Articles for Retailers - Kizer & Bender


Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler:

The Art of the Lagniappe

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender
Printed in eNews Jan 2, 2019
If you follow our adventures on social medias then you know we spend as much time in New Orleans as we can. We love the New Orleans vibe; its history and the energy and the wonderful Southern hospitality. One of the best things about New Orleans is the lagniappe.

The word lagniappe – pronounced “lan-YAP” – comes from the 19th century Cajun French word “la napa” which means “the gift”.  It’s a small gift, a token of appreciation that is given to loyal customers by New Orleans merchants.

In the age of the in-store experience, it’s the lagniappes, the little unexpected gifts and kindnesses that make your store stand out. We’ve encountered many in our travels, here are some of our favorites:

The In-Store Services Lagniappe
Nordstrom Local stores offer plenty of services but they don’t have a single piece of merchandise on the floor for sale. You can get a manicure, meet with a personal stylist, enjoy on-site alterations, and same-day delivery on items ordered from local Nordstrom stores. There’s curbside pickup, and you can bring items purchased anywhere online to Nordstrom Local and the store will ship them back for you for a low flat fee. Or you can just hang out and enjoy beer, wine or fresh-squeezed juices.

Personal shoppers are a welcome lagniappe because shopping with one is like having your own personal assistant. In your store all customers need to do is phone or email to tell you what she’s in the market to buy. You pull the goods and have them ready and waiting when the customer comes in. We bet you do this already. Why not give it an official name and add it to your list of services and conveniences?

Curb Service Convenience Lagniappe
Curb Service has come into its own. Customers call or email the store and place their order over the phone. When the customer arrives she calls the store and an associate meets her at the curb. Curb Service is wonderful for busy moms and with a car full of kids or older customers who have a tough time getting in and out of the car.

Lagniappe Your Referral Program
Word of mouth is the number one thing that brings new customers to your store, so why not recruit your best customers to help you spread the good word?

Our “Introducing My Friend!” cards are an easy way to kick off your customer referral program. Using a template we’ll be happy to share, you create the cards right on your computer.

Give your 25 best customers 20 cards each, ask them to sign the back, and share the cards with their friends. Each card entitles any new shopper who brings in a card to a free gift from your store. It doesn’t have to be big, maybe a paint brush or a free class. Now, those 25 customers get a bigger lagniappe: If 10 cards come back the customer receives a 10% discount on a single purchase, if 20 come back the customer receives a 20% discount on a single purchase, and if all 25 come back the customer receives a 25% discount on a single purchase. You decide what you want the lagniappes to be – that’s completely up to you. Think of the new customer potential!

Welcome Lagniappes
At a scrapbook store and were asked if we’d visited the store before. We said no and were given a cellophane bag filled with goodies, including a certificate for a free class and 10% off of our first purchase.

The back of the owner’s business card did double duty as a punch card. When a customer fills up the card to the tune of $250.00 she receives $10.00 off of her next purchase.

Gift Card Lagniappes
A free gift card on the customer’s birthday is a no-brainer. So is a gift card when a customer is unhappy about a purchase or has been let down by your store. A $5 gift card costs you $2.50, a small amount to keep a customer happy.

Offer gift card promotions during the holidays and throughout the year. A “Buy $50 in gift cards and get a $10 gift card for free” is a customer favorite. This lagniappe almost sells itself – who doesn’t like to get a gift when buying one for someone else?

Circles of Expectations Exercise

Look for lagniappes with our “Customer Care Circles of Excellence” exercise:

Draw a small circle on a flipchart and list all of the cool things you currently do for customers. These might include having a place for customers to park their cars, someone to ring the register, and bags to carry purchases home.

Now, draw a larger circle around the smaller one. This outer circle represents the extra things you do for customers like coffee on a cold day or a bottle of water when it’s hot outside, an unannounced sale, or a handwritten thank-you note after a class.

The outer circle is where lagniappes live. But once customers get used to the things in the outer circle these things get relegated to the inner circle. You should do this exercise at a store meeting at least once a quarter to keep things fresh.

The great thing about a lagniappe is that you can keep customers close with a small, inexpensive gesture that builds both buzz and customer satisfaction, making your store a stand out.

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail market place. KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely featured in national newspapers, national and international industry and consumer publications, and on radio and television programs across the U.S. You can learn more at