A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
He Shops, She Shops …
And that can make a big difference
in your sales.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (September
It's no secret that women are different from men. Now, we're not
saying that one sex is superior or inferior to the other – just
different. But we'd never know it from the experiences we've had
shopping in some stores. Both sexes suffer from time poverty, and
both have no time for stores that makes little or no attempt to make
It doesn't matter what you sell or how good you perceive your
store to be, today's shoppers are more demanding, and if these
demanding customers conclude your store is too hard to shop, your
services and policies are not up to their expectations, or your
store associates are not helpful enough, they won't be your
customers for very long.
How you sell to a woman can be as important as what you are
selling. Almost every encounter she has becomes personal, because
women care about the human dimension – about the person they are
with, so they will often look for a relationship before she makes a
purchase. Women also want to know that there will be support and
personal service available after the purchase is made.
Women are the Chief Operating Officers of the household,
controlling 80+ % of the purchasing decisions. If you discount her
ability to make a decision or tell her to come back with her
husband, you are in for serious trouble. She won't be back, and
she'll tell her friends how "well" you treated her.
Your male customers are a different story, but they aren't that
hard to figure out. They don't like to shop, so they are less likely
to shop of their own volition, unless the object they are after
involves a new car, power tools, or stereo speakers bigger and
louder than the ones the guy next door has. (Just kidding – kind
of.) But when it comes down to basics, men pretty much want the same
things that women want in a shopping experience: quality,
convenience, no hassles, and knowledgeable help when they want it,
and to be left alone when they don't.
Men like one-stop shopping … Women like choice
Let's get personal and turn this male/female thing into the
shopping saga of Tom and Mary.
Mary, like many of her girlfriends, was raised on shopping, but
Tom was generally off doing other things, so he doesn't have the
vast shopping "training" that Mary has. Tom likes it when
you make shopping easy for him. And like most guys, Tom doesn't like
to shop around, so if you have the information he needs to make a
purchasing decision, he'll love your store. Be sure to have plenty
of ideas, project sheets, supply lists, "how-to"
brochures, and project-related end features.
Mary, on the other hand, is a collector of information and
alternatives. She likes choice, and is willing to shop a variety of
stores to get what she needs. A typical shopping trip for Mary could
include a visit to several stores. This is where
relationship-building comes in – if you want her to choose to come
to see you instead of just running to the nearest store that sells
what you sell because it happens to be on her way home; get to know
Now, Mary shopping in your store by herself is a good thing, but
Mary shopping with her friends is even better. Women love to shop in
packs, so take advantage of classes and events that encourage them
to shop with friends. When women shop in groups they like to egg
each other on to buy more "stuff."
Mary, and her sisters in shopping are also impulsive shoppers who
can usually be enticed to purchase additional items as well. On one
of our observation trips we watched a woman in a craft store walking
the aisles picking up pom-poms, craft paint, and several other
unrelated items. We asked if she needed the related items – if
she's painting she might need a brush as well as the paint. And
since she's buying pom-poms, would she be in the market for glue,
too? Her answer was yes, which made us wonder why the retailer
hadn't cross-merchandised these add-on items near the primary items
so they would create multiple sales.
You can easily cross-merchandise using clip strips and J-hooks,
and you can display accessories in and among your sewing machines
and/or vacuum cleaners. You'll save customers time while helping
increase store sales.
How men and women view price
When it comes to how much things cost, Tom likes to compare items
by price. He also likes to know what makes one item better than
another, so it's a good idea to keep your staff up to date on the
product, as well as each product's key features, advantages, and
benefits so they can establish value.
With Mary, it's always a good idea to stress how much she's
saving. Try "Compare at" signage showing the regular and
the markdown price, and register tapes that read "You saved $X.XX
(Note from Rich: It's not uncommon for women to comment
that they've saved so much money on one purchase that they now have
"money" left over to make another. I was able to relate to
that reasoning when I heard it discussed in one of our focus groups
because Georganne uses it all the time. She'll say, "I saved
$50 bucks on that suit. Now I can buy shoes!" Go figure.)
Asking for help
Men are reluctant to ask for help and usually don't like to ask
where things are. Tom will usually dart through the store on a
mission trying to find whatever it is he's looking for (and missing
everything else along the way). Tom shops the same way he works a
parking lot: find a space fast and park. Once inside, he'll make one
or two quick passes through the store and if he doesn't find
something he likes, he's outta there. Your store associates need to
pay close attention, learn to recognize this trait, and be ready to
help the Toms of the world ASAP.
(Note from Georganne: Men won't ask for directions either.
Now I know that I am generalizing here, but ask any woman to tell
you a story about a man asking for directions and she'll be able to
tell you several. Rich of course, being a man, denies this.)
Women like to interact with sales associates. Mary will look for
help when she needs it and wants lots of information. In our sales
training sessions we stress how important it is to be able to
"read" a customer, and why you need to ask many questions
before making a determination about what to recommend. This step
builds trust and it demonstrates that what the customers is saying
is important to you, and that's important to the customer. Mary may,
or may not, be on familiar ground in your store. She wants to be
taken seriously and treated with respect. Remember, it's a
Reality vs. Perception
We've always said there is no reality in retailing, only
perception. You are what the customer perceives you to be, whether
you like it or not. Tom and Mary will both make a value judgment
about your store within the first 10 seconds after entering. In
those 10 seconds they are already determining how much time they
will spend in your store. While it may not be fair, we all do it.
Store ambiance – that way a store looks and "feels"
– is where men and women really differ. The way your store looks
is usually more important to Mary. She prefers clean, brightly lit
stores where she can spend time and move comfortably throughout the
store at her own pace.
As far as Tom is concerned, the store needn't be a palace. His
style is more "hit and run." Tom's tendency is to find
what he needs, in the least amount of time, and then get out of the
store fast. The trick is to slow him down, for this you need a
A decompression zone is simply the 10-15 foot space between the
front door and the merchandise inside. This can be your vestibule or
the real estate just inside the front door. The decompression zone
is important because when Tom is on a mission, it slows him down
long enough to focus on the task at hand. Understand that anything
you place in your decompression zone will be missed by customers.
Place signage and other important information just beyond the
decompression zone where customers, both male and female, are more
likely to see it.
Maneuvering the aisles
Keep your aisles clear. Make sure that there is enough room for
customers to move comfortably past other shoppers. Mary will most
likely be the one to shop with her children, so the child becomes a
major factor. If the child has to be left in the main aisle because
her stroller or cart won't fit down an aisle packed with merchandise
and other shoppers, Mary will leave without the product before
she'll leave her child alone in the aisle.
Children need to feel good about your store. Once inside, will
the children be welcomed or will they be greeted with dumb signs
that read "Unattended children will be given an espresso and a
free puppy." If they like your store, children can mean big
business. Instead of rules why not offer a Cookie Credit Card kids
can redeem for a free cookie each time they visit your store with
mom or dad? Trust us, if the child likes your store, rest assured
mom and dad will be back to shop with you again. Drop us an email
and we'll send you our Cookie Credit Card template you can customize
to use in your own store.
With Mary it comes down to this: She wants a nice place to shop,
she wants to be treated with respect, and she seeks relationships
with the people who work there. Selling to Tom comes down to this:
How hard do you want the guy to work? Make it easy and he's yours.
(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants,
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts
on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything
that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment.
Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their
"Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and
seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the
media, including the ABC National News special report, "How
Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer
Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom
line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by
tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two
of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and
their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the
Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors
(ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.
You'll find thousands of strategies, tactics, tips, and
techniques to help you grow your business on their Retail Adventures™
They mean it when they say to call if you want to talk about your
store. They know how tough it is right now, and they're happy to
brainstorm ideas with you – they want you to succeed! The website
is www.kizerandbender.com and you can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kizerandbender.
To read previous articles by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles
in the right-hand column.)
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