If you run a small retail business, you have almost certainly met your share of browsers. These visitors spend time looking around but leave without making a purchase. Browsing or window shopping was more popular in decades past, but today’s savvy shoppers seem to have streamlined the way they look, learn and compare options. While many people still regularly browse without making a purchase, increasing numbers of consumers are taking a more efficient approach. Nine out of ten shoppers know exactly what they are going to purchase before they ever enter a store. About 83 percent already know what brands they will buy.
Most retailers would prefer that shoppers were not quite so organized; more time spent inside a store can lead to impulse purchases, and it gives the staff more opportunities to establish positive connections with prospective customers. It is easy to track and evaluate the browsing habits of online shoppers, but it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of browsing that occurs outside of the Internet. Careful observation is your best bet for determining how many browsers your brick-and-mortar store attracts.
Why Have Browsing Behaviors Changed?
Access to information through search engines, retail websites, mobile phone apps and social media outlets gives people a way to research products and brands and compare prices among different sellers without ever leaving the comfort of home. By starting the buying process online, they save physical energy, gas and time. With the help of online consumer forums, targeted advertising campaigns and readily available product specifications, today’s consumer need never make an uneducated guess.
The recession also plays a role. After several years of economic strain, many consumers have developed razor-sharp bargain-finding skills. Once a shopper is educated and knows how to find the best deals, there’s no reason to ever pay too much for a product or service again. Pre-shopping online has become a mainstream practice, and it has replaced some of the need for browsing through merchandise in person. Fortunately, the Internet cannot provide fragrance, taste, spatial perception or tactile information, so retailers of some types of products don’t feel the impact as much as others.
Smarter Shoppers and Better Discounts
Increased consumer awareness of available discounts and promotions has made competition tough, especially for the small retailer. To keep up with their peers, many sellers are offering deeper discounts, more special offers and increased loyalty rewards. Today’s shoppers aren’t surprised to find a great deal; they expect to find one, and they already know a product or brand’s baseline retail price range before they enter your store. For about a third of today’s consumers, 70 percent of the items in their shopping carts are discounted or on sale. To impress today’s window shopper without offering painfully deep discounts, a business must stand apart and provide something that the Internet doesn’t.
Browsing Behavior Traits to Keep in Mind
While many shoppers start the buying process online before visiting a store, many others browse in person but order online later.
More complex products such as automobiles and electronics attract more browsers than simple items like groceries.
Collectors and aficionados browse specialty retailers to keep abreast of current product lines and models.
Before arriving at a store, 93 percent of shoppers know exactly how much they should have to pay for a specific item.
People who browse stores in person tend to be more educated about the products and services they are browsing.
How to Court and Keep the Browser
Don’t underestimate the potential value of the window shopper. Browsing is related to opinion leadership, and this is an important factor in word-of-mouth referrals and the ultimate success of new products and services. If you impress the browser, you’ll see his friends soon. Here are a few tips to help you create a more positive in-store experience that attracts curious window-shoppers and keeps them coming back.
Make memorable signs. Customers prefer clear, concise messaging and basic, bold color palettes.
Encourage personal connections. Associates who connect with shoppers influence what they buy and even how they pay. Never miss a chance to make a good impression; browsers who encounter positive interaction with associates stay in the store longer.
Make sure your sales floor is well-covered. Customers who are actively approached by associates consistently rate their visits more favorably.
Shoppers are more likely to notice items at eye-level and below; keep this in mind when developing your merchandising and signing strategies.
Know your demographic. Consumers notice the marketing images and slogans that are relevant to them. Stores should feature images and promotional materials that focus on the relationship between the specific population and the merchandise or services offered. Timing is also important. Structure promotions and employee work schedules to reflect the times you are more likely to attract your best prospects. For example, if you sell business or professional clothing, and you notice a traffic spike during lunch hours, increase floor coverage, and schedule your strongest salespeople to be present during this time.
Make an impression with music. A store’s atmosphere is warmer and more welcoming with subtle background music. Be sure that your choice of music appeals to your target demographic and is appropriate for the geographical area. Avoid music that is too loud, too outdated or potentially offensive.
Keep your store clean and organized. No browser wants to fumble through a disaster area to see what you have to offer. Dirty shelves and disorganized merchandise are instant turn-offs, and visitors who see them are likely to spread the word. The same applies to your staff. A professional appearance is important to your customers. Your associates should be clean and dressed appropriately.
Harness the Power of Technology
It may have stolen some of retail’s former glory, but the Internet can still be a powerful ally. Your ties to the online world can actually help you in the brick-and-mortar environment. Your mobile outreach and social media efforts can keep your brand on everyone’s mind and entice new customers to your store. Post valuable content to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts regularly to keep potential visitors curious and engaged.
I’m Just Looking: Respect the Presence of the Window Shopper
Shoppers who enter your store represent a valuable asset, even if they don’t buy anything. Make them feel welcome. Creating an environment that encourages browsing can pay off in the long run. In today’s connected world, those who browse hold more power than many of your peers may realize. If you make their presence part of your strategy, you may be able to gain an edge over your competition.