Consumer Psychologist and Retail Consultant Bruce D. Sanders is the author of “Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers.” He authors the blog RIMtailing and teaches a performance management course for University of Nevada-Reno Extended Studies. Here he discusses the difference between possibilities shoppers and mission shoppers, and explains how retailers can encourage sales by catering to each.
(Photo courtesy of Bruce Sanders)
What are possibilities shoppers? How are they different from mission shoppers?
When you watch shoppers entering your store or track their browsing patterns on your e-commerce site, do you notice how some of them are clearly on a mission? These mission shoppers go directly for a particular item, and if the value is acceptable, they quickly buy the item. On the other hand, there are shoppers who love to look through the possibilities. Even if they have a specific item in mind, the possibilities shoppers enjoy digesting the alternatives.
Internet retail sites and social media are turning possibilities shoppers into mission shoppers. Because consumers often learn all about the products, the alternatives and the prices before entering the store, more of them bullet in for the buy, then promptly depart without a ricochet toward options.
In what ways are each type important for generating sales?
Be grateful for your mission shoppers. They’re spending money with you, and they don’t waste your time. Never delay their purchases to the point where they label your store as inconvenient. However, it is the possibilities shoppers who end up with larger purchase totals, even if not making those purchases as fast. Consumer research finds that possibilities shoppers also appreciate their purchases more and are more likely [than mission shoppers] to become repeat customers.
How can a retailer nudge a possibilities shopper into becoming a buyer?
Possibilities shoppers will be drawn to your store if they believe you offer an abundance of choices. This can be a challenge for the small retail business with inventory limitations. In ads, show the extremes from your full range of items. Then on your store shelves or racks, arrange merchandise so it takes the shopper a few moments to run their eyes over whatever is there. This increased time translates in the shopper’s brain to the impression of a larger item assortment. Don’t make them take too long though, or you’ll chase away the mission shoppers. And for all shoppers, always have a salesperson to ask, ‘What may I help you find?’ and then take the person to the item.
What will move mission shoppers to become possibilities shoppers?
Do your store and website displays and merchandise arrangements encourage browsing and upgrading? Do your store aisles allow customers to stand in front of the merchandise without getting in the way of other people? Are you creating entertaining encounters, which stop shoppers long enough to deliberate? When you take the customer directly to the item they’re seeking, do you finish by gently waving your hand across a number of item alternatives and add-ons?
This article was written by Gillian Burdett for Small Business Pulse