Window Shoppers: What are they? How do we reach them?

Window Shoppers: Turn them into Customers [Part 1]

Sales Staff: Hi! Welcome to Sample Store! Were you looking for anything in particular?
Window Shoppers: I’m just browsing. Thanks.

Many customer service representatives are familiar with this exchange. Many people come into stores just to have a quick look around. These window shoppers have a variety of reasons why they might only be browsing. Most of the time, sales staff will leave these people alone, preferring to service people who are actually interested in making a purchase; window shoppers are just a waste of time. Or are they?

What are window shoppers & why do they do it?

Window shoppers are people who browse a shop’s products and services without the intent to make a purchase. Their reasons vary, of course, but when narrowed down it can usually be assumed that it’s one of the following:

1. Wishlisting

Wishlisting involves people browsing products that they don’t actually need/want right at this moment, but they are looking at something they might buy in the future. Call it a daydream. It can also mean that the shopper can’t afford the products in-store at the moment, but is hoping to be able to afford them at some point in their life. These people are looking for inspiration, and are easy to talk to. They’re not ready to purchase now, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored – there’s a potential future sale here, and the pitching should start now.

2. Comparing

A shopper might be checking on the quality or price of products and services to get themselves the best offer available. They’re looking for answers: why should they purchase your product/service over the competitions’? These are the window shoppers really worth talking to: connecting with these people will allow businesses to beat the competition.

3. Waiting

Perhaps the shopper is filling the time before another engagement – picking up their kids from karate practice, or before a dentist appointment. They could be waiting to meet someone, using your store a landmark; they could simply be waiting for a taxi or Uber. The fact is, they’re waiting, and it’s not for you or your sales pitches.

How to tell what type of window shopper you’ve got on your hands…

Window shoppers are easy to dismiss – after all, they’ve inferred that they would rather be left alone, and certainly some of them should be. The trick is to learn to differentiate between a definitive ‘I’m just browsing’ and an open-to-conversation ‘I’m just browsing’.

A lot of this will come from experience – customer service representatives who have been in the game a long time will be able to spot the different window shoppers from a mile away – but for the most part it’s all about paying attention.

We can learn a lot about a person’s openness to sales talk just by actively listening to what they’re saying, and how they’re saying it. Pay attention to the way a window shopper responds to the initial ice-breaker. Do they meet your eyes, do they smile? Is their body language open or closed? Closed would imply that they turn away from you, giving you the distinct impression that they want to be left alone and the conversation is over. Someone who is open to continuing the conversation is more likely to turn towards the sales representative, this should act as an invitation to continue the conversation.

Aside from body language, it’s important to watch window shoppers as they browse your wares. Are they checking for certain elements in particular? Colours, pricing, quality? Depending on the situation, you could attempt to approach them again once you’ve determined that they’re looking at particular things. (Note how I said ‘at particular things’ not ‘for particular things’, remember, they may not be ready to make a purchase just yet.)

Is it possible to convert a window shopper into a customer?

In short? Yes. Every person who walks into a store can be turned into a customer. That’s the purpose of having sales staff in play to start with. Even a window shopper who doesn’t express immediate interest in making a purchase can become a customer.

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll explore the how.

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