Member’s Corner: Three Ways to Grab Your Customers Online

Legato uses social media to stay connected with customers. Seen here, a Halloween photo of the Bill & Rod’s team on Facebook.

By Joe Legato, Bill & Rod’s Appliances & Grills

Early last year we were all pushed into a new operating style for our retail businesses. We were forced to change how we operated, how we communicated, and how we executed delivery and service of our goods.

Many were caught unprepared and have staggered through this far but are weary from the pace we have been forced to keep. The choice ahead is to adapt or collapse. Which will you choose?

Our company found itself in the same boat as everyone else. Sure, we had a transactional website and a social media presence, but the physical showroom experience was missing from our digital showroom. We needed to make changes and they needed to happen fast. The question we asked was, “What makes the showroom better than the online experience?” The simple answer was connecting with our customers and providing answers to questions as quickly as they came to mind.

Here are three things that we were able to do to make our website and social media feel closer to a store experience.

Add a Chat Feature

There are many choices when it comes to chat for your website, but we chose Podium. Through Podium, our customers could send a quick question to be answered by the appropriate department. These quick connections have led to service calls being written, parts ordered and many appliances being sold. Another great feature of Podium is that it is integrated with your POS system and can text customers with updates. This provides an excellent level of communication that our customers have truly appreciated.

Uploading Inventory to Our Website

Uploading inventory to our website has been a game changer for us. By making this small enhancement our online transactions have increased more than 400 percent over last year for the same period. Customers can shop confidently knowing what we have, and that we can deliver in a quick time frame. Originally, I would export our inventory to Excel and email it to our LINQ specialist who would upload it for us. Since then, we have worked with our POS and LINQ teams to have this process happen automatically. Now our inventory is uploaded every two hours for greater accuracy. The hope is that we will soon have it in real time to make it as accurate as possible.

Social Media Updates

I know it seems silly to mention this and I can already see the eye rolls as I am typing it. However, it does not change the fact that your customers are still on social media. In fact, I would argue that they are on it more than ever before as they are stuck at home without the ability to go out and about. Give a short update on what is in stock, let them know the availability of service calls and if anything has changed in your store. You can share typed posts or stories, short videos, or just pictures. If you have a newspaper ad, just upload it to your social pages. Usually, I only do two to three posts a week, but I send them to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google My Business. It is not about quantity or even how pretty it is; your customers just want to hear from you from where they are.

Through these three steps, our customers have been able to hear from us, see us, and engage with us. There is still time to adapt to the changes of operating in the digital age. With the options that are out there, it is even easier than you think to thrive. We are still working to enhance the digital experience, and I am not sure what the future of digital retail will hold. But I know it will become richer and deeper as we embrace it.

Joe Legato is Chief Operating Officer of BrandSource member Bill & Rod’s Appliance & Grills, a retail and service company in Livonia, Mich. Now in its third generation, the family-owned and operated business provides appliances, mattresses, grills, and appliance parts and service to the greater metro Detroit market.