Keys to Establishing an Effective Retail Pet Bird Department

How to Set up a Retail Bird Department or Shop

Establishing a top-notch pet bird department isn’t difficult, but it does require a commitment to providing customers with exceptional service, knowledge and products. Sales are built on relationships, so it is imperative to develop excellent communication skills both in the store and in following up with customers and prospects. Each employee should be trained in product knowledge and sales techniques to represent your business and effectively maintain customer relationships. Wyld’s Wingdom has developed guidelines for getting a great bird department off the ground and maintaining strong repeat business.

A Strong Beginning

The greeting your customer receives is one of the most important parts of the retail experience. Whether taking a call from a prospective customer or greeting a walk-in, it is important to give an upbeat and welcoming greeting. “Good morning! Welcome to (or thank you for calling) –store name–” followed by “How can I help you today?” Asking a walk-in customer “Can I help you?” gives them the opportunity to say, “No, thanks” or “I’m just browsing.” Asking how you can help or what the customer is looking for requires an answer that opens the door to conversation and allows you to begin interacting with the customer.

You can also ask a walk-in customer if they’ve ever been in your store before. If they say “yes” you can welcome them back, which makes them feel valued and reminds them that they’ve done business with you before. If they say “no” you can tell them a little bit about how the store is set up and give a little information about yourself, and then ask what they’re looking for.
The timing of the greeting is also important. Greet customers immediately so that they feel welcomed and know you are there to answer questions and give advice. Many customers who walk out of a store without buying do so because they feel ignored or like there is no one available to help them. Deliver your greetings with sincerity and warmth and make an effort to get to know the needs of repeat customers and you will see a big difference in customer response.

Keep the Conversation Going

As a retailer you are a problem-solver for your customers. You provide the solutions to their needs by supplying them with the products they’ve been looking for. That’s great if they actually know what they are looking for and what they need. As a retailer of pet bird supplies, you have a huge bank of knowledge to draw from, to provide customers with the information needed to make more purchases. You know about new products, new discoveries in the world of avian health, food and equipment. You are the expert!

As a retailer, you should feel good about sharing your expertise, giving your customers the knowledge and products needed to give their birds what they need for a healthy, happy life. The best way to begin with customers is to engage in conversation. Asking the right questions is the most effective way to assist your customers and increase sales. Find out what they are looking for, and then ask why they want that particular product. This opens the door for the customer to talk more about their situation, their particular bird, and that bird’s needs. Pet bird owners generally enjoy talking about their pet, and your questions about species, housing, diet, activities and habits will provide you with valuable information. This is a great opportunity for you to use your unique avian knowledge and recommend the specific item that best suits their need, as well as additional products that might work well for the customer.

Once you build rapport with the customer and are able to make effective recommendations, you increase the chances of future purchases as well as referrals to other bird owners.

Staying in Touch – Using Social Media & Email Marketing

The opportunity to interact with customers doesn’t end when they leave the store. Establishing successful customer relationships requires frequent “touches”. Once you have the interest of a customer or a prospective customer, it’s important to stay in touch with them, reminding them of your business and what makes it special. This is especially effective in retail businesses where you provide customers with products they buy over and over again, such as pet food and supplies.

Email marketing and social media are two effective ways of staying in touch with a high volume of prospects and customers while maintaining a personalized feel to the interactions. In order to stay in touch via email marketing, you’ve got to be sure to capture email addresses. If your checkout system is run by computer, make asking for an email address a part of the check-out process in the store. Alternatively, you can keep a stack of information cards near the register and ask customers if they’d like to fill one out and join your email list. Make this question a part of your phone script for prospective customers as well. Let them know that you carry a wide range of products and would like to let them know when you are offering specials or have exciting, new products available.

Establishing a Facebook page and Twitter feed is a great way to let customers and bird fanciers know what’s happening in your world. You can build credibility, establish yourself as an expert, highlight new or popular products, and offer followers special deals. For those in your email database, providing a clickable link to your Facebook and Twitter pages in your email updates and asking recipients to “like” or follow your business is an effective way to build followers. Provide in-store customers with a card that gives your Facebook, Twitter and webpage addresses, or have it print on every receipt. Ask followers to recommend your pages to their friends, and spread the word through your local Avian club or other community groups.

Social media has become a necessity in today’s business world. Unlike traditional advertising, social media brings a personal edge to your marketing. Through social media, you become more than just a name to your audience; you become a person with whom they can interact. You can engage with your customers and not only brand your business, but build a sense of trust and credibility. When you communicate with your social media audience, you are not only communicating with your followers or fans, but also with your followers’ followers. The fact that someone “likes” or follows you is seen as an endorsement to their connections, allowing you to reach a whole new audience.

In addition to these benefits, social media will help you get a pulse on what your customers want. Social media makes it easy for customers to comment and give feedback, allowing you to see what it is that they like, don’t like, want and don’t want. You can use this information to better your service, your products, and in turn, your business.

The Latest in Social Media Trends

A sure sign of the role social media is taking in marketing is the recent launch of Google Plus for businesses. Similar to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites, Google Plus offers the advantages of communicating with your customers on a more personal level, getting to know their preferences, and getting a personal endorsement from them. Google Plus has the added advantage of the “+1” button, which takes this endorsement to a new level. Google Plus melds together social media, its email system (gmail), AND its search engine so your business gets exposure, not only through your followers, but also through your email contacts AND anyone who sees your website come up in a Google search.
If your website is properly encoded for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) purposes and someone does a Google search using your keywords, your website could pop up and that person could see your Google Plus page and “+1” it, endorsing it to all of their followers and friends as well as Google itself. Google states, “+1’s” from friends and contacts can be a useful signal to Google when determining the relevance of your page to a user’s query. This is just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking.”
What this means is that Google itself is saying that having and using a Google Plus page will help increase your ranking on search engines. While Google Plus is going to be the major contributor to SEO, interacting on all of the different social media sites will benefit your SEO. The algorithms for SEO ranking are changing and are including more and more of the social media postings, so if you want a higher search engine ranking, you will need to establish an active social media presence.

Training Your Bird Department Associates

Giving your bird department staff the best tools for dealing with a wide range of customers and situations is an effective way to keep customers coming back and reduce staff turnover. Confident, well-trained employees will appreciate their work environment and pass on their positive feelings to customers.

It’s a good idea to develop an employee handbook that outlines policies and procedures. An employee handbook can address rules, expectations, and the ways in which employees should represent your business and brand. This is the first step in developing effective retail associates who are reliable and responsible.

Developing a training program can save time down the road when bringing new employees on board. Take the time to create your training protocol once, and each new employee will receive the same consistent information on store basics such as opening and closing procedures, cleaning and pet bird care, handling sales and returns, stocking and inventory, and the customer interaction techniques outlined in the previous sections. The manual can cover greetings, collecting information, assisting customers through conversation, etc.

Product knowledge and general bird care knowledge are other areas that will require training for your bird department associates. If you have birds in your store or department, your employees should be trained on the basic information about the species you carry. Customers will look to sales associates as the “experts”, so they should be able to answer questions and provide information about various bird species.

Encourage employees to familiarize themselves with inventory, and make educational resources on bird species and care available. Holding regular meetings or training sessions before or after hours will give you an opportunity to go over popular products and how they can be introduced and explained to customers. Role playing is another effective way to work through product knowledge and how staff can effectively listen to customers and direct them to the products they need. Regular meetings will also keep everyone up-to-date on new products, new displays and promotions, and industry news.

Consistent mentoring and training of employees can often give staff a sense of ownership and accountability, which ultimately adds to your store’s success.