Natural Foods Merchandiser
Weigh In: How to help consumers stick with supplement regimens and keep them coming back

Weigh In: How to help consumers stick with supplement regimens and keep them coming back

How do you keep shoppers coming back time and time again for supplements, when all too often their well-intended regimens slide?

It may be easy to sell a supplement once. But to sell it twice—to the same shopper at a later date—is a bigger challenge. That’s because customers, especially those new to taking supplements, often end up letting their well-intended supplement regimens slide. However, if they could stick to them, they might achieve their health goals, guaranteeing you a second, third, even 23rd sale. So how can you help shoppers adhere to their supplement plans? We asked three experts to weigh in.

Naturopathic Doctor

Offer a range of doses and delivery forms. The more individualized your supplement offerings, the better. One customer might like to take one horse pill a day that has 1,000 mg of DHA and EPA, while another might prefer smaller, lower-dose capsules multiple times a day. Also stock a variety of delivery forms—liquids, powders, capsules—so shoppers can pick products they’ll most likely take. 

Help shoppers understand the difference between supplements and drugs. With supplements, many people are still looking for a sort of “green allopathy.” In other words, they expect a natural product to have the same half-life or method of action as a pharmaceutical agent. But supplements work differently. Here’s where education is really important, and you can spin it in positive way. Tell them, “This is different—and you want different.”

Empower customers to choose. When you carry many brands and a spectrum of dosages and efficacies, it’s really up to you to say, “Hey, yes, this price point is better. But if you look at the label, you’ll see that you need to take six of these per day versus only one or two of another. So the higher-priced supplement is actually a better bang for your buck.” Educate shoppers so they can make informed purchasing decisions.

–Holly Lucille, ND, RN owner of The Body Well in West Hollywood, California


Recommend the right products. If you sell a supplement that isn’t right for a shopper, it’s unlikely he or she will return to buy another bottle. By engaging shoppers in conversation, we can find out if they are dealing with any health issues, whether they’ve seen a doctor, where they’ve gotten their supplement information and what drugs they’re taking. This information is paramount in helping them select a product they’ll keep using.

Discourage too many supplements too fast. Shoppers sometimes come with a long list of supplements they think will be good for them. We try to discourage customers from buying more than two products at once; if they start with too many, they won’t know what’s working and what’s not—making it harder for them to stick to their regimen. We help customers focus in and prioritize, reminding them that they can always try additional supplements later.

Encourage progress reports. We make it very clear to customers that we want them to come back and tell us how they’re doing with their supplements. We want to know if something works—and if it doesn’t work. We don’t just say “come back.” Our sales associates say, “Come back and tell me how that product worked.” It sounds like a minor difference, but it’s a very important personal touch that shows we’re here to help beyond the initial sale.

–Ruth Ann Clayton, RD
owner of Nature’s Way in Mountain Home, Arkansas

Supplement and Nutrition Expert

Promote healthy lifestyles overall. True supplement users take them as one part of a constellation of healthy behaviors. A shopper won’t likely find success with supplements if she continues to eat junk food and avoids exercise. Retailers can help customers transition to a healthier life overall by looking beyond the supplements aisle and offering a range of complementary tools—such as informational books or yoga mats.

Refer shoppers to integrative practitioners. Many stores have health professionals on staff, but it’s also good to build a referral network outside of your store. Train your staff to say, “If you don’t know what products you want today, maybe you should consult a naturopathic doctor or registered dietitian.” Then give them a list of trusted resources. This will help shoppers understand that supplements can be part of a healthy lifestyle—and keep them coming back. 

Help shoppers design routines. Consumers generally have more success sticking to a supplement regimen when it’s simple and works with their schedule. For many people, morning is a great time to take supplements. But if mornings are hectic, maybe the office is a better spot to store and take supplements. Or maybe taking them as a smoothie is the best option. Have your staff help shoppers design routines that’ll work for them.

–Duffy MacKay, ND
Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, D.C. 

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.