How May I Help You?
This simple, courteous phrase opens the door to long-term customer relationships and sales when offered with true sincerity. Shoppers welcome assistance, especially during the harried days of holiday preparation when inspiration may wane in the wake of overwhelming choices. The personal interactions in your shop can help ease this holiday stress and ensure positive shopping experiences, while contributing to community and global harmony.
Begin by building on what inspired you to open the doors of your business in the first place—Was it your love of books, the desire to orchestrate a comfortable meeting place, or a talent for making jewelry? Take a moment to rekindle the feelings of excitement that came with your first holiday season in business. Customers will feel your enthusiasm and joy; they’ll look forward to visiting with you, and they’ll bring their friends along, too!
Sending good vibrations
The energy you and your business send into the world are key in achieving success. Energy is felt on a visceral level. Like attracts like; what you believe, you receive.
While focusing on abundance ensures blessings flow more easily, concentrating on what you don’t have puts your positive prosperity thoughts on hold. As you develop ongoing awareness of your thoughts, you will be guided by inspiration and act with good business sense.
Is a prosperity pattern currently working in your life? Consider your experiences of the last week. What vibes did you and your store send out to the world? Were you happy to be working or were you feeling tired and pushed? Did your store appear cared for and clean, the environment and employees pleasant? These are instrumental clues in creating positive change.
Are you ready for an eye-opening adventure? Play with this simple exercise: When you are out around town or traveling, observe the energies you project and encounter as you interact with people and businesses during your daily activities. Notice your reactions and the outcome of each engagement. You’ll experience wonderful opportunities to notice firsthand what works and what doesn’t.
Remember when you walked into a store and were captivated by the attractive presentations, products, and engaging staff? Let that uplifting experience, now a great memory, help you find ideas for improvements in your store.
Issuing the invitation
First impressions count. The initial encounter with your shop leaves an imprint that lasts much longer than the first visit. Will the experience invite the customer to return or recommend your business? Does it draw the prospective customer’s attention with artful displays inviting further exploration, or does it leave them confused about the concept and focus of the store? Not sure? Ask an honest friend.
Engage your inspiration through color, texture, scent, and sound. Anchor the shop with products that appeal to the body, mind, and spirit. Velvet tempts the touch, while scented candles invoke a sense of comfort. A beautiful journal begets reflection, while gems add sparkle and powerful energy. Allow the beauty you're creating to fill you, and watch the magic take place!
Customers love innovation; they’re wondering what the next trend or leading-edge product is this year. They expect you to deliver the newest and best merchandise, which can be a daunting prospect. Fortunately, you’re not alone—you have a network of professional advisors to help you stay current. Tap into the Coalition for Visionary Resources (COVR, www.covr.org). This organization offers valuable services to the independent retailer, highlighting innovative products and supporting entrepreneurial enterprises. Also check out the many new product selections featured in this issue. From organic soaps to mesmerizing glass paperweights to books for the soul, there is a gift idea for everyone.
Tune into your Top 10
What are the bestsellers in your store, the products customers really love? People love to share experiences and opinions, so create a simple recommendation form for people to use and ask them to tell you their favorites among the products you sell. This holiday season, create an inspired-giving section where your Top 10 list is available with a display of the associated products for easy customer access and purchase.
The Top 10 list can be applied to the children’s area, too. Which books are flying out your door? Sharing the list will be much appreciated, not only by parents but by those who are buying gifts for children but aren’t parents themselves. Why not take the children’s section to the next service level by offering a seasonal reading circle for kids? Facilitate the group as parents enjoy uninterrupted holiday shopping in your store. Select one evening or one weekend day to read books from your Top 10 list. You'll need to clearly state on the invitation or flyer that this is an event for customers while they are shopping, not a free babysitting service. You’ll build customer loyalty by providing a timely service to busy shoppers while increasing your revenue opportunities.
Creating community connection
The holiday season is a perfect occasion to fully engage your spirit and initiate the power of one with a community focus. With every action you take, you inspire and lead by example. Embodying the cooperative spirit can be a joyous, fulfilling experience and merge seamlessly with your business activities. The following ideas encourage community participation through store programs and shared events:
- Create customer appreciation events partnering with local vendors to form festive and dynamic celebrations.
- Offer a discount card for evening shopping at participating stores.
- Provide a coupon for a return visit to your store.
- Include refreshments in the store or at a central location.
- Advertise activities in community newsletters and build a great community connection.
- Highlight local artists by sponsoring an ongoing holiday showcase.
- Host local musicians for an in-store shopping event; showcase their CDs to maximize sales.
- Invite local school choirs to entertain in or around your store, building community pride.
Inspired global giving
Generosity is the cornerstone of the season; the holidays stimulate our desire and willingness to help on a collective level. As a respected member of the community, your opportunities to build on these feelings abound. Employ the mantra, “How may I help you?” and you will find a way to contribute. Whether the donation is time, skills, or resources, you’re making a difference!
You have the chance to deliver kindness and hope. What causes are dear to local residents? Answer the call and become a leader in the movement of community and global harmony. Try one of the following, or better still, design an event that speaks to your heart.
- Sponsor a child or family in transition; encourage customers to donate or purchase a gift for delivery.
- Serve as a collection facility for local food banks.
- Host a toy drive; it’s a great opportunity to suggest your favorite children’s books, too!
- Donate gift certificates to appropriate foundations, organizations, and charities.
- Coordinate a neighborhood raffle; gather donated prizes from local vendors and sell tickets to support a favorite charity.
- Invite other businesses in the area to participate; ask nearby professional offices to add the event to company newsletters.
- Create local interest and attendance; invite journalists to join in the fun while they cover the event.
- Host a practitioner event where services are donated and fees are gifted to a selected organization.
You don’t have to go it alone. Accomplishments come with teamwork. Ask for help and then let the ideas and activities flow. You’ll introduce new holiday traditions and increase your community’s cause for celebration!
In my work and travels I’ve found the most successful stores and websites have five common characteristics:
Specific mission (e.g. to be the very best local bookstore) is clearly evident and implemented with sound business acumen.
Excellent customer service, employee appreciation programs, and community enrichment programs are encouraged.
The businesses are visually appealing; navigation in the store or on the website is easy and direct.
Employees engage in open dialogue with customers; people listen with heads and hearts.
Team members exhibit a sense of fun while consistently delivering great service and products.
First published in Vol. 26 No. 6 of Retailing Insight. © 2012 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.