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Retail success can begin with a smile on sales floor

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Knowing customers' likes and dislikes also plays a vital role with regard to sales and profits

In today’s world the customer is bombarded with a plethora of choices when it comes to shopping, including where to shop, how to shop, how to pay and what brands to buy.

For retailers and stores, knowing their customers’ likes and dislikes, and even their current state of mind, plays an important role with regards to sales and profits.

The brand, store or shopping centre that truly knows its customer will stand out from the crowd.

This is not only key to its success, but also to survival, says master neuroscientist Ian Rheeder, who addressed a South African Council of Shopping Centres breakfast.

Retail-tainment puts inspiration into shopping

Speaking about the neuroscience behind retail and the way messages are communicated, which is often more important than the actual message, Rheeder said it was important to remember people only do things they want to do.

“This has huge implications for leaders. It means connecting at an emotional level, one-on-one, with every person. It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. Remember Carl Buechner’s words: ‘They may forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.’ Feelings are more important than thoughts,” he said.

Rheeder said retailers are bombarded with advice about what they should do to attract customers.

“There is too much advice out there. What neuroscience has done is simplify the way we should persuade and market our offerings to the world. My advice is to get back to basics using the big neuroscience discoveries. It really works.”

With regards to knowing their customers, Rheeder offered the following tips to retailers, stores and shopping centres:

Your people on the floor know more about your business than you realise. Listen to them carefully and even use them to do research.

After that, have focus groups. Invite groups of about six to eight people, get them in the same room for two hours and find out what works, what they want and why they prefer your competitor. Bounce new ideas off them.

After that, interview a sample of 300 of your core customers to find out exactly what’s going on.

During the presentation, Rheeder interacted with the audience through humorous anecdotal accounts and stories and shared thought-provoking research in which he entered well-known brand stores wearing hidden cameras. Using these he was able to record interactions with staff from a person-to-person view. The footage obtained showed the competency of staff on the floor.

Food, drink rules retail

“Retailers can market and advertise until they’re blue in the face, but if the people on the floor are not happy, trust me, your customers won’t be happy either. Start on the floor and encourage staff to smile,” he said.

Rheeders said neuroscience “teaches us the big lesson, that we are more social than any other mammal on this planet”.

“We are at least 90% emotional, and trust is the key to doing business. Remember, just because you may not be consciously aware of the shopping environment, that does not mean that unconsciously you are not sipping it all in.

“We absorb about 11 million new synapses through our senses per second, but we are only aware of 40 of these synapses, which is why consumers often don’t know what they want.

“It’s not that they want to lie, they are just oblivious to the subliminal olfactory logos (scents), sounds, contrasting lighting and the service attendant’s warm smile and single eyebrow flash.”

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