Smaller Retailers CAN Prevail Over Their Larger Competitors with Relationship Building

In this article by John Tozzi, How Small Stores Can Lure Holiday Shoppers printed on September 25, 2008 by CRM Daily, it seems that smaller retailers are going to have an advantage over their larger competitors this holiday season.

In whatever market they’re targeting, small retailers need to court their best customers this holiday season. “During the next three months they need to maximize the one-on-one personal relationships that they have with customers,” says Daniel Butler, vice-president for retail operations at the National Retail Federation. “That is the secret weapon that small independents have against big national chains. If I’m savvy and communicate with my customers well, I can draw loyal customers into my store before they go into the national chains,” Butler says.

The retailers that see the same clientele on a regular basis have a huge advantage in developing relationships with their customers and clients.  Because they most likely travel in a close proximity of each other, store owners and customers may even find themselves knowing many of the same people and places.  They will find areas of commonality that will unknowingly build a rapport of familiarity.

Keep in mind, people aren’t buying just things from stores.  They are now aware that they are buying relationships.  With today’s consumers being more sophisticated and demanding than ever before, common sense customer service is not going to be enough.  Consumers today want to feel that they are part of a team and that the retailer is looking out for them.  While they recognize that the retailer needs to make a profit, customer satisfaction levels soar when retailers appear to take a genuine interest in the person they are serving, not just “xyz customer.”

Retailers can also gain a huge advantage by really looking at the buying signals of their preferred customers.

Once rapport has been established, it will be beneficial to the retailer to notice the cues the consumer is sending them.  Does this customer tend to buy more when hearing about the quality of something or when they are shown the actual product and how it works?  Do they tend to buy more when looking at the special invitation card sent to them, or because the retailer called them to invite them to a special event sale?

At times, it can be a challenge to read a customer accurately.  In those cases, you want to answer their needs at any level possible.  Show them how it looks, tell them the benefits, and tell them how they will feel when the product delivers on its promise.

These strategies will increase customer satisfaction levels, customer loyalty, increase their referral rates, and most importantly to the retailers, will increase their profits and reputation.

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