Thursday, December 23, 2010


Marketing: one size doesn't fit all

On the radio program Marketplace, yesterday, was an item about salespeople sending thank you notes to customers:

Sarah Siewert: And as soon as we got there, into the purse section, one of the saleswomen immediately approached us and was really attentive, she pulled purses from the back, she went through different options, different colors.

Marketplace: Typical shopping experience, right? As long as you get an attentive sales person, like Sarah did. She and her mom ended up buying a purse apiece. Then, a couple weeks later they both got letters in the mail from the saleswoman who’d helped them. They were thank you notes.

Sarah Siewert: It was a fully hand written note, referencing the exact bag we purchased. And on my note, she even had a nice reference to our alma mater.

The report went on to note that lots of stores, including JCPenney, are now doing this.

I find it interesting, because I think different customers will have different tolerance for that sort of thing. Perhaps women looking for high-end purses like it. I would not, particularly. And under some circumstances, I’d be very much put off by it.

First, I have to say that the fastest way to get me to leave your store is to be a salesperson who hovers and insists on helping when I’m just looking and don’t want help. I want the staff to be available, to show up just at the moment I’m looking for someone... but to stay out of my way, to disappear into the background and not to be anywhere near me, otherwise.

When I’m in looking mode, I want to be able to look at many items, pick some of them up, scrutinize them, check out the prices, put them down, maybe pick them up again, with no one interjecting choice bits about where this one is made, how good the quality of that one is, and so on. If I’m with someone, I want to be able to talk about the items with my companion, out of earshot of a sales rep.

When I’m ready for help, it’ll be obvious, as long as someone is paying attention. I’ll look around, trying to catch someone’s eye. I’ll have receptive body language, and I’ll be ready to ask questions and to listen to the answers.

And after the purchase, I don’t want follow-ups and junk mail. If you want me to come back to your store, do the right thing at the time of the sale, and then make sure you have things available that I want, at good prices. Do that, and I’ll be back, without anyone’s having to spend the time on a personal thank you note. Fail in that, and all the thank yous you care to send will do nothing.

Oh, and don’t call me by my first name, just because you saw it on my credit card. Very off-putting, indeed.


Nathaniel Borenstein said...

I had *exactly* the same reaction to the marketplace story that you did. I wonder if it's in part a gender difference? I think the examples in the story were just about all female...

Barry Leiba said...

The customers were all women, as was the reporter. Some of the sales people were men, and the guy who sells medical scrubs probably sells to men at least some of the time.

It certainly could be a difference between the sexes. Any women want to comment?

Catherine said...

I'm female, and I feel "exactly" as you do. But, I am a senior citizen, so perhaps my age makes a difference. A young woman might have a different reaction.


Thomas J. Brown said...

I agree completely, especially about wanting to talk out of earshot of the sales rep.

I'm definitely the kind of person who, if I want to talk to a sales rep, I will hunt one down and ask them questions. Otherwise, checking in every once in a (great) while doesn't bug me, but hovering is a great way to get me to leave without purchasing anything.

HRH said...

I was at a shoe store in Thailand a few months ago, looking to buy a pair, likewise, I don’t care about hovering salesperson, when I am just evaluating the product, but not this guy, he was constantly on my back, with his broken English, insisting that I should buy something, because everything in the store, are good deals. I actually found a pair that I really liked, but his persistence became his Achilles hill, which prompted me to eschew without a purchase.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I dunno. It's been so long that I've been in a big store to buy something where I could even find an open register in another department without walking halfway across the store (yes, Macy's, I'm talking about you and the shoes I did not buy) that it might be nice to have someone hover a bit. I remember when they got paid on commission - if you told them you'd find them when you were ready they usually left you alone. (I'm female, by the way)