Your store may not have a physical “suggestion box,” but there are many new ways to find helpful feedback that may not be so obvious. The more you know your audience, the better you can tailor your messaging to resonate with their interests and needs. Owning and/or operating an independent business is hard work, and sometimes it’s easy to be too close to the project to see the bigger picture.

Customer feedback is the key to a successful business. In the age of social media, chances are if a customer has a bad experience, you can say goodbye to that customer AND their friends. That’s why embracing customer feedback is the key to keeping your business alive and well. A cardboard box sitting on your retail counter can’t always get the job done. Here are some suggestions on getting productive feedback:

Use Email Marketing

Send regular emails to customers about sales, new products and store updates to keep them involved. You can simply send out an email campaign that says, “Tell us what you think!” for an open-ended approach. Depending on your mailing list size, you can prompt your customers to reply back with feedback or an answer to your open-ended question. Another option is to provide a small survey for customers to fill out online using a free tool such as Survey Monkey. Asking for feedback through email gives customers the time to think through their answer rather than putting them on the spot.

Include Incentives

When asking customers to give feedback, try to incorporate an incentive, “Please take the time to fill out this customer survey and automatically be entered to win 50% off of your next purchase.” This way people who may not have thought about giving their feedback initially, may reconsider. You can give away prizes such as gift cards or a basket filled with some of your most popular products. These incentives can help boost online engagement and drive more customers into your store. Incentives can be used for more than just feedback. If you’re gathering donations for a charity or hosting a contest; be creative!Artisan features a giveaway for Breast Cancer Awareness

Ask Your Employees

More often than not, employees have great suggestions but aren’t sure if it’s their place to speak up. Encourage your employees to submit any ideas they might have to boost sales or improve business. Have a “brainstorming” meeting with your employees and encourage everyone to speak freely about their new ideas.

Use Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter are the perfect ways to reach a massive audience in one or two simple sentences. Update your social media sites with a status or tweet reading, “We want to hear from you! Comment below (or tweet us) your favorite product that we carry. Those who comment will be entered to win our latest giveaway!” Give a deadline to create a sense of urgency and encourage more people to participate. On a Facebook Page, there is an exclusive tab for customer reviews built into the profile. Customers can give your business a rating based on a five star scale as well as write a brief testimonial. First time visitors to your Facebook Page will see your business’s average rating on the left-hand side of the page.

A SnapRetail customer encourages reviews on Facebook

Let customers stock the shelves

There is always a chance that there are great products out there that you have never even heard of. Have a “Stock Our Shelves!” event, where customers come and submit their ideas about products they believe would be a good fit for your store. Take these new products into serious consideration because it’s a great way to keep customers coming back if you are the only store in the area that carries their favorite brand.

Build a presence on review platforms

There are websites that serve the purpose of an online suggestion box. Add your business’s information to websites such as Yelp, Google Places, Truelocal and more. Refer to our roundup below and update your listings.

Encourage customers to give your business a review. Include links to these sites in your monthly newsletter or in-store signage. The more reviews and traffic you receive, the more likely you are to appear in search results. This is a great way to gain new customers through the feedback and loyalty of existing ones.

Try out a few different ways to get customer feedback to figure out what works best for your store. Whether you host contests, develop email campaigns or build your presence on review platforms, you’ll be sure to hear a lot of suggestions to implement into your marketing.