As a retailer, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than to see a seemingly interested customer turn around and walk out the door. Most of the time, you won’t even know why it happened. But identifying the small factors that are steadily eating away at your conversion rate can help you ensure that it doesn’t keep happening. If you notice your conversion rate fluctuating, or if your conversion rate is lower than you would like, it’s time to brush up on tactics to keep customers in-store.
So, without further ado, here are 5 tried-and-true methods to prevent store walkaways and increase conversion in retail.
1. Get Better at Greetings
Raise your hand if you’ve ever walked into an empty store only to be ignored by the sales associates working there? This happens more often than most business owners would care to admit, and all store personnel need to be trained out of this behavior if you hope to increase conversion in retail. A warm “Hello” and a smile go a long way.
And while you’re at it, teach your teams the power of body language. Bob Phibbs stresses the importance of arm placement in customer/associate interactions. “When your arms are crossed across the body, it says I do not trust you or I’m lying to you. When arms are thrust behind the back, it is a stance of waiting and being unapproachable.” Instead of either extreme, Phibbs says “Arms should be at your sides, back straight but not at attention.”
Train your team not to approach shoppers too overzealously, as that will deter more customers than it engages. For instance, if the customer ignores your store associate or gives them a quick nod, they’re probably not the right person to approach. Teach your team not to launch into “What brings you here today?” And instead of pouncing on customers, give them space to get acquainted. Interact with customers as fellow human beings, not just prospects, and ask open-ended questions about their reasons for being in store.
2. Don’t Make Shoppers Wait
Have you ever waited in line while a manager explained something to sales associate, sorted stock, or fussed with hangers? If so, you’re in the majority. Yahoo Small Business reports that almost 50% of customers will avoid a brand or retailer if their wait in line is longer than five minutes… and a full third of customers have abandoned checkout lines when forced to wait longer than that. In fact, most customers would straight-up rather take off than to be ignored at your checkout counter. According to Retail Customer Experience, and an average 1.6% of customers per retailer leave a checkout line—and a store—without completing their purchase due to long line wait times.
The checkout line is where customers start to mentally review their intended purchases and think about how much they’re going to cost. And there’s nothing like a long line wait time to spur on a strong case of preemptive buyers’ remorse. But it’s not all bad. Properly designed checkout lines can lower wait times by 25%, as well as reducing walkaways by a whopping 90%—which can create an uptick in sales and positive consumer sentiment. Adding reflective mirrors to line areas can help combat customers’ perception that they’re standing in a long line. And some retailers, such as European convenience chain Rossmann, are employing new technologies such as video analytics and facial recognition technology to combat line wait times.
3. Don’t Be Boring
Doing what has always been done is a death sentence for brands. In the past, retailers could carve out a following based on brand recognition and product selection alone. These days, however, warehouse-style department stores are seen as dull. In the age of Amazon, customers have no incentive to visit department-style stores—especially when there’s a chance that the products they want won’t even be in-stock when they get there.
Boring retail is defined as, “Any retail that is dull, generic, and unremarkable.” Customers expect you to creatively engage them in-store. Unfortunately for old-school department stores, the lengthy corporate chain of command can be a barrier to implementing the exciting ideas necessary to continue generating foot-traffic.
Even Walmart is inviting industry outsiders to fill new c-suite positions, such as Chief Customer Officer, in order to rid their organizations of old thinking. Retail expert Steve Dennis says you need to have an “attitude of radicalism and a willingness to embrace experimentation and a sense of urgency.” In other words, you need to be willing to shake things up a bit to increase conversion in retail.
For inspiration, check out the North Face pop-up showroom located 2,100 meters up in the Italian Alps. Just remember you don’t need a showroom in the Alps to avoid being boring. All you have to do is be ready to take calculated risks. These can include partnerships with local artisans (and other retailers), compelling in-store events, and more. Just be sure to imbue your brand’s personality as much as possible at all touchpoints.
4. Treat Layout Like a Science
Have you ever walked into a store and felt claustrophobic, or underwhelmed? Make no mistake, customers’ first impression of your store is pivotal. According to speaking duo and consumer anthropologists, Kizer and Bender, customers make value judgements about your store within 10 seconds of contact. “The first thing shoppers will notice is your décor package,” Kizer and Bender write. “We say package because all of the elements—walls, flooring, primary and accent colors, fixturing, signing, etc., must work together to tell a single story about your brand.”
But it’s not just your décor package that matters. Your store layout can enable you to direct the flow of foot-traffic and ensure that customers see all of the inventory (and excitement!) that your store has to offer. Kizer and Bender caution retailers to remain aware of Desire Paths, or “worn shortcuts” within your store. These are the paths customers take to get where they’re going faster, and K&B suggest you place a display smack-dab in the middle of those walkways.
5. Make Sure Expectations Meet Reality
Your digital presence is your calling card. It establishes trust and it’s what inspires shoppers to enter your store in the first place. To prevent walkaways, your online experience needs to continue when customers come into your store. A disconnect happens when your Instagram shows friendly, smiling employees who are ready to help, but customers visit your store to find your workers are ambivalent or disinterested. Every element of your online experience—assortment, branding, cleanliness, friendliness—need to remain consistent with your online experience to increase conversion in retail.
The products, color schemes, and styles that customers see on your social media need to be readily available for purchase in-store. When your digital and physical presence are synchronized, customers will be ready to develop an omnichannel relationship with your brand. Plus-size retailer Lane Bryant has developed an award-winning omnichannel strategy that yields measurable results. RetailDive reports, “through behavioral metrics, Lane Bryant and Vibes developed omnichannel mobile marketing strategies that resulted in a click-through rate of 13% when emojis were used, a rise in mobile wallet saves as high as 37% when they used multimedia, and a conversion rate of 98% for a contest held in-store. Take Lane Bryant’s cue and use the right omnichannel solution to help drive traffic and retain customers.
If you’re ready to increase conversion in your retail store(s), then it’s time to take action. CB4 can help you ensure that products that are in demand at each store are easy to find and easy to purchase, reducing inventory inconsistencies to create a seamless shopping experience that customers can trust… each and every time. Here’s how it works.