The checkout is an important part of your store’s flow, and it shouldn’t just be the end of a customer’s shopping experience.

How can you make it a better experience for the customer and more profitable for your store?

Assess your checkout area using these 4 tips.

  1. Make Room – People need counter space for all their purchases and personal bags. Also, make sure there is enough space around the checkout counter for strollers and carts to maneuver easily.
  2. Use the Walls – The walls behind the register are a good place to reinforce your brand. Use the space to promote sales, events, or products. Give the customer a reason to put their phones down and take notice.
  3. Cater to the Impulses – Make every effort to encourage the impulse purchase. Put best-sellers close to the checkout and tastefully arrange add-ons.
  4. Charm – You may not be able to completely control your physical space or the location of your checkout, but you can control customer services.
For more tips on store design, check out our free guide Perfecting Your Store’s Layout For a Better Customer Experience. Technology has armed consumers with apps that compare prices and tools for research and purchasing; but consumers still want to see, touch, and try products before they purchase. Does your store give people a reason to spend their money in-store? Here are some areas on which to focus:
    1. Customer Service One of the singularly most important aspects of your business is taking care of the customer. If the customer leaves happy, they are more likely to come back and spend more. Online can’t have the same, personal touch.
    2. Take Care of Your Employees Happy employees give better customer service. They are the face of your store for good or bad, and their emotions bleed into every interaction. Give employees a reason to be excited to come to work. Make them proud to be part of your store.
    3. Make Visiting Your Store an Experience Make your store a destination. Keep the layout simple, logically, and flexible, and don’t make shoppers work hard to find what they want. Offer events and deals that online can’t match.
Want to learn more about capitalizing on the in-store experience? Read our eBook. As a retailer, you know it’s incredibly important to earn brand recognition from your customers. Here are four simple ways you can foster brand loyalty and repeat visits from your shoppers.
  1. Show Off You’ve worked hard to build your business. Show it off! Use social media and your website to broadcast your pride in the brand you built. Post pictures of your store, products, and employees having fun.
  2. Invest in Local Host an event, sponsor a run, support a local charity or not for profit, or partner with other business. Each is an opportunity for promotion and alignment with organizations you believe in or like-minded retailers. This allows you to show what your company is all about besides selling products.
  3. Refine Your Design There is no time like the present to begin refining and simplifying your brand. If you aren’t doing it already build design consistency across all channels (website, print, social).
  4. Exceed Expectations Give your customers better attention, service, and an all-around better experience than they can get anywhere else. This will encourage repeat visits and foster brand loyalty.
To learn more about improving your brand presence, check out this blog post on Sharpening Your Brand. A lot of small to medium-sized retailers don’t put enough importance on their brand. A brand is not just a logo and colors. Yes, it includes the visual aspect of a business, but also the messaging, customer service, and the intangible perceptions of a business. Few recognize the impact or are too preoccupied to worry about it. But why is your brand so important?
  1. You only get one first impression Whether it’s your website, social media, or storefront, the first impression your brand makes is lasting. Poor execution on a website will turn people away and give negative perceptions about your physical store.
  2. Brand can make you memorable Small businesses have the advantage over the big guys by being able to develop a unique and recognizable brand that is ingrained into the community. You know the people and can speak directly into their lives.
  3. Start Smart Spending the money up front to build a quality brand may seem expensive, but it will help avoid a costly redesign down the road. There is also longevity in quality design. Avoid falling into the trendy mindset and instead go for a look that will weather the test of time.
  4. Design isn’t just about pretty Everyone wants a beautiful store and a brand to match, but beauty alone won’t make you money. It must convert into profit. Design is a tool to persuade people to spend money with you. Use it wisely.
Do you own your brand? Most small retail owners will respond yes, of course, but think about the question differently. Do you own and control the elements that make up your brand (design files, vector logos, native Adobe files, photos, colors etc.)? If you hire a freelance designer or design firm to create your brand and marketing collateral, you need make sure you get copies of all their design files.

Why is this important?

As a designer who has worked with numerous small brands, I can attest to the struggle to get the artwork needed to complete a project. It is common to receive tiny logos pulled from websites (fine for some projects, but not for print), images are often low resolutions, and brand standards and design directions are nonexistent. Designers need specific files and a history of your marketing efforts and brand to create effective new marketing pieces. Having these files in an easy to access place is key. Organize your files in a cloud-based storage system such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive, that you control. This makes it simple to send links to files for future design work and control what gets added or deleted to the folder. Also consider creating a “brand guide” to ensure every designed element has the same style. This can be a very simple outline of colors, fonts, previously designed pieces, signage, and logo variations. Not only will this save you time if you hire a new designer, but this exercise will also give you a clearer idea of your brand as a whole. You need to be emailing your customers on a regular basis. Here are some tips to creating more engaging emails for your retail store.

Use an Email Automation System

Why? An email automation system takes the guesswork and hassle out of emailing your clients. You can create email templates, add custom fields, and setup email sends to specific lists. How to Get the Maximum Effect There are a lot of systems available. MailChimp, Constant Contact, Emma, and Get Response are all good options. Find one that fits your needs and budget.

Build Your Email Lists and Personalize

Why? Having segmented email lists allows you to create different email messages and calls-to-action for different audiences. How to Get the Maximum Effect You can use RICS to export your client list, a list of top customers, or customers who haven’t been into your store for a while. Use this data to your advantage by creating personalized email schedules of offers, sales, and updates. Try personalized subject lines and calls-to-action to increase engagement. You also have to make sure your email is responsive so it performs well on mobile devices.

Reinforcing Your Message

Why? The subject line draws customers in, while your images, content, and design keep them engaged. How to Get the Maximum Effect Make sure your images fit your brand, CTAs are clear, and your message is concise. Give people a reason to keep reading and ultimately a reason to visit your store.

Everyone knows how important social media has become for retailers. It is one of the best tools for promoting your store, interacting with customers, and keeping your finger on the pulse of the community and trends. With so many social media outlets it makes it even more important to keep your design and imagery consistent.

Take some time to honestly assess your social media presence. How many sites do you use? Where are most of your followers? What content gets the most attention? What are your competitors doing? How can you improve your pages?

Coordinate your Designs

The first step is to keep a consistent look and feel over all social media outlets. Sites like Twitter and Facebook allow larger cover images at the top of your page. Cover images are often the first impression potential customer have of your store. Use this space to promote a new product line, a specific season, or keep it simple with a great photo of your store. You don’t necessarily have to have the same image on every site, but make sure they are complimentary. The goal is to give social pages the same vibe as your physical store.

All social media sites allow a custom profile picture. Make sure you use a clear, high resolution version of your logo. You want it to be clear this is your page. If available, include links to your website, an address, your phone number, and hours of operation.

Think About the Photos You Share

Pictures should be a huge part of your social media posts. It’s always easier to build an audience and keep people’s attention with good and creative photos. It may be time to brush up on your photography skills or hire freelancer who can help. Here are a couple of sites that help break product photography down in more detail: 8 Product Photography Tips for Beginning Shop Owners > 11 Tips for Effective Product Photography >

The design of your website may not be on the forefront of your mind, but maybe it should be. Most small retailer’s sites have been rushed, were a last minute project, or an outright afterthought, but did you know it is often the lasting first impression potential customers have of your business? Here are some tips to help make a good impression with your website. The quantity and quality of data available to retailers has grown exponentially in recent years, but many leaders are left wondering what to do with it. That’s a great question to ask because data, in and of itself, is useless. The value of data comes from turning the data into information and meaning that inspires decisions, behavior changes, and actions. Data creates impact and value if appropriately used. The only way to create impact (value) from data is to be proactive in its use. A simple and recommend approach is to have a goal or target, set the unit of measure, place a value on the improvement effort, and implement your plans. It’s easier said than done, but it is that simple. We advise our clients to set performance improvement goals that are benchmarked against their current performance. Some easy to measure data is product ROI, turns, and salesperson performance. Once you pull the data together for a given period, you’ve got to do something with it for it to have an impact and create value! For example, you might observe that Mary sells add-on products (e.g., socks or inserts w/ a pair of shoes) 64% of the time and Susan achieves a 36% add-on sales rate. It’s obvious that Mary knows or does something that Susan doesn’t do with her customers. In that scenario, you’d want to learn about Mary’s add-on strategy, encourage Susan to talk with Mary or observer her approach, and set performance improvement goals both individuals (pro tip: set aggressive goals around improving measures that are already good to make them great!). Data can be everything if you practice turning it into information that leads to performance insights and major breakthroughs! The 4th quarter of each year for most businesses marks the start of strategy-making, planning, and budgeting. Some business leaders simply adjust last year’s budget by a few percentage points and impose it on their teams, but that’s an antiquated approach that’s sure to alienate team members and result in more of the same outcomes. Business leaders can and should do better! Planning is equal parts science and art. There’s not a right way to do it, but the act of planning is often times what generates the positive business results (not the plan itself). That’s good news for novice planners because you can start preparing for 2016 by reflecting on a few open-ended questions.
  1. What are the top 3 most important challenges our business will face next year?
  2. What are the revenue and profitability expectations?
  3. What resource changes are expected next year?
  4. What external conditions are changing in our market?
  5. What do my employees need to be successful next year?
Answering these questions will create a basic perspective on your organization’s future that can serve as an important foundation to creating awareness, understanding, commitment, and buy-in from your team. It’s important to be transparent with your organization about the upcoming year’s objectives so teams and individuals can align their goals and behaviors accordingly. If your people are unaware or don’t understand the organization’s goals, then you cannot be disappointed if they aren’t meeting your expectations. The best way to put your plan into action is to ensure your people are prepared to help! The RICS team has been hard at work revamping our Help Center. With all of the new resources available, I’d like to take a moment to share a few of the areas I find to be most helpful: Physical Inventory – We know that taking a physical inventory can seem daunting, and we’re here to help! This resource contains step-by-step instructions to walk you through the process, all the way from counting items to committing your finalized inventory. Reporting Best Practices Guide – Want to assess salesperson performance? How about analyzing the effectiveness of promotions? This guide shows you how to get the results you want out of RICS reporting by telling you how to set up reports and what action to take based on the results. Create Purchase Orders – Purchasing is an essential part of your business. This resource provides you with everything you need to know when generating Purchase Orders. Check it out – even seasoned veterans might learn something new! Manage Non–Sellable Inventory – RICS’s Non-Sellable Inventory feature allows you to manage returned and defective merchandise effectively. This article gives you all you need to do so, from creating return codes to completing non-sellable batches. Cashier Training Guide – Training cashiers just got a little bit easier. This guide covers the basic functionality of the POS in order to get new hires up to speed and ringing sales on day one. Use the above articles as a starting point to acquaint yourself with the new Help Center, but don’t stop there! Feel free to look around and search for any topics you might be curious about. We’re actively working on adding new material, so keep checking back!