Telephone Showroom: Cameroon has many opportunities to offer citizens and investors.
From its growing consumer population demanding better quality products and services.
To its geographic position that makes it a prime location to access West and Central African markets.
In Cameroon it is important for FMCG companies to understand how the distribution networks work in the country.
So that they can better access consumers in informal markets.
The construction of deep-sea ports in Kribi and Limbe are also promising for the country.
And aim to ease the congestion at Douala’s port.
Which results in long waiting periods for goods to be cleared.
However, Cameroon is not known for being a difficult business environment.
The World Bank ranks it at 158 out of 189 countries in its Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2015.
During a recent visit How we made it in Africa spoke to a number of business leaders operating in the country.
And asked them to share tips and strategies for success.
1. Get the Business Background
When customers visit a showroom — whether they are shopping for something large like a new car or piece of furniture or something small like window blinds or shoes — one thing is always true.
Shoppers enter a showroom because they want to experience products in person.
While online resources provide product details such as colors, sizes, and specifications, the listings can’t give shoppers the feeling of experiencing a product in person. For that, they need to visit a showroom.
So if you’re selling products in a brick-and-mortar location, you need a showroom that gives customers physical access to your products. You need to shine the best light on your products (sometimes literally). And, you need to create a shopping experience that can turn casual shoppers into paying customers.
2. Determine Your Products or Services
Picking the right merchandise to sell in your store is the perfect balance of art and science.
And all products need services to support them whether its repairs or simply gift wrapping, consider what “extras” your store needs to be successful.
Most likely, the products you are selling are baed on the ones you have a passion for and why you are considering retail in the first place.
But remember, buying products is 10 percent “eye” and right fit and 90 percent math.
Getting it in your store is easy. Getting it out profitably is the hard part.
3. Choose a Legal Structure for Your Retail Business
Choosing the proper legal organizational structure for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make. While it is possible to change your structure at a later date.
It can be a difficult and expensive process.
Therefore it’s better to make the right decision before you start your own business.
The most common structure is an LLC.
While S corps have a lot of traction as well, the LLC is the simplest structure to use.
You will want to incorporate, though, to protect you and your family in the future in case all does not go as planned.
4. Choose a Name
Dreaming up a moniker may come easy for some, but others struggle with the task.
Considering the truncated nature of social media and online searches.
You want to be careful to select a name that can communicate who you are quickly.
Too often, retailers select a name that is clever to them or just a word or their name.
But these become difficult for organic search traffic and SEO.
The more it takes to explain your name, the more it will cost you to win business online.
5. Research and Know the Laws
Understand what business licenses and permits you need to obtain by contacting your city, county and state government offices.
Before you start your own business, find out what laws govern your type of retail store.
6. Define Your Customer Experience
By far, the most important thing you can do is this step. Millennials are telling us they still prefer to shop in a store (63 percent) rather than online.
But they demand an experience that is different than what they can get online.
They want the experience to be “worth the drive.”
Too many retail businesses fail because they skip this step.
They focus on products and store design and hiring and forget about the experience for a customer.
Defining what you want the experience to be like goes way beyond customer service.
In fact, there are a ton of retailers in the graveyard who said customer service was their differentiator.
Touting service and experience and delivering them are too very different things.
Defining your customer’s experience determines the types of products you must have.
And the types of services you must offer and the type of store design you need.
And the type of employee you need to deliver it.
7. Write a Business Plan
Plans fail if they are not in writing. Period.
But the importance of writing a business plan is in the way it forces you to consider all angles and all areas of your business.
It requires that you do extensive research and planning.
This is one step you cannot skip.
It will take you the longest time to complete.
But there is a definite correlation between the success of the store and a well-written business plan.
Here are the key areas your business plan must address:
- Competitive Analysis (who is already in this business)
- Marketing Plan
- Customer Experience
- Employee Plan (who to recruit and why)
- Management Plan (hours, policies, etc)
- Financial Pro-forma (3-5 year projections of your P&L)
8. Find a Location
Where you choose to locate your retail business will have a major impact on everything your shop does.
The difference between selecting the wrong location and the right site could be the difference between business failure and success.
There is an old age in retail — location, location, location. It’s meant to connote that picking the right location is critical. You must balance the best location with your budget, though.
Don’t overspend to be in the perfect spot. Before you sign that lease, consider the second best location first.
9. Establish Vendor Relationships
A successful retail business depends greatly on offering the right product, at the right price, at the right time.
Therefore, it is paramount to the success of your business to be able to locate the best sources for those products.
As you take this step to starting a retail business and decide what products or product lines you would like to sell, it’s then time to find places to buy those items at wholesale.
By establishing relationships, I’m referring to selecting vendors who will partner with you.
Selling your products is only part of the relationship.
Co-op funds, marketing support, returns, handling defective items, credit.
And payments terms and dating are all part of what needs to be considered.
When choosing the right vendors for your store.
10. Define Your Store Polices
The best time to establish policies and procedures for your retail business is during the planning stages.
By anticipating problems before you open your doors, you can choose how you’ll handle special situations.
As well as the normal day to day operations.
This helps avoid making mistakes once you’re faced with customers.
Spend lots of time training and role-playing with your employees on these policies.
Make them fluent so they can deliver the best experience.
11. Craft Your Marketing
Before you open a retail store, start spreading the word.
Create a retail marketing plan, brainstorm sales promotion ideas.
Begin branding and advertising your retail store.
Learn how to use loss leaders, media buys and sales events to the benefit of your retail shop.
Your marketing plan should focus your dollars where your customers dwell.
For example, for some businesses, social media or Facebook might be where the marketing dollars should be spent.
For others, it could be the newspaper or ROP.
Everyone will have a great deal for you.
All advertisers will tell you they can get you exposure.
But what you need is buyers, and that’s why you use mediums that your customers do.
12. Recruit the Best Talent
The only way to deliver on customer experience is to have the right talent.
With Millennials now making up the largest part of the workforce, this is an even bigger challenge.
Hire people who fit your culture. This may mean they don’t have a lot of retail experience of product knowledge.
But those are things you can teach.
Smiling, being magnanimous and compassionate those are traits you cannot train.
They must come with the employee.
13. Soft Open
Before you open your store “officially” to the public, conduct a soft opening.
A soft opening is when you are open for business, but without announcement to the public.
It gives you and your employees a chance to do a “dress rehearsal” before the big day.
I recommend at least a week for a soft opening, but take longer if you can.
It is invaluable in its ability to flush out potential problem areas and customer experience detractors that you may not have foreseen.
Fixing these things now before your grand opening means you are putting your best “face” forward when the marketing kicks in.
14. Grand Opening
Never grand open until you are ready.
You only get one chance to make that first impression so make sure all of your employees know how to handle all situations.
Nothing annoys a customer more than an under trained or ill prepared employee.
Make sure every incentive, every sale, every sign, every product is ready to go in your store.
Staff your store for crowds. It is better to have too many employees in the beginning than not enough.
Make sure your employees can tell the “why” story of your store.
Why shop with you over everyone else.
They could give this commercial to every customer when they first engage your store.
Plan for lots of breaks for your employees.
Bring in lunches and dinners so that can focus on your customers.
Keep them fresh and motivated. And make sure every customer leaves your store delighted.
A delighted customer tells her or his friends and that’s the cheapest and best form of advertising available.
15. Take Customers Through a Journey
As you design your showroom, think about the customer experience from the moment they arrive.
When customers enter the showroom, take them on a journey.
Categorize your products into departments, and place sections so that one naturally leads into another.
Start your customer’s journey with your most popular products.
Then guide customers through other departments that relate to the items that came before it.
And end the journey at the checkout counter placed near the back of the showroom.
16. Allow Customers to Fully Experience Products
Customers are in your store because they want to experience your products in person.
So make sure they can get what they came for.
Set out samples that allow visitors to touch and feel products that are typically boxed.
Create displays that welcome visitors to interact with products.
And, share product demo videos that walk customers through the uses, applications, and benefits of your items.
17. Make It Easy for Customer to Purchase Products Throughout the Showroom
Even if you put your checkout counter at the back of the showroom.
Make it easy for customers to decide on purchases throughout the store.
That could mean providing paper and pencils so they can write down item numbers.
Or it could mean having salespeople nearby who can take tags or products to the register while customers continue to shop.
Whatever it is, find a way for your customers to select the items they want to purchase.
Without needing to carry products, remember product info, or go right to the checkout counter.
18. Cater to Impulse Buys and Upsell Opportunities
Maximize the space around your checkout counter.
By filling it with impulse purchase items and upsell products.
Impulse purchase items include products that customer didn’t come to the store to purchase.
But may also want and need.
Upsell products include packages or upgrades that customers can add to their original purchase.
Educate customers on your upsell options using digital information displays and menus that educate them while they wait at checkout.
19. Create Focal Points
When setting up your showroom, create focal points or eye-catching displays that draw in visitors.
If you have a large showroom with multiple departments.
Consider adding a focal point to each section of your store.
If you have a smaller space, consider using one main display for the entire room.
Focal points could be composed of product displays or digital screens airing engaging information about your products and brand.
20. Use Window Displays as a Sneak Peak
As you set up your showroom, think about what customers in your location will see.
But also think about what customers outside will see.
Focus on the areas about your windows and make sure they look good from both inside and outside views.
By setting up beautiful window displays that highlight your best products.
You can lure customers into your store by giving them a sneak peek of what they will find inside.
21. Create a Warm Atmosphere
The primary focus of your showroom may be the products.
But you can’t forget about the customers that are also in the room.
Make sure the showroom is comfortable, welcoming, and inviting to your shoppers.
Use a variety of ambient, task, accent, and decorative lighting to give dimension to the space.
Add overhead music with the appropriate volume and style.
And, consider adding seating areas to provide places for shoppers and their companions to take a rest while they browse.
22. Empower Your Staff to Help Customers
Make sure your showroom staff is equipped to give your customers the best experience possible.
Set up information kiosks so employees can quickly.
And easily access information customers may need such as product prices, availability, and delivery times.
And, train your staff to give your target customer the shopping experience.
They prefer — whether that is providing a lot of sales advice or standing back.
And letting the customer shop on their own.
23. Give Your Customers a Reason to Visit
All of these tips won’t do much for your business.
If you aren’t getting customers through the door in the first place.
So, give shoppers a reason to visit your location.
Hold open houses, sales, and special events.
But remember to make it fun, not just about sales.
Host free seminars, trainings, or workshops that provide customers free value.
And give them a good incentive for stopping by your showroom.
24. Collect Customer’s Contact Information
You can easily notify customers about your events and sales when you have their contact information.
So be sure to set up opportunities to collect email addresses from those who visit your store.
Invite visitors to provide their information.
When they check out and set up interactive kiosks.
That allow them to enter their contact info in exchange for entering a contest or signing up for coupons and discounts.
Your showroom is your opportunity to make a real life connection with your customers.
And turn interested shoppers in buyers.
So make sure you are using these tips for setting up your showroom and creating a space that gives customers the ability to make educated, in-person purchasing decisions.