‘Tis the season for family, for snow, for cookies shaped like pine trees and… for shopping! Whether planning a reserved holiday of gift giving or an embarrassment of riches wrapped in festive paper this December, nearly every Diva will spend some time shopping the local outdoor stores in the next few weeks.
Since we’re notably talented shoppers, not to mention unabashed supporters of both the outdoor industry and buying local, here are a few tips to make this holiday season a kick ass experience for the shopper and a profitable one for the specialty retailer.
Tip #1: Listen first. Ask questions second.
Divas of all interests and expertise will be shopping this season. Let them tell you what they are looking for before you start recommending what’s “hot,” or what they “need” for their sport, or what you’re trying to push to boost your holiday commission. Once your customer either identifies what she’s shopping for or asks for your guidance, be thoughtful with your questions. She may be a total road racing goddess, but is just dipping her toes into the world of cyclocross. Respect it.
A peculiar experience seems to befall many female consumers in the outdoor realm. As soon as we volunteer that we’re just learning a certain activity, we seem to be treated as a novice in all things outdoors. Your questions should be aimed at helping us discover the “perfect” piece of gear for our needs at that moment (which may be for us or for a gift), not at psychoanalyzing our motivations or assessing our competencies in other fields.
Tip #2: It’s your job as a salesperson to be an expert. But this doesn’t mean your Diva customer just fell off the turnip truck. (P.S. She may be even more expert than you.)
If you didn’t follow Tip #1, this one can be tricky because there are two sides.
- Side one: Few things are more frustrating than walking into an outdoor store (or any shop for that matter) and being treated like an idiot because you don’t know as much as the salesperson. All of us are really good at what we do and what we care about. Do you need to know everything about botany and computer science just because you like to garden and own a laptop? NO! We cannot be experts at everything, which doesn’t mean we should tolerate eye rolls or be spoken to like a kindergartner.
- Side two: Don’t assume that humility equates with lack of knowledge. Excuse the gross generalization, but many women may be humble or even dismissive about our level of expertise. I can write a dissertation on how design features impact kayak performance, but I still rely on your advice for which model is best designed for my 20-year old niece.
Tip #3: So what if we like clothes?!? And… have you ever questioned why?
Loving clothes is a feminine cliché, but we’re going to own it. First of all, I hope your fingers don’t hurt from ringing up the stylish and high performance duds I buy for myself and my family. Embrace it.
Second, have you ever wondered if perhaps some of your customers gravitate toward soft goods because it’s a more user-friendly category when compared to hard goods? Think about it. Now refer to Tip #1 and ask appropriate questions to see if you can be of service in the hard good realm.
Tip #4: Have deep knowledge of and comfort with your target audience.
Shoppers – men or women – are coming to your specialty store because you live, breathe and sell what your target audience wants. Whether the buyer is a member of your target audience or purchasing gifts for someone who is, remember that your enthusiasm encourages greater spending than your aloofness.
Tip #5: Be attentive to time spent, budgets and creativity.
If I hear “you can just give a gift card” one more time, I may chew off my own leg from frustration. Gift cards are unequivocally awesome. But you know what packs even more awesomeness? A thoughtful gift that enhances someone’s experience. The only thing that can trump that is a thoughtful gift with a rock solid return policy… just in case.
The point is that you have a killer store. It may be too late to merchandise and design it to maximum Diva satisfaction this holiday season, but it’s never too late to help us discover that fantastic accessory or the latest in innovation for the sports we already love. This is NOT dumbing down your “core” experience, this is maintaining or developing a NEW core customer.
The Bottom Line
Embrace all of your customers – Divas and Dudes, alike. Women aren’t really all that different from men, especially when we’re passionate about our sport or we’re buying for someone who is. Be attentive to how your store and your staff are perceived and how welcome an environment both create.
We’re all here to share the excitement. With a smidgeon of attentiveness, specialty retailers can stoke that fire with profitable and long-lasting results.
Check these out, too:
For thoughts on big picture, gender-specific marketing and merchandising, check out the following articles:
From Mountain Diva *shameless blush*: Kristin on Women Shopping at Specialty Bike Retailers
From Harvard Business School Working Knowledge for brand managers and marketing directors, “Should Men’s Products Fear a Woman’s Touch”