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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?

    Connect.

    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.

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

    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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