ORLANDO, Fla. - Interacting with customers has a tremendous impact on boosting sales, according to new research.
Supermarket consultant Harold Lloyd of Harold Lloyd Presents, Virginia Beach, Va., and Kenneth Herbst, professor of marketing, Mason School of Business, College of William & Mary, presented findings from original, on-site research they conducted earlier this spring.
"All the information we got as we followed customers through the stores was interesting, but some was astonishing," Lloyd said. "For instance, we found that any interaction with customers, in any department, not counting checkout, caused customers to spend an average of 23% more totally, some as much as 40% more. Not only that, but interaction in the deli or in-store bakery caused them to spend 44% more."
That alone emphasizes the important role delis and ISBs play in growing total store sales. Wherever there's an opportunity to make eye contact and say something, it's an opportunity to increase sales significantly, Lloyd and Herbst stressed.
"Unfortunately, we found that only 14% of customers we followed got talked to by anyone in the store," Herbst said.
Six supermarkets, including Hy-Vee and Farm Fresh units, were involved in the study. More than 1,000 customers were monitored as they shopped.
"We noted whether they had kids with them, whether they were carrying coupons, shopping lists or ad fliers, and how those factors affected rings," Lloyd said.
It's well known that demos and even passive sampling increase sales in the department, but the research indicated the promotion caused customers to spend up to 34% more on a shopping trip.
In addition to interaction, product demonstrations slow customers down, leading them to buy more. Lloyd and Herbst suggested other ways to slow them down.
"Buying enthusiasm does not taper off as the customer stays in the store. She keeps buying as long as she can find what she wants and gets questions answered," Lloyd said.
He suggested offering a beverage to consume while shopping, creating music zones - for example, Italian music in the deli - providing bump-outs and sampling stations in some aisles, and spontaneous demoing.
"Grab a tray of cookies and start offering them. It works. Forget the vendors. Do it yourself. It's worth it."
The researchers suggested putting some life into dead corners. "In the back corner of one store, just past produce, we placed a banana tree and increased traffic there by 12% and banana sales by 13%" Herbst said.
Another idea was to bring free coffee into action, providing interaction and a slow down. "Instead of sticking a lone coffee pot in a dark corner, how about a nice person offering a cup of coffee near the beginning of the traffic path?" Lloyd asked.
The researchers also found that a customer carrying a hand basket bought twice as much as one who's bare-handed, and a customer with a cart buys twice as much as a customer with a hand basket.
Here are some more of the researchers' observations:
Customers carrying shopping lists bought 40% more than those without one.
Shoppers with coupons bought 24% more.
Those carrying ad circulars bought 37% more.
"Posting the appropriate page of the week's flier at each end of aisles makes sense. And some stores offer a printed, checkoff shopping list with an aisle map on the back of it," Lloyd said.