For retailers who want to know how they can make their store different, start by asking, "What can I do to enhance my customer’s shopping experience?" First and foremost, you need to look at your store through your customer’s eyes. Ask customers what they like about your store and what they don’t. Ask your distributor field reps to give you an honest opinion, and keep in mind that you may not like the answer. The best question to ask your salespeople who visit multiple stores a day is, "What are other stores doing to make their stores better?"
Here are some tips and suggestions I believe will help your customers have a better shopping experience in your store:
Create subcategories in your toy department, and make it easy for customers to locate. Some examples of eye-catching signage might include Toys That Last, Puppy Toys, High Energy, Low Energy, Senior, Waterproof and Treat Toys.
Another way to make it easier for customers to shop in your store is to have a puppy-friendly checkout area. Create a shopping zone without hooks or products near the floor, and add a hitching post to let customers tie up their companion pet while they pay for their merchandise.
The hottest trend is to have handheld credit card payment tablets or smartphones linked to the point-of-sale system. This allows customers to check out in their car curbside, which is great for families with kids and animals. The Gen X shoppers, Millennials and New Era shoppers have shown great personal interest in this convenience. They prefer non-traditional checkout shopping.
Everyone, including every retailer and restaurant, will have an app by the year 2020. Create a frequent-buyer app so customers can send their order to your brick-and-mortar store with the press of a button and you can pull their order and have it ready for curbside or in-store checkout. People are busy and want to have fast service. This obviously eliminates the chance for an impulse in-store purchase, but the app could have a special-of-the-week option to add at checkout, or a suggested offer based on their shopping history.
The "Wow" Factor
Break the mold and try something different. How can you create a "wow" factor in your retail environment? Animal mannequins offer an exciting way to visually tell a story. Displaying stuffed, realistic animals on dog beds shows suggestions for pampering your pets. Matching dishes and place mats displayed together can suggest a combination purchase.
The Smell of Success
The use of environmental aroma appeals to the senses. For example, I had a store do a "Christmas in July" promotion. They used all of their holiday decorations and created an effective holiday spirit that has turned what was their slowest month into their bestselling month of the year. Cinnamon simmering in a slow cooker, pine-scented candles and holiday music puts the customer in shop mode, rather than get-my-food-and-get-out mode.
The best thing you can do for yourself is change. Try something different, because successful people are comfortable being uncomfortable.
Chris Miller, president of Pacific Store Designs, has been active in the design and development of the retail pet industry for the past 35+ years. He was a contributing editor for Pet Age magazine for 2003-06 columns titled "Problem Solvers" that covered all areas of a retail pet operation from pet store design, merchandising, operations, staff and promotions. Miller has designed more than 3,500 retail stores worldwide.