Differentiation, unique shopping experience, memorable visit are buzz words brick and mortar (B&M) retailers hear often, yet do not always know how to make their store stand out. They may see competition growing, customers moving to online purchases without understanding what their retail store can do to win back loyalty. Some established retailers believe they are doing everything right while others are afraid to make any meaningful changes in fear of losing exiting customers.
Not too many years ago “location, location, location” was the key to success. While there is some truth to that, it no longer is enough.
A recent survey showed that pet B&M retailers and lawn and garden centers are the first places consumers go to get educated and to problem solve. As retailers capitalize on this fact and provide consumers unique shopping experiences that online retailers cannot they can learn to retain their customer base. There are four immediate areas that B&M retailers can provide a unique difference; setting up a new aquarium or pond, testing water, problem solving, and providing live fish and plants.
When a customer enters a store to start a new aquarium or a pond the typical question is, “What do I need?” The key to answering the question is size. In all cases, the bigger the size, the greater number of fish and plants they can have and the easier it is to care for. Smaller environments do a disservice to the fish, the customer and your sales. In addition, if you have live display aquariums or ponds, that is best, but not always possible. Showing customers an empty aquarium or pre-formed pond will appear larger than it will after setup. Having an aquarium fully decorated with gravel, rocks, plastic plants, even if dry, shows a better presentation than an empty one. The key is to sell based on the space they have available not the gallons. If we sell to the space available, the customer often chooses a larger gallon aquarium or pond. Once they know the size, you can complete the sale.
Consumers that keep aquariums or ponds go to B&M stores first to gain an understanding of water concerns. An opportunity that is unique for B&M is in-store water testing. When a customer brings in a water sample, they are looking for answers to a problem or reassurance that everything is healthy in their aquarium or pond. This service is often overlooked as a value when it is performed for free. Testing water in-store takes time from employees performing other duties, uses materials, and takes knowledge of associates. These are the reasons that in-store water testing should be a monetized because when it is free, the actual value is not always appreciated. Many stores are reluctant to charge for water testing but there are ways to charge so consumers will thank you for the service and pay for it. One idea is to post a sign of the charge and provide them with a receipt to be used as a coupon, redeemed for in-store credit for a limited time. Doing this will help the store in a few ways, it helps customers value in-store testing and the recommendation based on testing will have a greater value. So, establish the value of testing in your store and charge accordingly.
Many customers visit retailers to see fish and plants. Stocking the mature size of every fish or keeping plants in bloom is not feasible. African cichlids, rainbowfish, koi, tetras are often sold at a younger age without mature coloration or body shape. However, displaying a picture of a mature fish helps to make the sale. Selling plants such as water lilies and lotus for garden ponds showing a colorful picture of the plant in bloom sells the plants. Now selling the plant is only part of the service to provide. The pots that pond plants are sold in are often too small for proper growth. When selling any plant if we send the customer out the door with just the plant, we are missing an opportunity to sell them a larger pot, fertilizer, plant media along with the plant. When selling aquarium plants sell them fertilizer for the gravel and the aquarium water.
These are just a few examples where brick-and-mortar retailers can differentiate themselves from the online experience. It is the customer experience with you that is so invaluable. Providing the service, knowledge and recommendations will keep your customers coming back.