the day after katrina

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  • Turning Shoppers into Buyers..Whats Your Batting Average?

    By Susan Caldwell Do you know how many shoppers come through your door and what percentage buy? This percentage is your conversion rate -- people converted from shoppers to buyers. Your conversion rate is important because it indicates how well you are doing with what you have. Your location, marketing and advertising may attract shoppers, but do your employees, merchandise and store turn them into buyers? In his book, Why We Buy, Paco Underhill compares conversion rates to a baseball batting average. You may have one hundred hits, but measuring hits (buyers) against number of times at-bat (total shoppers that came through the door) tells the batting average (conversion rate) and how well you are doing. Without knowing your batting average, Underhill says you dont know if you are Mickey Mantle or Mickey Mouse. If you dont track or measure conversions, you cant identify opportunities for improvement. Depending on your type of business, increasing your conversion rate by as little as .5 percent can mean thousands in sales. Consider that 14 percent of the U.S. population moved last year (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). This 14 percent may not have moved far, but if they now travel a new route, your business may be inconvenient and your customer base just shrank. If you had 100 customers, you now have 86 and need 14 new customers just to maintain the status quo. Converting shoppers, who are already in your store, into buyers is half the battle and less expensive than trying to pull in new shoppers.

    What factors can impact your conversion rate? If a customer buys, and how much, is directly related to the amount of time spent in the store. Underhill also notes that the higher the interception rate (percentage of customers who have contact with a store employee), the greater the conversion rate and larger the sale. Getting a shopper to spend more time in your store can be as simple as making it child friendly. Nowadays, with so many single working parents or both parents working, often the only time for shopping is after work or weekends, and children come along. Understanding that children are a big part of the shopping equation, and having a child friendly business, can increase your conversion rate. Children may not make the purchase decision, but they can surely halt the sale if they get fussy. If children have something to engage them, maybe a kids corner in the store with childrens chairs and toys, or a store employee engages them in conversation, making them feel welcome, mom or dad may have a few more minutes to shop and this may be all thats needed to turn them from shoppers into buyers. Children and parents remember a welcoming environment. Also consider male shopping habits. Underhill found that men move faster through store aisles than women, look at price tags less (72% compared to 86% for women), buy what they came for and leave. Underhill observed that, after looking a little, if men dont find what they want, they are more likely to leave the store without asking for help or making their purchase. Given male shopping habits, there may be little time for that interception and conversion. You may want to approach the male shopper earlier in the shopping process than you would a female, offer assistance and help him achieve his mission (the purchase) before he gets away; youve been helpful and made the sale.

    And dont forget our Latino community; they tend to shop as a family and shopping is often a social event. Is your store family friendly and will they want to stay longer, thus increasing the chance of purchase? What might entice them to stay longer - maybe signs, packaging and staff that are bilingual?

    Understanding the science of shopping, why we buy and how we buy, and using this information helps better serve your customers, can convert shoppers into buyers and bring financial rewards to your business. The above are just a few examples. Knowing your batting average (conversion rate) is a good starting point do you know yours?

    Susan Caldwell is a business consultant in the Gwinnett office of the Georgia SBDC

    Network. To find the office located near you, go to or phone