Last updateWed, 25 Mar 2020 1pm

Products, Demographics, Focus

How are your products presented to your customers? Are they sectioned by purpose? By demographics? By price-point? What features of your merchandise guide the product placement within your store? How do you determine what merits prominence in your displays? The nature of the retail beast dictates frequent changes and placements of merchandise to take advantage of seasons, trends (or traditions), themes, features and specific appeal. So how do you choose which products merit prominence and which deserve lesser exposure to the customer?

I am certain you keep up on the latest product offerings by reading trade magazines and studying style trends generally. I know you implement creative strategies to direct customer focus. One question I have for you is how do your sales statistics aid you in increasing “floor appeal” of your merchandise? What, according to your store’s sales records, are irresistible items in the eyes of your customers? Which pieces, although perfectly lovely, have hung around long enough to be considered “last year’s trends?” 

When you carefully consider your Customer Profile Records and compare those to your Merchandise Sales Records, the picture of “who’s buying what” becomes more and more clear. If you are stocking merchandise that does not align with your records of customer sales, you are setting your store (and yourself) up for a group of merchandise “discount bargains!” 

I’m convinced that neither you nor your store wants to have an inventory of “turkeys.” Considering the demographics of your customers saves you both time and money. 

I’m guessing that you are aware of the changes of the characteristics of your customer-base over the past few years. It is exciting to note the changes of preferences of potential customers with the passage of time. In the 1960s, Boomers were a mystery to their elders (and presumably the merchandise buyers of the era). Now, those same Boomers are aghast at the values, ideals and tastes that are driving the purchasing decisions of Millennials! 

As Millennials become the retail driving force, having a basic understanding of “what makes them tick,” is vital to the future of businesses. Millennials, as a group, are more highly educated than previous generations. Because their debt ratios tend to be higher (a function of the cost of education and the recent recession), they tend to be very practical shoppers, who are value-conscious. They prefer to use cash, gift cards or debit cards and abhor the use of credit cards. They are extremely mobile, and extremely connected to each other, the internet and to pre-researched purchases. 

When they make a major purchase, they will comparison shop using online sites, check prices on their phones and rely upon customer ratings sites like Yelp, Google or Trip Advisor. 

They value the opportunity to communicate directly with the merchant. They want the ability to find an item online and then pick it up in the store. Because they utilize a variety of tech devices, it is vital to them to have solid integration of communications, whether on their desktop computers, their phones or in a brick-and-mortar storefront. 

Interestingly, Millennials are teaching their elders how to demand great customer service, regardless of the type of technology involved. Boomers and X-Generationers are taking their cues from their younger counterparts: as retailers, authentic conversations and product knowledge are key and they will share their experiences with each other.

Increasingly, retailers’ success is predicated on their ability to quickly respond to the needs and wants of their customers. Using effective technology to streamline the selection process, through dazzling and precise website offerings is critical. Insuring the opportunity to chat with customer service representatives quickly and accurately engages the shopper. The ability to click through to a product’s features and benefits, it’s customization options, its pricing and its ratings by other buyers and the options for pick-up, shipping and quick delivery are not merely nice options, they are critical pieces of marketing strategies that will make or break a business.

And yet…

The brick and mortar store is still a vital component to your success! While shoppers are trending toward online research and selection, there is a large contingent that wants to augment their purchasing research by see, feel, touch, investigations. With this type of shopping, it is more important than ever that when a customer enters your business, the establishment of relationships with the customer begins instantly and interactions with staff are warm, friendly and open. This is the salesperson’s greatest opportunity to form an ongoing, positive, honest, trusting bond with the human standing before them. 

Any relationship begins with integrity. The in store offerings and practices must be precisely consistent across all forms of communication: website, e-mail, catalog, printed advertisements, etc. Providing the customer with impeccable service, being committed to great listening skills, coupled with caring questioning about the customer’s needs and emotional attachment are the initial focus for the person(s) who has honored you with their visit. Flexibility, responsiveness, speed and convenience create the basis for actually doing business with your customer. 

Incorporated into the relationship-building component of the interactions with the people physically present in the store, is the opportunity to focus on the human aspects behind the impending purchase: the celebration on an emotional level and the experience on a physical level. On an emotional level, most likely the purchase of jewelry is to celebrate an occasion: graduation, engagement, marriage or anniversary. The customer before you is most likely happy and excited about the occasion. A great salesperson will share in the excitement and enthusiasm of the event or occasion through conversation about the special time. After all we are in the business of helping people celebrate the special moments of their lives.

Accompanying that emotion is a concern about the mechanics of the sale: style, price, gem selection etc. The experience of selection is generally breathtaking, coupled with a sincere desire to awe the recipient. The guidance offered in working through this process builds confidence and a sense of value connected to the satisfaction of the sale. Skilled salespersons have the ability to celebrate the occasion and alleviate the concerns smoothly and with care

Thorough training in all of the aspects of marketing, plus deep and accurate knowledge of the features and benefits of each and every product offered, whether it’s through online presentations, media spots, or printed materials plus the ability to climb into the purchaser’s world, plus demonstrated commitment to providing the best customer service and satisfaction, including the company’s allegiance to societal values and business sense goes a great distance toward creating customer loyalty.

For Millennial sales staff, those training opportunities need to be modernized and crafted to their generation as well.

The personality characteristics of great salespeople carries forward, some of the strategies to impart them to Millennials must capitalize on their abilities to utilize technology for their personal development and specific steps involved in skill development. 

Combining phones, computers, internet access, plus short, focused, interactions can provide an exciting cost-effective training program for salespersons. Carefully developed lessons, presented strategically, in a relatable form that will wow trainees and capture that excitement to translate directly to sales success. Our new Sales Training App can and will be a great help in achieving these goals.

Author, trainer, consultant, and speaker Brad Huisken is President of IAS Training. Huisken has authored several books and training manuals on sales and  produces a Weekly Sales Training Meeting video series along with Aptitude Tests and Proficiency Exams for new hires, current sales staff and sales managers. In addition, he publishes a free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight” For a free subscription or more information contact IAS Training at 800-248-7703 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Visit his website at www.iastraining.com.