For many women, shopping alone is a luxury.
Because of the role women play in their households (typically “chief purchasing officer” and for many, primary caregiver, too), they are often shopping with kids or companions. As any woman with a plus one (or more) will tell you, a bored or impatient shopping companion can stop a sale in its tracks.
Whether the companions include an adult partner, children or friends, it’s difficult for your customer to focus on what you’re selling when she’s with people who would rather be anywhere else. You’ll be more successful at closing sales if you’re skillful at accommodating these companions. After all, they're your guests, too. And just because they’re not actively shopping today doesn’t mean they won’t be your customers at some point in the future. But most importantly, helping them helps your shopper.
Here are some practical ideas on how to create a great experience for your customers and the people walking through the door with them.
Tip 1: Provide comfortable seating.
Sometimes the best ideas are the most low tech. Since smartphones have eradicated boredom as we know it, all your customer needs now is a chair in which her companion(s) can sit comfortably and read or entertain themselves while she shops. Even though this is a simple solution to help your customers, chairs at retail can seem rarer than seared tuna, even outside the places they’re needed most — dressing rooms. Bonus points for supplying wifi and charging stations.
Tip 2: Maintain spotless restrooms.
I know what you’re thinking: What does this have to do with anything? The answer is: a lot. Consider the story of Jamie, a young mother featured in my book, Why She Buys:
“I make my trips to the grocery store quickly, because if my youngest child needs to go to the bathroom, she can’t hold it. To get to the bathroom at my grocery store, you have to go through the loading dock, then down a cement staircase, then through the employee locker and break room, to the furthest crevice in the basement, to get to a dirty, two-stall bathroom.
It seems like stores are investing a lot to make themselves look better and encourage you to stay in them longer, but they keep forgetting about the bathrooms. When my child has a meltdown, there’s nowhere to go. There’s one tiny bench in the whole place, right by the front door. It’s clear that no one is thinking these things through, and yet every other person in the store is shopping there with their kids.”
If women like Jamie know they can’t count on a clean bathroom, they may cut a shopping trip short or avoid your place altogether. (How many times have you driven past a highway gas station for the same reason?) In your customers’ eyes, your restroom is an indicator of the cleanliness and attention to detail they can expect throughout your establishment. And when it comes to baby-changing stations, be sure to include them in both the women’s and the men’s bathrooms, as well as in gender-neutral bathrooms. Bonus points for supplying hooks for coats and purses.
Tip 3: Deliver to her car.
There’s a reason drive-through restaurants are so popular with families. The act of getting young kids (and their things) in and out of a car can take longer than the shopping trip itself. If it’s appropriate for your business, consider services like in-vehicle pick-up for customers who have ordered online. At Sears, for example, customers can use the Sears app to alert the store when they’ve arrived in a pick-up area and an associate will deliver their order to the car. Bonus points: Deliver to her home.
Tip 4: Make an impression before she even walks in the door.
On a recent visit to an HEB grocery store in Austin, I saw signs for parking spaces specifically for people with children. I was impressed. With just a few signs and parking spaces located close to the store entrance, HEB is sending a powerful message of thoughtfulness to their customers with small children. Bonus points for offering extra wide parking spaces in this area.
And at the end of the day, we all know that effective selling is about catering to your customer's needs. That means catering to the people they’re shopping with, too.