Browser to buyer: it’s the stories that sell


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What moves someone from browser to buyer?

Paco Underhill’s book, Why we buy, is a fabulous collection of stories about people who choose to go from being shoppers to being customers. Through naturalistic observation, often aided by extensive video observation, he captures the small things that make a difference in conversion: what holds your attention and what gets ignored, what elicits curiosity and what sustains it in the face of so many other stimulating opportunities appearing at the same time.

What happens with highly discretionary sales? Not the things you need to buy, but they things you might buy? Here’s an example to which many of us can relate…

If you’ve been to an arts fair this summer, you have passed by rows and rows of white tents with artists displaying their handiwork — pottery, photography, jewelry, watercolors, objects carved from oak and teak, handmade clothing and all sorts of artistic things you might not see anywhere else. Things you never thought you needed, but maybe something catches your eye. If it’s a nice day, you stroll, enjoy the summer weather, converse about what you like and don’t like with whomever accompanies you, how different objects or pictures remind you of something. And somewhere along the way you choose to purchase something.

What moves someone from browser to buyer? Maybe it’s a flash of desire (“I must have that“), a reasoned evaluation (“Two similar tents, but the art in this tent is 15% less than the other one“), or the intent to reward yourself (“I can’t take that big vacation this year, but at least I can get these funky earrings and necklace“).

Each of these occur to some extent, but there is one common factor: the story. Not just any story,it’s your story. For discretionary purchases, particularly like those at craft fairs, the most important factor in shifting from browser to buyer is seeing the object as part of your own story.

How do you imagine yourself wearing that jewelry?

What feelings surface ever so slightly as you hold that pottery in your hands?

When you look at that picture, where does it take you?

In a prior post, Becoming customer centric: Six lessons you can learn from a 14-year old, I had the pleasure of relating my daughter’s experience being selected for her first juried art show. She has had a few more shows this summer, and in between being ‘the help’ (setting up the tent, running errands, and whatever else you would expect dad to do) I’ve been able to observe browsers, buyers, and talk with many artists about how they sell and why they think people buy their work.

Location, price, layout, people who come early to buy before the crowds, people who have to come back three times; these are all things you will see in action. But the most common factor — it’s the story.

Sometimes it is the artists themselves who become the story. You read the artist’s statement, you talk to them about their work, and something about their spark of inspiration adds to the piece you are considering.

Most often it is seeing yourself in the art or seeing the art within your life. Here is one of the photos my daughter had on display. I can’t tell you how many people stopped by to talk about it. The combination of bicycle, boat and fishing rod by the water seemed to suggest that real break from daily life. Another photo of a bench overlooking a lake drew people over who said, “I don’t know where you took that picture, but I’m sure I’ve sat on that bench!

As I walked the fair, I noticed similar comments across many booths.

Actions you can take to help that browser choose to become a buyer:

  • Ask about their experience related to the object at which they are looking
  • Have plenty of mirrors on hand for when they try it on
  • Encourage them to handle the pottery; have a sample table where they can arrange different pieces to their liking
  • Start to tell your story, but look for a way to turn the conversation over to their story

And if you are a financial advisor (a different kind of artist, working out of a different kid of tent), you might do something very similar:

  • Ask about their imagined future (not just financial goals)
  • Encourage your client to extend the story (as in, “Now tell me how you got to that dream future, the events and actions of the preceding years that make it possible“)
  • If working with a couple, ask each how the story looks from their perspective (risky maybe, but the best FAs I know of wouldn’t have it any other way, and some of them laugh about becoming family therapists).

Browser to buyer, it’s all in the story.

When have you gone from browser to buyer? What’s your story?

How have you coached sales staff to pay better attention to the shift from browser to buyer?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Sokol
A psychologist with an eye for the ways organizational dynamics make it possible or impossible to delight customers, I see the world from the eyes of customers, employees and leaders who strive to transform customer experience.


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