How to Make Your Store More Competitive

On any given day, hundreds of tiny elements—customer service, visual merchandising, and ambience—have to be firing perfectly, and simultaneously, to optimize the in-store experience. Pristinely scrubbed, well-edited cases designed to entice your clientele are, of course, step one in nailing those many crucial particulars. But experts agree the most effective way to up your store’s game is by fine-tuning your customer service procedures and practices.

Be approachable.
Consider your store’s intimidation factor. Retail consultant and author Bob Phibbs believes that to successfully compete with online retailers, old-world formality in jewelry stores should be dispensed with immediately. “Lose the stodgy dress and manners of jewelry stores that are waiting there like they’re in Downton Abbey, ready to serve women in white gloves,” he says. “I think that can be very intimidating, especially to younger people.” Phibbs also recommends removing calculators from countertops, which he considers another outmoded retail hallmark. “Calculators make it look like you’re only there to make a deal.”

Shorten sales times.
Modern consumers are used to getting what they want almost immediately, so evaluating how rapidly your staff serves customers is imperative. “Customers aren’t going to wait these days,” explains Phibbs. “Not when they can click on Blue Nile or any number of other online resources. They want it now.” So what’s the best way to deal with the Saturday afternoon rush? “You really want to be very aware that every customer needs to be talked to, and you need to shorten up the amount of time you use when you’re really busy,” says Phibbs. “Too many times we get hung up on ‘we can only wait on one person at a time’ in jewelry stores. I understand for security reasons why that’s important, but the speed of service has to change with the number of shoppers on the floor. You can’t afford to spend an hour with each person.”

Offer snacks and drinks.
Sales trainer and speaker Shane Decker recommends arming your staff with easy tools and practices that allow them to routinely go above and beyond for shoppers, “Have refreshments—chocolate chip cookies, coffee, Coke,” he suggests. “Take it to them and ask which they would like. Now you’re teasing their senses with tastes and smells, so [the store] feels more like home.”

Be perk-y.
Another winning detail to adopt: Offer to clean jewelry on the spot, for free. Clients feel they’ve been given a gift, which instantly heightens goodwill toward your store and brand. Decker also suggests giving everyone a free bottle of cleaning solution—with the store’s branding printed on it. “Use it as a little advertising tool,” he advises. “And when people come in for batteries, have the batteries be free. The whole deal is to be better than your competition.”

A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of JCK magazine.

(Hola Images/Alamy)