“Trade Masters” Of Old the Hope for Retail Future

Corina Vucic | Director | FC Business Solutions

There's no denying that bricks and mortar retail are going through hard times, there's also no denying that in many instances the retailer has been the instrument of their own demise. 

To a large extent, the retail experience has become boring.  There’s no theatre, no experience, no point-of-difference. Perceived value is only achieved by discounting, and service is minimal and disconnected.  I, like many others, think "Why would I bother to visit shops when online is so easy?"

It is time retailers turned back the clock and became “Trade Masters” – elite practitioners who have mastered and deployed every element of successful retailing. Trade Masters who spend time teaching their skills to new practitioners and Trade Masters who explore new ideas and implement change.

Start with passionate training

Whether it's your Christmas casual or the new full-time retail assistant, you are inducting into your business, make it a passionate process.  Get them excited about retail, your business and all your products.  Educate them in your processes and encourage them in their learning.  Be patient and acknowledge successes with small celebrations.  Have fun goals as well as serious budgetary goals.  Build a team that is committed to the success of your business. Build a team where ideas are welcomed.  Build the next generation of knowledgeable retailers.

Add theatre and experience

You need to get people away from the convenience of their screens and into your shop. Offer them something they can’t get at home – an immersive experience.  Whether it’s free five-minute massages, the latest local pop sensation signing autographs or someone in a “Bluey” costume giving kids handouts – plan something that relates to your business and creates a “must-see” vibe.  Use social media to spread the word and be strategic about how you harvest the crowds you draw.  Have a few choice exclusive deals for that day only. Advertise events, new products and specials happening in the future.  Provide discount vouchers with short time periods for cash-in.

But before you do that, make sure your retail outlet is a great place to visit.  Make it an inviting space that’s well-lit and where it’s easy to find what you’re looking for and add an engaging personality.  Start with your front window – does it tell a story about what you sell?  Will it make people stop to have a look? Movement always attracts attention, whether it's an animatronic toy or a digital display.

Have a point of difference

Design or source products that are unique to you, but if you can't do that, have a service offering that is unique to you. 

Make every customer feel like royalty

A sincere interest in serving the people who enter your space is the basis of excellent customer service.  It can't be faked, but it can be learned, and as a Trade Master, you can help your team deliver customer service that is second to none.  It's not about the hard sell, but it is about providing information and alternatives.  It's about not jumping to conclusions but reading body language and verbal cues and it’s about doing what you can to provide the product or service the customer needs and if you can’t satisfy them, then reassuring them that you’ve been happy to spend time with them and hope to see them again soon. It’s about follow up and following through on promises. It’s about handling complaints with an open mind and an end goal of having the complainant be your advocate.

Embrace technology

Obviously, your point of sale technology is vital and indispensable.  If interrogated, a good system can give you an insight into how your business is going, what products are selling, where you are making the most profit, etc. 

Technology can also be your silent salesperson with digital displays throughout your space. Use this technology to not only educate but to inspire.  Don’t just tell people about your products in a video, show them lots of ways to use them. 

Promote upcoming specials, new product releases, in-store events.  Maybe even consider partnering with a local business to promote a deal they have.

Use social media for conversations

Too many businesses use their social media accounts as a means of putting brochures in front of people.  It’s pointless and annoying.  Focus on the “social” in social media.  Have conversations with your client base.  Provide them with great information, a bit of a laugh and competitions. Asking questions is an excellent way of interacting.  

Ensure you have a well-constructed social media policy that provides all the dos and don'ts for your staff and anyone who is in the social space promoting your business.

Data is the new gold – be a miner

The ability to continue to interact with clients or potential clients is gold.  But how do you get their contact data?  It’s no accident that every major retailer has a loyalty program in place.  In exchange for handing over their contact data, customers sign up to receive information on products and deals – usually with the carrot of points, discounts or rewards.

But there’s no point in collecting this data if you don’t have a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system in place to not only collect the data, but also to schedule interactions and then analyse results. 

Data can be captured at the checkout with your sales assistant trained in how to offer the rewards program in exchange for contact information.  It’s important to be flexible in the information you receive.  Some people are happy to receive email EDM’s but aren’t interested in having text messages to their phones.

Competitions are also an excellent way to collect data.  Give away an iPad or a Google Home – and all people have to do is provide you with their contact information to be in the draw to win.

Once you have this data, it mustn't be abused.  This means having a privacy policy that's displayed on your website and is available in-store, training your staff on the importance of protecting that data and having the technology that is robust with the appropriate virus protection.

Any “unsubscribes” from EDM’s need to be treated with respect and actioned immediately – there are legal implications if you don’t.

Don’t just blast out sales messages to your database.  What would you like to have land in your inbox?  Something informative, fun, engaging?  So, do your customers.  Analyse which of your EDMs provoked the most unsubscribes and conversely look at what had the most click-throughs.

Make online selling your partner, not your enemy

Online shopping is here to stay, and savvy Trade Masters will embrace it as an opportunity rather than treating it as competition.

Make your online site exciting, informative, easy to navigate and above all, secure.  Be accurate in all information, giving all the detail a person needs to make an informed decision.  Let them know exactly how much postage is going to cost early in the process – there's nothing worse than getting to the checkout and finding out that the delivery charge is more than the item. Be accurate in estimated delivery times and spell out your returns policy – making it as easy as possible for a person to return an item that doesn't suit their needs.

Have a “click and collect” option, and when the customer comes in-store to collect their purchase have the collection point prominent and in the midst of your well-presented store, other stock and specials. Not only are you increasing the likelihood of an impulse buy, but, if you’ve set your space up correctly, you’re showcasing your product, letting them know about events, offerings and in-store discounts.

Elevate retail and get dollars in the door

Yes, being a successful bricks and mortar retailer is getting harder, but with an elevated vision, a commitment to delivering a superior experience and by embracing smart marketing tactics, Trade Masters can entice people back into their shop as well as catching the buyers (and their dollars) online.