While the verdict is still out on how Rural Bid Implementation will impact your bottom line, there is one thing I am sure of: Now more than ever, you need to attract and keep more cash buyers. Just as you adjusted your business strategy when competitive bidding rolled out in January, it is time to think outside the box and start taking advantage of and capitalizing on new opportunities. One sure way to do that is by creating a shopping experience that will keep cash buyers coming back for more.
The ways customers find your store have shifted measurably during the last decade. Gone are the days of sinking your entire marketing budget into billboards, radio and Yellow Pages ads. Today’s savvy HME marketers are investing heavily in digital and reaping the rewards as they continue to drive both new prospects and loyal customers into their brick-and-mortar stores. But how has your in-store experience shifted to match the evolving shopping behaviors of today’s digital-savvy shoppers?
First Impressions Count
We all know the maxim that first impressions count, and it is well-established for a reason—most shoppers are absolutely going to judge you by your store’s outward appearance, and if you aren’t up to snuff, your credibility will take a ding.
You are not just competing with the provider down the road; you are also competing with the shopping experience that major retailers such as Rotech, Lincare, CVS and even Apple have created in their stores. The bar is high here, and while I have heard providers rationalize that they are small, local businesses and that they should not be held to that same standard, I challenge that type of thinking. You are offering a premium product and service, and you should create a premium environment to match those offerings.
Now, I am not suggesting that you need to gut your brick-and-mortar store and turn it into a clone of the Apple Store, but I am saying that you need to create an appealing and clean, well-lit, well-organized shopping atmosphere that reinforces your brand message.
Take strategic advantage of manufacturer promotions and POP materials to complement your own signage and in-store marketing messaging. (We’ll dig into this topic a little deeper later in this article, so keep reading.)
Explore In-Store Tech
Technology has changed during the last decade as well. Taking advantage of the new technology trends is key to reinventing your in-store experience to cater to the growing ranks of webroomers—also known as ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) shoppers—who turn to the Internet throughout their shopping journeys and ultimately complete their purchases in-store.
Below are a few in-store tech ideas and customer service suggestions you can incorporate to encourage connectivity with your digital-savvy shoppers.
- Offer free WiFi in-store and promote it via in-store signage. Tip: Be sure that your website is the first site that pops up in customers’ browsers after they agree to your terms of service.
- Arm your sales team with tablets preloaded with applicable sales materials.
- Encourage your staff to engage with customers who are glued to their mobile devices, offering to help them find the products that best meet their needs.
- Consider a provider-branded app to make it easier for your customers to research your inventory with a personalized shopping experience, and to stay engaged with you even when they are not actively shopping inside your brick-and-mortar store.
- Leverage beacon technology to send coupons and other offers to shoppers as they are standing in your store.
- Start up a “text alert club” to further capitalize on the 90 percent of all marketing text messages that get read within three minutes.
Drive Shoppers to Digital Channels
You are investing a ton of time and money into your digital marketing efforts to bring in each new door swing, so if you are not actively encouraging in-store shoppers to continue engaging with you online, you are missing out on a big opportunity.
As you plan your digital marketing tactics—including your sales and promotions—always consider how you will promote these programs in-store. While you may want to create in-store signage to promote your upcoming fall sale that mirrors the look and feel of what you are sharing online, you may also want to consider creating a little online exclusivity.
Simple in-store signage that encourages shoppers to join your email list or text club or to follow you on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to score more savings can have a great impact on your digital engagement.
Don’t miss one of the simplest ways to get customers to engage with your digital channels—just ask! Never miss an opportunity to add an email address or a cell phone number to your business management system to continue to build up your lists.
In addition, when the situation calls for it, encourage your sales team to ask customers to leave feedback on your online review platforms of choice. As a customer completes their purchase, leaves an event or picks up their unit from the service department, ask if they would tell you about their experience online. Most customers will not mind being asked, and having a prompt will increase the chances they leave a review. An inexpensive (often free) and effective way to encourage reviews is to have physical reminders in your store. Many popular sites offer free stickers or free printable images to encourage customers to visit your page. Facebook and Yelp both provide forms to request business decals to be displayed in-store. Add these stickers near the checkout counter, on the front doors or in other high-traffic areas.
However you reinvent your store, keep in mind that it is all about creating an experience that will continue to drive cash buyers to both your in-store and online destinations.
Got any in-store marketing makeover success stories to share? I’d love to hear from you. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.