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LAS VEGAS -- Having the best inventory, the best prices and the best location seems like a winning combination for retail success, but without customer loyalty success is not guaranteed.
Speaking at Tobacco Plus Expo 2011 last week in Las Vegas, Linda Cahan, a visual merchandising and design consultant, stressed that the simplest things, from facial expressions to compliments, can build the much-needed customer loyalty. "One of the secrets to developing customer loyalty and keeping customer loyalty is acknowledging people when they come in, even if you are talking with someone else," she explained.
Retailers also need to converse with their customers, not sell to them, she added. "Instead of selling you want to start a conversation," Cahan said. "Not 'how can I help you,' but 'what kind of tobacco do you like.'"
Store owners also have to be aware of overselling and false friendliness. "If your heart is not into it then you are going to turn people off," Cahan said. Equally as bad, she added, is ignoring the customer.
Another important building block to customer loyalty is exceeding expectations. A notable way to do that is by offering something for free, like Wi-Fi. "You can be there Starbucks," Cahan said. Tobacco retailers can also give away small items, like lighters or matches.
Surprisingly, the most memorable part of any transaction is the end, she said. "Make transactions speedy and efficient but put extra effort into the end."
Special events also go a long way to building a loyal customer base. For example, Cahan suggested tobacco retailers can host cigar tastings, special pricing events, private parties or vendor events.
And in today's world every retailer should have a social media presence, she added. "It doesn't have to be the devil," she explained. "It really can change your life." Facebook and Twitter should be at the top of every retailers list. "Social media has really changed how we interact."
In terms of numbers, Cahan explained there are 34,000 Google searches a second; 86 percent of adults use social media; and 37 percent of Baby Boomers are significantly more likely than any other group of visitors to research product reviews online. Notably, she added, today 62 percent of adults buy products online, compared to 28 percent 10 years ago.