How To Keep More of Your Customers (and Make More Money!)

Increasing your customer base is a beautiful thing. It brings in new customers to your store! But what will make these customers decide to keep coming back? Make sure you can satisfy newcomers enough to make your store their store!

Keeping New Customers

Increasing your customer base does two main things for your business. One is that it increases your revenue because of the new customers who otherwise would have not been shopping at your store. Two, and more importantly in the long run, is that all of these new customers are having a first impression of your business.

When they come in they are actually deciding right away whether or not they’re ever going to come in again. In this chapter, we’ll talk about how to increase the percentage of new customers who become repeat customers. So, basically having a higher percentage of your new customer base become regular customers.

DBA — DOING BUSINESS AS

This is a topic that isn’t often talked about but should be because it can make a huge difference in the retention of first time customers.

When a customer finds out about your store (through advertisement, Google, social media, your website, or your community), their first actual impression of your store is it’s name!

So, there are general rules for good business/company names and it’s pretty simple:

  • Rule #1 is to not use your name or any other type of name in the business name, for example, Rob’s Liquor Store or Gary’s Wine & Liquor. Now, of course, there are exceptions but a general rule of thumb is that you want to avoid using a name of a person in the name of your business maybe it’s because it seems tacky.
  • Rule #2 is to not use the location of your store within the name of your store. So, what I mean is if your store is in Honolulu, Hawaii, you don’t want to name your store Honolulu Wine & Liquor or Honolulu Spirits & More. A big reason is that it is tacky but more importantly, it’s because if you do ever want to expand in the future, it’s kind of a weird situation. Let’s say you want to open up your second store in Nebraska and, you know, it’s going to be a problem having a store called Honolulu Wine & Liquor in Nebraska.
  • Rule #3 — if you are stuck between a few names, pick the one with the closest available domain name. For example: the choice is between Slappy’s Warehouse Wines, Wine Box Liquors, and Metro Liquor & Wine. Slappyswines.com, and slappyswineandliquor.com are both available domain names, while many combinations of Wine Box and Metro are taken….go with Slappy’s.
  • Rule #4 is to avoid combining words and names to form hybrid nouns. These are terrible 95% of the time and should be avoided. Example: Liqwine or Al’s Liqstore.
  • Rule #5 is keep it short and memorable. You want your store name to be easy to remember. Don’t make it a sentence! Example: Ambassador’s Value Fine Wine & Spirits.

These are just general rules of thumb. I didn’t come up with these. These are just well-known indexes by which to not to name your store. Keep in mind that if you can build a theme around your name, you will retain more customers.

I changed our DBA in 2014 to Pikes Wine & Liquor from Elmont Liquor and More. There were two main reasons for ‘Pike’s.’ One is that we’re located on Hempstead Turnpike (most customers don’t catch on, but they do agree that they like the new DBA) and two is because we have a huge flagpole on the top of our store which is actually changed now into the shape of a pike — thematic points!

Before our DBA change
After our DBA change — simple!

LOGO

Having a logo for your store is a great move and also very easy. I assume most people who own liquor stores don’t even consider creating a logo. This assumption comes from the amount of stores I see with ridiculously bad logos or with no logo at all, with just a name like Frank’s Wines & Spirits. So get your logo done and beat your competition!

Pike’s Logo

Pike’s Wine & Liquor Logo.

The places where your logo will be are as follows:

  • Price tags
  • Social media accounts
  • Receipts
  • Advertising
  • If you can afford to put it on your physical store, meaning, the signage for your store on the outside. You can get that redone to your new DBA with your new logo somewhere in there.
  • Entrance Door
  • Apparel. If you really want to bring up the customer trust in your store, have all of your employees and yourself wear matching clothing with the logo on the clothing.

Since you’re probably not a graphic designer, you can go to fiverr.com to get a great, really, really cheap logo done for you. Just go on that site and they walk you through hiring someone to make your logo. You tell them your company name, you tell them something about your store, what colors you might want, if not, they’ll do it themselves and usually you can get a logo done for you as cheap as $10!! So, there is absolutely no reason not to go ahead and check that out.

Alternatively, you can send me an email at alex@lsimprovements.com and we will work with you to create a logo.

2016 Calendar

2016 Calendar with logo

THEME

With your new DBA and logo, you have the two main parts of what will become your theme!

Theme is basically the general aesthetic appearance and feel of your liquor store for customers when they come in.

It can be as simple as having two colors like red and black or brown and gold used in your logo and in most of your advertising. Maybe you have brown floors and gold shelves or a black ceiling and a red counter or something along those lines.

Having a theme in your store is a general type of decision and it’s more of a personal thing. So, go ahead, maybe consult with the lady in your life who might have a better understanding of colors and interior design perhaps and take a few days or weeks to plan out the theme that you would like to see in your store.

Keep in mind that the goal here is for customers to be subconsciously impressed with your store. You’re not looking to wow people with the complicated color ray or some beautiful designs. What you want to do is give off the impression that you really are a clean and professional and cool store that took the time out to actually make a theme.

As you know, the average liquor store is just a conglomeration of shelves, cheap flooring, cheap everything and bottles. Want to beat out your local competition? Take the time out to really work on the flow and the general appearance of the inside and outside of your store. This will make a huge difference in the retention of your new customer base. It’ll be one more thing that sets you apart from your competition.

These steps are evergreen in the sense that when you do have your new DBA, your new logo, your new theme, these make positive impressions on customers even when you or your best employees are not around. That’s great news! That’s like your physical store is working for you by making positive impressions on customers.

Another thing to consider with your theme is the music that’s played in your store. If you’re playing music off of a radio in the corner somewhere, it’s time to get your shit together. It’s 2016 and there’s no reason for you not to go on eBay, buy a surround sound system for $200, set it up so that it’s playing from every corner and subscribe to something like Pandora One so that you don’t hear advertisements.

Play consistent, high quality, low volume music for your customers. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen people jamming out to a song in the corner of the store where they think nobody can see them but they’re over there, you know, dancing a little bit, moving their feet around, bottle in their hand, loving it and it turns out that those types of customers are much more likely to come back.

PRICE TAGS

This is kind of 50–50 as far as I can tell. 50% of the stores that I walked into do price tags right and 50% of them do like we did up until 2014 which is to have a price gun and put prices on individual bottles.

Now, this was okay in the ’70s and ’80s but in today’s day and age, it just looks terrible. It looks tacky. It makes your store look like a 99 cent store and you have to get on top of this right away.

I found that making nice price tags for our store was difficult. So, what you should do is get in contact with the print shop in your area or Google up graphic designers from your general area. Have somebody come in to your physical store, check out your theme and check out what’s going on physically and aesthetically in your store. Work out a solution with them so that you can get price tags that go on the shelves rather than on the bottles. That’s the goal here.

You want price tags that go on the shelves so when you have a row of six bottles, everything is just one bottle next to the other, you don’t want price tags in each bottle.

What to include on your price tag:

  • the name of the item
  • the price of that item
  • the bar code of that item so that it’s scannable by your employees
  • a consistent color theme for sales/specials
  • Optional: add he price per liter. So, if you have a 1.75 liter bottle of Smirnoff for 19.99, have the price per liter show 11.42$/liter
Nice price labels with country flags

You can do price tags by yourself through most POS systems. What you need is Label printer, which runs between $50 and $200. Most POS systems come with the option of printing out basic price tags. They’re pretty boring but definitely a great place to start and 100% a better alternative to having individual price tags on your bottles!

The last thing to consider is the size of your price tag. If you have big, front-facing shelves and you can afford to have bigger price tags (by afford, I mean the physical size of the area you can place the tag) on them, you might want to consider putting your logo on each of the tags.

Also with price tags, when you do have sales, what we found to be most effective and what I noticed most successful retail stores in general do is that they don’t have a separate sales sign unless it’s a big, big sale. They just have their regular price tag but with a sale format — the letters or the prices are in bold, big red or there’s a red sales sign somewhere in the free space of the price tag.

WINDOW DISPLAYS

If you do have a window display, take the time out and make it beautiful. Don’t make it nice. Don’t make it okay. Make it beautiful. It helps if you have salespeople who offer to do your window displays but if a salesperson hasn’t come in a while, or if it’s been more than three months since your window displays changed, take it upon yourself and just do it.

If you’re too lazy or if you don’t have the time, you can reach out to a college in your area, maybe a community college to their art department and ask if you could hire their students for something like this or maybe offer some kind of program, something along those lines.

Otherwise, just do it yourself and like I said, make it beautiful. Make it head-turning. The goal here is to have customers who physically walk by (foot traffic) your store to actually come into your store solely because of how great your window display is.

A general rule of thumb with window displays is that you don’t want to just portray products.You want to portray a small story. Have something happening in the window display. For example, have a bottle opening or have something flying towards something. Don’t just have products and pretty things boringly laying there. Try to make a scene caught in a moment of time. If you’re lacking inspiration, go on Google and type in great window displays and you’ll see plenty of jaw-dropping window displays. Considering companies that have real estate on Madison Avenue in Manhattan (they’re spending millions on their window displays) hire full time employees for their displays, as do some liquor stores throughout the world, there’s no reason for you not to be doing yours properly.

KEEP IT SEASONAL

This may seem pretty obvious and I think that most liquor stores do this but not to the extent that they should be.

I don’t mean to just put up a Santa Claus and a Christmas tree and some Christmas lights around winter. It’s more like changing the small things so maybe have a separate customer employee outfit for this time. Sell seasonal accessories, make your corner displays seasonal. Don’t make the tacky changes like putting a fake Christmas tree in the corner.

Think it out. Spend at least a full day doing this, do it the right way.

What I really recommend is invest in some high quality props. These are things that you’re going to use year and year again. If you were in business last year, you’re probably going to be in business next year and you’re definitely in business this year since you’re reading this so just go out there, make the purchase, spend a thousand dollars on your seasonal props and just keep it in storage! Keep it in your inventory area. Make a shelf somewhere on the top in a corner that you don’t use in your storage area and just hide all that stuffs somewhere where it doesn’t gather dust and keep it up.

Doing this will have customers want to come back. The returning customers who already do shop at your store, they might want to come ev
en more often just to see the changes that you’ve made as long as they’re decent, high quality changes.

We’ve definitely seen an increase in customer feedback since spending more time and effort on our seasonal changes. Actually, now we have our employees do it for fun. After closing, we pay them a little extra and they stay and they decorate as they like and then the next day, the owner comes in and basically just approves and usually just takes a few things out but never adds anything herself.

ENTRANCE DOOR

Your entrance is the first and possibly last thing that is going to help new customers make their decision on whether or not to come back to your store or become regular customers.

Definitely make it easy to enter your store. If your door is squeaky, loud, and old, replace it!

Don’t let it be overcrowded. If you have a bunch of advertisements from brands like Ciroc and Smirnoff and everything is just plastered on there with your store hours somewhere, get rid of all that crap.

Keep your store hours on there. Have your store hours done beautifully. You can do this through fiverr.com or through your local print shop as well. Just get your store hours there because that’s what most customers are going to be wanting to see there.

Place few, if any, appropriate stickers on that front door because, really, you don’t want it to be overcrowded and ugly. Just keep it simple. Keep it clean. What we have on our entrance is the store hours. We have a sticker that asks people to like us on Facebook. It’s just a thumbs up actually, that blue thumbs up from Facebook. We have a Yelp check-in discount sticker.

Sometimes we allow a salesperson that we’re close to have their own advertisement on there. We don’t let it sit there for weeks at a time. We’ll leave it for a few days and then take it down and remove all the residue.

Keep your entrance clean. You don’t want first time customers seeing smudges and oil marks or dirt in this area. This is a problem but you have to figure it out for yourself. We have a store close to a horse racetrack so the people who come in off the track bring in tons of dirt here and it really is a struggle to keep that clean. We figured out a system and now we have a heavy-duty black mat there and that mat is taken outside and cleaned off minimum every two hours. It’s an annoying necessity but it definitely helps makes a great first and last impression of the store.

YOUR EMPLOYEES

So, the last thing to work on as far as keeping the new customers from your increased customer base is training your employees and being consistent with how you interact with them.

Your employees, particularly your cashier employee, is the last person that your customers is going interact with in your store so make sure that they’re a pleasant person! Don’t go for a cheap person. Go for a pleasant person. Hire for personality because personality is the difference between a small liquor store that makes 1 million a year and a small liquor store that makes 2 million a year.

If you have a good cashier,they might even create a following for themselves. There are plenty of people who come to your store just to see or talk to your cashier. This is what we do: we usually stick with a young woman behind our cash registers. This may seem sexist but it’s not, it just works for us. The ones who we choose to work for us are always kindhearted and socially dynamic. And we pay them more for that! Right now, they earn $12 an hour after taxes but it’s definitely worth the investment.

What you want is for your employees to make the customers feel comfortable and hopefully happy. If you can pull off having your employees making the average customer happy, you’re going to see huge increases in business. PERIOD.

If you’ve had crappy employees or if you’re taking care of customers yourself and you’re kind of just a boring person, you’re going to see huge increases in business within a few months.

There are a few things that you can do specifically to have your employees interact with your customers better. They are covered in this post on managing your cashier employees.

Have them say something small or convenient to every customer that they’re within range of. So, if they see a customer come in, definitely have them greet that customer with a simple “Hello”, maybe, “Hello. How may I help you?” See what works. It depends on your customer base and whether or not they’re returning customers but it’s something that can be worked out.

Hopefully, as your employee stays with you longer, they’ll know which customers are new and which ones are returning so that they can ask just the new ones what they’re looking for but otherwise, you basically want your employee to greet everybody that they can. You don’t want them to go out of their way, you know, to go to the entrance but if they are in the area of that customer for the first time since that customer has come in, definitely train them to say something pleasant.

The next thing is when they’re doing the transaction. Smile. Tell them to them smile! If you hire the right type of person to begin with, you won’t have to. You want positive people. Positive people bring positive customers and that brings positive income in the long run. This is a fact. Especially if you have more than one cashier working at a time, ask them to slow down with their interactions: make the customer feel comfortable and not rushed to get out of the store.

What I found to work very well is to have the employee, at the end of the transaction before they say goodbye, to tell the customer to check out the receipt for some cool stuff. So, something like this: “Check out the bottom of your receipt for store hours and a special discount.” On the bottom of the receipt, you might have something like “Check us out on Facebook or Like us on Facebook for 5% off your next purchase” or “Check-in on Yelp for 5% off your next bottle of wine” or, you know, “Mix and match 12 bottles of wine 750 ml for 15% off.”

Another thing that you want your cashier employees to do is: whenever you have a clearance sale going on, have them mention the clearance sale to every customer who’s not in a particular hurry. So, before they ring them up when they bring the bottles up to the register, have them say, “Oh, have you checked out our clearance sale? We have a special clearance going on right now. You know, it’s not something that we do very often and there’s some really good value on that table over there. You should check it out.”

WRAP UP!

Turning first time buyers into repeat customers is not a game of chance. It is a conversion rate that can be worked on and figured out for your particular store. Do not be discouraged if your efforts don’t bear fruit instantly. You are in this for the long run. By applying these strategies to your liquor store, you will increase your revenues exponentially.

Apply these steps one at a time. Finish one before you move onto the next. Before you know it, you will be hearing compliments from customers.

FYI: this article originally appeared on my website.