It’s a commonly held belief among retailers that their most valuable customer is the one that is a brand advocate, has the loyalty card, and makes purchases on a regular basis. But there is a problem with that. While the patterns of behavior from your most loyal customer can show you what is working, they can’t tell you anything about what isn’t working–or how to fix it. In truth, a retailer’s most valuable customer is the one that comes into your store, browses, but then leaves before buying.

Why are they the most valuable? Because they are the missed opportunity. If a retailer can understand a person’s behavior in-store and the factors that led to them leaving without buying, they can make adjustments accordingly to turn a missed opportunity into a loyal customer–boosting engagement and the bottom line.

Until recently, retailers had no idea who this person was, or how to reach them. Door counters only register ins and outs, and POS data is blind if the shopper doesn’t purchase anything. However, with technology quickly evolving, retailers can see beyond traffic count and purchase data to fully understand how to capitalize on the opportunity and convert the browser into the buyer.

One of the best ways to understand and segment different groups of shoppers is using A/B testing. A/B testing is a practice commonly used by online retailers to understand what content their customers respond to, and what content they don’t. E-commerce sites will put up two different advertising banners, and the one that gets the most clicks is the one they keep. They use two different versions of the homepage, and the one that has the longer engagement, or higher conversion, is the one that stays.

Now, offline retailers are taking a page out of the e-commerce playbook. Not only can brick-and-mortar retailers use this same practice of A/B testing to see how the changes they make to locations affect sales, engagement, and shopper loyalty, they can also understand how these changes affect specific segments of shoppers. New versus repeat shoppers, for example.

The most important question is, “Who is the person that isn’t buying from me, and how can I change that?”

By pulling different marketing and operational levers, brick and mortar stores can finally answer this question to successfully target and convert their most valuable customer.

Marketing + Promotions

Marketing in the physical world is notorious for being wasteful and blind. There is a well-known saying that goes, “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Using A/B testing, not only can retailers understand which half of their marketing dollars are being wasted, but they can also understand the type of people that each marketing campaign attracts.

Using broad segments–such as repeat visitors or new shoppers or even varying rates of shopper frequency–you can understand how each type of promotion affects the different segments and answer questions like: Do loyal shoppers like catalog drops? Do new shoppers like deep discounts? What is the right time and way to re-engage a previously frequent customer who hasn’t visited in awhile? This is for you to find out, so you can reach each group of people accordingly.


The staff members in your store are one of the most important points of contact for a customer. Everyone has had a bad customer service experience at some point, and there may be no quicker way to make someone leave your store than by making them feel ignored, pestered, or unwelcome. Conversely, a good customer services staffer can be the difference between a shopper making a one-time purchase and becoming a brand advocate for life. Is your customer not buying from you because there isn’t enough staff on hand to help them? Or are there too many sales reps hovering around and overwhelming them? By experimenting with different staffing scenarios, you can find the perfect balance.

Store layout

The flow of a store can significantly impact a shopper’s path to purchase. Do you treat sale items like grocery stores treat milk, and put them all the way in the back so the shopper has to navigate the entire length of the store? Do you put accessories or smaller priced items near the register to lure the impulse shopper?

Not only do these decisions affect every shopper, but they can be manipulated to affect the specific segment of shopper that you’re looking to target. Does one change decrease window conversion but increase engagement? Does something else increase bounce rate, but increase sales?

Taking all these variables into account, the success of the A/B testing relies solely on the goals you set. By clearly defining what you want to learn, and which customers you want to impact, you can understand how every change works to achieve these goals, and thus make more educated decisions.

The customer that isn’t buying from you is the most valuable because it offers so much potential, and if you can understand what changes will make them convert, you can significantly increase the bottom line.