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Candace D'Agnolo

It’s Not the Internet. It’s You.

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We’ve all been there, cringing when a customer comes in  and asks lots of questions, seeking out solutions for their problems, and then easily says,  “Thanks, I’ll buy it online.” How about the shopper who actually pulls out her mobile and makes the purchase right there and then … in front of you! Or worse, when a shopper inserts herself into others’ conversations and tells them to go somewhere else. Uuuuuggghhhhh! Makes you want to scream in frustration and blame the internet for taking all your customers. (Check out this month’s Real Deal on page 50 for more on this subject.)

Blaming Amazon for why customers don’t return or complaining that Chewy is the reason your food sales are declining might seem logical. But it’s not. Almost 90 percent of all pet parents still shop in brick-and-mortar stores. So I’m sorry, but you can’t blame the internet any longer for why your sales are down.

What will make you stronger is right at your fingertips. Grabbing it will totally transform your business, making your store the best and most profitable shop on the block.

With these three strategies, show online retailers who’s the boss!

Be a Data Boss

The No. 1 way to transform your business is to get a solid POS (point of sale) system. Not a glorified cash register like Square, Shopify POS or Clover. My favorite POS systems are Lightspeed and Springboard Retail. Investing in one of these platforms will change your business faster than building an online store. A good POS is highly customizable for tracking customer data and pulling reports about your inventory and sales. It should integrate with your website and even offer a loyalty program. All its bells and whistles were created to empower you. Facebook and Amazon know everything about your customers. Now you can, too!

Be an Experience Boss

While customer experience is critical (from your policies and hours to the actual experience with your team), I’m talking about you letting your experience shine. In a recent study by e-commerce retailer Zulily, 63 percent of millennial pet owners believe they know more about cats and dogs than pet store employees do! Well, do your customers know that you are an amazing resource for them? The staple of being a trusted retailer was that we were the experts in our fields in customers’ eyes. But with content at their fingertips, what sets you apart now? You can’t win against the internet if you’re the best kept pet parent secret! Could you be better at sharing all that knowledge you’ve gained? Get the word out. Put all your amazing knowledge on your website, share it on social media and in emails to customers. To get a jumpstart, host a regular Facebook Live Q+A show or record 20 quick video responses to your most asked questions. This type of content can be repurposed over and over again. Show millennials that you know more about pet parenting than their mobile device.

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Be a Fresh Boss

Even if you’re not a grocery store, your goods should be “fresh.” How much of your inventory is new in the last 90 days? In an ideal world, it’s 100 percent fresh. Your store should have an average turn of four or more, with food and treats turning much higher. The freshness of your inventory and stock levels says more about your business to customers than any sales associate ever will. Are you out of stock frequently? Is it old, dated merchandise? Is it what your customers want? Is it collecting dust? Has it moved since you put it out? As an independent retailer, you have the luxury to curate a selection of unique merchandise and make a beautiful presentation while doing it. This merchandise is handpicked by you! Fresh new merchandise on a regular basis excites customers to come in frequently.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.


 This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of PETS+.  

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Candace D'Agnolo

10 Questions to Ask Yourself to Ensure Perfect Vision for Your Pet Business

Because authenticity counts.

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IT’S THE BEGINNING of a new year, so you’ve probably been bombarded with media and people talking about your vision and goals. Especially since it’s “2020.” Get it? 20/20. Perfect vision?

I’m not sure that in business a vision can be “perfect” because we never know what roadblocks lay ahead and what pivots we will make. But having a clear vision will motivate your team, inspire you and your customers, and help you make decisions as you scale your business. I’m here to tell you that finding your authenticity is critical to your vision being a success.

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Dictionary.com defines the word “authentic” as:

  • Not false or copied; genuine; real
  • Having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified
  • Representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified

Authenticity has never been more important than it is in today’s hyper-connected world where your customer’s voice is louder and more influential than ever. You’ve likely experienced that to be true with reviews, customer comments in your store and how they act on social media.

There’s something very special at the core of what you do. While many can carry the same products or offer the same services at similar price points in a similar neighborhood with a look and feel that mirrors yours, no one can effectively copycat an authentic business self.

Answer these questions to ensure you’re interweaving authenticity into your business:

  1. Are you always “real”? And honest with your customers, team and vendors?
  2. What makes your company memorable?
  3. What’s one thing you could change/enhance/feature that would make your company more memorable?
  4. How do you make people feel?
  5. What unique traits/skills/talents do you personally contribute to your company?
  6. Are you consistent in your customers experience?
  7. Are you responsive?
  8. Can you back up why you carry what you do? Or back up why you hire who you do? Or why you run your business the way you do?
  9. What are three key words that would describe who you truly are? Can you incorporate them into your business more?
  10. Have you gotten clear on who you serve? Not every pet owner is your customer!

Customer trust is never bought but earned. Their B.S. meter is strong. The more you can convey your company values and beliefs as well as live all of the questions above, your bigger picture vision for your company will come to life! As Maya Angelou said “People may forget what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.” Authenticity will carry your vision a long, long way.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Boost Staff Morale with These 3 Holiday Sales Games

It’s important to first identify what your goal is.

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WHEN I WAS running my own pet retail boutique, I found that as the busy days of December rolled on, our team would become more and more run down. Every day gets longer and longer. It becomes harder and harder to keep the team motivated. I needed to find a solution, and I discovered that one of the best ways to perk up everyone was to play games.

Using “gamification” in your business is a really hot trend right now because it creates engagement, connection and results.

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When it comes to using games as a tool in business, it’s important to first identify what your goal is. Perhaps it’s to move out your holiday-specific merchandise. Maybe it’s to ensure that all the new customers coming in are being added to your database. Or you want to get the team to add on one more item over $10 to each sale. Whatever it is, make sure you pick a specific purpose for your game. Play the game only for up to one week. Games that last longer tend to lose their magic. You can play multiple games throughout the month, too. At my store, we had a different four-day game that would run every Thursday through Sunday. Each game’s tactics were different, and each game’s purpose was different.

Here are a few of my favorite games to play to help you sell more stuff, motivate the team and keep that register ringing to make the most of December.

The Dollar Tree

Tape fake dollar bills on a wall in the shape of a Christmas tree. Encourage your team to ask each customer: “Does your pet have a present under the tree this year?” If the customer says, “No” (or even yes) and that question leads them to purchase a toy, then that team member gets to pull a fake dollar from the tree. At the end of your game, they get to turn their fake dollars into you for real dollars.

Staff Santa Sack

Every time you beat your daily sales goal, each person who worked the floor gets to pull a card from the Staff Santa Sack. The sack can be filled with notecards or something similar, each with a reward, gift or surprise written on it. They can turn their cards into you whenever they want during the months of January or February. The rewards could have ideas like, “Skip my turn to clean the bathroom,” “Go to Lunch with the Boss,” “Pick one item from the store under $20,” “Get a 30-minute paid break.”

Staff Bingo

Play Bingo! Make your own bingo board by filling in the boxes with product names, tasks or questions instead of the typical bingo number. Keep them all the same or make a variety of boards. Hand them out to your team and have them try to get bingo in order to move toward your objective. When they have a completed board, they get a prize.

These are just a few examples of games you could play with your team to keep things interesting and to increase your sales at the same time. If you give one a try, make sure to share your results with PETS+.

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Candace D'Agnolo

Purposeful Outreach: How to Segment Your Customer List and Communicate with a Purpose

The best emails, text messages, direct mailers and thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely.

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MY LAST TWO COLUMNS covered why collecting customer information was so important, what you should collect and then ways in which you could encourage your customers to give their information to you. Now that you have your list, it’s time to communicate with them in a purposeful way that adds value. The best emails, text messages, direct mailers, thank-you cards are relevant to the recipient and timely. So how do you do that?

The first step is ensuring that your list is segmented, meaning that all your contacts are in the appropriate categories/lists. You can mark your customers with “tags” or custom fields inside your software (based on recommendations I covered previously — check out past columns here: petsplusmag.com/dagnolo).

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Segmenting will allow you to send relevant information to customers. Wouldn’t it be better for a cat customer to get a cat-related email from your business instead of hearing about a dog mom event? If the cat customer hears only about dogs, they will stop opening your emails or paying attention to your marketing.

Segmenting takes effort on your part, but once you get a system down, it will become easy for you to send the right message to your customers.

Now that you have them segmented to send relevant information, it’s important to send consistent and timely communication.

Here are a bunch of reasons to communicate with your customers:

  • Newsletter (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly)
  • Welcome to “Business Name Family”/Story behind business
  • New client/onboarding
  • Reminders
  • Promotions
  • Re-engagement for customers you haven’t seen in a while
  • Abandoned carts for online stores
  • Milestone emails
  • Special offers
  • Surveys or other request

And here’s a list of things you could share in those communications:

  • Celebrations
  • Announcements
  • Customer and team highlights
  • New products and benefits of others
  • Breaking news/recalls
  • Vendor stories
  • Your stories
  • Events
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Do’s and Don’ts

So, now you’re building your list. You know why you should be communicating with customers and what to talk about. Now it’s about being consistent in your communication. Come up with a plan to communicate at least weekly with your customers — whether it’s to the whole group or targeted segments of your list.

Sending relevant info is key. The right message must reach the right people. The most important thing about your communication is to communicate with purpose. The purpose of your communication will allow you to ensure you’re driving important and interesting communication that still supports your business.

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