By Beth Krantz | Originally posted on Total Retail (mytotalretail.com)
As we transition from Back to School to Black Friday and full-scale holiday shopping, foot traffic in stores continues to rise. Shopping-related destinations started the year off with a 20 percent increase in foot traffic compared to the year before and the lift is expected to be seen into the holiday season ahead. On the other hand, we’ve seen the giants of the shipping industries struggle and execute layoffs, suggesting logistics are facing challenges keeping up with the demands of online shopping. As consumers grow frustrated with delays or stocking issues online, they’ll turn to in-store options to get what they need. Especially if that experience is seamless.
To maintain foot traffic throughout peak season and beyond, retailers need to remember that every piece of the store that the customer sees is important. This begins from the moment a customer enters the store. What’s the first thing they notice? When a store creates a cohesive, memorable, engaging and enjoyable experience, customers will be eager to return. This means thinking about everything from the customer-facing door handle to the back of the store.
As retailers prepare to serve customers during the busiest time of year, here are some ideas to set your store up for success:
- Preventative Maintenance: The doors of your store are the threshold of possibility — automatic and customer-facing doors play a heavy role in creating first impressions, and your personnel doors and docks allow you to stock everything your customer could want. Follow suggested preventative maintenance schedules from manufacturers and trusted providers, and keep an eye on your doors’ ability to operate freely without restriction. Receiving doors in the back should be able to open and close properly without obstacles. When you notice anything changing, be ready to quickly address issues to keep your store running smoothly.
- Cleanliness: How clean your store is can immediately affect whether consumers will feel comfortable spending time there. Beyond the day-to-day cleaning to keep things running, deep cleaning and preventative maintenance cleanings can set your store apart. This should involve cleaning both the interior and exterior of windows, sanitizing restrooms, and cleaning any carpets by wet soil extraction. Have a scheduled cleaning program that fits your needs because cleanliness matters to your customers.
- Maintain Touchpoints: When you enter a store, think of all the things your body will touch. This includes the front doors, cashwrap desk, fitting room locks and try-on benches. Think critically about the items your customers will directly interact with and make sure everything is prepared and in working order. When your retail facility manager visits pre-holiday season, do a thorough walkthrough and visual inspection. Your customer’s experience should be your top priority. Therefore, cracks in a fitting room mirror or peeling and chipped laminate on a cashwrap counter won’t fly.
- Lighting and Temperature: The general ambiance or feeling of your store has a lot to do with the lighting and temperature. Your lighting strategy will depend on your store’s branding and the feeling you want to convey, but ensuring all lights are functional and no light bulbs are out is a non-negotiable. A dim bulb is an immediate sign to shoppers that you aren’t maintaining your store at a high level. A comfortable temperature encourages consumers to linger — while somewhere too cold or hot will ensure their visit will be as short as possible.
- Be Fire Ready: It seems that fire marshall visits increase in November and December, so be sure you’re ready for that inspection. Are your exit signs lit and easily visible? Are your fire exit doors clear from any obstructions? Do you know that your fire extinguishers will work properly in the moment you need them? With the business of the holiday season it can be easy to overlook issues like this, but a citation from the fire department is the last thing you need this time of year.
- Unify Your Team: Facility managers can play an essential role in empowering your entire team to pay attention and speak up when something needs fixing or cleaning. Getting that work order submitted in a timely manner means less disruption during the busy holiday season and allows the site manager to continue focusing on the customer. Make sure all employees know they can and are expected to bring up any issues they see to a higher-up to get things addressed as quickly as possible.
As retail leaders, we have a unique opportunity this holiday season to rebuild the trust and connection we have with our customers. Finding the right provider to assist you with these goals is key to your success. Be picky in this process and choose someone with the right experience and expertise before peak season starts to keep things running smoothly year-round. When your maintenance strategy is working properly, customers can fully immerse themselves in the experience your store is creating.
Beth Krantz is senior director of sales operations at TrueSource, an OnPoint Group Company, and the first call for retailers and property managers in need of critical facility maintenance.