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When it comes to the retail customer experience, creating and developing a seamless CX isn’t just a focal point for the big brand names and national retailers. It’s also a must for the smaller and mid-size retailer.

Yet oftentimes the SMB retail operator doesn’t have a tremendous budget or internal resources to take on the crucial CX effort and it can sometimes fall into the cracks within the day-to-day operations of running a small retail shop.

But as one expert shares, that doesn’t have to be the scenario as developing a rewarding retail customer experience doesn’t necessarily equate to spending thousands, hiring on staff or contracting out for services.

One of the best, and quickest, approaches is understanding that a customer experience does not end once the purchase transaction has ended, according to Pam Slim, author, consultant and small business expert.

Take advantage of the final in-store moment

In fact, said Slim, one of the best ways to quickly and effectively enhance the customer experience is to take advantage of this final in-store moment to extend that customer connection, whether it takes place in person or online.

“First-time customers and frequent visitors alike appreciate it when small business owners make an effort to connect on a personal level,”she explained in an email interview with Retail Customer Experience. That connection effort can range from a simple thank-you email to an invite to sign up for a store loyalty program. Both, she said, can go a long way to providing a successful customer experience.

“Inviting customers to connect on social media or share their feedback with a simple email can help them feel personally involved in the business,” she added. And while each may seem to be a small gesture, that email or in-store interaction can set a SMB apart from competitors.

It’s not all about luring in new customers

Many SMBs, noted Slim, tend to focus on gaining new customers and potential consumers. That’s a natural inclination especially for young small retailers striving for growth. And while critical, such a focus can prove distracting to developing the all-critical customer experience.

“Being overly invested in driving new business can prove damaging to small business owners who cannot balance and maintain their existing customer relationships,” said Slim, noting that even the most dedicated of small business owners can feel like they are not doing enough to drive all of their connections forward, especially in the face of constant budget and time constraints.

One simple strategy, said Slim, that can let SMBs demonstrate their commitment to all their connections, whether new or longstanding, is to celebrate these relationships with the community. That’s where the range of social media channels can play a huge role.

“Sharing photos or videos of customer interactions via email, whether from an in-store event or from social media, demonstrates to new and old customers alike that they are valued and essential parts of the business,” said Slim.

A recent Constant Contact survey reveals nearly a quarter of SMBs (22 percent) cite a lack of time to accomplish all tasks on their to-do lists. So, increasing efficiency, especially on tasks that don’t support the retail CX strategy, should be a prime focus.

“Luckily, inexpensive and effective tools are readily available to help small businesses immediately save valuable time and money,” noted Slim, and one common automation effort can be as simple as a new customer sign-up form via email communication. Concise email interaction can help the SMB retailer customize and deliver messages on point with the customer’s interests and need.

“The right message sent at the right time can help connect the customer experience seamlessly from in-store to online, never losing the integrity of the brand’s story,” she explained.

Slim shared the example of a Mesa, Arizona retailer. Jarrod’s Tea and Coffee initially launched as an art gallery, but foot traffic was very light. So, the gallery decided to experiment by selling coffee and tea as part of the artistic viewing and art buying experience.

“Visitors increased, and when they had good coffee and comfortable places to sit, they [consumers] lingered in the store and bought more art,” said Slim.

By expanding what their customer experience offered the retailer developed a welcoming and creative environment where shoppers and local artists now engage with art and with each other.

Insight on what not to do

Knowing what to do to drive a successful customer experience is as much about knowing what not to do.

One big no-no for the SMB retailer is going overboard with engagement, advised Slim.

“With the many modes of communication small businesses can take advantage of, it can be tempting to try to engage with customers across all available platforms. However, the reality is that no customer wants to be constantly bombarded by the same message everywhere they turn, no matter how loyal they are,” she said.

The most successful SMBS, she added, take the time to strategically plan and space out content, ensuring consistency along the entire customer journey and only sharing what is needed.

“As a small business owner, it can be tough to plan for the future with so many challenges to overcome in the present,” acknowledged Slim. Retailers also need to put as much time into assessing and evaluating CX efforts as they do in creating and developing the CX roadmap, she added.

“Whether the goal is to boost the customer experience, drive quarterly sales, or execute longer-term business plans, setting regular times to evaluate past performance and determine what is coming down the pipeline can save small business owners precious time and energy in the long run.”

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Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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