How to build Sales through the Looking Glass

Brian walker, Founder & MD, Retail Doctor Group

Top tips for building effective window displays

One of the questions franchisees most frequently ask me when I’m speaking at events is how can they capitalise on their window displays. Largely, franchisors have terrific business systems in place to help with this, but we often see a gap in the ‘storytelling’ as instructions are lost in translation and the fundamental window message is not backed up when customers walk into the stores.

With so much competition, both online and on the high streets, one of the most important pieces of real estate you possess is your shop window. It is through this looking glass that, as franchisees, you first touch your shoppers’ hearts and minds, drawing them in so your store merchandising and sales staff can effectively do their jobs.

On average, a customer will have three seconds to be impacted by your window display. During this time, they need to be captivated, understand your offer, be compelled by your message and have their ‘buying radar’ switched on. Whilst this may
appear an impossible task, it’s not and by putting ‘fit’ franchisee business practices into place from the outside in, you have a considerably higher chance of engaging customers from the minute they see your window and enter the store space. So how
can you capitalise on shoppers walking past your store? We’ve put together some ‘fitness’ tips to help you engage customers on the outside and drive purchases within.

Creating your own window wonderland
Firstly, no matter what time of year, every franchisee should have an advanced planning schedule for their window displays. If this is not dictated by your head office, you’ll need to start planning yourself. Capitalising on key retail events is critical and to put timing into perspective, most retailers are planning their Christmas windows right now - the time of year when you need to stage your biggest window wonderland production. As with all successful productions, planning and rehearsals are the key to ‘fit’ window displays.

• Who’s your audience? Like any great production, you need to know your prospective local audience. Anticipating who they are and how to entertain them is absolutely key. Once you know your audience, you can tailor your window wonderland production to maximise impact and draw them in.

• Why should they buy from you? Once you understand your customers, you must then establish the reason they believe in you. What is your unique point of difference and why should they come in and purchase your products? What problem will you solve for them? Most of this will be covered by good marketing communication from a head office level but take the time to understand and know your local customers intimately, too.

• Have you ensured brand consistency? If head office sends you a complete window display kit, your challenge is to execute it within the brand guidelines and ensure consistency across the franchise network. After all, one of your key benefits of being a franchisee is the brand you are a key part of.

• Know your window wonderland parameters. Whether you have one franchise store or many, when did you last undertake a ‘window audit?’ ‘Fit’ franchisees intimately know their window real estate so that when they come to put on their production, they can build the perfect set. Window audits need to include everything from lighting and backdrops to fixtures, fittings and alarms. Your aim is to find the most cost effective solution that you can put in place across not just one store, but many if applicable. If your marketing materials come from head office, inform them of your window audit findings, so you can improve your fixtures, fittings and display as soon as possible.

• Surprise and delight your curious audience. If you think they’ve seen it all before, then they probably have! So you need to find a way to not only surprise and delight them, but also draw them in. How can you create a window wonderland that makes them want and need your product or service? It’s all in the art, creativity and theatre. Remember the seven principles of effective displays: colour, unity,variety, dominance, rhythm, balance and proportion.

• The stars of the performance. Your products or service are the star performers in your window wonderland production so make sure you create excitement around them. Stars in the window sell so make sure they are well presented and that you have enough stock to exceed targets!

• Invite them backstage. ‘Fit’ franchisees understand the need to use the windows to invite their audience in. Whilst the visual element may do the job by piquing curiosity and need, there’s nothing like a strong written call to action that ties into your creative theme.

• Create drama with rave reviews. This is the perfect time to think about how technology can help engage your audience. You need to activate interest using every one of the possible senses from music and smell to incredible visual creative. However, window wonderlands can create shopper momentum before they even walk into the store. Today, it’s all about SoLoMo – Social, Local and Mobile and connecting with your customers at a local level is key. If you have local events, local website, local product news or blogs, consider how you can communicate this on the window so you never miss an opportunity to connect.

• Make it feel like it’s always opening night. Keeping the window wonderland fresh is so important to capture repeat visitors. Make it clear when new products are available by promoting them in the window.

• Ensure the stage crew is fully briefed! All too often, we hear about the most creative window ideas, which store staff are simply unable to effectively execute. No matter what your amazing plan, test materials in your store/s and watch how staff  activate the display. Use these tests to write the staff instruction sheet and include real tips from real store staff. If staff are following head office instructions and these require localising for your store- make sure you provide staff with the solutions before they begin execution.

Maximising sales inside the looking glass

What’s backstage to the window is absolutely centre stage to your sales and there are plenty of things you can do to get business ‘fit’ and maximise your sales opportunities.

• Fully brief your sales staff. Give your staff a complete run down of your sales plan from merchandising to window display as well product promotions. As well as head office instructions, consider your local customers, local events and additional needs they may have. Most importantly, ensure your staff are trained on your products and services especially in relation to solving customer’s problems. Take full advantage of any training provided by your franchisor to bring your team up to speed.

• Effective staff rostering. Ensure your best staff are rostered on for high traffic trading times of the week. At Christmas and during the sales, shift your rosters to reflect the change in trading hours to maximise your potential sales.

• Organise the store room. The clean store room policy applies here as you need to make it as easy as possible to see stock quantities and re-order before it runs out. If there’s no IT system to handle your store inventory, use a simple exercise book to list stock in storage, with quantities adjusted when stock is removed.

• Stock check outside of trading hours. During trading hours, you want your sales staff to be 100 per cent focused on selling to customers rather than opening boxes. Make the re-stock rule outside of trading hours and avoid cartons on the shop  floor to visually keep the store ‘clean’.

• Solve customer problems. Now that the staff are fully trained in the products, they should have plenty of ideas on how to solve customers’ problems. Create value over and above your product or service by offering gift wrapping, gift boxes and gift cards (if relevant).

• Know your staff’s sales skills. Some staff are better on the floor and others faster on the till. Getting this balance right will avoid longer queue times and raise sales. Don’t accept poor performers.

• Be first to open and last to close. There are always customers who arrive earlier to take advantage of easier parking, or shopping later after work. If you open before your competitors and close later, you can take full advantage of this, driving up sales. Simply adjust your rosters accordingly and make people aware of your opening hours.

• Fit franchisees offer great support. Multisite franchisees need to be on hand to support logistics, operations and the shop floor at a moment’s notice. They also need to be in constant touch with the sales teams on the floor to discuss targets, goals, weekly campaign messages, hero products, merchandising and displays and any additional training required.

The only way to achieve the impossible, is to believe it’s possible” as was said in Alice’s Wonderland. Have fun creating your effective windows and believe strong sales are possible!

Brian Walker is Founder and Managing Director of Australasia’s leading retail operations consulting firm, Retail Doctor Group. He is a leading media commentator on retail issues and Australia’s most sought after keynote speaker on all aspects of  retail.

Phone: 02 9460 2882