Evaluating Your Store Through the Eyes of Your Customers
A guest blog by Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, Founder of Retail Minded-a retail lifestyle publication featuring news education and support for boutique businesses.
It’s natural for store owners to become very comfortable in their own merchant environment, however that doesn’t always translate to the best customer experiences. In an effort to better understand your customers—and how they feel about your store and inventory—challenge yourself (and your team) to evaluate your store. And encourage customers to get involved, as well.
To get started—solicit store feedback from employees and customers. Ultimately, your goal should be step out of your comfort zone and welcome change for your business that can result in additional sales.
Have all store employees—yourself included—participate in the following exercise: walk through the store and pretending you are customer. While doing so encourage everyone to think about why they make their own purchase decisions and to evaluate your store with this in mind. Remind them also to eliminate their professional thoughts on the store and instead encourage them to truly experience your store as a customer would. Have everyone share their thoughts anonymously so they feel comfortable being honest.
Invite a select group of customers to complete the following survey for you. Using a combination of customers is ideal; inviting those who are very loyal, first time shoppers and even those who have never purchased anything at your store is suggested. Explain to them that this exercise is intended to help your store improve as a business, and you welcome all comments (both positive and negative).
To help customers feel as if they can provide you with honest feedback, suggest they mail in their responses without their names using a self-addressed stamped envelope you provide. Or create an online survey—you can do this for free on SurveyMonkey. As a reward for participation, offer survey takers an incentive such as a $5 store gift certificate.
- What is the first thing you notice when you walk into the store?
- What is the first item you notice when you walk into the store?
- Do you like this item? Why or why not?
- What is the general feeling you get upon your first few seconds in the store? Please explain.
- Are there any distractions that you identify in the store? Please explain.
- Are there any noises in the store that you do not like? Please explain.
- Do any items in the store look out of place? Please explain.
- Do any items in the store look unapproachable? Please explain.
- Are there products you do not see in the store but would like to? Please explain.
- Do any displays capture your attention, or do they simply blend into the store? Please explain.
- What area of the store is most appealing to you? Why?
- What area of the store is least appealing to you? Why?
- Does the store appear clean to you?
- What impression does the store restroom give to you? Please explain.
- Is the check-out area of the store easy to use as a customer, such as when you make a purchase?
- Are there any areas of the store that appear un-kept or that appear to need repair?
- Is the store signage clear and understandable for you to gain store news, event updates, etc.?
- Are there any missing components of the store that would better support you as a customer?
- Is the dressing room (if applicable) accommodating? Clean? Welcoming?
- What is your final, ultimate impression of the store?
How to Review
Once all evaluations are collected, it’s time to analyze the feedback provided. Start by looking for trends—any feedback that is identified more than once should be considered an area of interest for further evaluation. For example, if at least two people respond that they think your store is cluttered, address this is an area for improvement. Remember, it’s your goal to strengthen your business and your customer’s experience. By hearing what both your employees and customers have to say, you are on your way towards this goal.
About Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle
Nicole is an experienced retail and wholesale professional who has a passion for small businesses. After years of working for respected retailers and wholesalers including Nordstrom, Adidas America, Sears Corporation and Franco Sarto Footwear, she founded Retail Minded in 2007. Founded to help individual business owners thrive in their unique goals, Retail Minded has become a destination source for valued support, news and education on all aspects of the retail industry. Always growing, Nicole debuted Retail Minded Magazine, the retail lifestyle publication, in January 2012. Nicole resides in the Chicago area with her husband, two young children and their weimaraner dog. Follow her on Twitter @RetailMinded and on Facebook at Facebook.com/RetailMinded.