Most of us have gone shopping when we were “just looking,” meaning that we were just killing time, not really sure what we wanted or if we needed anything, wanting to take in what we say without interacting with a salesperson or clerk, or not wanting to tip our hand too early that we really had some interest and could buy but didn’t want to appear too eager.
If we were the ones doing the looking in this case and someone were to approach us as we were ‘just looking,” we would express it that way – that we were only looking and would reach out if we needed any help. On the other hand, some people, as a defensive position, will utter that they are just looking to buy some time for themselves to survey what they see and to distance themselves from the sales staff in the early going. They are attempting to maintain control of the process even though they may have an interest in purchasing on this day or in the near future.
In terms of aging in place products, services, designs, solutions, or treatments, it’s going to depend on the type of business we have and whether someone contacts us by phone, visits our website and leaves it at that, sends us an email, or walks into our showroom, office, or warehouse.
One factor of retail life today is that the consumer, and this includes all of us, can go online, search for a product or solution, product comparisons, testimonials, reviews, pricing, warranties, return policies, and companies that are offering what we might be interested in obtaining or using. Therefore, the consumer has the upper hand and can shop, research, compare, take their time, and make a buying decision – on their own schedule whether or not the store being visited is actually open – without ever consulting anyone from the place where they are purchasing their items.
In some ways, this has redefined the ways people shop for items. In another, it just allows people to practice shopping habits that they have held for years. There is no salesperson or clerk that they have to fend off to just browse or shop on their own terms. When they do have a question, they’ll ask it. Until then, they prefer to feel and act like they are in charge.
So, we are going to have people walk into our establishment claiming that they are just getting ideas, or that they just are considering doing something for their home or for a loved one, or that they are investigating some options or possibilities open to them and are going to be playing it very cool about timing, budget, and other decision factors so that we will help educate them about what is available without the appearance of any urgency or forthcoming decision on their part.
The same attitude can hold true for people contacting us by email or phone. In many cases, email is the preferred contact method because we can’t ask them any questions, and they don’t have to engage us. They simply get to ask their questions and sit back to wait for us to respond. They retain the advantage. We may never hear from them again.
We understand why people want to look for ideas on their own terms and be left alone to investigate and learn about what is available because we often find ourselves doing just this also; however, we know that people need help to navigate and interpret what is available and to understand how various products, solutions, and price points might apply to them and their situation. We also know that there are many ways that a need can be met that the consumer may not fully appreciate or think to ask about when they are gathering information.
Looking is one thing, but looking with a purpose is another matter. Take TVs. Before we actually need to replace a TV that we have, or if we are thinking of getting a larger one, we might visit a showroom to look at the choices available – feeling that seeing something firsthand is preferable to seeing an image online. However, when we are actually ready to make a decision – either at that moment, on that day, or within a few days, we want help to sort through the options available to us, to answer questions about which features are included on various models and what they do, to find out about reliability, to compare performance, and to get advice on which model is best for the way we intend to use it. Price is also a factor, but we generally can see that posted. Nevertheless, there may be an unadvertised special or promotion that we won’t know about without engaging a salesperson and asking.
Similarly, people will contact us in the early stages of thinking about an improvement without being ready to commit to a decision, and they will talk with us when they need to act. In both instances, they want to know what’s available to them, but there is a heightened sense of urgency in the second case, and a decision is imminent here. We shouldn’t be put off when people describe their search as just looking, but we should be open to them just expressing this to create a little separation between themselves and us that we need to be open to identifying and then skillfully stepping in to assist them. When they have a need, they will want us to help them.