How to captivate jaded shoppers as they venture out to shop


Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor

I made this 15 minute video as a way of bookending the Covid-10 crisis and getting retailers firmly focused on the shopper.

Why is it necessary to captivate jaded shoppers? Because you may now be finding yourself with less people coming through your doors. You might have been planning on growing your sales this year, or perhaps you were going to add new stores, but because of covid- 19 that’s all been changed.

As shoppers have been locked down, stores are now reopening, but the problem is that while many shoppers can go out, your shoppers may have been lured to just go online and buy.

How can you captivate your jaded shoppers as they venture out?

By doing one thing online by design online can’t do.

When the markets crashed in 2008, I had a house in California that I was trying to sell and I had already bought a house in New York. I lost four of my major clients within one week.

I called one of them and I said, so tell me when do I get to work with you again? And they said, “Well, Bob, I need to tell you that the engineers who are responsible for product development are all striping the warehouse floors with paint. The only reason they can do that is one, we decided we weren’t going to get rid of anyone during this downturn, but two, we have no orders in our football field-sized warehouses. We aren’t going to see you for many years.”

I started to feel hopeless about how quickly business would return to normal. I saw the writing on the wall and it wasn’t good. Maybe that’s where you are today about your stores.

This time Covid has led to something more widespread. It’s a breakdown of trust.

We don’t trust that the government can protect us. We saw that it didn’t matter what country you’re in; everybody was vulnerable. Public health service couldn’t protect us. Even your family members couldn’t be trusted to not bring something home that could kill you.

We have to understand that we have all gone through a seismic shock of a lack of trust.

Your employees too have had their trust broken when they were furloughed or friends of theirs were. They fear they could be let go again or have to deal with a public that is also fearful and apprehensive.

You have to do everything in your power to regain the trust of both your customers and your employees.

While everyone else will say you have to focus on cleaning, what I’m telling you is you have to focus on building trust. You need to make people feel safe and welcome again.

Don’t believe everyone is going online.

A lot of pundits are touting how online is going to take over because so many people had to shop online. But there’s an awful lot of costs associated with online with free shipping and returns. Many retailers have found online alone is not a sustainable business model and are opening stores.

Let’s be clear. Online is about transaction. It’s fast, it’s frictionless, and there’s no interaction.

Online is about going to buy.  

If I my printer was out of ink and it took a number 54 cartridge, I’m probably going to go online and get that delivered to me because I don’t really need to shop for it.

But if I do decide to go into a store, the danger for a retailer is thinking that all the person wants is that number 54 cartridge. When in fact they probably went into the brick and mortar store to discover something new. They are open to the possibility of something else that they didn’t search for online.

That’s part of what makes brick and mortar retail so valuable – discovery.

You’re going to have to sell your way out of this. Make no mistake. That’s why brick and mortar stores, are uniquely positioned to be able to take us through this and come out the other side.

The store must be the hub for your brand, not the ugly stepchild.

You’re going to have to come up with a branded shopping experience, and that means that that asked and answered retail approach needs to die. You know what that sounds like, right?

“Hi. Looking for something special.” “Uh, yeah. Do you have a green pen with a silver top? “Yes, they’re right over there. Anything else?” No, just that.

Those days are going to have to die because there are going be less people walking in your doors for the forseeable future. This is your golden opportunity to raise the stakes of what great retail looks like and get everything the shopper could want, not just what they may ask for.

That means from the moment they arrive they know they are not in a store, but your store. A store where everyone is greeted in a way that gets shoppers to let down their guard. A store that focuses on one customer through the lens of curiosity, not getting them out the door.

Train your employees to not sell from their own wallets.

Because they’ve been furloughed or their friends have lost their businesses, your employees are bound to show your customers the cheapest products you sell first. We’re seeing that with the shortage of entry-level bikes right now while stock of mid-range and above are plentiful.

Here’s an example for you. I had finished a keynote in Denver awhile back, and was walking downtown when I saw an A-frame sign that read, “4 out of 5 men find this product makes their hair stronger and thicker.” I walked into the salon and said to the young woman as I pointed back outside, “I want that.” The young female replied, “You know it’s expensive.” I said with a grin, “Do I look homeless or something?” She replied, “Well, it really is expensive.”  About that time the manager came over and asked, “Is everything ok over here?” I told her about wanting the product and she stopped me, “Well you know it IS really expensive. We don’t sell much of it.”

That selling from your own wallet has to die if you expect to sell your way back to profitability. You’re going to have to get your crew to actually become salespeople. They’ve got to understand how much trust they have to build up for shoppers to buy those items. That’s going to take training. That’s going to take role play and that’s going to take holding them accountable to not clerk sales but to make them.

Understand shoppers come into a store with hope.

They want to get the guy. They want to get the girl. They just had a new baby. They just got married. They have an anniversary, they just got divorced. They want to lose 50 pounds. They are running a marathon. You name it. We come into a store with hope in our hearts and your employees have got to meet that hope and add to it. We come in to buy into the future.

The days of associates hanging out behind the counter, waiting for someone to come in, are going to have to end as well- and not just because of social distancing.

Shoppers are going to be a little bit spooked about anyone talking to them. Your associates are going to have to help them get over that not add to that.

Again, you’re going to have to sell your way out of this. Either you can train it or I can do it with my online training course but you can no longer feel good enough is good enough.  

Your associates have got to be able to pivot away from negative conversations about what we were going through in in this horrible time in the last three months, and keeping the focus and hope on the person in front of them.

Now, why is hope so important? Because when you have hope, you’re looking forward. You gain energy in the feeling of potential.

Going back to that 2008 situation I told you at the beginning. I am a motivational speaker and I had to find a way to motivate myself to be hopeful because that’s what people were looking to me for.

I started doing meditation. It took me about 20 minutes a day. I still do it 12 years later so I can control the thoughts in my brain. Because you’re not your thoughts.  The more of those fears and anxieties that you allow in – you’re watching the news, you’re reading the paper, you’re sharing on social media- the more you’re being exposed to the horror stories of fear.

Whatever negativity you hear is bound to come out your mouth, and that’s going to cost you sales.

Hope is what retailers are providing when they’re selling their merchandise.

That’s what our place is in retail right now. People have gone through a horrible trauma and they feel the weight of the world. It’s up to you to fix that.

How can you captivate your jaded shoppers as they venture out?

By doing one thing online by design can’t do. You provide a feeling. A feeling the shopper matters. People who feel they matter buy.

It’s really that simple and yet it’s really that hard. It will take training. It will take holding associates accountable and it will take practice. But in my close to thirty years as a sales trainer, there’s never been a more dire need for delivering a remarkable shopping experience.

See the full 15 minute video that this post was based on here

In Sum

This video was created as most of America is reopening. While riots and Covid-19 are very much a part of our lives right now, you have to focus on creating those small moments of connection between two people. Of rebuilding trust because you are grounded in being hopeful.

And while shoppers might have tentatively come into your store, they need you to be able to match their hopeful outlook, make them feel they are cared for and not waited on, and keep them focused on hope.

And if you are serious about captivating your shoppers, you should checkout my online retail sales training program SalesRX to learn exactly how to engage a stranger, build rapport, discover the shopper, compare and contrast the benefits for each shopper, and make the sale.

Anything less, and you’re settling for crumbs when you could have the whole feast.

Learn More About SalesRX


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