Customer Intercepts – Ask the Right Questions and Thrive

November 15, 2010 by David RichComments

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Gaining the Edge

Business people always look for ways to gain an advantage for their company. It’s often the small (and sometime not so obvious) edge that makes all the difference in results. In the current economy, the typical apparel retail store has a conversion rate of 18%. That means 100 people walk through the doors and 82 walk out without having made a purchase. Just a small uptick in percentage can have a huge financial impact. An increase of just 5% - from 18% to 23% could result in $8,176,000 in sales per 100 stores. 5% = over $8 million dollars.

Could the Customers Who DON’T Buy Be the Key to Success?

We’re used to asking for feedback from shoppers. Most retailers focus their data gathering on customers who’ve made a purchase. Surveys on the sales receipt, in the shopping bag or on your website and email follow up are commonly recognized and effective tools. It’s important to know what your customers think and get a critical understanding of their observations and experience of your stores, your merchandise and employees. What if you could find out why the ones who didn’t buy left your store empty-handed? Asking the right questions of those shoppers provides insight you can’t get any other way. Understanding their perceptions of your stores and learning what they see, think and feel gives you the edge you can use to improve your stores, your customer satisfaction and your bottom line by turning shoppers into buyers.

Improvement Can be Quick

Sales increase in direct proportion to customer satisfaction. Much of the measure of customer satisfaction is wrapped up in customer perception. How shoppers feel in your stores. How they feel about your sales associates, about your stores cleanliness and your displays. Knowing what people experience, think and perceive – particularly those who don’t buy gives you a fresh perspective on the key drivers of an improved experience. Often the answers are simple and the improvements quick and easy. But if you’re not asking the right questions of the right shoppers, you’ll never gather the information that will give you the edge.

How Customer Intercepts Work Best

Start by asking carefully designed questions of the shoppers who leave your stores without buying. What if you learned for example, that a large percentage of your customers in a certain region just weren’t finding what they were looking for? Perhaps you’re an apparel retailer and you overlooked the fact that your customers wanted a greater selection of seasonal sweaters in the Northeast and brighter colors in the Southwest? Maybe you’re an electronics retailer who learns that your employees don’t have enough knowledge in various departments and without answers your customers lose confidence and don’t buy. Suppose you were to learn that customers’ ‘feelings’ caused them to leave you stores? They might tell you the displays are too crowded or the stores weren’t clean enough. Maybe you’ll learn that customers couldn’t find a salesperson to answer their questions and they didn’t feel properly cared for. Maybe they just couldn’t find what they wanted.

Asking The Right Questions Translates to Critical Improvement

When a national pharmacy chain needed to understand what was happening in the aisles of their stores they relied on shopper intercepts to find a solution. Specifically, their Market Research Manager wanted to know why so many shoppers came to the pain aisle, but didn’t make a purchase there. Intercepting customers in the aisles and asking the right questions resulted in the manager getting the data needed to improve that aisle; increase sales and to improve other aisles so their customers could more easily find and purchase exactly what they were looking for. The right answers from the right shoppers increased their bottom line. They just had to ask the questions.

Using the Data to Make Actionable Changes

It’s not an uncommon for retailers to gather data but be at a loss to understand and implement actions from it. An experienced provider makes all the difference. They’ll work with you to create the questions, determine what you need to get a workable, statistically valid sample. They’ll show you how to interpret the data gathered and translate it into the actions and improvements that convert more shoppers into buyers. It can be a big ‘aha moment’ when you realize that the best information can come from the people who aren’t buying. You’ve done the work to get them into your store. Finding out why they’re not buying by running a strong Shopper Intercept program can turn things around quickly and profitably.

Topics: Customer Intercepts

Written by: David Rich

In more than a decade as President and CEO of ICC/Decision Services, David has grown the business into an internationally recognized customer experience management firm. In addition to ICC/Decision Services, David has started, bought and/or sold several companies in categories including the in-store demonstration, event marketing, market research, and social media space. He received his bachelor's degree from Syracuse University.