Pool season is in full swing, but it’s never too late for retailers to see their profits grow. The key is less about changing what you’re doing and more about improving how you’re doing it. Through savvy retail execution and delivering an unbeatable shopping experience, brick-and-mortar retailers can overcome traditional retail rivals and combat online competitors to take their business to the next level.

ENGAGE THE SENSES

With so many movie streaming services out there, how is it that movies are still breaking box office records? It’s because while streaming a movie at home may be convenient, visiting the movie theater is an adventure that engages all of the patrons’ senses. The smell of buttery popcorn when you walk in. The taste of a cold soda. The feeling of sinking into the plush stadium seats. 

Pool retailers that appeal to consumers’ five major senses will leave a lasting impression that keeps customers coming back.

RELATED: Sensory Sales for the New Consumer

Treat your retail store as a showroom that helps customers imagine what it would be like to own the products you sell. A key way of cultivating that mindset is by displaying products customers can touch and feel. In fact, according to the 2017 RetailDrive Consumer Survey, 62 percent of consumers say they choose retail stores over the web because they want to see, touch and try out items before they buy them. But it doesn’t stop there.

Use the calming noise of water features to connect shoppers with the feeling of tranquility and peace. Incorporate pleasant garden or outdoor aromas in your showroom to create the right emotion from the moment a customer walks through your door. Take advantage of the close link between taste and memory by grilling up some food (with vegetarian options) for customers to enjoy. Stage a backyard or do whatever else to help homeowners envision what would it be like to have your store’s products in their backyard. 

All of these tips add up to a new shopping experience, one that shoppers can’t get online or anywhere else.

Checklist:

  • Make sure consumers can interact with products
  • Create an engaging layout and incorporate décor that allows homeowners to envision products in their own backyard
  • Use lifestyle imagery to communicate the right message and evoke positive feelings
  • Ensure all five senses are engaged

 

SOCIAL EXPERIENCE

The growth of online retailers like Amazon and the increasing importance consumers place on convenience and price has impacted the way people shop. Price is important, but consumers are focusing more on their experience as the single largest factor determining where they shop. That’s especially true in our industry. 

Most retailers pride themselves on providing customers with an excellent experience, but there’s a disconnect. According to Forbes, 80 percent of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, but only eight percent of customers agree. Physical retailers have an opportunity that online retailers and big box stores don’t: to have a higher level of personalized service and face-to-face interactions. By engaging with customers as they enter the store, being considerate (holding doors open, carrying out heavy items, etc.) and asking questions to understand a homeowner’s situation, you can gauge just how much attention any given customer is looking for.

But consumers aren’t comparing their shopping experience at your pool store to the experiences they’ve had at other pool stores or online — they’re comparing it to every retail experience they’ve ever had. To stand out, make it something they’d want to share with their social network. 

RELATED: How to Improve Your Customer's Experience This Summer

To do this, mimic the perfect backyard experience within your store. Try an out-of-the-box approach to make homeowners feel like your store has helped them create an outdoor living space that they want to brag about on social media. Of course, gimmicks are an easy way to motivate customers to talk about your store on social media. For example, create a space for fun selfies with a backdrop and props like pool toys and snorkels. (You could even make a Snapchat filter that the younger generation can use while in your store.)

Whatever it is, the point is to be sure customers enjoy and remember their time in your store. Top of mind awareness is the first step in keeping homeowners interested in coming back to your store and, eventually, develop a preference for shopping with you exclusively.

Checklist:

  • Create comfortable areas where shoppers can sit, imagine themselves at home and spend more time in the store
  • Create a space for photo opportunities. Incorporate timely products and key characteristics of your store to encourage customers to snap a pic and share on their social media accounts
  • Train your staff so they become product experts who can proactively engage customers and guide them to the right purchase

EXCLUSIVITY AND REWARDS

It’s easy to understand why the internet and online marketplaces are so frustrating for pool retailers, but despite the increased convenience of internet shopping, brick-and-mortar stores still outpace the internet in total retail sales. In fact, brick-and-mortar sales represented 87 percent of all product related retail sales in 2017.

With homeowners happy to shop in store, it’s up to retailers to deliver on value. To help, brick-and-mortar stores are supported by the most powerful pool equipment brands in the industry.

One of the most impactful programs available to brick-and-mortar retailers is trade-exclusive products that provide physical retailers with some of the most innovative products on the market. The best part about these products is that they are not available to be sold online. Some manufacturers couple the products with additional consumer benefits such as extended warranties and consumer rebates. Such programs provides brick-and-mortar retailers a leg up by offering customers the best possible prices and benefits that cannot be enjoyed online to deliver an unmatched shopping experience.

In addition to exclusive equipment and consumer benefits, brick-and-mortar retailers also have access to storefront sales events. These events provide an exciting marketing opportunity and give homeowners a reason to come in-store to shop. Some manufacturers support these events with broad-based advertising, targeted marketing tools and promotional media to help drive customers to your store.

An important part of the brick-and-mortar shopping experience is interacting with helpful, knowledgeable customer service representatives. More than three in four (78 percent) consumers say competent service reps are essential for a happy customer experience. Retailers should take advantage of training and education to understand features and benefits of products they’re selling so that they can match customers with the right equipment.

RELATED: How to Create an Effective Customer Loyalty Program

Finally, there are also rewards programs designed specifically to benefit your retail business. In addition to rewarding retailers for the products they sell, these programs provide additional benefits including marketing dollars that can be utilized for SEO, reputation management, website design, truck wraps and other services to drive foot traffic. Additionally, POP displays, discounts on parts and other advantages are provided to support a retailer’s profitability. All major manufacturers offer loyalty programs, but retailers should seek a program designed just for the needs of the retail business. 

Checklist

  • Develop seasonal marketing and sales events
  • Take advantage of retailer-exclusive products
  • Earn rewards for doing business 

Donny Cislo is director of professional channel 
marketing for Zodiac Pool Systems.