10 Commandments for Operating a Successful Retail Store

Mohammed Ali
Mohammed Ali
Guest Contributor

Retail has always been a rough and tumble business and it’s not getting any easier. But, ten simple rules can help you get to the top and keep you there.

When it comes to running a successful retail business, below are the ten things you need to keep in mind.

1 – Choose the perfect store location

The three rules of real estate are: “location, location, location,” and they most certainly apply to retail. You need footfall as well as visibility. You need eager shoppers with the financial muscle to buy your product. So, you must consider:

  • Target audience/demographic
  • Store display coupled with brand presence
  • Accessibility to your target demographic
  • Availability of the right kind of staff
  • Competition in the vicinity
  • Warehouse storage access

You may zoom in on the perfect location but you must factor in rents, staff salaries and overheads. If the perfect location feels like a stretch on your budget, try and manage your budget more smartly in other areas so you have wiggle room in the location department.

2 – Never waste a shopper’s time, ever

Being ignored in stores with surly or self-absorbed personnel is annoying and demeaning.

Staff must be coached to be courteous and helpful. Again, this does not mean hovering a few feet behind a customer (we’ve all been stalked through aisles!) making them feel like a would-be shoplifter. It means being available, open and knowledgeable about the product or its location. Staff should be able to direct the shopper to your other store(s) or your website, where an out-of-stock product can be bought.

The checkout line is one place where shoppers’ patience is in short supply and delays can result in altercations. This is where a great POS system comes in handy. If you have the wherewithal to set up a cashier-less self-checkout by means of apps or mobile POS terminals, consider it. Else, consider allowing customers to checkout anywhere in the store with a mobile POS and well-trained staff.

3 – Always have upselling on the agenda

Sometimes, shoppers know exactly what they want and may not be open to exploring more options, but always try to show them what they might be missing.

Moreover, there is a reason why checkout aisles are conveniently lined with breath mints, candy, batteries, magazines and the like. These “little things” that everyone needs get added to the shopping cart quite a lot by shoppers waiting in line, especially those with kids. Many a tabloid has been picked up at the end of the line, and the customer absorbed in a story by the time he/she makes it to the counter. They end up buying it.

Strategically placing items around the checkout counter is a tactic as old as retail itself, and you’d be selling yourself short by not utilizing it.

4 – Never assume anyone is ‘just browsing’

Every person who walks into a retail store is a prospect. Your inventory should be wide as well as deep to appeal to a variety of customers. This is especially important if you are a new or niche business and don’t have data yet on what products will pay off big.

Talk to walk-ins, especially those who insist they are “just browsing,” keeping it low-pressure. Try to get them to talk about what they like about your store, or similar stores, or the product choices.

Try to gain a bit of background on them, and ask what drew them into your space: was it just curiosity, or the visual display in the front window? If they say your prices are too high, ask them what it is they would buy and at what price, for instance. Or, whether they think a loyalty point system might help.

Establish a rapport and strike up a conversation. In the best case scenario, they may enjoy the attention and walk out with a purchase. At the very least, you would have gathered useful insights.

5 – Solve a problem for the shopper

In business-speak, this is “consultative selling.” You will make every effort to uncover the customer’s pain points, and suggest products or solutions that will alleviate their problems. This may take spending some time with a customer for trust-building and positioning yourself as an expert, so to speak.

Your domain knowledge paves the way here because shoppers can spot it if you fake it. Once you have understood and analyzed the shopper’s problems, you can present knowledgeable solutions and greatly increase your chances of making a sale. If your solution works, you can bank on the customer for word-of-mouth publicity about your service and/or product, which brings in the next wave of shoppers and customers.

6 – Go omnichannel

Omnichannel retail has been the biggest of buzzwords in retail for many years, with most big players already doing it, and many small retailers aspiring to it. To make a successful transition to omnichannel selling, you should attempt to go above and beyond set modes, logistics, and metrics of managing a single brick-and-mortar retail store, as they will definitely fall short.

Omnichannel retail success depends on all channels and shopper touchpoints being completely integrated and efficiently managed. Software has a huge role to play in making this possible. To achieve complete omnichannel integration, look for retail management software that helps you:

  • Efficiently manage inventory, supply and demand
  • Give updates on sales, returns and exchanges in real time
  • Provide employee performance details
  • Flag poorly performing channels
  • Track buyer trends
  • Automate accounting
  • Manage store inventory and billing with an effective POS system

When you go omnichannel, order fulfillment is everything: if a product is out of stock in the warehouse, place an online order from the store; or let orders be picked up at the store when available. But complete the order- don’t let someone leave because their chosen product is unavailable at that moment in time.

7 – Make finding and buying products a no-brainer

Great visual displays plus intuitive and strategic product placement all grease the path to the cash register! Perishable items or items approaching a sell-by date need to be placed out front for maximizing their chances for pickup.

Good warehouse organization is key for warehouse staff to locate the right product and ship it out on time. Maximum product discoverability plus good service by your sales staff should leave the customer on a shopping high!

Consistency in systems across channels makes it easier, efficient and altogether delightful to the customer to be able to buy through one channel, receive it through another and return it through a third. Customers love options. Your infrastructure and personnel should enable all possible options.

8 – Create an irresistible store space

If you’ve watched movies like Mannequin or Confessions of a Shopaholic, you know the siren song of a gorgeous window display. Once the customer has been drawn in, a well-lit store designed for maximum convenience is a must, or the shop falls short of its promise.

Layout should make it easy for the shopper to locate stuff, and aisles, products and prices should be clearly marked. Sale stickers should be eye-catching and tempting.

Never underestimate the power of visuals in selling. Take one look at your favorite Instagram shop and you know what you’re competing with. Use themed decor and displays, soft lighting and pleasant music to make your store an oasis of calm amid the rush of the shopping district outside.

Fast-fashion labels have pioneered the trend of changing rooms protected only by curtains. For smaller, independent stores and chains, this is a bad idea as it indicates to the customer that you want them gone quickly. Design full-fledged changing rooms and also provide basic amenities such as clean washrooms. It is called ‘retail therapy’ for a reason, and therapy cannot happen in a rush.

9 – Hire employees wisely

Employees should be screened carefully and trained well. Every staff member should have a clear idea of the business and understand the importance of their roles within. They should be tech-savvy in case you rely heavily on automated processes.

Customer-facing employees, especially, should be sincere, pleasant, and always have stock-related information at their fingertips. They should not have to turn customers away due to an item’s unavailability. They should always have alternatives up their sleeves: your other outlets, or an online order, or even a different product suggestion.

Stellar customer service and a smiling staff bring back many a customer, and there is simply no excuse for shoddy service.

10 – Seek, and work on, customer feedback

Ask, and you shall receive” applies to feedback too! Many businesses flop because they use a reactive approach to the market when feedback would have helped them be proactive.

When you fail to track customer profiles – who they are, why they shop with you, their likes and dislikes – you lose out on key insights into your own business. Ask for feedback and testimonials, too, in case they have enjoyed their experience. Customer reviews are invaluable and help you predict trends before they become trends, and track changes before they become mainstream.

About the writer: Mohammed Ali is the Founder and CEO of Primaseller — a multichannel inventory management software that helps sellers manage inventory better and fulfil orders on time, with nifty integrations that make business better. When not running a startup, Ali is often caught lapping up the latest book in fantasy fiction. 

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