7 Common Types of Retail Customers (and How to Sell to Them)

Consumer

One of the things that makes running a retail store so interesting and fun (most days) is the fact that you can encounter an array of characters at your shop. From easy going shoppers who make small talk, to customers on a mission who just want to get in and out of the store, retailers deal with various types of people on a daily basis.

And as any good merchant knows, there isn’t one single solution or best practice for converting all kinds of customers. Each type comes with its own set of qualities, and retailers have to acknowledge these distinctions and tailor their approaches accordingly.

To help you do this, we’ve compiled a list of the most common types of customers that you may encounter, along with tips on how to approach and sell to each one. Check them out below:

 

The well-informed shopper

Many of your customers will likely fall under this category. Consumers these days do a ton of research before making purchase decisions. They read product descriptions, compare prices, and check reviews, so you can bet that when they walk into your store, they already know a whole lot about what you have to offer.

The key to connecting with these shoppers is to get in their radar while they’re still in their research phase. Don’t wait until they’re standing in front of you to engage them (well-informed shoppers have likely made up their minds at that point, anyway). Instead, increase your store’s visibility on online and mobile channels.

Make sure customers can get information about your store, products, and services whether they’re on their phone or on the web. And when they land on your site, make a good impression by offering compelling content and providing great users experiences.

Increasing (and improving) your presence on the social web is also a must. Ensure that your social media accounts are active and if you have profiles on review sites such as Yelp or Tripadvisor, see to it that they’re updated and spruced up. Got negative reviews? Address them immediately so you can either explain your side, or even better, turn them into positive ones.

In-store, the best way to approach well-informed customers is to first acknowledge their expertise, and listen to what they have to say. Then, ask questions to see if you can offer up info that they haven’t uncovered in their research.

Another approach is to provide information in a way that makes them feel like they’re getting insider knowledge or access.

It’s also important to focus on value, rather than just features or prices–which they already know. For instance, if you’re selling something that can be found in other stores, highlight the things that only you can offer. Do you have a better a guarantee or have more superior customer support? Let your customers know.

 

The showroomer

Showroomers are those who try on or check out products in person, but decide to purchase them online if they find a better price. You can usually spot them when you see customers using price comparison apps or scanning your products while browsing in-store.

Many large retailers deal with showroomers by matching their competitors’ prices. Best Buy and Walmart for example, have price-matching strategies to get people to purchase their products in-store. Of course, price matching isn’t always feasible, especially for small and medium retailers with tight margins.

To convert showroomers, you need to shift their focus from price to value. You can, for example, emphasize the fact that customers can take home the product immediately, instead having to order it online and wait for the product to ship.

Or, you can bring their attention to any in-store offers, loyalty programs, or benefits that only you can offer. The key is to position your merchandise and store as distinct and aspirational. As we’ve said in our post on beating showrooming, you need to “exert more effort in branding and avoid commoditizing your products. What makes you unique? What emotions or thoughts can you evoke in your customers? Identify these things and use them as selling points.”

 

The wanderer (aka: the “Just looking around” customer)

Customers who are “only looking around” should be acknowledged, but generally left alone. If someone tells you that they’re just browsing, respond positively to make sure they feel welcome and perhaps casually mention that you have some new arrivals or items on sale.

You can say something like “That’s great! Just so you know my name is Jane and if you need anything, I’m more than happy to help” or “I understand, and just a heads up everything on the shelf over this is on sale.”

Other than that though, it’s best to let them be, until they ask for help.

 

The customer on a mission

These are customers who already know what they want and intend to just get in and out of your store.

The best thing you can do is simply not get in their way. If they have questions, give them straight-up answers and don’t try to upsell.

Make the shopping process simple and convenient for them, so if you spot any barriers (like long checkout lines) eliminate them for the shopper. For instance, if checkout’s taking too long, open another counter or offer to ring them up on the spot with a handy POS system.

 

The confused or indecisive shopper

Often, customers who are having trouble deciding either don’t have enough information, or have too much that they’re overwhelmed. Address this by figuring out their specific needs and educating them on what they need to know.

Ask questions. What are they looking for? Are they having any trouble understanding aspects or features of your products? What do they know–and don’t know–about your merchandise?

If they’re comparing products, give them the non-salesy lowdown on the items that they’re considering. Provide the pros and cons, and tailor your answers to their needs so they can make an informed decision.

Your main goal should be to help and educate. You don’t want to prod the customer to make a decision that isn’t right for them, so be upfront about what your products can and can’t do. Be honest. Your customer will appreciate it and they’ll learn to trust you. (And as we all know, that’s so much better in the long run.)

 

The bargain-hunter

It can be tricky to deal with bargain-hunters, especially if the sole driver of their purchase decision is pricing. One thing you can try is to make them *feel* that they’re getting a good deal. Sell them on value or point out why purchasing from you will actually save them money in the long run. Perhaps you have higher quality products, or as we’ve mentioned earlier, maybe you can offer a better guarantee.

If that doesn’t work, then at least see if you can capture the information of the customer so in the event that you do run a sale or promotion, you’ll be able to notify them.

 

The chatty customer

These are customers who love to talk and tell stories, and while you love their enthusiasm, they can sometimes hinder you from doing your job or taking care of other shoppers.

If you encounter such individuals, take some time to listen and express a genuine interest in what they’re saying, but know where to draw the line. Once someone becomes overly talkative to the point where they’re holding up the checkout line or they’ve gone way off topic, politely remind them that you need to get back to work.

RetailMinded.com’s Nicole Reyhle shares an excellent tip on how to deal with chatty shoppers. According to her, associates should look customers in the eye, smile, and say something like “I would so love to talk to you more about this – but I see someone else who needs my help too. I will check back in with you, ok? Thanks for being here.”

Your turn

Hopefully this post gives you a better idea on how to roll with different types of customers. And if you encountered a shopper type that’s not mentioned above, we’d love to know! Tell us in the comments, and share your best tips on how to approach them.

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About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

  • 2Pedalz

    Thanks for this article, I’m keen to explore how Vend might help with helping to keep track of customers who are thinking and talking about a big ticket purchase. We run a bike store and customers who are paying £1,000 or more don’t walk in a buy off the bat. We often speak, follow up with an email or some other action, speak some more, email some more and sometime go round this several times. I used to work in B2B and it’s like a less complex version of that, is there a very simple pre-sales CRM function in Vend? – Paul

    • Lorilynn McCorrister

      Hi Paul!

      Thanks for your feedback. As of right now, Vend does have the ability to create a customer account and have notes on file for said customer. However, it doesn’t have alerts or reminders to let you know when to follow up, etc. I will definitely pass your comments along to our product team though and we can keep it in mind as we continue to improve Vend and it’s processes.

      Lorilynn
      Community Manager