Aquarius Books: You don’t have to be psychic to get in customers’ heads

Three decades ago, Barbara Criswell used $1,500 from her personal savings to open Aquarius Books in Kansas City, Missouri.

Three decades ago, Barbara Criswell used $1,500 from her personal savings to open Aquarius Books in Kansas City, Missouri.

Back in 1989, Barbara Criswell had a great career as a vice president with a big life insurance company. Then General Electric bought the company, and she had to decide if she wanted to let her career take her from her home in Kansas City, Missouri, to Texas.  

Instead of continuing her ascent up the corporate ladder, Barbara opted for a different path altogether. At age 50, and with decades of career success under her belt, she took $1,500 from savings and opened a new age book and gift shop in midtown Kansas City. That was three decades ago. Today, Aquarius Books is a thriving shop that’s never taken out a business loan, never had a down year, and is coming off 17% growth vs. the previous year.

Barbara may run a shop that serves the metaphysical and spiritual needs of her patrons, but she’s not using psychic powers to find out how to satisfy customers and run the business. Like a growing number of small business owners, she’s using technology to simply and easily understand her customers, segment them according to new and repeat visitors, and find new ways to attract business. 

For example, Barbara thought for years that most of her revenue came from loyal regulars. When she started the company, the metaphysical market was nascent and underserved, but she always assumed it was a niche group who wanted to purchase crystals, stones, astrology charts, and statues of various eastern deities. So, the best business approach would be to attract a small handful of regulars and keep them coming back, right?

Turns out, the market was larger than she assumed, and the best indicator of a potential customer was disposable income. She learned this by looking at the impact of new and repeat customers on her store’s revenue in Womply Customer Pulse.

“I didn’t realize how much of our business was coming from first-time customers,” she says. “That’s a significant and valuable piece of information. It totally changed how I viewed the people coming into the store.”

With this new perspective, Barbara shifted some of her focus onto attracting new customers to the store. Because Customer Pulse has transaction data for millions of customers, she was able to see where consumer spending was growing in her local market by zip code.

“I saw that some of the zip codes near our store were experiencing increased spending because the area is gentrifying, and new money is coming in,” she says. “I targeted some of my promotional mailings to people in those zip codes, and we saw increased sales.”

In addition to finding new customers, Barbara uses Womply to optimize her staff schedules. In years past, she assumed Saturday was her best sales day and every weekday was about the same. By using the Day of the Week feature in Womply Insights, Barbara saw that Friday was often as good as Saturday, and Thursday was typically a much better day for sales than Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. So, she shifted staff hours away from slow days and onto busier ones.

“You make a lot of assumptions as a business owner, but it’s important to adjust course when reality doesn’t match those assumptions,” Barbara says. “Womply Insights gives me access to information I wouldn’t have otherwise, and it’s helped me ensure that I’m making good business decisions.”

If you’re in the Kansas City area, be sure to visit Aquarius Books, or attend one of Barbara’s many spiritual events. You can also join the Aquarius newsletter.

If you’re a Womply customer, be sure to check out the customer information in Customer Pulse and Customer Directory, and see how your sales ebb and flow with the Day of the Week feature in Womply Insights.  

Bonus: Kansas City, where Aquarius Books is located, straddles the two most optimistic states for small business in 2017! Read our merchant sentiment profiles on Kansas and Missouri.

Aquarius has been a steady local business in midtown Kansas City, Missouri, since 1989. 

Aquarius has been a steady local business in midtown Kansas City, Missouri, since 1989. 

Owner Barbara Criswell opened Aquarius at age 50, leaving behind a high-powered career as an insurance company vice president. 

Owner Barbara Criswell opened Aquarius at age 50, leaving behind a high-powered career as an insurance company vice president.