The pet industry is booming. But that doesn’t mean that everyone running a pet business is having a jolly old time. Ecommerce and the rise of online shopping have had a major impact on bricks and mortar retailers, making it much harder to attract and retain customers.

However, connecting with shoppers and providing them with a positive interaction is a great way to engage customers and encourage loyalty.

When people become invested in your business they will shop there more often, tell their friends about their positive experience and increase the longevity of your pet business.

Understanding your customers

According to global research company Gallup, customer engagement is the key to organic growth.

It states, “If your customers aren’t ‘true believers’, your company risks surviving based on a price relationship alone — and will never prosper.”

Gallup’s definition of customer engagement is ‘the emotional connection between your customers and your company’, based on personal shopping experiences.

Of course, to truly engage customers you must understand your shoppers. Gallup identifies three distinct categories of customers.

Types of customers

  • Fully engaged. These are the customers that love your company or business. They are regular customers who also tell others about your business and are far more loyal than they are price sensitive. They are the true believers.
  • Indifferent. These customers have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards your products and services. They shop with price, ease and convenience in mind and have no loyalty to one particular store.
  • Actively disengaged. These are people who dislike your company or have no emotional connection to your business. They have had a bad experience and spread negative emotions to stop other people from doing business with you.

Techniques to engage customers

It’s important to note that “satisfying” customers doesn’t have the same effect as engaging them.

Pet Business magazine says that the starting point of customer engagement is creating a genuine connection with the customer. It lists three steps that employees and business owners should action each time they interact with a customer:

1. Establish a connection – be enthusiastic and interact with people on a personal level

2. Start an authentic conversation – get to know the person and their needs

3. Encourage the customer to engage – share your experiences so that they might freely talk about theirs

French bulldogs dressed up

Tactics to entice customers in store

There are several different ways in which to connect with your customers and drive them in-store. A solid approach is to combine traditional marketing strategies with digital tactics, as this ensures you reach a wide audience.

Host an in-store event

Remind people of the benefits of shopping in store by hosting an expert seminar or a doggy fashion show with exclusive discounts as a further incentive to entice people in store. Host an animal-petting day to encourage parents to bring their kids in store. What ever event you choose, be sure to back up any in-store activity with outstanding customer service.

Social media

Using social media is a great way to ensure your retail business stays top of mind, particularly given the growing competition.

Post regularly but only if you have something useful to say or interesting to show. Promote exclusive discounts, new products and in-store events. If possible, use ads, for example Facebook ads, to target people based on their geographical location.

Partner with local businesses

Team up with a local vet to run an in-store Q&A session. This way you tap in to their audience while sharing your customers with them. Win-win. Offering a free information session is also a great way to give value to your customers. Why not give everyone who attends a discount off their next purchase to bring them back into the store.

Retail storytelling

To turn your store in to a shopping destination, you need to offer something different. Having killer displays that regularly change not only provide a point of discussion and conversation but they bring people in store.

Having a storyboard concept means creating regular themes. Every theme is a new display, offering a whole new bunch of products. Most importantly, this gives customers a reason to come into the store, time and time again. If only to see the exciting new display!

While there are several factors that help to determine retail success, it makes sense that increased time in store and greater interaction and engagement with staff should result in more sales and a bigger basket size.

The trick is getting shoppers into the store in the first place. The above tactics are just a few examples of the many ways retail stores can engage customers.

By implementing a few different strategies and measuring the results you can see what works best for your store.

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Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure for the past 12 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals.

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