With the technological advances in point of sale systems, we have the ability to work with one of the most valuable assets a retailer possesses: Customers.

A customer is defined as “One that buys goods or services.” It is this individual who has been at your store and made a purchase that knows what you’re all about and would most likely be interested in hearing from you.

Many businesses protect their customer list as much as they protect their liquid assets, such as cash. Having a list of those individuals that have completed this exchange is gold.

By tracking customer’s purchases, we then have the ability to purchase inventory that will meet their needs and wants. We know their sizes, their favourite colours and the vendors that they prefer.

How can you use this information?

You can review what sizes have been purchased to ensure that you have merchandise on hand that will fit your customers. In addition, if you are in an over stock situation, you can contact specific customers to personalise a sale for them by using their size as a lead in.

Working with vendors to cater to your customers

You can look and see what the trend is for a particular vendor. If your customer is responding to a new vendor, you can expand the presence of their line in your store and allocate more square footage to this vendor.

When you can show a vendor that your customers are coming to your location to purchase their product, you can request things from that vendor- like, special pricing, vendor premiums for your customers (giveaways, special purchases, and vendor supplied fixtures, etc.)

By knowing that you have enough customers that have purchased enough merchandise from a specific vendor you can even obtain cooperative advertising dollars from the vendor, and possibly get on the trunk show circuit with this vendor. Vendor reps will come to your store to present merchandise to your customers to be ordered for the coming season to your customer.

As a result of providing your customers with what they need, there is a better chance that you’ll have a loyal customer on your hands. And a satisfied customer tells two or more people they are satisfied, however an unsatisfied customer is likely to tell potential customers that you never have their size in stock or that you don’t carry your favourite colour or label, etc.

Using Customer Data

The first step is capturing customer information. If a customer feels that they will get something out of the deal, they will fall over themselves to give you their name address telephone number and yes, even their email address. So, the first step is asking for their contact information.

I recently worked with a new customer on a brand new venture after they had been open for a month. I paid a visit only to recognise that they were not capturing customer information at all. The store employees felt uncomfortable asking for it.

After some training and role playing in relation to requesting this information, the employees understood it. Even the old practice of having a fish bowl for a customer to drop in their business card to win a great prize still works.

Now that you have a bunch of names, the second step involves what to do with them. Well, you write to them. I am still shocked and thrilled when I receive a handwritten note form a store sales person thanking me for making a purchase.

A personal note instills a loyalty for me to that establishment. I didn’t even receive a note from the guy who sold me my car, and that was a much larger purchase than the two sport coats I bought at a store recently.

After a purchase, you could have your employees write short notes each week to your customers to thank them for their purchase and invite them back. This also gives them a name to associate with your store, and lets them know that someone cares that they visited your establishment.

I always took my customer list and used it when times got slow. During rainy days, for example, my staff would call customers to sell them merchandise or rainy day specials.

Hallmark Cards creates a new holiday every year and presents us with a holiday of the month that allows us to promote to our customers. Christmas and Valentine’s Day may have started the Hallmark business, but we have more holidays to take advantage of for sales opportunities.

Halloween is huge and growing bigger every year. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparent’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Boss’s Day, and so forth, are all potential special promotion days. You get the idea? These are all good times to send your customers a postcard promoting a special offer or some discount.  

Using Customer History

With customer information you can review a customer’s history and determine who your top customers are; who spent the most money in your store this month, quarter or year, and then do something special for them.

I used to hold a wine and cheese party every January for the customers that bought the most merchandise during Thanksgiving through the end of the year. The reason was twofold: to recognise these customers for their loyalty and to generate more sales. Since the beginning of the year was the slowest time of the year for my business, I would end up with a packed store filled with customers holding coupons and spending money. I had a guaranteed customer base. The wine sometimes helped as well.

Be sure to track not only your customers, but how they heard about your business.

  • Walk-by / drive-by
  • Word of mouth – keep rewarding your customers who are telling others about your store.
  • Newspaper ad – include a coupon next to ad to increase results.
  • Direct Mail – establish a campaign to get more customers, like “bring a friend and get 10% off”.

When you know where your customers are coming from, you can put a little more focus on that avenue and increase sales from that source. If more customers are coming from a newspaper ad or coupon, for example, be sure you keep that ad running. If it’s word of mouth, do more referral campaigns to them.

It is as important to know your customers as it is to know your merchandise. Know them, keep in touch with them, give them special discounts, and reward them with special offers. And you’ve got a loyal customer base that keeps coming back.