17 Jul

Opening Your Boutique: The Soft Open

The Soft Open

Your clothing store is full of trendy and timeless products. Your t-shirts are crisply folded. Your front window display is perfection. Your “Grand Opening” sign is positioned just so. Your freshly trained employees are ready with their customer-welcoming smiles. But before you unlock those doors and fire up the cash registers, we recommend performing a soft open of your store.

So What Is a Soft Open?

A soft open is an unofficial opening of a store. This is carried out a few weeks to a month earlier than the planned grand opening date. Typically, a smaller population visit the establishment and the environment is more controlled in order to test the flow of the store.

Why Do a Soft Open?

You may be thinking, “I’m launching a women’s clothing store, not a trendy restaurant. I don’t need to do a soft open.” Although it’s not necessary to the success of your business, we (obviously) recommend going this route. There are many reasons why we recommend performing a soft open, but the main three benefits are extra staff training, customer feedback and overall testing of your store’s flow.

Customer feedback is a huge pro to going through with a soft open. Simply put, you don’t know what your customers are wanting, not wanting, thinking or feeling about your store, your employees and your products until you put them in your store and do some observation.

With any brand-new establishment, employees won’t be able to guess and plan for customer behavior. A soft open will allow your employees to gauge how customers will act, what they’ll need guidance with, which questions they’ll ask and which products are getting the most attention. The more training and practice your employees are able to carry out before the grand opening, the better they will be at providing stellar customer service.

A clothing boutique can only be successful if it’s easy to navigate. As you open your doors for those few eager customers, watch where they wander. Do they stop at the front window display? Do they stay in the middle aisle where the mannequins live? Do they skirt around the sides of the store where the denim is neatly folded? Does the checkout process seem quick and painless? Although simple, observing where your customers are spending most of their time will give you a good indication of whether or not your store’s layout is working.

How Should I Advertise?

We recommend advertising as either a friends-and-family-only event or marketing the event to a small number of people. The benefit of inviting friends and family of your employees is that you can set the number of customers who will visit — and they will be more willing to provide feedback.

The other option would be to advertise to a small, controlled population. This could be through your Facebook page via a private or public event. You could also hand out flyers in your store’s neighborhood, inviting the community to stop by on the future date. For both of these options, we highly recommend creating a Facebook event from your business page so that customers will be reminded.

Tips on a Successful Soft Open

  • Be patient. Chances are, things won’t go 100% smoothly on your first day. Trust your employees, tend to your customers and relax as all your hard work finally comes to fruition.
  • Observe. The biggest benefit to performing a soft open is being able to watch customers, how they interact with the merchandise, which visual merchandising displays they are gazing at, how your employees are doing, etc.
  • Encourage feedback. As customers are checking out, ask them to kindly complete a short survey about their experience from the time they walked in to the time they left. Be sure to make this survey anonymous so that you know the answers you receive are honest. Here are a few example questions:

◦ Did an employee help you with today’s purchase?

◦ Did you notice any merchandise displays? If so, which?

◦ What product were you most excited to see?

◦ What product do you wish we carried?

◦ I will return to this store within the next 3 months.

1 2 3 4 5 Strongly disagree Disagree Neither disagree nor agree Agree Strongly agree

◦ Overall, the products I saw today were high quality.

1 2 3 4 5 Strongly disagree Disagree Neither disagree nor agree Agree Strongly agree

Most importantly, offer an enticing incentive, like 25% off their next purchase or a free shipping code for any online order. Even better, offer all of your customers who attended your open house an awesome discount. This will not only encourage repeat customers, but you’ll also build your brand identity and trust with those customers.

Do you think a soft open is worth the benefit of getting customer feedback? We want to know — tell us in the comments below.

1 Comment
  • Tracee Stoves

    This is very helpful…thank you for the idea if a soft opening! I love it and will be using this idea

    July 19, 2018 at 9:51 pm Reply

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