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A Little Goes a Long Way

Posted: July 18, 2013, 11:00 a.m. EDT

By Barry Berman

When NexPet members join together they enjoy sharing ideas on how to improve their business results without spending a great deal of money. Earlier this year at the NexPet National Convention held during Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., various members suggested solid ideas.
Contest Wheels
They’ve made appearances at trade shows, county fairs and on television on "Wheel of Fortune”: A salesperson spins the wheel, creating suspense and excitement, while participants anticipate a victorious spin. An Internet search should yield dealers offering wheels for rent or purchase.

Placing one prize to "Win a $100 Gift Certificate” on the wheel is a great advertising draw during an in-store event. Each space should promise some prize—even something as small as a free treat.

Using a contest wheel at off-site community, fundraising or charity events can prove profitable without the hassle of bringing product to sell. Designate most of the wheel spaces for small gift certificate prizes ($5 and $10), and make room for that one $100 prize. This will generate store traffic and support the organization.

Thank-You Notes
Use a loyalty program to capture both customers’ emails and physical mailing addresses. After every meaningful conversation with a customer, or significant sale, every staffer should send the customer a personal thank-you note or postcard—by mail.

thank you note
Thank-You notes are always a classy touch. iStock/Thinkstock

These notes make a great impression on customers and can set you apart as the only retailer in your market sending notes. What creates customer loyalty more than anything else is a positive relationship formed with the owner or a staff member.

A personal thank-you, possibly accompanied by a gift certificate, might foster these positive feelings of attachment more than any other mailed or emailed material.

Secret Pet Store Shopper
A "mystery shopping” program, in which people pretending to be customers shop your store and evaluate the experience, is a powerful way to assess the quality of your operation and to motivate staff. Hiring a national organization specializing in secret shoppers is not practical for a pet store, as it might hire people who don’t know enough about pets to be believable customers. Instead, partner with local pet organizations, offering to pay each "shopper” $10 and to pay another $10 to the organization.

Create a form that guides the mystery shopper to address such issues as store cleanliness and organization, staff greetings and efforts to engage in conversation and encourage add-on sales.

With this type of program, the store owner is unaware of the secret shopper’s presence, preventing an awkward situation in which the owner is present during the mystery shopping. Also, the organization will employ knowledgeable pet products users to conduct the secret shopping; some of these mystery shoppers might become repeat customers.

Lucky Seven
After a customer has visited your store seven times, mail a gift certificate equal to 7 percent of purchases made. This program tends to stand out from the standard 5 percent rebates or buy-10-get-1 programs offered by retailers in so many categories. It might encourage customers to make at least one more visit—to redeem their certificates—making this program better than giving customers the discounts when they are already in the store. Promote this program with on-receipt advertising and in-store signage.

Pumpkin-Painting Contest
Buy some pumpkins and kids’ paints, and hold a contest in the store or parking lot. Display the pumpkins and ask customers to vote for their favorite. If space limitations prevent in-store display, hold the vote on Facebook. Give every contestant a small store gift certificate; give the contest winner a larger store gift certificate. Set an age maximum of 10 so teens don’t sweep the prizes, or establish separate contests in different age categories.

Fight "Showrooming”
Showrooming, a phenomenon experienced by many stores today, is when customers shop a store largely to decide what they will buy online. Mobile phone apps allow shoppers to take a picture of the UPC code on an item; the app displays multiple online vendors, complete with cost information.
Combat this with signs touting: "Why [store name] is your best source—what we do that websites don’t!”

Also offer:
• Complete product information and instructions
• Personal touch in selecting the right item for pets
• Shopping with pets
• Product assembly and use demonstrations
• After-purchase product information and assistance
• No shipping costs
• No-hassle return policy (make sure you have one)
Competing with the Internet is not easy and poses a big challenge for our industry. In fact, of all the retailers out there, one of the stores showroomed the most is PetSmart. <HOME>


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