Warm coffee and the smell of freshly-baked bread on a winter’s morning are far more likely to get feet through the door than a flyer.

To be successful, you need to use your space as an advert and make it as enticing as possible to prospective customers. And that means doing what you can to ensure that it looks the part.

At Merchant Capital, we know what it takes to make sure your business creates the best possible first impression. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Love at first sight

Customers shop with their eyes, and they will have made up their minds about your business based on the few seconds it takes to walk past. This means that you have a tiny window of opportunity to convince them that you own an inviting and professional environment – and a product they might need.

The general look of your space is critical in creating the right first impression. You need to ensure that your aesthetic not only represents your brand and what you do, but that it also makes people want to find out more.

Based on your business and the space available, this could mean choosing a new colour scheme, investing in some artwork, or buying books to stock a library for people who love to read while they have a cup of coffee.

Thought starter: You don’t need to hire an interior decorator. Find a look you love on Pinterest, and then source pieces from antique stores or build what you can to get the desired effect.

It’s a lifestyle

The modern consumer is spoilt for choice, and that means they aren’t only shopping for service – they are looking for an experience.

If you own a salon, then sell customers packages that offer a truly indulgent experience. Butcher? Add recipes to your steaks so customers can wow their families.

Basically, make sure that your store – and the memories customers make there – is memorable enough for them to come back, and recommend you to friends and family.

Thought starter: Your culture is an easy way to make sure your customers experience your brand in a memorable way. Get your team to try a quirky, trademark greeting when they say hello.

Update and upgrade

In tough times, it’s tempting to cut your maintenance budget, but keeping your shop in top shape is essential for staying ahead of the competition.

It’s essential that you not only maintain the space, but also that you invest in upgrades that keep the space fresh and interesting.

You might need new TVs, or better fridges – the working parts of the business are what will set you apart. You might also need a bigger upgrade, such as renovations or extensions.

This is almost always money well spent, and can be an affordable way to draw in new customers. Chat to us if you need funding to take on a project like this.

Thought starter: Spend a day checking out your competitors. Try to figure out what upgrades they have made that you can either replicate, or improve on.

Create a comfort zone

Customers can easily shop from the comfort of their homes, and they expect to be that comfortable when they’re in your store.

Make sure you have what you need to maintain an inviting atmosphere all year round. A few well-placed gas heaters and blankets in winter are a must; and in summer, open the windows and doors and serve ice-cold water to people who pop in. Misting and sprinkler systems are also a cost-effective addition to keep customers cool if you have an outdoor area.

These simple solutions needn’t be expensive, and there are eco-friendly options to help keep your customers comfortable.

Thought starter: Branded hand fans are a great way to keep customers cool in summer, and nothing beats a (branded) cup of free coffee to heat up frosty mornings,

Think like a customer

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of over-analysing your customers to try and figure out what they’d like.

Thankfully, you don’t need to do extensive market research to understand how to make your space more appealing – because you’re a consumer, too.

Look at your shop objectively and ask yourself whether it looks and feels like a place you would like to spend your time (and money).

Be practical and prioritise the projects you can afford, and that will have the biggest impact. By planning to make your store a little special, you show that you care about your customers, and when that’s paired with great service and a well-priced product, people will come.

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