Increase Your Small Business Sales by Improving Customer Relationships - dummies

Increase Your Small Business Sales by Improving Customer Relationships

By Barbara Findlay Schenck

Increase sales in your small business by improving your relationship with customers, so they return to buy again and again. Closing sales in a small business begins with establishing relationships with sales prospects, whether online, in person, or by phone, mail, or e-mail.

Increase your small business customer conversion rate

Here’s an amazing fact: Fewer than half of all people who enter a retail outlet make a purchase. What’s more, as customers increasingly treat the bricks-and-mortar outlet as a showroom before buying at discounted prices online, the percentage of shoppers who become buyers at a bricks-and-mortar store continues to decline.

The percentages are way higher in supermarkets and convenience stores and far lower in exclusive boutiques and galleries. But across the board, the conversion rate — the number of prospects who become buyers — is ripe for improvement.

No matter what kind of business yours is — business-to-consumer, business-to-business, bricks-and-mortar, or online — you can calculate a conversion rate by counting the number of people who enter your business (or land on your website) and the number who make a purchase. Divide the number of purchasers by the number of shoppers or visitors to get your looker-to-buyer conversion rate, and then set a goal for improvement.

The rate you aim for depends on your business. Retailers that attract shoppers who arrive with a clear need that a purchase can fulfill experience higher conversion rates than those who attract people who are just shopping.

Publicly available web analytics from Fireclick show average online retail conversion rates in the range of 2 to 3 percent, and other reports show Amazon converting 8 percent of visitors. In the bricks-and-mortar world, research shows conversion rates between 20 and 40 percent, with fashion retailers on the low end and electronics retailers on the high end.

Interact with shoppers at your small business retail store

Especially in physical retail settings, the best way to grow retail conversions is to increase the number of prospects who have contact with your staff. It sounds too simple to be true, but retail scientists (they do exist) have validated the fact. They’ve also proven that staff contact increases the time a prospect spends in a retail setting, which directly affects spending levels.

Adopt these proven approaches:

  • Use displays and personal contact to intercept shoppers upon arrival.

  • Offer a shopping basket, explain a special offer, or give a quick store orientation to increase interaction and shopper involvement.

  • Enhance comfort by pointing out refreshment and sitting areas, play areas for children, and fitting rooms for shoppers.

  • When you see signs of shopper uncertainty, step in to reinforce decisions, suggest complementary items or alternative choices, or make other recommendations to both facilitate and increase the sale.

  • Don’t prejudge prospects. Watch, listen, and respond to prospect cues instead of letting first impressions limit your sales expectations.

Paco Underhill has researched and verified how people shop and buy in every kind of physical retail setting. Among his findings:

  • Shoppers race through the entryway “decompression zone” before slowing down and turning right. That means the space that’s 5 to 15 paces beyond and to the right of your front door is your most valuable store real estate.

  • They buy more if you free their hands by giving them a shopping cart or bag.

  • They leave, abandoning intended purchases, if they see long lines at your cash register.

  • Women make an immediate U-turn and leave an aisle if it’s so narrow that another shopper gives them a “butt brush.”

  • Store cleanliness matters, especially to female shoppers.

  • Change drives sales. New windows and reorganization on the floor give your retail space a sense of evolution and excitement.

  • In small retail shops, owners need to be visible and to interact with customers.

  • Shoppers are conscious of what they see, taste, smell, touch, and hear, so engage them through all five senses. Use knowledge of your shopper profiles throughout the day to adjust music mixes and experiences accordingly.

Convert online visits to online small business sales

A company called 3dcart provides complete shopping cart solutions for online stores of all sizes, which all share one common goal — to get customers to complete the order and make the purchase. Here’s how to overcome the common enemy of online sales success: shopping cart abandonment.

  • Save shopping cart data even if the customer doesn’t complete the form. The shopper’s browser may have crashed or the person may have navigated away from the checkout page. Make sure your site’s cookies save form data so customers can easily pick up where they left off, upping your conversion rate as a result.

  • Give your customers a one-page checkout. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t pick the longest line. The same holds true online. A one-page checkout ensures that customers won’t lose interest or get frustrated partway through the checkout.

  • If a shopping cart is abandoned by a return customer, reach out with an e-mail reminder to reignite interest. If the customer ditched his cart right when the shipping fee was added, include a coupon code or discount with the e-mail. A few shopping carts even have built-in modules that save you time by sending automatic reminder e-mails.

  • Gain trust with security certificates. A little peace of mind goes a long way, so reassure customers that their personal data is safe. Post security certificates in visible areas of the checkout process, clearly identifying security programs like McAfee and SSL certificates to show customers that you care about their privacy. The result: Higher trust, better conversion rates, and fewer abandoned carts.

  • Offer support resources without making customers navigate from the checkout page. Assume that customers will have questions and put the resources they need right at their fingertips. Place links and contact information for customer support right on the checkout page. Live chat is another great feature for addressing questions.