Why Holiday Shoppers Don’t Buy From You & What You Can Do About It

Don't Make Me Wait

Written by: Chad Thiele and Karin Khuhro

The holiday shopping season is now upon us.

For some, this means buying special gifts for the people who matter the most.

To others, it means purchasing some very cool stuff at discounted prices.

However, for many of us, when we think of the holiday shopping season, we get a sense of dread because all we can think about is increased traffic around shopping malls and huge lines at the register.

This is particularly annoying when all you want to do is buy some of your everyday necessities. As a result, a shopping trip that would usually take a few minutes of your time takes much, much longer.

Your Customers’ Time Is Valuable

In his book “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond,” Paco Underhill points out that it’s not good for business if your customers are made to wait in line at the register for too long.

As Underhill points out, “In study after study, we’ve seen that the single most important factor in determining a shopper’s opinion of the service he or she receives is waiting time. If they think the wait wasn’t too bad, they feel as though they were treated capably and well. If the wait went on too long, they feel as though the service was poor and inept. Quite simply, a short wait enhances the entire shopping experience and a long one poisons it.”

It’s also important to point out that if customers see huge lines at the registers when they peer into a store, there is a chance that they will decide to walk away before even looking for whatever it was they intended to buy in the first place.

Additionally, Underhill points out, wait time is not just a problem at the register. If customers have a hard time finding the product that they are looking for, or if they have a question about the product and it takes too long to find a clerk or sales associate to help answer their question, there is chance that they will leave the store and purchase the item elsewhere.

What Can You Do?

In the book, Underhill gives some suggestions that retailers can use to help remedy some of these problems.

When customers are required to wait in line at the cash register, he suggests that retailers take certain steps to “bend” their customers’ waiting time (i.e., alter the way that they perceive it and possibly turn a negative experience into a positive one.)

For example, he suggests using diversion as a way to make your customers’ waiting time more tolerable.

This includes positioning racks of impulse items so that they can be shopped at the cash register or offering free food samples for your customers to try while they wait, both of which are good ways to introduce new products to your customers.

Underhill’s book is filled with other examples of how store design, merchandising and customer service can improve your customers’ shopping experience and reduce their discomfort when they are forced to wait for service. I recommend picking up a copy for more ideas that will help you keep more customers.


Wait Time Is Important Online, Too

Nowadays, we have the benefit of avoiding lines altogether by shopping over the Internet.

However, even retailers that offer their customers an option to shop online should not forget that their customers’ time is valuable.

In fact, in the online world, wait time might be even more important.

For example, if a consumer goes to a website and the page takes too long to load, there is a good chance that they will give up.

A 2009 survey of U.S. online consumers conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Akamai Technologies, Inc. found that 47% of respondents said that they expect that a website loads within two seconds. Additionally, 40% of respondents said that they would wait only three seconds for the page to load before abandoning the site.

In some cases, they might choose to go to a competitor’s site.

Poor site performance can also reflect badly on the brand, in general.

Furthermore, if a page takes too long to load, it can have a negative effect on where it ranks in a Google Search Engine Results Page.

What Can You Do?

There are many reasons for a slow website. One common issue is images – too many, too large, not optimized, etc. Downloading improperly optimized images during peak times can cause a site to grind to a halt. One suggestion is to test and then optimize your images using free tools such as Pingdom Tools or  iwebtool.

Efficient coding also makes a big impact on site download times. If you’re struggling to get your pages to load within a reasonable amount of time, you should consider having a trained developer do a code audit and specifically look for ways to clean up the code in order to speed up the site.

Finally, if you’ve done everything to optimize your site, but you simply have too much traffic, you need to look at more servers and/or more servers in more places. Services such as Akamai can help you find the right solution to fit your needs.

Key Takeaways

Plan for how you will handle busy or peak times before they happen. Map out strategies to minimize your customers’ wait time. Sometimes waiting cannot be avoided, in such cases, have a plan in place to minimize their discomfort. Never forget, whether bricks or clicks, a competitor is only a step away. By demonstrating that you value your customer’s time, you move your company, your brand and your product(s) one step up in the mind of your customer.

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About Karin Khuhro

Karin Khuhro is a Digital Marketing Strategist, Speaker and Copywriter. As the owner of Strategy E-ssentials she works with other savvy marketers, digital specialists and business leaders to bring knowledge, know-how and solutions to small and medium sized businesses. Connect with Karin on Google+ or Linkedin.