My daughter Abigail’s good friend, Maxie, used to work at a bakery in our hometown of Westerville. One Saturday morning Abigail and I stopped by to say hello and get a sugary treat after having coffee. I noticed Maxie was busy replacing donuts and making sure the pastry trays were completely full. Unfortunately, it was a bad persuasion move on her part.
I asked Maxie why she was so quick to restock the trays after a few donuts or pastries were purchased. She said the bakery owner liked the trays to be full and he believed they looked better that way. I told her that approach is actually working against the bakery making more sales. Let me explain.
Two principles of influence were potentially at work in the bakery if the situation was handled correctly. The first was consensus – we look to others to see how we should behave in certain situations. The second principle was scarcity – we value things more when they’re rare or diminishing.
When people walk into a bakery and see a tray with very few donuts left, consensus kicks in as the first thought is – those must be good donuts because everyone seems to be buying them. Next comes scarcity – with so few donuts left, if I don’t get one soon I might not be able to get one. Both principles become a huge draw do make a purchase!
I’m pretty confident the owner of that bakery has many things for employees to do other than constantly restocking the shelves. One big thing would be having them engage customers to share what items are “selling like hotcakes.”
Have you ever been to a store where you obviously needed help but employees seem more concerned with stocking the shelves? That’s frustrating. Some of that may be due to their hesitancy to interact with people but I’m sure some of the pressure comes from managers who believe fully stocked shelves are a high priority for the store. Not smart if you want to sell more goods.
Think about where you work. Are there things you have that people actually see? If so, don’t be so quick to “restock the shelves” because doing so reduces the impact of consensus and scarcity. Rather, manage the process so you convey what other people are buying and get your customer to “act now” so they don’t lose an opportunity. If you’re worried about employees standing around, teach them how positively engage customers in such a way that customers enjoy the buying experience and keep coming back.