Customers Waiting on You

It isn’t uncommon to have no customers in a store and suddenly have several. When this happens some customers have to wait, and their waiting experience can significantly affect sales. Most will wait for a sales associate if the experience is reasonable, but not if they feel ignored.

Here are tips to manage their expectations:

  1. Acknowledge all shoppers with a greeting when they come in. It reduces their anxiety about waiting. For some, eye contact and a nod will suffice. Others want a vocal greeting. Knowing the difference is a sign of intellectual selling.

  2. Use signs to identify product categories so shoppers can find what they’re interested in. Options include wall-mounted backlit graphics, hanging graphics, signs on top of showcases, and themed messages inside cases.

  3. Use props to create themes for merchandise categories. Some gift-buying occasions have a color, like Valentine’s Day. Others have a visual theme, like a mortarboard for graduation. Some occasions, like anniversaries, don’t have any specific color or theme.

  4. Use electronic technology to automatically track store visitors. Using a baseline of four weeks, managers can project traffic trends. Knowing how the customer base is changing based on walk-in trade is important when assigning staff hours. For some stores, an older average customer age means more shoppers in the early afternoon. A younger customer base might mean more traffic later in the day. Do manual or automated customer counts on a basis of “this day this year” versus “this day four weeks ago” and “this day one year ago.”

  5. Place an easel board with marketing messages and current promotions about 10 feet inside the front door. (Or use a display with featured products.) Customers need to psychologically adjust from the outside environment to the store environment. After walking about 10 feet, they become oriented and start to seek out their areas of interest.

  6. Identify transactions that require a customer to wait, such as replacing watch batteries. This is an excellent time to present more products as customers browse while waiting, so be sure your display cases are attractive and engaging. Know which items most often generate impromptu purchases and display them near the checkout counter.

  7. Consider shelf talkers integrated within merchandise displays. Stylish but understated shelf cards, like acrylic ones, can tell customers how many days until Mother’s Day or remind shoppers of other special events like anniversaries. Make sure shelf talkers don’t distract shoppers from the merchandise.

  8. Add waiting time to price negotiations. Don’t always respond immediately to a price objection with a discounted price. It can work in your favor to resort to higher authority first. Ask if the customer is ready to take the item if you meet his price. Ask how she’ll pay, cash or credit card. Then leave and let the customer look at the product under glass—and become more emotionally invested in it. The delay must be designed to be tantalizing and make the customer feel special.