Shop employee assists a customer to consider a purchase
Bringing shoppers in the door at your brick-and-mortar store requires creativity and innovation in the e-commerce era. These strategies can attract in-store customers. — Getty Images/ aldomurillo

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, customers were increasingly making purchases online and through their smartphones. E-commerce skyrocketed even further during the pandemic-related restrictions in many parts of the country, and U.S. Census data show that e-commerce retail sales continue to grow from one quarter to the next.

For brick-and-mortar businesses, post-pandemic success means understanding how to drive customers back in the door. To help you do this, five franchise owners shared their top tips for enhancing the in-person customer experience and increasing foot traffic to their physical storefront.

Make a friend, not a sale

Mia Dinh, director of training at Hammer & Nails

It’s important to make every visit to your store a customized experience for your customers. More and more consumers are buying from businesses that introduce personal touches. Start by introducing yourself, said Dinh.

“Use your guest's name a minimum of three times during the service,” she said. “This will subconsciously nurture the rapport between you and your guest while helping you commit their name to memory.”

You can also take detailed internal notes to keep track of customer profiles such as jotting down their favorite beverage, vacation plans and future service goals. Dinh said these notes are “key to building rapport, which is the key to facilitating sales.”

Dinh also explained that most customers are tired of hard-selling techniques such as those used by a car salesman, for example. They are looking for genuine connections, especially at this pivotal point in time.

“When someone likes and trusts you, [recommendations of] products, services and memberships feel far more natural,” she said.

[Read: Expert Tips for Gaining Customer Traction]

Hire employees who care

Vanessa Yakobson, CEO of Blo Blow Dry Bar

Providing your customers with a one-of-a-kind experience all starts with your staff. It’s important to hire employees who love to “delight customers,” said Yakobson.

“Create a great team culture, ensure people are well compensated, engage your team by teaching service protocols, and have them discuss with you how to deliver excellent service,” she explained.

It’s just as important that you as a business owner are able to model the behavior you wish to see from your employees.

“Train them well, including role-playing customer service scenarios — and ensure they can confidently speak about the services and products you provide,” said Yakobson.

Guest perception impacts everything: buying decisions, loyalty and the extent to which customers recommend your business.

Heather Anderson, vice president of operations at The Little Gym

Meet your customers where they are

Devan Kline, CEO and co-founder of Burn Boot Camp

To effectively attract your target audience, it’s crucial to provide your customers with options and services that meet their current needs.

“When the pandemic first hit, we pivoted to a digital offering, and we now offer both in-person and digital workouts because meeting our clients where they are is our top priority,” said Kline.

The pandemic has left many customers missing human connections. Building a supportive, inspiring and positive community can bring more customers through your door.

“No number of screens will ever replace human connection, compassion and a good ol’ high-five,” said Kline.

Become an expert your customers rely on

Heather Anderson, vice president of operations at The Little Gym

A customer’s recommendation can make or break the consumer relationships with your business. You can think of a former customer as an ambassador advocating on your behalf, said Anderson.

“Guest perception impacts everything: buying decisions, loyalty and the extent to which customers recommend your business,” explained Anderson.

You can use these perceptions to position your business as an authority within your field and keep your customers coming back to your expertise.

“For The Little Gym, it’s important that parents perceive us as developmental experts,” said Anderson. “Our instructors are very educated about milestones and growth.”

[Read: How Small Businesses Can Find New Customers]

Create a safe environment

CG Funk, senior vice president of culture & industry relations at Massage Heights

Along with new sanitization measures and safety protocols from the pandemic’s aftermath, customers are looking for businesses that house a safe environment for mental wellbeing.

“Create a welcoming ambiance,” said Funk. “A fun, relaxing atmosphere will ensure guests return and view your business as a safe space.”

To keep customers coming back, go a step further and provide customized special offers.

“Another great way to ensure that guests will return is to offer them a complimentary service upgrade that is personally selected by them,” said Funk.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 22, 2021