There’s no question that training your sales associates to engage your customers can boost sales and gain customer loyalty, but what do you do when your customers say they don’t want help?
It’s especially difficult to engage with customers who are just browsing because they can mean so many different things, from “leave me alone” to “I already know what I’m looking for” to simply “I’m just killing time.”
If you keep following up with a customer who isn’t interested, you risk annoying them and damaging their perception of your brand. How do you identify the customers who are open to assistance, and offer them the kind of service they prefer?
To teach your employees how to engage these guests, you first need to understand what your customers mean when they say they’re “just browsing.”
1. They Don’t Want a Sales Pitch
Some shoppers tell associates that they’re just browsing because they want to avoid annoying pitches and pushy sales tactics.
These shoppers may know exactly what they’re looking for and want to make shopping a quick, painless experience. You can identify them by their determined expressions and the fact that they head straight for the product they want without making eye contact with employees.
Pushing your store’s specials or explaining at length the benefits of a premium service is only going to annoy this customer.
When your associates greet this type of customer, make sure they don’t follow up with a pitch. To gain this customer’s trust, simply ask if they need help finding what they’re looking for, without any other motives.
Your customers can tell when your employees are being genuine. Be clear with your sales associates that their priority should be helping the customer in whatever way the customer wants – even if what they want is some space.
This way, customers know that there’s help if they need it, but they don’t feel pressured to listen to an unwanted sales pitch. When they do need help, they will be more receptive to your employees and more likely to choose your company over a competitor.
2. They Want to Figure It Out Themselves
Other customers tell employees they’re just browsing because they don’t feel like interacting while they shop. These customers don’t try to engage your employees. They may be distracted or focused on something else (like a text message), and being approached by an associate will seem like an intrusion.
Lengthy pitches or repeated offers of help from an associate will alienate these customers. An effective way to ensure they still have a positive shopping experience is to provide interactive displays with product demonstrations, testers, and informational signage that they can explore at their own pace.
Brands like Clinique and Sephora have mastered this technique to engage customers who might otherwise avoid their makeup counters because of hovering associates. Interacting with products can entice customers to buy without having sales associates intrude on their shopping experience.
3. They Really Are Just Browsing
Sometimes when your customers say they’re just browsing, they really mean it. These customers may come in with no plan to buy anything. They may make a purchase on impulse, but they are in your stores to have a good time, find inspiration, or research future purchases.
While they may not purchase today, it’s important to realize that making a great impression on these people at this stage can turn them into loyal paying customers later. Your sales associates can engage with them by being friendly and willing to help if they need it, but not trying to pressure them into a sale.
Once these customers have declined help, it can be beneficial to circle back to them later in case they have a new question or have found something that interests them. In these cases, a genuine comment or question about something they’re showing interest in is a great way to reengage these shoppers, who see the retail experience as an enjoyable use of their time.
These customers will also benefit from interactive visual displays, since testers and demos can help them narrow their interests within your stores.
How to Engage Them All
The best way to engage all of your customers is to treat each customer like an individual and interact the way he or she wants. Sometimes this means respecting their space and letting your in-store displays or technology like beacons do the work.
Train your employees not only to be friendly and genuine, but to prioritize each customer’s needs. While many of your customers will want interaction, some really don’t. Treating all customers the same way will alienate some shoppers, so help your employees learn to differentiate between the various needs of different customers and respond appropriately.
You can help employees address responses like “I’m just browsing” by teaching them to initiate natural conversations that will elicit more than an automatic response. Standard greetings like “Can I help you with anything?” may seem insincere, and won’t form a personal connection with your customers.
Instead, train your associates to ask questions about products that your customers interact with, like “Hi! Are you shopping for a new TV? What kind of thing are you looking for?” or “Are you shopping for yourself, or someone else?”
These interactions lead to more than a yes or no response and come across as genuinely helpful, rather than as an aggressive sales pitch. They also show your customers that you have associates who are prepared to help, but leave them with the option to decline if they really are just browsing.