Downtown development in 2012 will focus on the customer.

Downtown planners and economic developers must face the fact that customers generate the need for the downtown business and therefore create business investment and jobs.

So to better prepare to serve customers in 2012 let’s ask ourselves a few questions about how our collective downtown business community currently serves and treats our customers.

  1. Who are our customers?

Are our customers close-by residents, “out-of-towners” shopping on their journey to (or from) work, or are they visitors to our downtown?  What is the age of our shoppers and what’s their income?

  1. How do are our customers become aware of the products and services we provide?

How do we communicate with our customers – newspapers, radio, direct mail, billboards, email, web presence, cell phone App?  Do we know which of these brings a shopper into our downtown?

  1. How do our customers really use our goods and products?

Do our shoppers make purchases for on-site consumption or to take home for daily household or occasional use? Are our shoppers making purchases for gifts or other purposes?

  1. What does the customer ultimately consider the most important feature of the products or services we provide?

Why do our customers shop in our downtown – convenience, product and services availability, or their shopping experience?

  1. How do are our customers order and purchase our products and services – can we make the purchase decision easier, more convenient or less costly?

Can a customer schedule a shopping visit with specific stores?  Can I order “on-line” or “over the phone”?  Can I internet order “on-line and pick up”?

  1. How do our customers pay for our products and services – can we make it easier or more convenient?

Do our business offer credit/debit card, lay-away, and cash discounts?  Do we make home deliveries?

  1. What frustrations do our customers have when shopping for products and services we offer?

Do our store hours match the needs of the customers? Is there street furniture for shopper to “rest a while”? Is parking convenient and close-by? Can I lock my bike if I ride downtown to shop?

  1. Do customers need assistance when purchasing our products and services?

Can the customer find the products and services they seek – finding the store in the downtown and when in the store, the sought-after product?

  1. Do customers do things that hurt our downtown shopping experience?

What do customers complain about, parking, trash, snow on sidewalks, congestion – traffic, sidewalks & store aisles, a lack of products or services?

  1.  How may first-time customers become repeat customers?

Do we know how many repeat customers frequent the downtown and how often they shop downtown?  Where do the repeat customers live?  Do we take special notice of the repeat customer?

Customers today have many choices and with newer cell phone “App” technology “on-site” comparison shopping availability with other “brick and mortar” and “web based” stores.

While downtowns face increased competition in 2012, honest answers to these questions will lead to a better understanding of customers and the job they expect from downtown businesses.

Successful downtown developers will take into consideration this information and implement changes for greater success in 2012.


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