Many pool service businesses agree that the pandemic has forced them to rethink the layout and design of their stores. As a result, savvy merchandisers are taking the opportunity to renovate their retail stores and retool their business procedures in preparation for what appears will be another busy year.
The slower winter months present a great opportunity to tackle major retail renovations to your in-person and online stores. In this blog, we break down a few changes you can make to better manage customers and improve the efficiency, productivity, and long-term profitability of your business – and why pool service software is a must-have to make these processes easier.
Begin preparing your pool and spa business for the new year by strategically renovating your showroom’s layout. While you do want the space to feel attractive and inviting, also ensure that it meets social distancing protocols (those likely aren’t going away any time soon!) and feels safe and comfortable for both customers and employees.
Here are our recommendations for improving the layout and operations of your store, which will improve your customer service and, in turn, improve sales and maximize profits:
- Rearrange key customer areas. Rearrange the sales, service, and check-out stations to keep safe, open spaces, even when your store is busy.
- Get creative with display racks and chemical buckets. Use them to create social distancing barriers, while still making it easy and pleasant to sell to their customers. For example a four-foot-long display rack can create a natural social distancing prop. By positioning these racks at the entrance of the store and placing social-distancing ‘dots’ on either end of the rack six feet apart, store staff can comfortably speak to customers while maintaining a distance.
- Digitize the sales process. Look at technological solutions to make transactions ‘mobile,’ so staff can physically move customers around or even take them outside the store. With a pool or spa service software, you can implement a mobile point of sale (POS) system and use bar scanners at any location in your store. This will keep customers and employees safe, while also improving speed and efficiency and the checkout process.
- Add mobile retail “terminals” to your POS pool service software. Employees can provide better and faster service using “Line Buster” features.
- Equip your team with iPads or tablets. This will enable your team to work the floor with inventory look-ups, generate instant access to customer profiles, complete sales transactions, send invoices, process credit cards, and email receipts from any location in your store or parking lot.
One of the most valuable services provided by pool retailers is water testing. Therefore, the placement and efficiency of the water testing station and operation is central to the renovation of any retail store during this pandemic. Given the pandemic and the long-term impact it will have on operating in-person stores, crowding around the water station counter is no longer an option.
As retailers examine their showroom renovations, some are opting to create water-testing drop off and pick-up stations outside of the retail store. Retailers are finding that an exterior water-drop-off area can be especially helpful, by providing a place for customers to drop off their water samples, label them, and leave them to be analyzed, without having to worry about getting too close or having to wait in line. Consider also offering new test jars for customers to take as they leave the “drop zone.”
By using this system, once water samples are tested, your staff can send out an email with the results – including links to the products they should purchase to balance their water – which they can then order directly from our online store for delivery or pick-up. To make this system even more efficient, consider looking to upgrade your pool management software so that it syncs with your water testing software.
Not everyone has a space for exterior water drop offs, but many retailers are considering separating or moving water testing areas far from the checkout counter. This, too, will greatly improve the flow and spacing of customers. In fact, doing so allows retailers to reevaluate how to strategically place products to sell, while being mindful of social distancing.
Struggling to find the space to renovate or reorganize your store?
Decluttering and prioritizing where and when products are placed is even more important now that space is truly at a premium. Decluttering can make a huge difference to your bottom line, as it makes customers feel more comfortable, and more likely to make a purchase.
Decluttering a retail store might also make pool business owners realize that some products do not need as much space or should not be on the showroom floor during certain times of the year. This is where the reporting feature in your pool service software can be very helpful. Now is the time to really study those reports and determine whether you should completely remove certain products to create the space needed for social distancing.
You can also use the reporting tools in your pool and spa service software to review profit margins by product. You may find, for example, that toys and maintenance equipment are not big movers, so consider removing them entirely from the retail floor to help open up space in the showroom. You should also consider moving bigger ticket items front and center.
As retailers invest in contactless ways for customers to shop, the need for retooling your online web-store has become essential.
For example, when water chemical readings are emailed, the recommended products should take clients back to your online store, where they can order, pay, and arrange for delivery or pick-up of their chemicals and more. Be sure your pool service software supports your online store and has pool industry integrations, so that inventory and delivery dates are accurate. Be sure you can also easily process credit cards on your e-commerce site directly through your business software system, to eliminate mistakes and ensure the correct end-of-day tally.
Retooling also means using an Online Bill Pay system that creates a reliable billing process to make it easier and more convenient for customers to bills. Give your customers the convenience of securely paying their bills online with a credit card. Additionally, using an online bill pay system allows you to send your bills via email, and you will no longer pay for envelopes, stamps, labels, paper, or printer ink – all while saving money on labor costs by eliminating time it takes for billing and collecting payments.
Customers shopped online before the pandemic, but a desire to limit trips to stores unleashed new demand and encouraged retailers to roll out new options. The result? New buying habits. Americans will continue to shop at stores, but they are already scheduling more curbside pickups or signing up for delivery services.
It’s a great time to test email marketing and start planning to launch Cyber Sales (especially for products previously sold on the showroom floor). You should also retool your e-commerce site, as retailers find they are using their brick and mortar stores as fulfillment centers and mini warehouses. The shift is redefining how stores are used and there may be an increased need for staff to fulfill online orders and to prepare items for curbside and in-store pickup this coming season.
Despite the extra work and chaotic conditions, strategic retail renovations will make your retail store more dynamic, appealing to, and comfortable for customers. Because customers are visiting your store less often, having a positive experience while shopping is imperative. Some retailers are already saying that they believe their new, more spacious layout is helping their sales closing rates. In hindsight, some retailers are realizing that a crowded store has likely had a significant impact on a customer’s likelihood of making a purchase.