How to Handle “I’m Just Browsing”

October 31, 2013

Often in retail, you will approach a customer to offer assistance and be given some version of the browsing response.

“I’m just browsing.”

“Just looking.”

“Just killing time.”

Generally, when you are confronted with the browsing response, it means one of three things:

  • The customer really is just browsing.
  • The customer does not want to deal with anyone and just wants to figure it out on their own.
  • The customer does not want to be “sold” and figures it is safer to browse unassisted than to risk a pushy salesperson.

How do you know which one describes the customer in front of you?

In the first interaction, it actually does not matter. In the first interaction, you should respect the browse.

No matter the reason, the customer is obviously not ready to engage with anyone. That is all that matters.

cts_post_2013-10_handle-just-browsingWhenever you receive the browsing response, your response should generally be the same:

Your name plus a helpful fact that opens the door for the customer to approach you later.

  • That’s great. My name is Adam. I’ll be right over there if you need anything.
  • I understand. My name is Adam in case you need anything. I’ll check back in with you in a little bit just in case you have any questions.
  • That’s my favorite part of shopping. I’m Adam if you need anything. Just to let you know, we just received these new inventory scanners, and I can look up anything in the store for you right on this device.

Also, when someone tells you that they are just browsing, do not say any of the following:

No worries. No problem. That’s okay.

Why is this language bad?

Because the customer is entitled to browse. You should not use language that…

  1. Indicates that the customer’s decision to “just browse” is not imposing on you (they don’t care),
  2. Give the impression that you are giving permission for them to browse (they didn’t ask you for it).

Use some of the starter language in the examples above for some better choices.

Re-engaging with Browsers

So, when should you re-approach someone who is just browsing?

This decision depends a lot on both your ability to read body language and how long the customer has been walking around. After a certain amount of time, most browsers expect someone to follow up. There is no hard and fast time rule here. You have to make a judgement call based on the customer’s demeanor and the typical patterns on your sales floor.

When you re-approach, you want to avoid a pushy, sales tact.

Generally, you would start with some sort of “checking on you” line:

I just wanted to see how you are doing.

Then you could use one of these phrases

  • Were you shopping for someone in particular?
  • Were you looking for something for yourself or someone else?
  • I noticed you’ve been looking at pants, are you interested in the new spring items that just came in?

Don’t push specials or deals unless you can tie it to something in which the customer showed interest or unless you can engage them in conversation that leads to the specials naturally.

The key to handling the browsing response it to find the sweet spot between ignoring the customer and pressuring the customer. You want to make sure you are available to the customer and that the customer knows this, but you also do not ever want to give customers the sense that you are hovering over them or pressuring them.

Respect the browse, but just remember that “I’m just browsing” should not be viewed as a “no” but as more of a “not right now.”

10 thoughts on “How to Handle “I’m Just Browsing””

  1. Wise counsel here Adam. I was in to a shop that I drop into frequently to “browse”, as it’s full of interesting, eclectic things that tickle my fancy. Sometimes I find something I buy. Sometimes I simply store away the info for a later date. Or sometimes it’s just to refresh and rejuvenate, and soak in the experience.
    However, I was dismayed the other day when, barely had I entered the door, when a sales person pounced on me with the question “What brings you in today?” I felt totally imposed upon, violated and attacked, even though the question seemed reasonable to the sales clerk. I “browsed” around for a while, and found that this must be the new line, because I heard all the salespeople ask it. And not only to each customer, but almost immediately upon their entry. A definite turn-off in my book. As I know the owner, I’ve offered my perspective to her in the past, only to be “yes but’d”, so I don’t think I’ll take the time to share this with her…yet. But it’s definitely off-putting to me, and something that, inevitably, if it happens again, I’ll be mentioning to the owner. A really invasive approach, at least to me. Cheers! Kaarina

    1. You know Kaarina, that’s a great example! The browsing thing can be very challenging — some people want to be left alone, others expect immediate communication, and then there’s every level in between. Those reps could easily be trained to handle the situation better. I’m sure you would have been fine if they had just given you a polite greeting and then read your tone/body language to determine whether to engage further or not. No one wants to be pounced upon the minute they walk into an establishment.

  2. I’m a browser, Adam, and when shopping for something specific, I’m #’s 1, 2 AND 3 — all at once! Your responses and tips for sales staff are perfect, and would definitely lead to a purchase if employed with me. Very non-pushy, helpful, and gentle leading down the sales path. 😉

    1. Thanks Michelle! I’m a browser too. The majority of the time I do not want assistance, so I appreciate when service reps understand how to offer without being pushy!

  3. Guilty! I have asked my staff to greet customers upon arrival as many of my staff expressed hesitation and outright inability to know when to greet a customer after that. There is always a risk when it comes to when to greet. The sweet spot is certainly the right time but finding it is an art rather than a science. Certainly, from a customers perspective I know there are better times than immediately after walking in the door but again, who knows for sure?

    1. Agreed Lisa, it is really tough to train. I would say it comes down to knowing the environment, then reading body language and tone. But to your point — that is mostly art, not science.

      Thanks for your comment!

    2. As far as I’m concerbed, I like being greeted upon arrival which demonstrate a care from the sales tenant. Anice word enclosed with a smile open up a wide gate of trust and a positive introduction.

  4. Actually, as an inveterate browser who loathes being contacted in any way while I’m shopping, I consider “No problem” a reassuring acknowledgement that I’m not going to bother or be bothered by anybody by continuing to just browse. It feels like the default expectation is “INTERACT!”, especially when there’s a person right there starting the interaction, so having that expectation automatically undercut is a great experience in a shopping venue. If someone tells me “I’m right here,” I take it as a sales tactic. If someone approaches me again (which has never happened, and boy am I relieved), I’d be pissed. When I say “Just browsing,” it’s not a “leave the door open,” it’s a polite “no.”

  5. Maybe these tips apply to some people but there is a healthy demographic for whom these tips would provide annoyance.

    Just let people browse. Anything else conveys that you underestimate their awareness that you want to make a sale, and, that you are overeager.

    At most, just say “Welcome to our store!” and then let them get you if they have a question. They don’t need a GPS to find out where you are, if they want you they will find you and ask.

  6. The best part about your advice is GIVING the customer your name. You introduce/gave yourself, now if they need/want something they are NO longer to a stranger

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