Shop Talk: Driving Consumer Conversations
Imagine being surrounded by conversation, yet standing isolated in a pocket of silence. The words fly over and under and around, but never directly towards you. It’s tough to be alone in a crowd, feeling at best unseen, or worse, excluded.
Exclusion hurts, whether you’re a shy accountant at an office party, or an eight year-old child who gets to the bus stop late only to realize that the other kids are pointedly ignoring him because they all made a plan before he got there and he didn’t even do anything but they thought his mittens were dorky which they weren’t because his mom had made them and anyway who cares I don’t need you all because I can play with this rock.
The point is, we all want to know we are being heard. Conversation is connection, and connection is a base human need.
But to get good conversation, you have to give good conversation. And not everyone converses at a professional level. That’s why there are literally thousands of resources dedicated to helping folks talk the talk. Retail marketers would be wise to take a look.
Because today, retail marketers must build inclusive conversations with shoppers. Rather than sell to them or talk at them, retailers need to foster shopper-centric exchanges. They need to start and nurture a meaningful conversation, one that is:
Authentic. You really can’t fake sincerity. Shoppers want to know the real brand, and expect the brand to know them as well. Demonstrate real interest by exposing the real you.
One-on-one. Undivided attention makes a shopper feel special.
An exercise in being present. Sharing a real-time moment is much appreciated, and usually rewarded.
Relationship oriented. Shoppers aren’t afraid of relationships. They are willing to take it to the next level and build a future, provided the brand contributes to the relationship as well.
Honest. Tell even one little white lie and the trust is broken; the shopper is gone. The only kind of conversation she wants to have is one based on truth.
Understanding exactly what a meaningful shopper conversation is is a start. But the how of conversation is just as important. Which brings us back to those resources designed to elevate personal conversational skills between individuals. There’s something there for retail marketers; after all, the relationships they seek should be individual as well.
A Google search of “good conversation” turned up 439 million results. I reviewed them all, determined to find the very best. (OK, fine, I selected one at random. Which is actually better for our purposes, because it demonstrates that retail marketers can learn from almost any of these conversation how-to sites.) From Fast Company, their tips and my retail marketing spin:
Get out of yourself and make it about the other person. No one is more important than the shopper; naturally it should be all about her. Give her opportunities to drive the conversation and find ways for her to see herself involved with the brand.
Practice active listening. Give her opportunity to speak her mind (or even vent). Confirm what she’s said, and underscore her value. Take the trouble to ensure brand language feels personalized. A corporate-y canned response is death.
Move the conversation to a deeper level. Create a space (online or in-store) where the shopper feels comfortable answering questions and providing information. Demonstrate a knowledge of and appreciation for who she is as an individual. Encourage her to tell her story, and then reward her for sharing. Assure her privacy.
Ask good questions. Show interest, build trust and always seek more information. As with a new friend, the marketer should want to know everything about the shopper. Use open-ended questions to create opportunities for discussion. Base questions on things you already know about her. And don’t badger her or waste her time.
Consider time and space. Let the setting dictate the length and depth of the conversation. Don’t rush the shopper through a litany of questions when she has only limited time. Some things are better discussed online. Others are better presented in a real-world setting. Open multiple channels of communication with the shopper (email, website, text, phone, in-store) and make the conversation fit the circumstances.