How to Turn a Beach Bum into a Ski Bum with Retail Education

Think back to your first time on the slopes.

Were you in the category of “I’ll buy the most expensive gear and do great,” or “I’m not spending money on this till I know what I’m getting into?” I remember thinking that this beach-loving girl could never fall in love with a frozen face and uncomfortable boots. And I wasn’t going to throw a bunch of money away on a sport that I would likely never try again, so I bought the cheapest gear I could find.

When I think back to that time, I realize how different my experience would have been had I bought proper gear. Specifically, how different it would have been if the sales associate had taken the time to educate me on the gear that I actually needed for skiing.

I remember telling him I didn’t want to spend much because I would never use this stuff again. In that moment, I opened up an opportunity for sales staff to educate me. The store got that sale, but they lost what could’ve been a lifetime repeat customer.

Get Customers Excited about Snowsports

According to the SIA Industry Insights Study, the snowsports industry is a $4.3 Billion industry. When competing with big box retailers like Sports Authority and Dick’s, specialty retailers have to set themselves apart from the crowd. Winning over customers is no easy task.

The opportunity specialty retailers have that big box retailers don’t have is the ability to form a community around their store and really connect with their customers. If your employees aren’t stoked to get on the mountain, why would your customers?

The sales rep that “helped” me with my purchase years ago had no interest in snowsports, and I could tell that by his demeanor. I was not very stoked about it at the time either, so his attitude fed into mine, making me feel as though I was throwing away my money. Needless to say, you don’t want your customers feeling like they are throwing their money in the garbage when they leave your store.

Starting Doesn’t Have to be Scary

From the perspective of a novice, snowsports are intimidating. The gear, the terminology, the cold, and the consequences all pile up on a newbie’s mind, making it difficult to even make the decision to give it a go. Our responsibility as business owners and members of the snowsports community is to make these newbies feel welcome and comfortable. It doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. By the time that novice has made the decision to come into your store, they’ve already conquered many mental battles. Make the buying process easy and informative and they’ll leave your store grateful and excited to get out there.

Education = Repeat Customer

Your customers have questions; you have answers. When someone walks into your shop looking for warmer gloves because their fingers always get cold, take it as an opportunity to educate them on different styles, technology, and tips to stay warm and dry. Perhaps rather than simply “warmer gloves,” they may need a quality set of liners and mittens.

Educating your customers, especially newbies, opens an opportunity for you to become their go-to for information. Manta’s study on small business trends found that loyal customers spend on average 67% more than a first time buyer. By being open, honest, and helpful to your customers, you give them the confidence to go out and have fun. When they are ready for their next piece of gear, they’ve already found a store they’re comfortable with.

Use Social Media to Educate

One of the best ways to communicate and connect with your audience is through social media. Bringing some education to your social feed increases your credibility and makes customers confident that you really know your stuff. Use live feeds and video tutorials to demo equipment and talk about important topics snowsports. Show off new gear and allow some of your employees to educate your customers. Sharing knowledge builds a very loyal community. Have fun with it and let your community guide your content!

Build Educational Programs for Your Customers

Educational seminars and programs are another great avenue to teach your customers more about the sports they are in or are looking to get in. Demos give customers hands-on time with products they may have been thinking about buying, helping them make that final decision. Hosting events at your store also gives them a reason to come in and shop around more. Find some creative ways to help newcomers to the sport understand how they can progress.

Make Sure They Get What They Need

At the end of the day, you want your customers to walk out of your store feeling pumped to use their new gear and get out there. So before ringing up their purchase, make sure you understand enough about their situation to be confident they have the right gear. Specialty retailers have a unique ability to connect with consumers on a different level. Don’t let that escape the sales floor.

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