It’s time to face the hard, cold truth. Shoppers visit a district to shop. No one ever says “I shop there because the street lamps are AMAZING!” or “Man, you gotta go to that district, those brick pavers are HOT!” Ultimately, people choose to shop, not because of good lighting or decent signage, but because of the retail offerings and merchandise. The research, and not to mention good ole common sense, back this up.

Yet a shopper’s decision to visit your district is based on multiple factors – a big part of which you DO in fact control.  Customer loyalty research, some of which is being done by the Verde Group, sheds light on what makes shoppers loyal versus recoil. What they have found is that 70% of a shoppers decision are based on “inside the store issues” – things related to merchandise mix, price point, customer service, etc. These are all issues that often can only be addressed by the merchant.

Yet its not all bad news, the balance, or about 30% of customer loyalty, can be attributed to “outside the store issues” – the location, the convenience or accessibility of the district (aesthetics, safety), the look and feel of the district, district amenities (are there activities for kids?), entertainment offerings (street musicians? general ambiance?), retail mix (is there a good balance of stores, a nice place to grab a bite after a day of shopping?), and the physical conditions of the street, etc.

Whenever I share this concept with groups of commercial district managers, I get responses that range from relief to frustration. Relief because I have better defined their role – or better yet the limitations of their responsibilities – but also frustration because it becomes clear that they do not control the majority of issues that affect shopper choice. Yet when you know WHAT you control – and make no bones about it, 30% of a shoppers decision is a big chunk – you can be better at doing your job.

In this competitive environment, your work on that 30% becomes even more critical. It can make the difference in that split decision when a shopper decides whether to turn left or right out of their front door, that is, between spending money in your district versus another.