If you walk through your entire shopping experience as if you're a customer or prospect from before the first interaction (when a prospective customer starts searching for something you sell), it is likely you'll find something you can improve upon. As you do this, everything may be good, but try to think of ways to make it memorable. In a good way, of course!
If you're a retail store owner, put your customer hat on and take off your owner hat for a moment. Start by doing a quick online search for something you sell. Let's say you sell kayaks. Try a couple searches like, "kayaks near me", "kayaks for sale", or "kayaking in Tampa [insert your local town]".
Side note: You can use tools such as Keywords Everywhere (which is free) to find ideas for related high-volume searches. In this case, you'll see that "kayaking rentals near me" has search volume of 40,500. "fishing kayaks for sale" has 14,800 search queries per month with the low CPC cost of $0.74. If you're going to run some Google Ads campaigns, you might want to buy "fishing kayaks for sale". If you offer rental services, you'll want to optimize your website for "kayaking rentals near me".
Okay, back on track. If you've searched and found your business right on top of the listings, great job! If you couldn't find your business at all, you've got some work to do.
Next, let's go shopping! Start from the very beginning of the customer journey. Pull into your parking lot and park. Remember to wear your customer hat. Begin by observing your surroundings. How do you feel? Start asking yourself questions such as, "Are there enough spots?", "Is the parking lot clean?", "Are the neighboring businesses inviting too?". Take note of every part of this parking experience from landscaping to litter. Now that you've parked, walk up to the building. Is the entryway inviting? Did you see something that interested you in the window?
I think you're getting the idea now. When you walk in the store, was the staff helpful? Overly helpful? Were things organized in a way that made you want to browse? Were you able to find what you were looking for? Did you find additional items you liked but weren't looking for?
Think of each of your senses. Here's the really fun part because one of the advantages retail operations have over e-commerce businesses is that you can engage all of the senses. So have some fun with it! Sight: Was the store well lit and clean? Or was it dark, dusty and cluttered? Touch: Sticking with the kayak example, put your paddles out for people to pick up and stand next to. If you sell deck bags, put one out for people to open up and see how much they can fit into it. Sound: What kind of music is playing? Think about what will appeal to your audience. Since outdoorsy people will likely be shopping at your store, you might want to put in a fountain so you can incorporate the sound of running water. Smell: How about the smell of fresh pine, leaves or a campfire? You can do this with candles or air fresheners. Taste: Bonus points if you don't sell food and you still incorporate taste. This is really fun, so get creative. What if you had some s'mores Girlscout cookies sitting around a tabletop fireplace for people to eat as they browse? That'll really get them into the spirit -- and likely keep them in the store a little longer!
Okay, now for the final checkpoint. You've selected the items you want to purchase and take them to check out. How long do you have to wait in line? Was the cashier friendly? Did your items, including sale items, ring up correctly? Did you have any problems with your coupons? Were you invited to join the loyalty program or email list? Did your credit card process quickly? Are the bags environmentally friendly?
Now that you're back in your car and you're happy with your newly purchased items, ask yourself one more question. What would have made you want to stay longer or buy one more thing? Maybe you can't think of a thing. But maybe there is something simple that can take your sales to the next level.
No matter what product or service you're selling, it's always a good idea to shop yourself. If you're an e-commerce business, you can still go through many of these steps. It's important because you rely so heavily on your website to make sales. Your questions to yourself may be a little different, but the overall goal is the same. Think about your website speed, your checkout process, the flow of the sale. Think about how you feel when you shop online somewhere else and try to incorporate the things you like and avoid the things you don't like. If, at any point, there is something that interferes with your purchase, make sure to correct it right away. Give some thought too, to how to up-sell and cross-sell.
If you're a service-based business, how many rings does it take for someone to answer the phone? Did you get all of your questions answered? Were appointments met on time? Were work estimates accurate? And once again, how easy was it to make a payment? You always want to make sure your customer has the easiest path possible to give you their money.
Oftentimes we forget to shop ourselves because we're so busy but it will be time well spent. I've found so many opportunities to improve and increase sales by simply walking thought my own customers' experience.