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Shoppers vs. Buyers: How to Facilitate the Sale

The “shopper vs. buyer” challenge for businesses

There’s a difference between shoppers vs. buyers. Most of the time, before people decide on what to purchase, they “shop around” to weigh their options. However, some people shop just to enjoy the shopping experience and have no intent to buy.

For businesses who get “shopper traffic” regularly – whether it’s in-store or online – it can be tricky to understand the shopper’s true intent to buy. Consider that 70% of buyers make their decision only once they are in-store or online. This means that before getting to the store or going online, a large majority of people are not sure what they will end up choosing. Additionally, only 2.72% of shoppers will actually convert into buyers – after they’ve already expressed intent!

This can make marketing challenging. Usually, sales and marketing teams use a sales funnel to decide on how to market to each shopper or buyer. But in order to use a sales funnel effectively, you need to know the shopper’s level of intent, which isn’t always easy to figure out. Technology and smartphones are facilitating a culture of shopping over buying. The result is that factors like circulation and traffic are becoming weak indicators of intent to buy and expected sales. Additionally, sales teams are wasting valuable time calling shoppers to no avail. It can become a real strain on a company’s sales and marketing teams!

Why do shoppers prolong buying?

One thing to remember is that buyer behavior is changing quickly in our world today. People are more exposed to the Internet and social media than ever before. This means that they’re seeing sponsored advertisements, brand social media accounts, paid search ads, and other forms of marketing on a regular basis. They’re being overstimulated with things to buy. So it’s no wonder that companies are having to manage tons of leads who are shopping around!

Given how many options today’s shoppers have, there are a lot of reasons why people are spending so much time shopping before buying. Some common reasons include:

  • Uncertainty. They’re simply not sure yet whether or not the product or service is right for their needs. They’re looking at many different items, and may or may not have an intent to buy.
  • Looking to compare. They do, in fact, have the intent to buy. They just want to spend more time doing comparative research before making a move.
  • Bargain hunting. They’re a “discount seeker” and are simply waiting to hear the best price to buy.
  • Anxious to make the right choice. They consider this purchase an important one, and are worried about making the wrong decision.
  • Dissuaded from customer reviews. They have high intent to buy, but after doing a Google search about the company and seeing some negative feedback, they’re torn.

Not to worry. Even if your prospect has one of these reasons for delaying their decision, stay determined. There’s still a good reason to believe they may decide on your brand after all.

How to market & sell to shoppers

It can be difficult coming up with a marketing strategy for shoppers vs. buyers. If pinpointing a shopper’s stage in the buying process is so difficult, how should a company market to them? Where should the marketing team spend their dollars and focus their time and effort?

The first step is to become familiar with the different stages of the shopping process. This should include all the levels of intent in the process – before making a decision and purchase. There will be at least three stages here:

Remember that the majority of people who come into contact with your brand have not yet made up their mind. So, you want to focus a good amount of your marketing team’s energy and budget on this group. To boost your conversion rates, and R.O.I. on marketing efforts, focus on “shopper marketing,” or strategic marketing to people who are still in the decision-making process.

These shoppers can be considered “top of the funnel” or “middle of the funnel” prospects. To market to these groups, focus on capturing their attention and sparking their interest to learn more about your brand.

Here are some marketing strategies that work well for capturing attention from top- or mid-funnel shoppers:

Display ads

Display ads can come in the form of banner ads, video ads, social media ads, and more. They’re great options for shopper marketing because they’re designed to appear where shoppers spend the most time – online and on smartphones! They can appear on search engines, websites, social media, and more. They also may be used for re-targeting campaigns. In other words, if a shopper visits your site then leaves, the ad can re-engage them with your content. Normally, a company chooses where they want the display ad to appear. Then, they “pay per click” on the ad.

Email marketing

Email marketing can be a great tool for shopper marketing. You can come up with different groups (or “lists”) who you want to send specific messages to, then target them based on their interest in your brand. For example, maybe a person left their email on your website but decided not to purchase. You can send an email to these people to reintroduce your brand and remind them what you have to offer. Try to optimize your emails to facilitate an easy purchase. For example, you may include a clickable image that directs them to the page to buy the product/service.


Let’s face it – shoppers love to find a great deal! Create a “first time promotion” or “hot deals” for your product or service, targeting shoppers who haven’t tried your brand yet. The cost savings alone may entice them to give you a shot. Luckily, most buyers today want an easy purchase and don’t want to go out of their way to spend more. So if your product or service satisfies their needs, they’ll likely continue to do business with you!

Live Chat

Many businesses today are designing their websites with a “live chat” feature. This allows shoppers, who may prefer to do research online on their own, still ask questions about the product or service in real time. It’s a quick and convenient way for shoppers to feel that their buying needs matter, and have their questions answered in seconds.

How to better understand shopper vs. buyer intent

Always remember that shoppers – even if they haven’t made up their mind – are still valuable prospects. Ignoring a shopper because they haven’t made a decision yet will not help your business grow. After all, you can’t rely on a significant amount of shoppers turning out to be “impulse buyers,” or people who buy without any engagement from the company at all. Those are few and far between.  Most of the time, you need engage them in order to sway them.

Therefore, it’s important to build rapport with both shoppers and buyers so they’re more likely to convert. Use the following communication methods to better understand shopper intent:

  • Understand why. Why are they looking at this particular product or service? Are they anxious, frustrated, or angry with the product they’re currently using (or not using)? People’s decision to buy is typically emotionally-driven, so it’s important to understand why they feel they have a need for the product or service.
  • Sell specifically based on why they want to buy. If you can personalize your product or service’s selling points, you’ll be able to better connect with the prospective customer. For example, if you offer a great lifetime warranty to a customer that only needs the product or service for two months, you are unlikely to earn this prospect. But if you can speak about the product or service’s short-term benefits, they would likely be ready to listen.
  • If they can’t buy today, find out what’s currently holding them back. The issue may be simpler than you think. Address those concerns, then schedule a specific day and time to reconnect. For example, if a company lacks the funds to purchase your service but will be acquiring additional funding next quarter, set up an appointment to reconnect at that time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them to clarify. If a potential customer is being unclear about their needs or intent to buy, ask them to help you understand. Many shoppers today will appreciate you taking the time to thoroughly understand their needs and work to help them.

Though many marketing strategies are automated and don’t require real-time conversations, there are many opportunities that would allow you to speak directly to a shopper.  You can set up your email marketing strategy to allow direct responses.. Additionally, take advantage of a “live chat” feature on your site. You can also simply follow up via phone call, if the prospect leaves their info! An important next step after you gather this information from the prospect is to log it in your CRM immediately. That way, you can keep track the prospect’s stage in the buying process and save time moving forward.

These suggestions will help you build rapport with your customers. Remember that not all buyers are the same, and that you must tweak your approach to capture and retain various customers. They’ll remember the person who took the extra minute to understand their needs, ultimately turning them from shoppers to buyers.

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