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The Five Types of Shoppers

In the retail industry, it seems as though we are constantly faced with the issue of trying to find new customers. At one time or another, we have all become obsessed with making sure our advertising, displays, and pricing all “scream out” to attract them.

This focus on pursuing new customers is certainly prudent and necessary, but, at the same time, it can wind up hurting us. Therefore, our focus really should be on the 20% of our clients who currently are our best customers.

Going after new customers rather than putting more focus on our best ones has become a real issue for a number of different groups. For example, golf, a sport played by millions, has benefited dramatically from the popularity of certain golfers. However, the popularity that has helped create the rise in the number of new players has not changed the golf industry overall. Many are now saying that there needs to be an industry push to encourage the frequent golfer to play even more in order to grow profitably.

Likewise, let’s look at the jewelry industry as a retail example. In the jewelry industry, this idea of focusing on the best current customers should be seen as an on-going opportunity.

To better understand the rationale behind this theory and to face the challenge, we need to break down shoppers into five main types:

Loyal Customers: They represent no more than 20% of the customer base but make up more than 50% of the sales.

Discount Customers: They shop the store frequently but make their decisions based on the size of the markdowns.

Impulse Customers: They do not have buying jewelry at the top of their “To Do” list but come into the store on a whim. They will purchase what seems good at the time.

Need-Based Customers: They have a specific intention to buy a particular type of jewelry.

Wandering Customers: They have no specific need or desire in mind when they come into the store. Rather, they want a sense of experience and/or community.

If we are serious about growing business, we need to focus our effort on the Loyal and Need-Based customer groups and merchandise the store to leverage the Impulse Shoppers. The other types of customers represent a segment of the business, but they can also cause us to misdirect resources if we put too much emphasis on them.

Let me further explain the five types of customers and elaborate on what to do with them.

Loyal Customers: Naturally, we need to be communicating with these customers on a regular basis by telephone, mail, email, etc. These people are the ones who can and should influence our buying and merchandising decisions. Nothing will make a Loyal customer feel better than soliciting their input and showing them how much you value it. In my mind, you can never do enough for them. Many times, the more you do for them, the more they will recommend you to others.

Discount Customers: This category helps ensure your inventory is turning over and, as a result, these people are a key contributor to your cash flow. This same group, however, can often wind up costing you money because they are more inclined to return product. In addition, Discount shoppers can many times be very vocal about pricing, selection, etc. while in the store. If overheard by other customers, it can result in lost sales.

One way to control this is by ensuring your markdown area is located in a section of the store where conversations are less likely to be eavesdropped upon.

Impulse Customers: Clearly, this is the segment of clientele that we all like to serve. There is nothing more exciting than assisting an Impulse shopper and having them respond favorably to our recommendations. We want to target displays toward this group because they will provide a significant amount of customer insight and knowledge.

Need-Based Customers: People in this category are driven by a specific need. When they enter the store, they will look to see if they can have that need filled quickly. If not, they will leave right away. They buy for a variety of reasons such as a specific occasion or an absolute price point. As difficult as it can be to satisfy these people, they can also become Loyal customers if they are well taken care of. Salespeople may not find them to be a lot of fun to serve, but, in the end, they can often represent your greatest source of long-term growth.

It is important to remember that Need-Based customers can easily be lost to Internet sales. To overcome this threat, positive personal interaction is required, usually from one of your top salespeople. If they are treated to a level of service not available from the web, there is a very strong chance of making them Loyal customers. For this reason, Need-Based customers offer the greatest long-term potential, surpassing even the Impulse segment.

Wandering Customers: For many stores, this is the largest segment in terms of traffic, while, at the same time, they make up the smallest percentage of sales. There is not a whole lot you can do about this group because the number of Wanderers you have is driven more by your store location than anything else. Keep in mind, however, that although they may not represent a large percentage of your immediate sales, they are a real voice for you in the community.

Many Wanderers shop merely for the interaction and experience it provides them. Shopping is no different to them than it is for another person to go to the gym on a regular basis. Since they are merely looking for interaction, they are also very likely to communicate to others the experience they had in the store. Therefore, although Wandering customers cannot be ignored, the time spent with them needs to be minimized.

Retail is an art, backed up by science. The science is the information we have from financials to research data (the “backroom stuff”). The art is in how we operate on the floor: our merchandising, our people, and, ultimately, our customers.

For all of us, the competitive pressure has never been greater and it is only going to become more difficult. To be successful, it will require patience and understanding in knowing your customers and the behavior patterns that drive their decision-making process. Using this understanding to help turn Discount, Impulse, Need-Based, and even Wandering customers into Loyal ones will help grow your business. At the same time, ensuring that your Loyal customers have a positive experience each time they enter the store will only serve to increase your bottom-line profits.

About the author

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter, is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects, close more sales, and profitably build more long-term customer relationships. He is also author of “High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.”