Shoe Shopping

Ok this is a typical management guru/corporate whore kind of post.


Last weekend I needed to buy a new pair of shoes. My last pair of black formal shoes had broken a couple of days earlier and I urgently needed a new pair if I were to wear something decent to office on Monday. It was late on Saturday night when I went shoe shopping.

So I walk into this store in Jayanagar and ask one of the sales reps there for a pair of black formal shoes. He asks me my size and immediately runs inside to fetch a pair. While I’m trying out that pair, he runs in and fetches two more. He makes me walk wearing a different shoe on each foot. He brings shoes of all kinds, of varying prices, of varying sizes, of different styles. Before I know it, there are a dozen pairs in front of me, and I’m having a hard time deciding which to pick.

The choice left me utterly confused and I walked out without buying anything. It was impossible for my head to come up with a tractable algorithm to decide which of those shoes to buy. I continued on my walk, stopping only when I reached another shoe shop, with the same name and half a kilometre away.

The salesman here seemed more experienced. Before he went in, he asked me a few questions about what i wanted. He asked about my willingness to pay, colour preferences, style preferences, and even asked me to point out the shoe on display which looked closest to my last pair. He made me take off my floaters and studies carefully the shape of my foot. Even after he goes in, he pops out a couple of times asking me more questions. And finally emerges with one pair.

That pair fit wonderfully! It seemed to satisfy all the constraints that I’d mentioned, and was extremely reasonably priced. And I didn’t need to think twice before buying it.

This is what good marketing is all about. It is about understanding the customer’s needs properly before trying to sell him something. To understand what he wants and give him just that rather than simply flooding him with choices which will only end up confusing him. Giving him more choices makes him do more work than he wants to, and he will simply escape.

If you are in a sales/marketing role in your company, you would do well to spend that extra hour in trying to exactly understand what your customer wants, rather than simply trying to feed him your packaged solutions. I’m sure the extra effort will be more than worth it.


People, I need honest feedback about how I sound when i try to write like a management guru. Hope I’ m global enough!

7 thoughts on “Shoe Shopping”

  1. Yes and no – I agree with the part about trying to understand the customer’s needs and providing a thought-out solution. But in shoe-shopping (as in most things), I, for one, like to see the options available and then decide for myself. If a salesperson were to ask me ten questions before showing me a pair of shoes, I’d’ve walked out in disgust. Maybe I’m not sure what fashions are available, and my needs aren’t clearly defined at the outset – I discover things in my research phase, which is the window shopping time. Maybe I’m just not very articulate, and would prefer to point and say ‘this type, not this type’, rather than talk through abstract options. Or maybe because I think I understand my needs better than a salesperson (usually male) can interpret mine.

    In commodities or specs-oriented products (e.g. electronics/cars, or pharma), a description often works just as well. But in visually-driven products (e.g. fashion – clothes, shoes, as well as some electronics and most cars) – an image or a display is imperitive. Even in boring FMCG categories like detergents, we say ‘jo dikhta hai, woh bikta hai’.

  2. You may be right but example is not ‘global’. This whole shoe-salesman thing doesn’t happen even in the best of stores in many countries. eg One goes to Bloomingdales or Saks or Nordstrom, and picks shoes on their own to try. A sales rep may then spot you, point you to where all the shoes are or whatever, but they won’t dress up your feet like they do in India.

  3. I agree with you. I had similar experience while buying a pair for myself last week in Jayanagar. While I didn’t buy first time when I was shown a dozen pairs, I returned next week and bought it in another shop near the shopping complex in 4th block.
    I rarely see such informed salesmen, many times they annoy us by grossly showing unsuitable and unwanted items, be it shoes, apparels or electronics. I enjoy educating them on finer and subtle features they don’t know of the products they are selling.
    Could you tell me the shop you bought it from? I’d love to visit such places!

  4. absolutely. In fact you sound just like consultants who come and try to explain marketing 🙂 If you were a true marketing guru, you’d have thrown in a few standard jargons.

    But keep at it 🙂 You’ll get there

  5. good show, but but to sell books, throw in some ‘fundas’ and ‘concepts’ – for instance, i could see an opportunity to throw in the whole con-b concept of ‘illusion of choice’ (i think it’s called psychological reactance, but i could be wrong).

Put Comment