AIDA: A Model of Success

AIDA—the acronym for attention, interest, desire and action—was developed in 1898 to “analyze and measure the customer’s journey from ignorance to purchase.” The idea behind AIDA is to guide the consumer through the buying process—a process that involves the customer progressing from being aware of the product’s existence to being interested in the product’s benefits to desiring its benefits to, finally, acting on that desire by purchasing the product.

Scott Regina, owner of Emerson’s Cigars and an executive board member of PCA has been utilizing the AIDA model in his stores for nearly decade. We sat down with Regina and asked him about the AIDA model and how it’s helped his business grow.

Describe the AIDA sales model, and when did you first get introduced to the process?

We started to work on the project in late 2012 and finalized our plans early 2013. We interviewed several different firms to help us develop a sales process that was customized to Emerson’s Cigars. Once the firm was selected, they employed secret shoppers, staff and customer interviews.  They wanted to be fully comfortable with how we interact in the marketplace. The final step before developing the process was for the firm to get an understanding of what our objectives are and how we will measure our staff performance.

When did your sales force begin using the model and how did you go about implementing/training your staff on the model?

We launched a company-wide sales training in April 2013.  This consisted of two 4-hour sessions. We took our team off-site to a conference center and put them in a learning/classroom environment. Initially, the firm conducted the training and then after two years, we now complete it in-house with our more senior staff leading the session. But you can’t stop there. We regularly review staff metrics and revisit the topics.

How receptive was your staff to the process? How difficult was it for you to train the staff?

Our staff was extremely receptive (and grateful). Their level of confidence increased immediately. They learned how a sale takes place and how they can facilitate. To some, this may come naturally, but to many this was a very defined and digestible way to understand how to make a sale. And it was a way to make a sale that was not pushy (when used correctly) and actually provided a higher level of customer service.

Did you see immediate improvement to your business once the model was implemented or was it a gradual process?

It was immediate. From the business metrics (dollars per transaction, add-on sales, productivity) to the customer testimonials, we saw improvements immediately.

Have you modified the model at all to fit with your overall business philosophy/structure?

Not really. If anything, we update the training to be more relevant to the specific products that we sell. But I will say, if we see a negative blip on a store’s performance, 95 percent of the time it is due to customer service. The AIDA sales process (and having this understanding) is a great way for us to refocus our team.

Can you give some specific examples of how your staff uses AIDA?

So the terminology is attention, interest, desire and action, AIDA, and there are two examples that come to mind.

For “attention,” it’s about asking questions and getting information to make the proper recommendations based on what the customer is looking for.

We use open-ended questions and I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. It’s so easy to say, “Can I help you?” to start the conversation with a customer but what happens when the customer says, “No”? The conversation is immediately shut down. 

Training the team on engaging conversation with open-ended questions is key. Questions like: Tell me about your favorite cigar? What did you like? Questions like this lead to so many follow-up questions, and with this information, that’s when tobacconists can shine and can use their product knowledge and expertise to guide the customer to a great experience. Remember, we’re in the specialty retail business.

The second example is for the “action” stage—the idea of starting to build the next sale on the present sale.

A great way to follow up on a good experience with a customer is to invite them back. It’s an easy concept but can sometimes get lost in the flurry of the sale. For example, instead of saying, “Thanks. Have a great day,” after a sale, try instead, “Thank you for coming in today. I really think you are going to enjoy this cigar. Please come back and tell me about it. I typically work Monday through Friday from 10 to 2.” 

This engages them to come back, and it doesn’t matter whether they ended up liking the cigar or not. If they come back and say they didn’t like it, it’s a chance to sell them something different. If they did like it, you can sell them more of that cigar or others with the same profile. Either way, they came back to tell you about their cigar experience and gave you an opportunity for repeat business.

What are some suggestions/tips for retailers who are thinking of implementing the model in their store?

It’s amazing to see the staff embrace something like this. They talk more about the process amongst themselves—about what works or how they use the process. The AIDA process has encouraged collaborations among the staff and the staff can now recognize great service. It becomes contagious.

For more information on the AIDA model, there are a number of resources online by searching “AIDA model” in your search engine. For a more in-depth analysis of your business using the AIDA model, consult a marketing professional in your area.