Create Fun To Entice Customers

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A mixture of fun and commerce is a proven formula

DECREASING CUSTOMER STRESS levels is the name of the game. If customers are having fun, they will spend more time (and more money) in your stores. Face it: Shopping is hunting and gathering for the 21st century. It isn't easy. We have to budget time for it, including driving, finding parking, fighting the ignorant sales clerks and enduring the long lines.

Even if a powersports store is a recreational retail experience, the high stress level exists because it remains a destination store — something out of the normal groove that we travel every day.

Barnes and Noble bookstores sell coffee and cakes, and place chairs throughout stores. Starbucks supplies free in-store newspapers. McDonald's restaurants incorporate jungle gyms for the kids. Circuit City stages regular home theater demonstrations in its media rooms. Big-screen TVs are popping up in mattress, tire and quickie oil-change businesses. The Las Vegas Motorcycle Tire Center even has a billiard table and a couch for customers.

Retail businesses now must mix more entertainment into their business plans to lure more traffic to their stores and keep customers there longer.

Starbucks used to be nicknamed "The McDonald's of Coffee," with hard, sterile furniture and a customer process to get people in and out as quickly as possible. Its CEO totally changed this premise with what now has become the Third Place. "Work" and "home" were traditionally the two places where people spent most of their time, but because technology now has made them both too accessible and busy, a new escape has had to be invented. Starbucks invested in soft furniture, its own XM radio channel and complimentary reading material. Hang time doubled, and so did business. It became a lifestyle instead of a fast-food place to grab a coffee and go.

HOW ABOUT...?

Isn't it interesting that retail and entertainment businesses are blending? People want to streamline their time by combining multiple activities. Have you thought of ways to make the shopping experience more entertaining? How about:

  • More comfortable chairs? Home is too crazy to read Cycle News. How about providing copies in your store?
  • More big-screen TVs? Learn a new riding tip or watch how Rickey does step-ups.
  • More free reading material? They don't have to be magazines with mail-order advertisements inside. How about motorcycle coffee-table books?
  • More vending machines or accessible refreshments? Maybe I'll have a sandwich while I shop.
  • More interactive touchy-feely displays? Ride-on video games? Here, feel this steering damper. Test this handlebar bend. Sit in this sport-tour riding position.
  • More well-signed departments and product areas? Lubricants? Men's apparel? Women's apparel? Sportbikes? Off-highway bikes? Maybe not everyone knows the difference?
  • More computer access to your Web site throughout your store? Everyone's an expert with a mouse in their hand. Give them multiple points of access only to surf your Web site inside your own store.
  • More convenient parking? Start out on the right foot by de-stressing everyone before they walk in.
  • More lights and colors? Dark displays are depressing — not romantic.
  • More friendly employees? That first greeting sets the tone for the entire shopping experience.

Retailers like Target utilize eye-tracking software to study customer shopping habits. Target knows the proclivities of where men and women look and how they search differently. Target's goal is to "surprise and delight" its customers by leading them to discover something new during their shopping experience. It's called customer experience management.

A recent article in Spirit Magazine quotes an Indiana State professor of psychology as saying, "It isn't just the physical cost of the product, there's also the psychological cost. You want love at first sight and NOT death by indecision." The science of retailing is becoming more competitive and more scientific, leading researchers to suggest you continue to search for ways to encourage customers to spend more time in your stores — and, therefore, more money. A good layout, clear sight lines and excellent signage relax shoppers, leaving more time for browsing. Even an information desk centrally located in the business can help channel customers more directly to where they need to spend their time.

Look at your store through your customers' eyes today. Are your products arranged haphazardly — or scientifically to lure more customers to shop?

Longtime columnist Eric Anderson is vice president of Scorpion Sports. Contact him at eric@scorpionusa.com or via editors@dealernews.com.