With the proliferation of online retail possibilities, brick and mortar stores are confronted with new challenges. More specifically, retail stores rarely can compete with online prices, can’t offer the same array of products, and seldom provide the convenience of home delivery. To maintain or grow market share, retail businesses need to attract customers for reasons other than price and convenience.
One approach to attracting retail customers is the destination store. The sporting goods store Scheels provides an example of a destination store, exciting customers with a Ferris wheel, arcade style games, an aquarium, and animatronic tributes to the founding fathers. Disney stores also exemplify the destination store, immersing customers in the “magic of Disney.” Upon entering the store, customers encounter enchanted creatures, recreations of movie scenes, and replicas of castles, all designed to animate the shopping experience.
Destination stores are not the only option to attract customers though. Another way of enticing customers is to provide an engaging shopping experience. The key to the engagement strategy rests in the ability to identify and satisfy the conversational needs of customers. For the purposes of illustration, let’s look at three distinct types of shoppers: social customers, nervous buyers, and curious clients.
Social customers thrive on the energy and rapport generated by a personable salesperson. Social customers, often extroverts, want someone to listen to their stories. Whether it’s the occasion of the purchase or past history with other products, telling the story builds rapport, which is key to a successful sale for social customers. In short, social customers want a personable experience, viewing shopping as inherently a relational activity.
Nervous buyers often are overwhelmed by the countless options that characterize today’s buying experience. Some nervous buyers, moreover, worry that they will regret their purchase shortly after leaving the store (i.e., buyer’s remorse). In either case, nervous buyers seek a credible and empathetic salesperson who offers genuine reassurance that they’re making good choices. Essentially, nervous buyers need a salesperson who is skilled in the art of face management and knows how to create a relaxed buying experience.
Curious clients want to be educated because good decisions require accurate information. Consequently, curious clients want to learn about trends, make sense of buying options, and even discover the back story of products. They seek a salesperson who identifies needs by asking insightful questions, provides detailed explanations, and adeptly matches customer needs with the features and benefits of a product. For the curious client, shopping is a research process.
The retail industry has changed radically in the past two decades, largely due to the convenience, cost savings, and selection that make online shopping alluring. Retail stores, therefore, need to rethink their value proposition—a clean store, polite service, and a clearance rack are not enough for a customer anymore. An effective way of attracting customers is to offer human connection by fulfilling conversational needs. When salespeople learn the craft of dialogue, more specifically, retail stores can provide customers with an engaging and memorable shopping experience.
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