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Let them shop…

. Mark Schraad

Let them shop...

Not only let them shop, but let them shop the way they want. If you listen in on nearly any professional sales conversation, you’re eventually going to hear the phrase ‘in the funnel’.

The funnel often refers to the buying process - but is decidedly skewed with a selling perspective. It presumes (or rather oversimplifies) that consumers have a linear and logical shopping process. And, that they go from many considerations directly to the one object they purchase. Of course, just a few minutes watching people in a mall or a quick look at nearly any web analytics will tell you that this is far from the norm.

Even at the upper end of purchasing (homes and cars), consumers are far from methodical. They wander from shiny object to shiny object and are distracted by a thousand things along the way. The more we diagnose their exact steps and process, the more we over think much of the consumer’s process.

If you talk to a thousand people, you will likely collect hundreds of theories and many more truths about shopping. So, why do we work so hard to herd consumers down ‘the funnel’? In the sales process for expensive goods, timing is everything.

In a store, sales person only gets the consumer’s attention for a short period of time. And, if they don’t push them towards the sale right now, they’ll miss the opportunity. Their goal (right or wrong) is to get the sale at all costs.

But online is different. Online, the customer is always just a couple of clicks away from the store. Opportunity is not fleeting. We can easily remember them when they come back… we can even invite them back directly, personally and with their permission.

If you are having doubts here, then I suggestion you take 10 minutes to witness for yourself. Go to any neighborhood mall on a busy Saturday or Sunday. Stand on an upper floor balcony (they all have them) where you can watch the entrance near a directory map. Count the groups of people coming in and how many of them stop at the directory. Not only will you find it largely ignored, but you’ll also witness the random path of foot traffic throughout the mall.

Online, it makes more sense to build a relationship by letting the customer shop the way they want to shop; let them wander from the ratings and reviews to the ‘how to’ section, back to the tools store and then over to shoes. If they looked twice at the humidifier along the way, we can remember that and remind them of it later. We have so many tools to help shoppers that it really makes no sense to herd them.

Paco Underhill's most excellent book ‘Why we buy’ outlines many of the pitfalls, idiosyncrasies and hurdles specific to the retail shopping environment. I dare say the biggest hurdle in the online process is facilitating how consumers shop, not dictating it.


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