Why customers walk - er, click - past your store

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With the economy touching new heights and talk of the retail apocalypse slowly winding down, retailers finally have a reason to crack a smile. Stores that were struggling for years are now showing signs of life, resurgence and expansion. Case in point, Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess, Ralph Lauren, Target, et al.

However, not all retailers’ lives are filled with rainbows and sunshine. Many are still struggling to scrape by, while other erstwhile category giants (we’re looking at you, Toys ‘R’ Us) are on the brink of bankruptcy.

If your store falls into either of these two categories, here’s what your customers might be telling you...

Sorry, have we met before?

Does your target audience even know that you exist?

As every retailer knows by now, brand awareness and top of mind recall are two completely different things. Your target audience may be aware that you exist, but is your store the first they walk into (or click on) when they think of buying their 12th pair of ripped jeans?

The measurability of digital marketing has us all convinced that all marketing should be purely conversion focused. But guess what, it’s not about the lowest prices or the best deals. A big part of retail is painting a brand persona that your target audience identifies with and wants to embrace into their daily lives.

Breaking your audience into behavioral segments, rather than age groups or location-based bunches, means that your team’s marketing and sales efforts will be much more focused and relevant to each individual customer.

What to do about it: The best marketers understand this and are leveraging the precisely controllable aspects of digital marketing and applying them to increase brand awareness and recall.

As Oren Stern writes on the Econsultancy blog, “At Kenshoo we see brands aiming higher up the funnel on Amazon, using product-focused ads more for brand awareness and competitive positioning.” Stern talks about how Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) marketers are investing in Product Ads on Google and Amazon, to simply gain eyeballs and ensure that consumers know that their retail store carries the item the user wants.

The level of brand recall is a direct result of the frequency with which a consumer has been exposed to a brand message. Unlike most things, more isn’t merrier in this case. As we see from the charts below, ad awareness and purchase intent increase with higher levels of exposure. However, since marketing budgets are typically limited, most brand managers are forced to find a sweet spot before returns on advertising start diminishing.

ad awareness and exposure


For instance, if I were to plan a marketing campaign based on the data above, I’d probably peg the number of my ad exposures to 8 in order to get a fair balance of awareness and purchase intent, before they dip at 9 exposures.

Do you have that in coquelicot?

You’d probably need to rewind back to 1909 and be in Henry Ford’s shoes to see a customer buy your products after uttering a line like “You can have any color, as long as it is black.”

With a mind boggling number of options available at the swipe of a button, stating that the average customer is spoilt for choice today is a gross understatement. A quick search for the term “mobile phone case” throws up over 100,000 results on Amazon alone.

In other words, when you offer your customers more options; your chances of a sale go up, referral traffic gets stronger. In fact, a report by CommerceHub shows that retailers enjoy a 12% growth in revenue with every 10% growth in product assortment.

Mind you, this does not mean you expand your product line willy-nilly.

store assortment


Not only is housing a huge inventory expensive, having a bunch of product SKUs that don’t do well can be a serious deadweight on your business’ profitability.

What to do about it: This is where assortment planning and smart merchandising come in. Historical sales data, coupled with an understanding of the market’s pulse is a good foundation to design a product assortment that contains products that delight your customers and keep them coming back for more.

Oh, and some mystery shopping at competitors’ stores doesn’t hurt either!

Don’t waste my time, or I’ll spend it elsewhere.

Ever been at the local grocery store and counted each excruciating minute as it ticks by and you finally get to pay for that single loaf of bread you came in to buy? Of course you have!

Long lines at the checkout counter are just one of the many, many ways that retailers make life difficult for their customers and eventually for themselves. Convoluted and unnecessarily long checkout processes are the digital equivalent of the long queues at the cash register. To make matters worse, many ecommerce sites require customers to either register themselves (there go 10 precious minutes) or login as existing users before making any purchase. It almost feels like they don’t want to make a sale after all.

Need more? Uninspired, confusing store layouts – online and offline make finding products a guessing game at best and an interminable wild goose chase at worst. Products that get sold out before your customers get a chance to even consider buying them is another example of retail hara-kiri. Rude and uninformed employees add the cherry on top.

What to do about it: Time is money. Save your customers some time, so they can make you some money. Review your store layout or your online user interface to see how user friendly it is. Identify resource zappers and eliminate them. Find that your users prefer the search bar instead of navigating through the product categories? Spend some time fine-tuning your site search capabilities.

if you have both an online and physical presence, invest in a multi-channel point of sale (POS) system like Shopify’s to centralize inventory and product data across all your stores and sites in one place, keep an eye on current orders, as well as predict sales trends in different locations. That way, you know exactly how much stock you have on hand and can preempt stock outs before they even happen.

Such systems bring with them a bunch of added perks, like the ability to sell the same products anywhere and anytime, the flexibility to design your own online checkout process and keep it as simple as you like, or even offer true time savers like self-checkout kiosks at your retail locations to lend your customers a helping hand.

Final thoughts

It’s not always easy to spot what you’re doing wrong, especially while you’re in the middle of doing it. However, it does get easier when someone holds up a mirror to your face, like I hope I’ve done here. See anything familiar? Then what are you waiting for? Go ahead and fix it, so you can roll that red carpet out to customers clamoring outside your door!

About loriwagoner

Lori Wagoner

Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, Customer Think, Business2Community, and many other business and tech blogs. Feel free to send her a friend request on Facebook :)


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