Who Is Shopping In Your Store?

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Collecting customer information is, or should be, a priority for every retailer.

After all, they are the heart of your business. The more you know about the people who shop in your store, the better you can cater to their needs. If you don’t already compile customer data like name, address, phone, purchase history and patterns, there are several methods for collecting the vitals.

The direct approach

Let customers know you want to stay in touch. Collecting information at the point of sale is becoming more and more expected by customers. Some POS systems allow retailers to capture a full profile on their customers from full name to purchase history. This is an ideal situation for customer retention, but not one that works for every business. Simply capturing an email address to help build your newsletter list will pay off. If a direct mail piece is your method of communication, a last name and zip code will help to build a mailing list.

There are a few more traditional ways as well. Place a guest book in a strategic location or print short questionnaires and put pads of forms by the cash registers, or within easy reach of sales associates. There are less direct methods, such as a bowl for business cards or gathering data from checks, but they’re not likely to deliver the full list.

Today’s savvy shoppers know that retailers often go the distance for preferred customers. If you don’t already use a program to reward frequent shoppers, get creative. Your core customers are the people most likely to respond to promotions offering preview sales dates, special discounts, free shipping or other rewards for their patronage.

It helps to thank them for taking time to share their information by giving them a small discount on their next purchase or special offer. Use the opportunity to become more familiar with their opinions about product, atmosphere, customer service and other specifics that might be helpful.

Got the goods?

How many new and unrecorded patrons pass through your doors every day? Once you have customer data gathered and entered, it’s essential to keep up the good work. Regular list additions and updates boost the effectiveness of your promotions. Keeping your database current is as important as tracking new customers. At least once every year your customer list should be compared to the National Change of Address’ (NCOA) records. An overall cleanup of your list is also advised: appending zip codes, correcting known errors and the removal of duplicates. Bad data can clog up your mailing list and cause you to waste time and money in postage and printing.

There’s gold in them files

Once you have a program in place to identify your clientele, it’s prospecting time. If you’ve done a thorough job, you will have enough demographic and geographic details to sketch your ideal customer. Using your existing data, a new list of potential customers can be created who are similar to Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Perfect. They may live in the same neighborhoods or share other demographic properties: gender, age, children, type of residence or household income to name a few.

It’s a two-way street

Regular communication with your customers does more than make the cash register beep. A two‐way street is the ideal platform for building relationships. It takes effort on your part, but your customers will sense their business is appreciated and you’ll reap the benefits of the loyalty you generate.


Bill Nichols

July 31, 2014

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