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The importance of privacy to sales

In-store sales employees are usually encouraged to help customers, but tactics should be re-considered as customers who feel their personal space is being invaded are much less likely to make a purchase. A recent article in Harvard Business Review highlights new research which shows how privacy plays an integral role on the shop floor.

The study titled ‘Retail Space Invaders: When Employees’ Invasion of Space Increases Purchases Intentions’ by Carol L. Esmark and Stephanie M. Noble looked at how employee-shopper encounters can be both helpful and counteractive. Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that shoppers were 25% less likely to make an intended purchase when they felt their personal space was invaded. Unwanted eye contact deters customers even more so, making them 37% less likely to buy. This suggests that brands should alter in-store sales techniques to avoid invading personal space and making unwanted eye contact.

Esmark and Noble found that the need for privacy is greatest when customers are shopping for ‘expressive’ products such as nail polish or hair dye and embarrassing ones such as family planning items or toilet paper. Brands selling products such as these could take steps in order for customers to feel that they have more privacy. Retailers could make shopping baskets readily available so that shoppers may ‘hide’ purchases, use push-for-help service buttons and offer self-checkout tills.

The study concludes that improving sales is not about creating an environment where customers and employees don’t interact, but about giving shoppers control.