Ask the Expert: New rules of retail selling


Tips and advice to positively influence shopper behaviour and loyalty.

As buyer behaviour changes, sales expert Andy Preston believes retailers and their staff must embrace the new rules of retail selling or risk losing customer loyalty.

The recession has undoubtedly changed the way people spend their money. Factors including the way customers look at buying, the amount they’re willing to spend and how they scrutinise each purchase are changing the buying landscape for retail outlets, yet many of those outlets have failed to change and adapt accordingly.

Some retailers are aware customer buying behaviour has changed, but either don’t know what to do, aren’t sure what to do, or are sticking their heads in the sand, hoping it will all go away. None of these are particularly effective strategies, as I’m sure you would agree.

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The ones that have taken action have taken it at the strategic level; focusing on branding, straplines or strategy. Precious little has filtered down to staff in stores (let alone changed what they do) — therefore the only thing that has changed at ground level is there are less people buying. It’s time for retailers to embrace the new rules of retail selling.

When the recession hit people’s pockets they started to scrutinise their purchases more. This meant purchases that would have previously been made without much thought became a point of serious consideration for the average cash-strapped consumer.

Now customers aren’t just scrutinising what they purchase, but how much the item is and where their items originate from. Customers that may have shopped at specific retailers for years are now re-considering their loyalty and where they regularly buy from.

Therefore, successful retailers will put things in place at a ‘ground floor’ level to retain their existing loyal customers, but also pinch customers from rival stores. Do this well and you’ll get great results. Do it badly (or not at all) and rival stores will take your customers.

Savvy retailers are switching on to the fact that customers will still spend money with them, but only if they focus on the experience. This means all staff must be focused on providing each customer with a great retail experience each time they are in the store.

In practise, this means offering fantastic service from the moment a customer enters the store, while they look for something and when they pay and leave. Think about all the times customers interact with your staff – is it always a great, positive experience? In many cases the answer is no. How well are you and your staff managing the customer buying experience right now?

The majority of retailers tend to default to making it difficult for customers to buy from them, rather than easy. If customers are now being more choosy about where they buy from, and you don’t make it easy to buy from you, you’re driving your potential customers to your competition. Now is the time to completely reassess your strategy.

Think about your store right now, and your people on the shop floor. Are they making it easy to buy from you? Does every customer walk away feeling as though the interaction was pleasant, simple and easy? Then think about the store as a whole — how easy are you to buy from? How easy is it for customers to get what they need? Or do you thrive on making it difficult?

In most stores, retail upselling seems to be a lost art. It may well still be discussed at management level, but it’s certainly not apparent ‘in the trenches’ with the staff on the shop floor.

Every retailer should be looking at maximising customer spend per visit —as the customer is being more cautious about what they spend, you need to make the most of what they can spend right now, while they’re in the store.

When getting customers to part with their money is more difficult, you need to appeal to their buying emotion in the moment of purchase, or when they’re choosing an item and putting it into their basket. Of course, you can’t have one member of staff per customer because that would be ridiculous, but you can have in-store offers that maximise your upselling opportunities. Are you on top of this as much as you could be?

So, above are my four new rules of retail selling. Photocopy this article, discuss it in management meetings, and share it with your team. Implement it now for best results, before you lose valuable (and potentially loyal) customers to your competition.

Andy Preston is an expert on sales and influencing customer buying behaviour. You can find out more about Preston’s sales techniques at

This Ask the Expert was taken from the June issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. To read the magazine in full online, click here.

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