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Are you doing everything you can to create a great customer experience? That was the overarching question yesterday at a conference in Las Vegas, organized by the National Shoe Retailers Association.
In a series of presentations, retail and dot-com experts offered tips on improving sales, particularly for independent store owners, who must compete against both the major chains and the growing batch of e-tailers.
Doug Fleener, president and managing partner of consultancy Dynamic Experience Group, summed up the mission for attendees: "To be better you must be different. In fact, you could say that even to survive you have to be different, and specialty retailers can differentiate with a better customer experience."
He encouraged owners to find a unique and enjoyable way to engage with shoppers, whether through providing refreshments, handing out toys to kids or offering them a photo op with a giant stuffed bear (as one store he cited has done). Whatever you choose, be consistent, Fleener added. "If you become known for something, stick with it," he said.
But Fleener denounced two hallmarks of the retail experience. He instructed stores to stop asking "How may I help you?" because it forces customers to make a decision before they have engaged with the product. And he nixed the phrase "Will there be anything else?" "When a salesperson says that they're stopping the sale. Never stop the sale," Fleener said.
To help independents maximize their online abilities, Shane Fell, VP of business development at Top Floor Technologies, noted that stores should invest in creating a website that mirrors the in-store experience. "You can double your traffic just by improving the usability of your site, and that's improvement you can keep," he said.
Fell said successful websites are targeted to the user and answer the basic and necessary questions. Other important factors are calls to action on every page and a mobile-friendly design. He also emphasized the use of analytics to help gauge effectiveness and test changes.
Other speakers during the day included Beth Goldstein of The NPD Group and Julia Clark Day of Leisure Trends, who presented stats on the current state of the footwear industry. Goldstein predicted that the fall selling season will have a slow start and will be spread out in terms of when and where. But once again, boots will rule and omnichannel initiatives will be continue to expand.