Learn the customer habits from January blues

The customers’ habits are not for the seller to judge but for him to work with. This starts by understanding their habits

January blues offer an opportune time to study the peculiar Kenyan customer and what some sellers have done to accommodate him and progress the sale. The media understands him so well so that in December the cameras are trained on Machakos Country bus station (where travellers are lamenting about the hike in fares) and in January, at bookshops, (with parents mourning that they have to do back to school shopping and they are cash strapped as money was spent in December travelling).

How does the customer get themselves here? Towards the end of the year last year, and every year before that, and even the end of this one, he will be slowing down. It’s an amazing thing this “slowing down”effect. Nothing seems to move-unless it’s an attempt at receiving and delivering the customer’s Xmas gift pack in time. Incidentally, even this encounters challenges-some end up being delivered in January because the recipients “are away till next year”! And that’s how deferments from December are referred to as: next year; to mean January. Forget that it’s the following month. The customer has mentally slowed down so much so that his mind lets him view the following month as a far off date twelve months away. And that is the slowing down effect. Reflective of the year coming to an end,(not the holidays-they are only three) the customers’ alertness does so too. His mind goes into relax mode and starts thinking of entertainment and travel (as evidenced by statistics from KopoKopo). And so sales offers abound on relevant products at the top of mind for Kenyans with cars (yes, cars) enjoying the limelight here because the following year they are an year older (and the buyer knows this depreciates its value and wants to dispose of it) and buyers buying because its December and need a car to run around with the family.

Which brings us to the other thing about the customer: planning (rather not) for holidays. One of the challenges local tourism has is that Kenyans plan for the holiday when it arrives. Small wonder, that the Daily Nation on December 16th allocated two pages to, “Local holiday destinations for the last minute traveler”. But it’s not just holidays that the Kenyan customer does last minute. It’s pretty much anything with a clock on it. For instance, confirming attendance to the PTA meeting or party, purchase of an IPO, filing tax returns, putting seat belts in matatus and going to the bank. Incidentally, I have always wondered why banks (through cashiers) do not enlighten customers to take advantage of the blank banking halls during the midmorning. Separately, some wives realizing that the annual trip to the folks (as opposed to the coast) is a default fall back to poor planning have gone round this by planning and booking for the holiday way ahead of December. Schools allow staggered fees payments with some adding a component of interest. School uniform and books outlets bump up their staff complement a week to schools opening because like clockwork the floodgates will open and a torrent of parents will walk in demanding immediate attention-forget that by then, they have had the list of items to purchase for close to two months!

The customers’ habits are not for the seller to judge but for him to work with. This starts by knowing their habits.

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