Marketing March 15, 2010 Last updated September 18th, 2018 810 Reads share

The Fear Of Shopping

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the marketplace…

At first glance, you could easily make the mistake of thinking that everything was normal. On the surface, there appears to be a lot of activity. People are milling about, shaking hands, exchanging cards and talking business. Sometimes, one meeting leads to another and then to an invitation to send on more information or submit a proposal. But more often than not, it just leads to another meeting.

And then it hits you what’s not normal about this marketplace: It seems everyone’s a seller.

There’s a great buzz out there but it’s terribly one-sided. People are pitching like crazy but hardly anyone is buying.

If money makes the world go round, then this world has come shuddering to a halt.

And then a terrifying thought strikes with the suddenness of a great white: What if this is the new normal?

When you think about it, it’s not so surprising that buyers are in fear of shopping. Like day-trippers at the beach after a shark attack, it’s going to take something special to coax them back into the water.

Simply calling out to them to ‘Come in, the water’s beautiful’ isn’t going to do it. Not whilst the memory of the earlier carnage is still strong.

Of course, there’s not so much money floating about anymore, but it’s much more than that. There’s been a whole breakdown in trust between seller and buyer and nobody feels safe anymore. The ancient warning ‘Buyer beware’ rings out across the surface and never seemed more apt.

So what are you going to do about it?

In many ways, it’s ridiculously simple. You need to address the fears of your customers head-on. There’s no point in pretending nothing’s happened. There’s blood in the water and, as far as your customer is concerned, it’s sellers just like you who preyed on the unwary and spilt it there.

Using the same discredited language as those other sellers doesn’t help. That only confuses things further. You’ve got to find a new way to pitch your wares, a way that dispenses with the hype and rings true for your customer.

Dazzling them with science doesn’t help either. At a time when your customer doubts their own good judgement, it’s up to you to keep it plain and simple. Toss out the jargon and make your offer in layman’s terms.

As you’ll have guessed, this is no time for smoke and mirrors. When people feel safe, a certain mystery or intrigue can work wonders by adding some excitement to the mix. But in troubled times, mysterious gestures or vague promises become furtive and unsettling. Don’t be obscure or ambiguous. Instead, bring everything out into the open.

Be open too about your own motives in making the sale. When buyers have been savaged by offers that were too good to be true, there’s something powerfully reassuring about a deal that clearly adds up for both sides. Your exchange with your customer should work for you both, so don’t be coy about what’s in it for you.

Take the risk out of doing business with you for your customer wherever you can. Clearly display your terms of business and underpin your offer with a solid guarantee. Reassure your customer that you’re genuinely committed to making things work and are prepared to back that up with action.

But above all, be patient. Remember that your customer’s fear of shopping is well placed. It’s not so long since the waters turned red in a frenzy of bloodletting. Don’t rush your customer.

It’s up to you now to make those waters safe, and show them to be safe, in order that buyers can confidently take the plunge again and rediscover their love of shopping.

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Gerard Tannam

Gerard Tannam

Originally from Dublin, Gerard has long been fascinated with brands and how they work, rest and play. This fascination has taken him from his philosophy studies in Dublin to Asia where he worked with brands including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Remy Martin, Cathay Pacific, Prudential, MTV and Chanel. More recently, he set up Islandbridge where his clients include Maldron Hotels, Lee Valley Clothing, Children First and Aussie Ice. Gerard is a regular contributor to discussions on branding in both Ireland and overseas and offers a Brief Word on Brands on The Persuaders radio programme and podcast. He writes regular features: The Blend on the implications of branding for hospitality and tourism and The Pitch on branding for SME’s. He is also a frequent visitor to the Irish Management Institute, Dublin City University and Dublin Institute of Technology where he presents on brand innovation.

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