While sales might have started out well for your retail business, they’ve slowed down recently, and you’re scratching your head trying to figure out the cause. Can you blame the economy? The bad weather? Or is it something that you’re doing…or not doing…that’s causing customers to shop elsewhere?
The fact is: you might be inadvertently causing customers to never come back to buy from you. Here are a few things you might need to correct.
1. Customer Service is Disappointing
If you’re not in your store all the time, you really don’t have a clue what your customers’ impressions are of their shopping experience. But one snarky sales clerk can be enough to make a customer never buy from you again.
So how can you know if there’s a problem? First, make sure you’re monitoring your online review channels like Yelp, Google, or Facebook. Pay attention to both the positive and negative reviews, and for any negative ones, make sure you get to the bottom of the issue.
If a customer complains about an experience, reach out privately to get the full story. Especially if you’re hearing the same thing over and over (“the cashier Ted was rude!”) then you need to fix the problem. Once you do, come back, apologize to the customer, and invite them back with a free gift card or special offer.
2. You Don’t Offer Enough Payment Options
Cash is so yesterday. Today’s customers want to pay via Paypal, Google Pay, and Apple Pay, in addition to debit or credit cards. They want to use their chip cards or tap to pay. If you aren’t accommodating multiple types of payments with your credit card processing service, you could be missing out on business.
If you’ve had your merchant card processing device for a while, it might be time for an upgrade. Look for one that accepts tap-to-pay and chip cards, and if you sell online, offer multiple payment options to make customers happy.
3. Your Checkout Process is Exhausting
If your online sales are weak, consider the steps a shopper has to take to complete a purchase. Are there multiple screens she must click through? Do you require lots of unnecessary information? Does she have to provide her payment details every time she buys from you?
You can cut down on any unneeded steps to streamline the online checkout process and reduce the number of instances that a shopper adds an item to her cart but then doesn’t buy it. You could also send abandoned cart emails to try to reclaim some of that business: send a subscriber who left an item in her cart for a few hours or more a special discount to incentivize her to finalize the transaction.
And set up a login system so that repeat customers can store payment details so they don’t have to enter it every time they buy.
4. You Constantly Run Out of Products
If every time a shopper visits your store (or your website) she notices that you’re out of what she’s shopping for, do you think she’ll keep coming back?
She won’t. She’ll find a competitor who has what she needs in stock.
There’s no reason why you should run out of products if you manage your inventory process smartly. Whether you use inventory features baked into your point of sale system or have a separate inventory management app or software, you can keep track of what’s in stock and what’s running low. You can even get a notification when you dip below a certain number of items so that you have time to reorder before you’re out.
If you can’t help running out (maybe your supplier is reformulating how they make the product), have an email capture on that product page to notify shoppers when it’s back in stock. Send them an email (and a discount to thank them for waiting), and you just might recapture that business.
5. Your Prices are Too High
Retail profit margins are notoriously low, particularly for web-only retail, which sees on average .50-3.5 percent profit. But if you charge too much, you’ll lose out to the cheaper competition, preventing you from seeing any profit.
That’s why it’s imperative that you know what others that sell the same or similar products in your area or niche are charging. While you don’t want to race to the bottom in terms of being the cheapest player in town, you do want to maintain equilibrium in pricing with competitors.
Focus instead on offering value: why should a shopper buy from you if you charge the same as anyone else? Maybe you have a robust loyalty program that constantly offers shoppers discounts and freebies for coming back. Or maybe you give shoppers a glass of bubbly while they browse your boutique. Perhaps you’re just known for your stellar customer service. Whatever your “thing” is, make sure it makes people value shopping with your brand.
6. They Feel Like You Don’t Care
If, after you wooed a customer into buying from you, you all but abandon him or her (especially if the sales process was long and the customer’s investment high), he or she may feel frustrated. After all, you clearly only cared about making a sale.
The key to getting customers to come back or refer business to you is extending your relationship with them beyond the sale. It doesn’t necessarily require a personal phone call (though if you’re selling Teslas, maybe it should), but a simple automated email campaign to follow up on a purchase or ask for feedback can go a long way to making a customer feel like you value that relationship.
7. Product Quality Was Subpar
Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than looking forward to a product arriving in the mail…only to find it lacking. Maybe it’s of a cheaper material than the photos indicated or maybe it falls apart quickly.
If this customer chooses to vent on a review site rather than reaching out for a refund or exchange, you risk serious damage. That’s why the followup is so key to uncovering any potential issues and then giving you the opportunity to rectify them.
8. You are Slow to Respond
We live in an era where, in theory at least, brands can respond to customer service inquiries in minutes via chat, social media, email, and phone. And yet, the average response time for brands is 12 hours! Realize that your customer expects a faster response, and if you can’t deliver it, you may lose her entirely.
Shore up your customer service team. If you’re handling that role (in addition to all your other business owner duties), you probably can’t always be available when customers reach out, so invest in hiring a dedicated customer service rep. Use as many different communication channels as you can manage: it does no good to advertise that you respond to questions via Twitter if you don’t have someone who can do so throughout the day.
9. You Make Returns Difficult
Thanks to large online retailers like Zappos and Amazon, smaller brands no longer have the luxury of complicating the returns process. Only allowing customers to return products that meet certain requirements (days since purchase, unused, et cetera) may frustrate some customers to the point of never buying from you again…or your complex return policy could thwart others from ever buying from you in the first place.
Buying online is a risk for customers. They need reassurance that, should the product not meet their requirements or expectations, they can easily return it for a full refund. Yes, returns cost you money. But turning off customers with a difficult return policy will cost you even more. Simplify your returns; provide an automated option on your website so customers can generate a return label they can use to send the item back. Then process those returns in a timely manner so your customers get either a refund or a replacement promptly.
10. Your Product is Outdated
Let’s say you sell televisions. At one time, your TVs were cutting-edge in the market. They had the latest bells and whistles and were affordable. But since then, you’ve rested on your laurels and haven’t bothered to update your offerings.
Unfortunately, customers can go down the street to another retailer who sells sleek televisions with sharp pictures and fancy technology for a great price. Why would they pay more…to get less with you?
It’s necessary to stay on top of your industry and make sure you’re offering something desirable and fresh to your customers. What worked yesterday may be outdated today, so constantly look to deliver the latest and greatest to your audience.
The key to understanding what’s making your shoppers unhappy and keeping them from coming back to buy from you again is to pay attention to your customers’ behavior. Talk to them. Watch website analytics and sales reports from your point of sale system carefully. Be proactive and make one change at a time, then measure results again to see if that improved sales. After all, business success is a moving needle, so you’ll need to be agile and willing to adapt to keep up.