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How to Interact with and Talk to Customers in Retail

How to start conversation with customers in retail

Talking to your customers isn’t just basic good customer service – it is essential if you want to optimise sales. But how do you make your staff interact in the way you want them to?

A friendly ‘Can I help you?’ enquiry won’t always cut it. It’s a closed question and chances are you’ll almost always get the standard ‘No’ for an answer before your customer quietly skulks out. But ask them an open-ended question ‘What style of coat are you looking for?’ or even ‘How are you today?’ and you will find the customer will be more comfortable in having a conversation.

“Talking not only improves the chances of increasing conversion rates but also the up sale options of customers purchasing additional packages and up grades,” says Alison Barker, client analyst at Ipsos Retail Performance.

It has found that the overall conversion rate for Fashion retailers is 3.8 per cent, but with staff interaction it increases to 5.5 per cent. With DIY sheds, the increase jumps 15 per cent to an 84 per cent conversion rate.

At a time when footfall traffic is down, every shopper counts. So while you may be happy with a 69 per cent conversion – what about the other 31 per cent you have just let walk out of the door? What information do you have about them?

Empowering your staff with the right shopper insights is key to converting them from a browser into a buyer and that starts with talking to them. So how do you know if someone wants to be consulted? The answer, says Alison, is all about knowing your customers’ triggers. Are they in a shopping centre or on the high street? She explains, “Shopping centres get a lot of browsers, so you might not need as many staff. However, the same shop in the High Street will have more people who are out to shop and want to be approached to make an informed purchase so there you need higher staffing levels.”

Retail conversion tips - talking to customers


Customer behaviour: demographic factors

Culture and geography also play a part. “China and America have very high staffing levels generally,” says Alison. “Every time you enter a new department there is always someone ready to demonstrate and so that is what Chinese consumers expect. In the UK, people like to get on and look without interruption and they really don’t like being ambushed or sales people who are too pushy, although there is a regional north/south divide in this regard. From talking to clients and analysing the data, we have found many people from the North want to be approached, but in London they are more closed and don’t want to talk with anyone.”

Then there is the age factor to take into account with younger people not wanting to talk, as they haven’t got time in contrast to the more elderly customers who will have. As a retailer, the more understanding you have of why a customer is in your store and how they behave, the better, not only for their customer experience but also for your conversion rates.

Having a better understanding of how your customer shops, knowing what areas they are interested in, how price sensitive they are and how receptive they are to impulse buys, can really affect your bottom line.

To find out how we can help you get this understanding, contact Ipsos Retail Performance on 01908 682 700