost afford to buy themselves a laptop.

    The girls found a sales clerk to help them. He asked them their price range, and recommended a laptop to suit them. He told them to come back on Boxing Day to get the best deal.

    The girls were ecstatic
    They went home and scrutinized their bank statements.
    They saved their birthday money.
    They emptied out their piggy banks, and counted out their coins.
    They asked for a ride to the bank to withdraw money.

    Finally, the big day arrived
    Boxing Day.
    The two sisters got their dad to take them back to the store.
    They found their sales clerk.
    And their laptop.
    They paid for it.
    And took home their very own computer.

    How do you think they felt at that moment?
    And where do you think they’ll shop when they buy their next computer?

    You might have shoppers like these two little girls
    Shoppers that love the your products, but don’t have the money to buy them. Yet. Shoppers who aspire to a lifestyle that at first they can’t afford.

    The girls were aspirational shoppers
    Aspirational shoppers could be anyone.
    They could be young.
    They could be starting out in their careers.
    They may have young families.
    They may be changing jobs.

    They are shoppers who browse, but don’t buy.
    They come back, time & again.
    Maybe for years.

    Until they save up the money for something special.
    Or earn a little more.

    Then they return to the store where they were treated well.
    Where they browsed, and dreamed.
    Where they imagined themselves with a new lifestyle.

    What are you doing to court aspirational customers?
    Are you frustrated because they’re ‘just browsing’?
    Or are you helping them dream?


    Recommended Product: Why Customers Aren’t Buying (And How To Fix It): The Pinwheel Principle

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    How Connections Get Your Store Humming

    A friend of mine, Ian, struggled with the washing machine he shares with his landlord. He went to do a load of laundry, and couldn’t get the washer started. So, he left the laundry until later, hoping that the next time he returned, the landlord would have the washer running.

    Ian returned the next day. Still the washer wouldn’t start. After trying everything he could think of, he finally knocked on the landlord’s door. The landlord took one look at the washer and said, “With electrical appliances, it really helps if you connect them to the electricity.”

    Washing machines need connection to electricity.
    Stores also need connection to an energy source.

    Customers are your store’s energy source
    You need to draw customers into your store. But it’s tough to motivate shoppers to come into your store if you are ‘just a store’. If you’re putting products on the shelves and waiting for shoppers to come in, you’ll wait a long time. A few shoppers will trickle in.

    You might have a great product, but that great product isn’t enough to get new shoppers into your store anymore.

    What can you do to get shoppers in the door?
    The more often customers visit, the more they buy.
    The more time they spend in the store, the more they buy.

    You want to get your store humming.
    Buzzing with energy.
    Customers milling around.
    Browsing. Talking.
    Spending time.

    So, how do you get that energy? That buzz?


    Create a unique connection with your customers
    Just inviting shoppers to connect will not attract them to your store. You need to create a unique reason for them to connect with you. A unique connection will get them to spend more time in your store. And they’ll visit more often.

    But how do you come up with a unique reason for your customers to connect with your store?
    There are three parts of your customer interaction where you can create a unique connection:

    1) Experience
    2) Engagement
    3) Education

    1) Experience
    Offer an experience in your store that is different than your typical shopping trip. Treat your customers like guests in your home. Yes, it’s a bit of a cliché, but do you really act on it?

    Try welcoming your customers in a way they don’t expect: take their coat, offer a glass of sparkling water and show them around. Get to know them personally and introduce them to each other. Act like you’re hosting a party in your store. Every day.

    Customers learn that your store is not just a place to buy more stuff, but it’s a place that connects them to their community.

    One coffee shop used red sleeves…
    A local coffee shop helped singles connect for Valentines. They created red coffee sleeves that single customers could put on their coffee cups. The red coffee sleeves let other singles in the coffee shop know they were interested in meeting other singles.

    Customers were able to connect with others in their neighbourhood. The red sleeves changed the usual coffee shop experience into one the customer would remember.

    Your unique customer experience
    Customers will enjoy a great experience in your store. If they enjoy it enough, they’ll be back again. They’ll tell some friends.

    That’s all great. And will help keep your store buzzing in the future. But what about now? What if you need to get shoppers in the door right away?

    That brings us to the next method to connect with customers.

    2) Engagement
    You want customers to be attracted, involved, loyal to your store. To get customers engaged, offer ways for them to get involved. One way to do this is to host clubs or groups on topics that are relevant to your customers.

    Bookstores host book clubs and writers’ groups. Sports stores become a meeting place for runners, hikers and cyclists. Eco-conscious retailers can organize environmental projects for customers to participate in. Stores selling products for babies & children can host mom meet-ups, or groups for stay-at-home dads.

    Engaging shoppers this way adds value to their experience in your store, and brings them in your door regularly. Engagement connects your store to the community.

    You can add even more value to that connection by giving shoppers an opportunity to learn something new.

    3) Education
    Add value to your product with education. When you educate your customers, they’ll see your store as more than just a place to buy more stuff. Your store becomes a source of valuable information.

    Offer education through seminars, workshops or classes. Don’t just stop at one class on a topic. Offer a series of classes on a topic that’s valuable to your customer. A series gets shoppers into your store more than once.

    Not only do customers learn and shop, but they connect with other customers that share their interests. They get to know you better and are likely to tell their friends about you.

    Art stores have scrapbooking classes. Hardware stores have do-it-yourself woodshop classes. A consignment fashion boutique offers workshops with a personal stylist. You can even go beyond classes to make education a focus of your business.

    Lululemon excels in delivering shopper education
    Lululemon is a Vancouver based yoga apparel company. Besides offering a schedule of yoga classes, and a well trained sales team, an entire section of their website is devoted to education. The website offers detailed information about the care and fit of the product.

    But the education focus goes beyond the product. This is where the company really stands out from the competition. One section provides advice on goal setting and a free goals worksheet to download. Under the ‘yoga info 101′ heading is a comprehensive description yoga styles, what to wear, local yoga instructors and classes, and yoga videos.

    Connect to your customers with education
    They’ll see your company as more than ‘just a store’, and keep coming back for more.

    You want to see your store humming.
    So, plug in.

    Attract customers with connection by offering:

    1) Experience
    Create an experience in your store that stands out. Get people connected to each other.

    2) Engagement
    Get shoppers involved. Create a club.

    3) Education
    Help your customers learn more. Not just about your product.
    Be more than ‘just a store’.

    Just like a washing machine, your store needs to be plugged in. Connect with your customers.
    And power up your shop.

    Recommended Product: Why Customers Aren’t Buying (And How To Fix It): The Pinwheel Principle

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