Biggest retail change: How customers get to your store

Posted8/27/2017 1:00 AM

In one sense, not much has changed since you -- or maybe your parents -- first opened your store's door: Knowing your customer is critical to successful selling.

And your customer demographic might not have changed a whole lot, either.


But, oh how the path customers take to your store has changed. Today's modern customer takes an omnichannel path to a purchase, says retail guru Nicole Leinbach Reyhle. They don't shop like you and I and our parents did -- which means you have to know more about how your customers shop so you can sell to them.

A one-time Chicagoan who now operates her business, Retail Minded, out of Denver, Reyhle understands today's retail environment.

Independent retailers, Reyhle says, "can leverage what customers are looking for -- if they understand the customer's shopping journey."

The modern shopper, she says, follows a much different path to a purchase -- a path that "almost always" includes online shopping visits. However, even within the broad consumer-shopper category, different consumers follow different paths.

"Customers are more informed than ever before," Reyhle continues. "They want to engage with businesses that sell what they want -- the local bike store where the owner is passionate about biking or the hardware store that has the experts customers are looking for.

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However, "The path that Baby Boomers take is different than the path (or omnichannel) that Millennials follow," Reyhle says. Boomers, for example, may have a conversation with their friends about whether a gas or electric lawn mower is better, while Millennials, who have "lots of buying power," focus on what they enjoy.

Still, indie retailers "have more opportunities than ever," Reyhle says. Keep the conversation thread going, though, and you'll discover that Reyhle's comments suggest that retailers "need to get creative" in the selling process -- even, or perhaps especially, when that means stepping out of their comfort zone.

Here are some thoughts for retailers from Reyhle:

• Amazon isn't necessarily the competitor to fear. "There are a lot of small businesses selling on Amazon," Reyhle points out. "Amazon's inventory is stocked by small businesses."

Many of those businesses, she says, have both websites and physical storefronts.

• Google Analytics offers a wealth of information about traffic on your website. It's free, too, Reyhle says. However, "You must actually use and apply what the data tell you," Reyhle says. "It's one thing to have the tools, another to use them."


Suppose, she continues, that Google Analytics indicates a lot of your website traffic comes from Facebook. Maybe you want a Facebook social media marketing strategy -- which today can include Facebook advertising.

• Get out of the store. "Go to trade shows that are specific to your niche. Learn from others with similar businesses but who aren't direct competitors," Reyhle suggests.

The next Independent Retailer Conference, a Reyhle creation, is March 11-14 in Las Vegas, but there are options. State retail associations often have conferences as well, for example.

• © 2017 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Read Jim's Business Owners' Blog at

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