feature story

What consumers
        really want

How to recognize different types of shoppers and provide the products and services each one wants.

by Jan Landon

Conventional wisdom warns about prejudging customers as they enter your flower shop. But categorizing them is an entirely different matter, and doing so just might help you provide better service.
Did you know that retail consumers generally fall into five categories, each with a unique set of styles, objectives and needs? According to Mark L. Michelson, president and CEO of Michelson & Associates, Inc., a consulting and research firm in Marietta, Ga., it’s true. There are the “Born to Shop”ers, the “Sales Seekers/Coupon Clippers,” the “Task Masters,” the “Moms and Kids” and the “Get Me Outta Here!”s.
“Many retailers don’t take the time to understand customers’ needs,” Mr. Michelson says. “They tend to focus on selling product instead of fulfilling needs, and needs are rarely centered around product.”
Especially for florists, sales are about emotion. “Flower buyers are not buying flowers,” explains Mr. Michelson. “They are buying an apology, sympathy, an expression, or maybe even love. They’re buying emotional things.”
Fulfilling customers’ needs by helping them select appropriate floral gifts for each occasion (or need) is essential to good service. And being aware of the various customer types can help you do just that, leading to greater buyer satisfaction and repeat business. Here are the characteristics of each buyer category.

born to shop

These customers love to linger, explore, enjoy a cup of coffee and talk about what they are shopping for. For this crowd, shopping is a joyful activity.
“They want to know everything you have,” Mr. Michelson says. “They’re going to hang out. They’re going to schmooze. They’re more likely to trade stories about shopping than those in the other categories.”
The buyers in this group see themselves as trendsetters, and they’re always seeking something new. They like specialty stores. Mr. Michelson describes them as “princesses” and “queens” because they like to be pampered.
They also travel in packs, Mr. Michelson says. And they enjoy special events like a “Girls Day Out”; they like excitement and invitations to events.
He describes this group as “easy,” but he advises that to keep them coming back, you must continuously offer new items, so they have something to discover each visit. Displays need to be rotated and always feature new products.
This group not only likes to shop but also likes to buy. They are, in fact, the group most likely to buy. Mr. Michelson suggests having coffee or tea or other treats on hand to enhance and extend their stay in your store.

sales seekers/ coupon clippers

Don’t expect to see these folks unless you have a sale going on. That is the only way “Sales Seekers/Coupon Clippers” will go into a store, Mr. Michelson says.
These shoppers love discount-type stores, and they are attracted to displays that give the impression they are getting a bargain. They prepare in advance to buy, reading sale ads and mailers.
“You can always spot the coupon clippers because they have coupons or sales fliers in their hands,” he says. “Some kinds of stores are specifically designed to appeal to these shoppers, who see bargains in disorganized environments. Stores that are intentionally full of clutter often create an aura of savings
and value.” A florist can
appeal to this type of buyer by having lots of flowers and other products as well as regular sales and/or a well-stocked bargain or clearance area, Mr. Michelson says. They like volume.
These types won’t cross what he calls “the marble barrier.” It doesn’t matter if a store is offering great discounts, if the entrance has gold, glitter and marble or anything perceived as high end, they won’t cross it. And they also don’t like fancy displays.
Sales Seekers/Coupon Clippers will spend money; they’re often drawn into a store in search of sale items but leave with other purchases as well.

task masters

These consumers want buying to be efficient, in terms of both time and accessibility. For Task Masters, shopping is just another chore to fit between picking up the dry cleaning and picking up the children at the end of a workday. It’s about the product, not the packaging.
This group typically includes people who work full time and are white-collar professionals. They are the list-makers. They have tunnel vision, and, while shopping, they’re already thinking about what they have to do next.
“While they don’t hate shopping, it’s just another chore,” Mr. Michelson suggests.
A store with good navigational clues appeals to Task Masters. The intent of displays needs to be obvious. For example, bereavement gifts and sweet sentiments need to be clearly marked. Don’t clutter things up for Task Masters.
“They want to be able to quickly scan an area,” Mr. Michelson shares, adding that they don’t want to be confused because it takes more of their time. They will spend money, but they want to do it quickly. And if they like how a store works, they will come back.
“If you make it easy and convenient for them, and if they know you’re the main one they want to turn to, they’ll come back,” he says.

moms and kids

It is all about the kids with this group of buyers. If a store is in a suburban area surrounded by new or developing housing areas, Moms and Kids will be a significant part of its customers.
The simplest suggestion for Moms and Kids is to move breakable items off shelves that are within reach of children, Mr. Michelson advises. “These shoppers’ basic paranoia is that their kids are going to destroy everything in the store,” he says.
The secret to attracting these shoppers is to make your store child friendly. Make sure your fixtures and displays are sturdy. Have an area with toys and games for the children to play with while the parents shop. Give freebies to the children, Mr. Michelson suggests, like short-stemmed flowers or small plants.
Parents also like to take their children to stores that offer some type of educational experience. Mr. Michelson recommends creating an area where children can pot plants or make simple bouquets.

get me outta here!

The name of this group explains it all. They hate shopping, and they expect the worst. They don’t want to chat or drink coffee or ponder too many options; they want stores that help them get their shopping done as quickly as possible. For them, faster is not fast enough.
Mr. Michelson states that the Get-Me-Outta-Here! group is primarily made up of men. “In flower shops, they are the most confused,” he says. “They need help with what’s appropriate. They need clear lines of visibility and navigation. Make the choices very easy for them.”
Displays need to be clearly marked and easily understood. These shoppers like to grab it and go. Ready-made bouquets and arrangements and ready-dressed plants are great options. If they have to discuss, order and wait, they won’t come back, Mr. Michelson says.

how do you know who’s who?

Mr. Michelson says there are no percentages of the number of consumers who fall into each of these buying groups because most of the information has been gathered from experience and anecdotally. And, he says, people may switch from one group to another depending on the situation. For example, a Mom-and-Kids buyer without children along may easily become a Born-to-Shop buyer.
Identifying different types of buyers when they walk into a store is the key. Mr. Michelson suggests looking at a shopper’s body language and attitude to figure out into which category he or she falls. “Make it a game among the staff to identify who is who,” he says.
If an employee is especially fond of children, he or she might best work with buyers in the Moms-and-Kids category. If another employee is especially gregarious and chatty, he or she might match well with the Born to Shop buyers. And the most efficient no-nonsense worker might work well with a Task Master or a Get Me Outta Here!
Whatever the type of buyer, Mr. Michelson says that service by well-trained staff remains the most important thing a store can offer. “Floral businesses often provide flowers for highly emotional events, like weddings and funerals,” he offers. “If helpful, efficient service isn’t provided, or if the employees aren’t knowledgeable, the customers will never come back, regardless of type.”

Jan Landon, a daily newspaper reporter for 18 years, is now a freelance writer residing in Overland Park, Kan.

For more information about Mark Michelson or Michelson & Associates, Inc., visit www.michelson.com.

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