In my previous AQUA Magazine article, I concluded after 20+ retail store visits in South Florida, Northern California and Phoenix, Ariz., that we were making it too easy for our valued customers to do business with online competitors. The reasons cited were:

  • Limited weekend hours on the most popular days for pool maintenance. Twenty percent of the visited stores had reduced Saturday hours (some closing as early as 1 to 2 p.m.) and 31 percent were closed on Sundays.
  • Inconvenient weekday hours. The majority of stores closed by 5:30 p.m., making after-hour trips from work virtually impossible.
  • Lack of e-commerce ordering options on local retail websites. This leaves customers who prefer the convenience of online purchasing no option but to purchase elsewhere.
  • Refusal to install and service products purchased by customers over the internet. (To read about the strategy a service company employed to resolve this issue, click here.)

RELATED: Winning Against Online Merchants

In this article, I want to share three additional observations from my retail visits that can land you MORE SALES, MORE REFERRALS and, most importantly, MORE LOYAL CUSTOMERS.

Are you ready? Then let’s dig in.

Responding to Online Reviews — Why Silence is Not Golden

Imagine for a moment that someone just paid you the nicest compliment — and they said so in front of your family and closest friends. What would you do? Would you say thank you or would you say nothing and walk away? Hopefully, you would choose the former. It’s the polite thing to do, right?

If we agree on that, then how is it possible then when someone takes the time to go online and post a wonderful review about your company, they receive no response back? Zero. Zip. Nada. No “Thank you for your kind remarks,” “We appreciate your business,” “Thanks for taking the time to acknowledge us,” “You were a delight to work with,” “We’re so happy you’re happy...” absolutely nothing. 

RELATED: The Right Way to Handle Negative Local Business Reviews

That’s what I encountered on Google while recording the addresses and hours of the retail stores I planned to visit. I couldn’t resist glancing at the reviews, and I was shocked how only a handful of companies ever replied. (A special shout-out goes to All Florida Pools for an exemplary job in acknowledging review comments.)

Negative reviews are equally important and should ALSO be answered quickly…and taken offline as soon as possible. It can be as simple as stating, “We’re sorry that your experience with our company did not meet your expectations. We’re disappointed that we let you down and would appreciate an opportunity to learn more and make things right. Please provide a contact number or phone me directly at (123) 456-7890.”

RELATED: Track Your Online Reviews, All in One Place

Disappointed customers can become your best brand ambassadors if their problem is handled quickly and professionally.

As a marketer, I HATE missed opportunities. We work hard to solidify relationships with customers and become the obvious choice of prospects. So when these opportunities arise to create customer loyalty, generate more referrals and convert unhappy customers to raving fans, we better APPRECIATE them. And ACT on them.

The Goal of In-Store Displays:  To SELL Products

One of the key objectives during my retail odyssey was to explore the role of merchandising in educating customers, highlighting product features and, ultimately, cultivating sales. Some of the stores I visited do a remarkable job of keeping their showroom open and inviting with clear sight lines throughout the stores, making it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for. It’s a given that everything from the outside parking lot to the store entrance, the showroom floor and walls to the product shelves, and the in-store displays are spotless. (Pinch A Penny in Sunrise and Coral Springs, Fla., deserve special mention for excelling at this. As do E-Konomy Pools and Patio Pools & Spas, both in Tuscon, Ariz.)

RELATED: Sensory Sales for Today's Consumer

These retailers understand that inside their four walls resides a BUSINESS whose purpose it is to SELL products of value that solve customer problems. They also understand the strategic nature of assigning product and display space in proportion to the sales and profit dollars that those products generate. So if a display doesn’t help SELL PRODUCT, then that precious square footage must be reallocated to another high-margin-producing product.

That’s how it should be. But what I saw in far too many locations were layers of dust on products, displays, boxes, everything. Maximizing the use of square footage is one thing, cramming whatever will fit into a given area is something quite different. It overwhelms the shopper and makes them far less likely to buy.
I saw product displays intended to attract interest from prospects having the opposite effect. The displays’ unkempt appearances, their many missing parts (removed from the products and sold as spare parts to customers — not exactly what the manufacturers had in mind) and uncomfortably tight proximity to other products resulted in obstructed views, limited accessibility and lost sales.

Making a Living or Building a Business?

My third observation was one that shouldn’t have caught me by surprise, but it did. It was the follow-up response to a question I had asked about their most successful and profitable promotions. Store owners and staff spoke excitedly about the popularity of pool schools at the beginning of the season, the traffic they generate and how customers couldn’t resist the season’s kick-off specials. The same was said of “manufacturer days” where a factory representative comes into the store and offers specials on equipment sales and product repairs.

Closed-door customer sales were another popular event, as were parking lot specials at which grilled hot dogs and hamburgers resulted in the best floor traffic of the year. And we hadn’t even touched upon holiday events (Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas).

RELATED: This Dealer's Sale Was so Successful, Customers Were Calling To Place Product Holds

While the success of these and other promotions varied from store to store, one thing was certain: Each retailer had one or more events that had proven highly profitable. My follow-up question quite naturally asked about their plans to repeat these promotions. That’s where I was surprised by how many hadn’t gotten around to it this year — because they were just too busy.

I’m not insensitive to the demands of running a business and the time constraints that every entrepreneur faces. But customers, sales and profits are the lifeblood of every business, and if we say no to any activity that supports one, two or all three of these objectives, then we are saying no to our dreams as an entrepreneur.

In Summary

Respond to ALL reviews promptly and professionally, both positive and negative. Ask yourself: If YOU were choosing between two companies with comparable reviews, one of which acknowledged and thanked reviewers, while the other did not, which would YOU be inclined to select?

Your store’s appearance is a reflection of YOU. Keep it immaculate. And remember, those four walls are for SELLING. Use your space, your products and your displays with one purpose in mind — TO MAXIMIZE SALES.

Maintain focus on the high-level activities that produce SALES and PROFITS. Be sure to capture prospect and buyer names from your promotional efforts. Reach back out to both with other offers and communications to continually grow these relationships. 

Leon Rawitz is president of Rawitz Marketing Group, a consulting firm specializing in the pool and spa industry. His consulting and speaking clients have included Pentair, PoolCorp, Arch Chemical, A & A Manufacturing, Aquatech, Ft. Wayne Pools, Pinch a Penny, NESPA, and many more. 
To contact Leon, go to leon@rawitzmarketing.com or call (919) 290-2704.