Understanding Shoppers & Converting Them to Customers


Roberto Garvin
Guest Contributor

Different types of shoppers have distinctly different needs, and the retailers who can distinguish between shopper types and deliver the proper solutions are rewarded with an ever-growing base of core customers.

Retail stores are interesting and fun to run on most days, mostly because of the array of characters you get to encounter. However, every experienced merchant knows there’s no magic bullet that’ll convert each shopper into buying.

In fact, a Gallup poll revealed that of the biggest challenges small business owners face, 28 percent were economic and financial issues, but 14 percent were attracting shoppers and drumming up new business.

Each shopper has his or her own personality and traits, which retailers have to acknowledge and adjust to so as to tailor their approaches to match and impress.

Who is a retail customer?

A retail customer buys a product or service, pays for it, and avails it to the market. They also have different buying behavior patterns, which can be seen in:

  • Where the customer purchases from
  • Products he or she purchases, and in what quantities
  • Timing of the purchase based on seasons, weather and locations
  • Frequency of purchases influenced by the type of commodity, lifestyle, customs, and festivals
  • Purchase methods, influenced by modes of payment or travel, and who makes the decision
  • Responses to sales promotions

In order to convert shoppers into buyers, here’s a list of the common shoppers you’ll encounter, and how to best approach and sell to each type.

1 – Returning customers

This is the best type of retail customer because you know them as much as they know and love your store and your services. With these shoppers, you’re not under any pressure to go for the hard sell, because they’re already sold in as much as they keep coming back.

Returning customers are already converted and loyal to your store, but you still have to keep them coming back again, and hopefully bringing new shoppers along with them.

How to convert them:

  • Make them feel valued.
  • Remind them why they prefer and love your store.
  • Discover what aspect of your business they love the most, and keep giving it to them over and over again. For instance, if a particular customer likes getting sweets on her way out after a huge purchase, make sure there’s a bowl of candy right next to the exit. If it’s a particular sales rep she prefers to deal with, let that person be available for her to give one-on-one treatment when she’s at your store.

2 – Storytellers

These shoppers are chatty, so they love to talk a lot and share stories. Although they can sometimes be a distraction to your work, their enthusiasm excites you, but you still have other shoppers to cater to.

How to convert them:

  • Be genuinely interested and listen to what they have to say. However, you need to have boundaries as they can easily cross the line and hold up the checkout till, or go off-topic altogether. It’s good to draw the line and let them know you need to serve other customers too.
  • An excellent tip from Nicole Reyhle on how to handle the talkative customers is to look them in the eye with a smile and let them know you’d really love to talk, but there are others who need your assistance, and that you’ll check back in with them.
  • Thank them for being at your store.

3 – Bargain shoppers

For these shoppers, the main thing is the price. They want the best value at the lowest price possible and are willing to spend time shopping around until they find it. Value fuels their purchase decisions – not brand loyalty.

How to convert them:

  • Make them feel they’re getting a good deal from your store. They want the lowest price possible, so sell them on value.
  • Remind them why they’re shopping from you and that it’ll save them money in the long term.
  • Point out that your products are higher in quality, or have a better guarantee.
  • Get their contact details and reach out to them whenever you’re running a promotion or sale at your store. They’ll appreciate it.

4 – Informed shoppers

Thanks to the digital or information age, most modern consumers do a ton of research prior to making purchasing decisions. They’ll compare prices, read product descriptions and scan user reviews and ratings before contacting you for further information.

By the time a well-informed shopper  comes to your store, he or she probably already knows much about your offer, the items you have in stock, and what to look for before making payments.

How to convert them:

  • Get to them while they’re researching your store and products. Don’t wait until they’re physically or virtually at your store to engage them, because their minds are probably already made up at that point.
  • Increase the visibility of your store both online and offline, and ensure they get information about it online or on their phones. Ensure that by the time they land on your website or in your store, they’ll be impressed and engaged, with great content and customer support for a memorable user experience.
  • Get on social media, and ensure your accounts are active, with updated profiles on review sites. Remember to ensure that any negative reviews on your site, social media, or on review platforms are immediately addressed with thorough responses.
  • Acknowledge their expertise and listen to them.
  • Ask them questions and find information gaps you can fill that they didn’t cover while researching.
  • Offer more information to make them feel like they’re getting insider access or knowledge.
  • Focus more on value than pricing or features, because they already know that. For instance, if you have better warranty or refund terms, or items other stores don’t have, let them know that.

5 – Wanderers

This group waltzes into your store because they saw something interesting, or want to kill time – they don’t have real purchasing intentions. The wandering shopper is just looking around, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore him or her.

How to convert them:

  • Acknowledge their presence and leave them alone, without jumping in their face.
  • If the shopper is just looking around, let her feel welcome and mention some new arrivals or suggestions and leave it at that until she asks for your help.
  • Tell them your name and that you’re available if they need anything.
  • Ensure your store looks presentable, while highlighting your most profitable and best products; encourage impulse buys with easy-to-grab items that’ll convert the wanderer.

6 – Indecisive or confused shoppers

These shoppers aren’t sure or can’t decide what to buy. They probably don’t have enough information, or they’re over-informed so they’re not sure what to select.

How to convert them:

  • Figure out what they need and educate them on what they need to know.
  • Ask questions about what they’re looking for, whether they understand your product or service, and discover any unfilled info gaps.
  • Let them know what they’re considering without sounding salesy, especially if they’re comparing products
  • Provide the pros and cons, and tailor your responses to their needs to help them decide.

The goal here is to help and educate with honesty, not to push them to make wrong decisions. They’ll appreciate your help and learn to trust you, which is great for the long-term.

Final Words

My hope is you now know how to identify the different types of shoppers, and how to convert them into buying. Understanding their pain points and how they behave gives you a better idea of how to roll with them.

About the writer: Roberto Garvin is the co-founder of Mofluid. He is amazed to see how technology continues to evolve – from email to browsers, search engines, mobile, AI and now blockchain, he feels fortunate to witness it all and is really excited to see what’s next. Connect with Roberto on Twitter @mofluid & Facebook @mofluid.

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