The thing is, I don’t want to be sold to when I walk into a store. I want to be welcomed.

–Angela Ahrendts, Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple

A great retailer’s ultimate goal is creating profitable and efficient stores where meaningful engagement happens. The true challenge is ensuring that your stores are welcoming places where meaningful interactions can naturally occur and be optimized for further success.

Making your stores more engaging can help you stand out from your competition and move from simply selling products to creating an experience your customers won’t forget. Here are some effective ways to make your spaces more inviting.

Upgrade your first impression

One quick way to immediately engage foot traffic is offering exclusive in-store coupons for those who connect to your WiFi, offering some “surprise and delight” to customers who are engaging with you online.

The layout of your spaces can also have a significant impact on the overall flow and feel of your store. Creating layout breaks towards the entrance can encourage your shoppers to slow down and explore all your product offerings. The front of your store should put your brand’s best foot forward with maximum visual impact, comfortable spacing between product sections and a clear path for shoppers to navigate and follow.

Lastly, keeping your employees engaged the entire time they are on the floor has a powerful effect on your first impression. You want potential shoppers to see a highly engaged (and happy) staff as they walk by. Staffing around predicted demand reduces the likelihood of an overstaffed, intimidating floor, and prevents instances of customers walking out empty-handed due to a lack of service.

Host educational events

Hosting regular in-store demonstrations is an effective and inexpensive way to create a better experience for your customers. There’s a reason why Starbucks regularly holds small coffee tastings. Not only is it an effective way to encourage customers to try new flavors of coffee and tea, it builds a relationship of trust through personalized attention and education.

You can even think outside your own locations, too: West Elm hosts events outside of their stores to encourage engagement with their community through promoting other local small businesses and entrepreneurs. “We’re transforming how we’re interacting with our customers, interacting with them outside the four walls of our store,” Mo Mullen, director of West Elm Local, told USA Today.

Invest in world-class customer service

Research shows that customer service reps that are both knowledgeable and helpful improve the overall experience of shoppers at your store:

  • According to a 2017 American Express survey, 68 percent of customers said that a pleasant representative was key to their recent positive service experiences, and 62 percent said that a representative’s knowledge or resourcefulness was key.

  • A Temkin Group study showed that after having a positive experience with a company, 77 percent of customers would recommend it to a friend.

People want to know that things go well together. A pretzel and a beer. A throw blanket with cushions or an outfit put together well. As a retailer, you need to be a problem solver and show people solutions.

-Wolfgang Gruschwitz, retail consultant

The bottom line? Don’t treat customer service as an afterthought. Make it a cornerstone of your brand by hiring, training for and optimizing your service experience.

Create a comfortable environment for everyone

One area that many retail stores can work to improve is by creating a comfortable environment for everyone.

Store atmosphere can have a powerful effect on shoppers’ mood. Taking care of these details as an organization can help increase engagement and set you apart from your competition:

  • Are your spaces accessible for customers with disabilities?
  • Are your restrooms consistently clean and well-maintained?
  • Do you have a store playlist that promotes a positive shopping mood?
  • Do you have a comfortable lounge area?

The more you invest in making your spaces comfortable and welcoming for everyone, the more profitable your space can be.

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