While industry data shows that foot traffic has somewhat recovered since the pandemic, there’s still plenty of room to improve.
As such, it’s more important than ever to focus on in-store customer conversions. After all, attracting shoppers to your store is challenging enough as is it; the last thing you want is for customers to leave without buying anything.
To ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, we’re shedding light on the most common reasons consumers leave a store without buying anything, along with handy advice on how to improve.
Let’s get started.
1. Lack of product availability and visibility
Customers come into retail stores to purchase products they need, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the #1 reason they leave is when they can’t find what they’re looking for.
A survey from iVend Retail found that 67.3% of respondents say that they walk out of a retail store empty-handed because they couldn’t find the product they needed and 66.3% said it’s because the store didn’t have the items they wanted.
How to fix it
If customers aren’t finding what they need at your store, you could be having issues with product availability, product visibility, or both.
If the issue is a lack of inventory, pay closer attention to your stock management system and reporting. Maybe you’re under-ordering critical items and need to up the quantities. Perhaps you’re not ordering your products as often as you should, so your shelves aren’t stocked at the right times. In these cases, it may help to set re-order points, where your POS or retail management system automatically alerts you when it’s time to buy new stock.
A lack of product availability could also stem from an issue with your forecasting. Depending on your store, you and your team could find ways to better anticipate the needs of your customers. Look into seasonal and industry trends and start carrying products in line with those trends.
If you have the right products in stock but people just aren’t finding them, you may need to make changes with your merchandising. Maybe it’s time to revamp your displays or reposition the products.
It could also be a case of not replenishing your shelves frequently enough. While you may have the products in stock, customers aren’t seeing them on the sales floor. If this is an issue at your store, see to it that your team monitors your shelves more closely.
It also helps to do regular inspections and audits. Checklists will help managers identify and catch issues with in-store execution, and setting up action items will ensure that any replenishment problems are corrected.
2. Long lines and wait times
Long lines are another big reason customers leave without purchasing anything. Research from Omnico Group found that consumers in the U.S. will abandon a checkout line (and their purchase) after eight minutes of waiting. The study also found that 77% of shoppers are less likely to come back to a store with long lines.
So, if your shop’s conversion rates are suffering, be sure to look into your checkout experience. Remember that keeping customers waiting is costing you sales.
How to fix it
Start by looking at your retail data. Identify your store’s peak hours and ensure that you always have adequate staff on the floor to cover your customers’ needs. Understaffing leads to fewer employees at the checkout counter, which could lengthen wait times.
In some cases, not having enough team members can force your employees to multi-task, where they must take care of multiple customers’ needs at once, leading to a diminished shopping experience.
When asked about his top reason for walking out of a retail store, RJ Mahlie, a sales executive at Mobilia Consulting, answered “waiting for service.”
He continues, “The register can’t be left unattended. I get super frustrated at any size retailer when the person who was near the register left to help a consumer leaving everyone else waiting to give the business money.”
As a retailer, you can prevent this from happening by making sure that your stores have a healthy ratio of staff to customers.
Now, if you already have a good amount of employees in-store, but are still keeping customers waiting, you could be having issues with technology. Are your cash registers slow and clunky? Do you not have enough devices to ring up sales?
If so, it may be time to invest in a new point of sale system. Equip your team with a fast and sleek POS solution that lets cashiers handle transactions with just a few clicks. iPad POS systems can also come in handy in breaking up long lines, and they allow you to ring up sales anywhere in the store.
3. Poor customer service
The iVend Retail survey cited earlier found that 39.1% of customers walk out of a store because of poor customer service.
Anecdotal polls also confirmed this.
“I expect to be acknowledged when entering a small to medium retailer,” comments Connie Barra, a store manager at Bath & Body Works. “I don’t need someone to fawn all over me but, acknowledging my presence is important. I have gone in with the intent to purchase and left without anything after looking around without so much as eye contact or a nod of the head.”
Issues with customer service can also manifest themselves in poor product knowledge or failing to personalize the shopping experience.
A study by TimeTrade found that when shoppers are unsure of what to buy, 90% would still move forward with a purchase if they get the help they need and 86% would buy more than expected.
“Retailers have a tremendous opportunity to convert the 90 percent of shoppers walking out the door empty handed today, into customers who would never shop anywhere else,” says Gary Ambrosino, president of TimeTrade. “The key: Giving customers the personal attention they need, when they need it most.”
Unfortunately, the performance of many retailers remains substandard when it comes to customer service.
How to fix it
Establish standards for how associates should treat customers in your store, and see to it that your team members live up to those expectations.
Have your associates go through customer service training if necessary. When going down this route, utilize a combination of methods to educate team members. You can, for example, provide written and video educational materials, then follow-up with role-playing sessions.
When bringing in new people, you’ll want to partner them with seasoned employees that they can shadow in the store, so they can learn what great customer service looks like on the job.
4. Inconsistent experiences across channels
It’s important to remember in-store shopping today is heavily influenced by other retail channels, including ecommerce, mobile, and social media. As such, consumers are highly sensitive to inconsistencies between different channels. This is particularly true when it comes to pricing and product availability.
When asked why she abandons in-store purchases, Kendall Brunone, a store manager at Michael Kors, answered “Mis-marked items.”
“When I am building a list on the retailer’s app and it’s less expensive on my online resource than what it’s sitting on the shelf for… I’d rather click to buy and drive through on my way home to pick it up.”
Robert M. Jones, a merchandising execution associate at The Home Depot, has a similar concern. “Consistency in product availability equals repeat trips. If what used to be on the shelf is now available online only, then there is no purpose to have a brick and mortar location.”
How to fix it
If you have a presence on multiple channels, make consistency a top priority. Pay close attention to things like pricing, and make sure you’re promoting the same prices across the board.
If you’re running a promotion, it’s best to allow customers to redeem discounts across multiple channels, unless you have a very good reason to run a channel-exclusive offer (e.g., a special in-store event.)
Another helpful tip for maintaining omnichannel consistency is to use a tightly integrated platform to run your retail business. When your physical and digital channels are connected, it’s much easier to sync product details and pricing across the board, which means you don’t have to deal with inconsistencies in the shopping experience.
5. A lackluster store environment
The overall look and feel of your store can make or break a customer’s decision to buy. If a shopper comes in and simply doesn’t connect with your store, they’ll likely walk back out.
There are plenty of reasons why customers decide to leave. Maybe the displays looked off. The music was too loud. The associate wasn’t relatable. Your job as the retailer is to figure out why your initiatives aren’t resonating, then adjust accordingly.
How to fix it
Get clear on who your ideal customer is and design your store for that specific persona. One of the best ways to ensure that your store resonates is to make it relatable to the shoppers you’re looking to reach.
Remember the old saying, “hope is not a management strategy”. So, don’t just hope that your stores have an environment conducive to higher sales, inspect them regularly and assign corrective actions when issues are found.
For example, if your target customers are millennials who like yoga, then staff your store with associates who embody that persona. It also helps to invest in displays and collateral that showcase what real customers look like. Modern shoppers have gotten over ultra-polished and Photoshopped models and many customers are looking for authenticity. If your store can provide that, people will be more likely to stay and buy from you.
Converting customers requires a multi-pronged strategy. In addition to keeping your inventory in check, you need to ensure that your associates are at the top of their game and that you’ve created an in-store environment that drives sales.