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Five improvements for successful dealer display programs

The process of designing displays for your dealer networks in the flooring, paint, or home improvement industries presents a unique set of challenges. Build your framework around five questions when developing display programs for home improvement dealer networks. Store layout is unknown and can be inconsistent, even between stores in the same chain. Dealers may opt out of the purchase or place the display in a less than ideal location. Or the display might not be well maintained, making it hard for the product to sell itself. Fortunately, these challenges can be overcome by asking five simple questions during the display development process.

1 - How much square footage is available?

No two stores are the same, but by estimating the sizes of the smallest and largest footprints available, it is possible to create flexible displays that offer a variety of setup configurations.  For example, rather than creating an 8-foot display, we often recommend a 4-foot center module with 2 two-foot add-on modules. This allows dealers to easily arrange the fixture to fit their floor space.

2 - How often does product need to be removed and reinserted?

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Some items, such as carpet or tile samples, will be removed and replaced many times so customers can look at the sample on the floor or under different lighting conditions. How the samples attach to the display should be easy to operate so customers can shop without assistance and return samples to the correct location. For example, we developed a modular display for Metroflor Corporation that can showcase up to 96 large samples. The easily assembled point-of-purchase fixtures include product information boards which are color-coded for easy replacement back on the display.

 

 

3 - How many samples will be included and where do they come from?

Most displays will include samples made at several factories. Your display partner should have all of the samples on hand to ship with the display and provide a planogram to attach the samples at the store level.  When all of the display program items arrive at the same time, successful implementation of the display increases significantly.

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4 - When do you want the display on the sales floor?

In an ideal situation, the process for developing a customized display from design through shipping to the field takes five to six months. Of course, this process can move faster. Having a better understanding of what you need creates a more efficient design process. If your vendors ship samples efficiently, the samples can ship with the display. Also consider the dealer's time when shipping the display. If your display is going into stores that are short staffed or likely to let the fixture languish in the stockroom, we suggest shipping the display fully assembled with all the samples included, or using a third-party install group for easy set up. We recently completed a display for Wilsonart that holds up to 52 samples. We received, labeled, and collated the samples to each display, then sent the fully-assembled fixture to dealer locations and retail home centers with the samples.

5 - How will you want to handle replacement parts or sample updates? 

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Your product line won’t remain static and your display shouldn’t stagnate either. By building a plan for spare parts as well as semi-annual or annual signage and sample updates into the manufacturing process, you’ll ensure that it is easy for dealers to maintain their fixtures. If needed, we’re happy to help with this and can explain the semi-annual update program we developed our long-time partner MasterBrand Cabinets to refresh their displays with new product line offerings, while removing styles that are no longer desired.

 

A well-designed display unit showcases the product so well; the display almost fades in the background. By putting thought into this five-question development process, your company can ensure its products are showcased in an innovative display that will help customers shop and (more importantly) purchase your products.

What's In-Store for 2017?

The ball has dropped, the confetti has fallen, and the New Year has officially been ushered in. With 2017 on the horizon, it’s time to look to the future. What does the future hold for retail? Let’s take a look at what a few of our colleagues have to say.

 

What's In-Store for 2017

Smaller Footprints

The New Year holds much for retail and we see it in the new programs and displays in the marketplace. Retailers and brands are asking how they can shrink footprints within brick and mortar establishments and still focus on a targeted product mix for the consumer. Ensuring that our footprint is smaller and specific to customer needs establishes brand and retail loyalty. This also makes it easier to shift focus from trying to sell customers on an item they already know that they want to upselling them on upgrades and add-ons.

 

Personalization: Using Technology to Tailor a Classic Retail Strategy

Today’s shoppers are doing their research online; no surprise. This has opened up a new playing field for technology in store as retailers are able to target personalized shopping experiences. The idea of collecting customer information for the sake of retail analysis is nothing new, but here is our take on the topic.

In the New Year, retailers and consumers will be expecting more personalized experiences through today’s technology that will enable a truly personalized offering. Retail will see their successes gathered from the integrated personalized shopping experiences of their customers which have been woven into the fabric-of-the-store. Frank Mayer and Associates Senior Vice President of Sales, David Anzia shared that, “by personalizing the shopping experience, we are also more able to focus on a particular type of consumer and their needs.” He also mentioned to stay tuned for some of the programs which will be deployed in the upcoming months as the personalized offerings really roll out at retail.

Technological advancements have made quite an impact on retail over the past year, allowing retailers to connect brick and mortar stores with the online purchasing experience. Often times, the two experiences overlap. According to Digital Signage Today, 75% of customers use their phones to research products while shopping in store. However, this does not mean that the two are one quite yet. This is where point-of-purchase displays come into play. In-store displays, particularly interactive kiosks, act as a medium between digital merchandising and a brick and mortar retail. Companies will be looking to connect the convenience of online shopping with the physicality of the in-store experience. By embracing technology, we can focus more on additional items and upselling the customer once they enter the store. Brand marketers will be using this to their advantage and using technology to push discounts, promotions and loyalty programs via smartphones within the store in order to draw the consumer into their category.

 

Connecting to a New Generation of Shoppers

In our 2016 predictions, shopper empowerment was already on our radar, meaning that shoppers preferred self-service via technology. The assurance of customer comfort and empowerment will be a key player in this new year of retail. Ryan Lepianka, the Creative Director for Frank Mayer and Associates, points out that, “the concept of self-help within brick and mortar stores is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among millennial shoppers.” Self-checkouts are replacing rows of traditional cashier-manned stations, and some stores are going so far as to eliminate salespeople on the floor all together. With an increasing number of Millennials becoming primary household consumers, self-help retail will likely be expanding, making an effective point-of-purchase program essential for brick and mortar stores in 2017.

 

The Industrial Internet of Things

In an engaging conversation with Ron Bowers, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Frank Mayer and Associates, his New Year prediction immediately zeroed in on the Industrial Internet of Things. He predicts that, “The Industrial Internet of Things will come into its own in 2017 because of the strategic benefits that Internet of Things affords, such as cost efficiencies, convenience and consumer personalization experiences.” The Industrial Internet of things has a substantial benefit in the logistical and supply chain of retail. These benefits will be instrumental in the personalized experiences retailers will be executing. There will be a lot more data with billions of new connected devices. Not just text and numbers but also images, video and voice which can all impact significant personalized opportunities for brands, retailers and consumers.

 

So, there you have it: our predictions for the New Year in retail. Do you have any of your own predictions for 2017 regarding Small Footprints, The Industrial Internet of Things, or Advanced Technology in the New Year? Looking forward to hearing about your 2017 predictions and what is in-store.

Autumn Comforts: Discovering Your Shopper’s Comfort Zone

Autumn is upon us! It’s time to pull out a sweater, light the fireplace, and relax with a good book.  Along with the falling leaves and cooler temperatures comes the desire for comfort. So, in this season of comfort, how can we ensure that the feeling translates successfully to the sales floor?

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The idea of comfort in sales has different definitions to different people, but the gap between generations tends to be the most jarring. Some generations, myself included, tend to find comfort in the traditional sales approach: one-on-one interaction with in-store personnel, discussing product knowledge, pricing and competitor information. Classic and simple, no bells or whistles, the traditional sales approach has been the go-to sales technique for generations. However, in the new age of technology, online engagement drives a new generation of shoppers. Millennials, born between the mid-1980's and early 2000's, are approaching the sales floors, as they mature into the primary household consumer. Therefore, we might want to begin to redefine the comfort zone as it applies to this new generation of customers.

Looking back to the traditional sales approach we revisit its glory in the days of the Baby Boomers. This generation’s comfort zone values conventional social interactions and the in-store experience. Millennials were raised during the revolution of modern technology and tend to find value in independent consumerism. This generation finds this formerly “go-to sales approach” to be off-putting, preferring to gain product information through online data before even entering the store. With 70% of Millenials reporting to experience social anxiety, it’s not a question of why these new shoppers dislike the traditional sales approach but what we can do to ensure their comfort. So, what does this mean for store merchandising redefining comfort on the sales floor?

Thanks to advanced technology, interactive kiosks are becoming more and more prevalent for consumers who are looking to avoid ‘being sold’ on a product. Millennials value their independence and ability to make decisions without feeling like they’ve been swayed one way or another. They don’t enter the store looking to be sold. They come with a product or purchase in mind, seeking reassurance in the choice they’ve already made themselves. In this case, interactive kiosks are ideal. Acting as a beacon, kiosks invite consumers to the product with unique designs, advanced technology and selling power. Shoppers are spending time in the stores, comfortable in the setting and finding the information that they seek about the product they are purchasing. It’s a win for the consumer, a win for the retailer and a win for the brand marketers.

The sales approach itself has changed throughout the years, but few items stay true. A personalized shopping experience remains a constant need from generation through generation. How can this personalized experience be utilized in a sales approach that limits direct customer-retailer interaction? The answer is found in interactive kiosks. Kiosks are preprogrammed to know the product in such a way that the consumer is left without reservation; at the same time, allowing for both effectiveness and efficiency that consumers demand. While some Millennials retreat from face-to-face encounters with salespeople, they are still looking to be recognized as a customer with specific needs. Technological advancements with interactive kiosks enable retailers and brand marketers to fulfill the Millennials’ desire for instant gratification, and provide the efficiency so important in a consumer's personalized experience within their comfort zone.

The Five Retail Senses

In my last blog, “A Run to a Store Still Relevant in the Digital Age,” I touched upon consumer interaction in-store and the changes evolving in the retail environment. In order to heighten customer experience companies have added sensory marketing as a way of attracting customers. Sensory Marketing targets a consumer’s basic senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

But what happens when we go beyond the basic human senses and tap into a consumer’s Retail Senses? Retail senses encompass the five basic areas: presentation, price, quality, availability and location.

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Immersed in a variety of different brands and products, presentation and engaging consumers is essential. In-store merchandising has the key advantage of obtaining instant buy-in, many times by consumer testing. Test products allow consumers to explore and interact with the size, shape and color of a handful of products or services. Customers are more likely to create a connection with a product by touching and experiencing it first-hand. According to a four-part study done by the Journal of Consumer Research, touch “results in an increase in perceived ownership of [an] object,” (Peck, Shu 2009) which according to the Harvard Business Review, “[drives] must-have purchase decisions.” (Williams, Ackerman 2011) So, by allowing the customers to make the connection of physiological ownership with the product, the probability of purchase is heightened.

Price

With the end of any season brings sales and I can confirm that in the world of retail, “price” is key. I say “price” because it is less about the actual numbers than it is about the framing of the numbers. Customers aren’t just looking for good products, they’re looking for good products at fair prices, and framing prices with words like “SALE” and “ROLLBACK” makes prices appear more appealing to consumers.

Quality

Whether or not a consumer chooses a brick-and-mortar store over purchasing online, there’s still an online element in the sale of the product. According to a survey done by PwC, 67% of consumers are influenced by social media reviews and comments about products that they buy.(2016) Shoppers want quality, and with easily accessible consumer reviews, assuring the quality of a product has never been easier.

Availability

“LIMITED SUPPLY” seems to trigger a dual-sense of both excitement and panic. Perhaps it’s the fact that availability is such a significant factor for consumers and that it is such a temperamental sense. With clearance sales at our front door, stores have the opportunity to use the limited supply of products to create a buzz.

A product’s availability can have a negative impact on both the consumer and the retailer due to the finicky nature of this aspect of shopping.

Location

Back–to-school sales are here and gone with the holidays right around the corner.  Merchandising displays and new product introductions will be front and center with a focus on high profile endcaps and placement in-line.  For many products the location of the display and interactive components will draw in sales and repeat visits ideal for any retailer.

The Five Retail Senses and Brand Relationships

Looking at consumers’ five Retail Senses, how does each one contribute to Brand Relationships?

  • PRESENTATION: Creates the feel and representation of the brand
  • PRICE: Appeals to the customers’ budget
  • QUALITY: Establishes trust with the consumer
  • AVAILABILITY: Regular easy access perserves the Customer-Brand Relationship
  • LOCATION: Appeals to the customer’s convenience

As we transition into another season in retail, it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind the Five Consumer Senses: presentation, price, quality, availability and location.

A Run to a Store Still Relevant in the Digital Age

Running womanMy wife competed in the 2016 Boston Marathon this past April. For months leading up to the race, she ran countless miles and did various exercises to prepare. It was all worth it in the end and the pride our children and I felt watching her stride across the finish line was immeasurable.

It’s safe to say that nearly anything in life takes some measure of time and dedication just like training for a marathon. Consider your retail merchandising efforts: When planning your marketing campaign, you follow a strict program so that you stand out ahead of your competition. You study your target audience and figure out what measures you need to take in order to reach them. This is like a runner learning to set the pace. At retail, the consumers set the pace and you need to understand their expectations in order to keep up.

So, what factors make a run to a store still relevant in this mobile e-commerce market to today’s consumer?

According to the “Total Retail 2016: United States” survey, shoppers are interested in the overall experience at brick-and-mortar stores. Shoppers choose a physical store over e-commerce in order to engage with trained employees to help understand what options there are and up to “70% of consumers want in-store recommendations”. It’s important to recognize that “41% of shoppers look for sales associates with deep knowledge of products” and “32% want the ability to check other store or online stock quickly”.

What does this mean for your retail plan?

A part of your training needs to focus on the education of your consumer. When a consumer goes to your retail store or shops your display, they need to have quick access to information about your product. Going to the store is no longer about shopping but about the experience.

A part of the experience includes the community shoppers strive to belong to. One of the greatest aspects of my wife’s experience at the Boston Marathon was the relationships she made with the fellow runners. You see, when competing in the race, all of the runners become a part of a larger community. With each mile, they bond through the shared experience. In today’s retail market, consumer choices are affected by their social communities, online presence and whether or not they have an emotional connection to a brand. Buyers purchase more goods from the brand that represent values they believe in.

If you’d like further information on how to set the pace for your next retail marketing plan, check out the article and survey information by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and leave your comments below.

March Mayhem: Display Planning's Great Eight

blog - March MayhemGlued to your television during the big college basketball tournament?

I am always impressed by the skill and professionalism these young athletes exhibit; however, it’s their practice, planning and dedication that lead them to this incredible showcase.

Whenever you are under pressure or about to start something new, it can seem as if the goal will never be within reach. Try to imagine the first time a player sets up to hit a three-point shot. Most likely, they missed. But with the time spent learning proper ball handling skills and the basics of the game, they confidently attempt game winning threes.

Now, try to consider your next display project the way these athletes look at the big tournament. When your display launches in-store, you’ve made it to the championship, and with the right preparation, you will be as confident as these athletes.

In no specific order, we have compiled eight concepts to use as starting blocks when preparing your next in-store display program. 

 

Budget: What is the budget for the display project?

  • The budget is the foundation of a project. Resources, time and design can be streamlined to fit your project needs and achieve the best outcome when the budget is presented upfront.
  • Keep in mind economy of scale. The cost of each display will be affected by the quantities needed for in-store rollout.

 

Timeline: When does the display launch in-store and for how long?

  • The date your display project will be set in-store determines the entire production timeline – affecting everything down to shipping methods. While there are opportunities to expedite some processes, your timeline should consider there are many factors that can affect production lengths, i.e.: domestic vs. overseas manufacturing, electronics, and certification testing.
  • Remember the timeline does not end with store rollout. You should define how long a display will be in-store as this affects the length of the service agreement, planning for spare parts and the materials used.

 

SKUs: What will this display hold?

  • Clearly define what you plan to merchandise and the quantity of the product.
  • Consider developing a planogram that stipulates which products will be displayed and the size of the product boxes.

 

Size: How big is the display footprint?

  • The specific dimensions and whether it will be inline, an end cap, or free-standing are necessary for the design to be accurate and the display to fit in the environment.
  • When you consider the size, do not only think of basic length, width and height restrictions of the display and your merchandised product, but also the weight so that the product is accurately supported and display is safely shoppable.  

 

Brand Identity: What are you trying to convey and to whom?

  • Develop a clear understanding for the objective of the display so that your expectations can streamline the overall design.
  • A large part of a display is the content that delivers your brand messaging and you will want to develop that content, such as messaging, photography and video, in advance.

 

Updatability: Will the display need to be updatable during its lifespan?

  • Plan for the display to be modular if you will be changing products, product quantities or graphics while it is in-store.  

 

Interactive: Will the display be a static merchandiser or have an interactive piece?

  • Determine the product sample that will be showcased early on so the display is designed to the product.
  • If the interactive piece is a short video clip or program, be sure to develop the content in advance. For instance, if your display is a kiosk running a software program, the design of the display will be determined by the hardware and electrical components required. You will need to fully vet your program and understand what is required of it before designing the display.    

 

Electrical Components: What, if any, powered components will be utilized?

  • If you are considering a display that contains a working sample, lighting, a video player, PC and monitor, or tablet, you will require power to these elements. Know the store layout in advance and if there is access to an electrical outlet or if the display will require another means of power.
  • Some displays and kiosks require an internet connection to run a program or update content. Connectivity affects the design of a display and you will need to know in advance if you will be using Wi-Fi, a hardwired Ethernet cable or a cellular wireless connection.

We hope this helps you prepare for your next display project.

For the Love of Change

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We, as a society, crave change.  What’s too familiar becomes noise and we actively seek out something new.  Hair styles change in the blink of an eye, the shades you bought last summer are already played, and the number one song on your favorite music app has gone from compelling to can’t-stand-it. Not only is this constant dynamic happening on a personal level but it is occurring around us; our surroundings take on a different face each day as trees lose their leaves, new buildings develop seemingly overnight, and store aisles look different each day. Indeed, the feeling of finding oneself in the midst of pleasant while unfamiliar surrounding has been found by scientists to be analogous to falling in love.

Earlier this month, you may have noticed all of the shades of red and heart decorations filling store windows and displays; yet, already this week, the reds have changed to the bright pallet of colors that signifies the coming of Easter and spring. 

In this ever changing environment, how can we make displays last, carry a consistent brand message, and yet still appease the need of our audience for change?

Well, as retailers, we must build for longevity but be able to constantly update our displays so that they stay fresh and continue to effectively catch the attention of consumers.  Perhaps the simplest way to do this is to focus in on the basic appearance of the display and find ways to regularly refresh that appearance with bold and striking prints, silhouettes, surfaces and colors. Here are a couple basic solutions that we can incorporate into our design to achieve this:

Changeable Graphics - allow for dramatic visual updates

Magnetic GraphicsGraphics are printed directly onto magnetic substrate for easy updates and clean surface appearance of the display.

  • Increasing in popularity and commonality, pricing is becoming more economical.
  • Metal landing necessary for magnetic graphic to cling to

Static ClingsGraphics are printed directly onto a plasticized vinyl that clings to smooth, non-porous surfaces via a static charge.

  • These are easily removable/repositionable because they do not require adhesive.
  • These will not cling to metal or non-glass like surfaces and cannot be used outside.

Decals with AdhesiveGraphics are printed onto a material with a semi-permanent adhesive backing.

  • These are a more durable solution that can be used indoors or outside with the adhesive bond strengthening over time.
  • They typically are not repositionable and can be difficult to remove or leave behind a residue on the surface of the display. Often times, one will need a razor blade or soapy water to remove the graphic.

J-ChannelsGraphic strips are printed to size and inserted into channels.

  • These are a very traditional and low-cost method for updateable graphics.
  • Because of channel slots for graphic insert, the display can appear less sleek unless the design allows those channels to be hidden.

VelcroGraphic is printed onto substrate and then Velcro is used to attach the sign to the display.

  • This is a low-cost method for updateable graphics.
  • Updating the signage can become a chore when matching the Velcro on the display to the new graphic.

 

Digital Media Content - allows for refreshed messaging

Wi-Fi antenna downloadsUsing Wi-Fi to connect to your display’s PC, new content can be delivered.

  • The media content of your display can be updated remotely. 
  • Your display must include a PC and have a secure Wi-Fi connection in order for this to work.

SD Card/Flash driveAn individual inserts a flash drive or new SD Card into the display and downloads new content.

  • New content can be rapidly installed onto a flash player refreshing the look and message of the display without the need for a PC or Wi-Fi.
  • The new content must be physically brought to each display location and installed manually by a rep. 

If you’d like to further discuss how to keep your look fresh in-store, we’d love to discuss your ideas.

What's in store for 2016?

millennial shoppersAs we began 2015, we predicted that retail was in for a big change, noting it was the “year to watch how the in-store experience changes to accommodate the self-regarding Millennial.” We understood that new technology would enrich shopper experiences with benefits like improved productivity, inventory counts and use of store square footage, but we were yet to fully grasp how this technology would be incorporated or all the effects it would have.

As the year went on, we saw how astute retailers such as Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Target, Westfield Malls and Walmart applied customer centric focuses through  omni-channel strategies, websites, mobile applications, and in-store digital integrations. With the implementation of these strategies, benchmarks for consumer expectations were set and pressure grew for retailers to create a brand experience that was not only personalized for each shopper but flows seamlessly from their websites to their store. When this is done effectively, the consumer’s experiences are consistent across all channels; the in-store experience is as convenient and easy to engage with as the website, and it promotes personalization, excitement and brand loyalty for the consumer.

So what does this mean for the 2016 retailer? This year, we will see continued growth in using technology in-stores but this time we will have a better understanding of how and why we use it.

In 2016, we will see that successful retailers are capitalizing on the use of digital services as a competitive advantage to empower shoppers in their store. That is, retailers will increasingly use technology to engage with consumers for direct analysis of their habits; this technology used in data points throughout stores, exemplified through beacon-based messaging, location based marketing, digital signage recognition and in-store consumer connectivity through retailer Wi-Fi networks, will be used to engage with consumers. As consumers embrace these interactive points, retailers collect data and begin to recognize who their buyers and what their habits are.

Perhaps, Ryan Craver detailed these trends for retailers best as he spoke about beacon technology at the ARE/POPAI Summit.  During his keynote session regarding technology in the retail environment, he explained that almost all shoppers with smart phones leave their Bluetooth function on all the time.  Retailers and OEM’s are placing wireless beacons in the merchandising fixtures that push a promo or coupon to the consumer once they locate their Bluetooth on their smart phone. In turn, the retailer can also detail many other points of consumer habits for critical data.  From a curiosity standpoint, this technology draws the consumer to the display fixture to see and touch the product. While it is currently being used, we can expect an increase in usage with both OEM’s and retailers in 2016.  

The meaningful use of this technology differentiates each consumer’s shopping experience through personalization while allowing the retailer to effectively predict what will sell when, where and to whom. 

Today’s shopper considers time and experiences more valuable than money.  The most successful retailers are going to be the ones that engage this shopper by penetrating the experience of the shopper’s life somehow.  More than just presenting ‘stuff’ for consumers to buy, the most successful retailers will engage the shopper by knowing their interests, knowing who their friends are, and what their challenges are.  The most successful retailer will then offer solutions to the problems the shopper actually has, and pathways to get them to where they want to go.  This all has to happen in the most subtle way.  In a way that doesn’t look or feel like conventional marketing.  Maybe it’s a personal concierge like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana that offers life enhancing services and helpful, timely advice free of charge. Retailers could purchase the attention of an individual’s ‘helper’, but any breach of consumer trust could blow the whole thing.  Retailers who use such a service would be carefully vetted for quality of goods and service prior to being presented to this ‘discerning individual’ shopper.

The experience movement will extend beyond basic omni-channel strategies and personal concierge all the way to promotions and in-store design. While shoppers will continue to purchase a lot of commodity items at brick and mortar stores such as Costco, Walgreens and Target as well as their online storefronts, for aspirational items such as sporting goods, electronics, high end cosmetics and clothing, the trend is going to continue toward an experiential engagement with the shopper.  In other words, while shopping for sporting goods, it may seem more like going to the gym or the yoga studio than a store. Similarly, shopping for cosmetics might look a lot more like going to get a makeover, and when buying video games, TVs and sound systems, departments or stores may reflect where you go to hang out with your buddies and play the latest games on the best hardware.  It’s going to be about creating the optimal experience in the optimal setting where you can order the items you just played with or tried on and have them delivered to your home sometimes by the time you get home.  For those who like the thrill of the hunt, the liquidation retailers like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and Off 5th Ave. are great examples of how some retailers will be appealing to the bargain hunting, individualistic, psyche of today’s shopper.

It is an exciting time for retail; one where we will see that the successful retailers curate their brand experiences to exceed the expectations of their loyal customers.

So tell us: in 2016, which technologies are you interested in to gain a better understanding of who your customer is and what/when they are buying?  How are you positioning your product to engage with your consumer?  

Traditional Retail is on a collision course with burgeoning Connected Consumers’ Expectations

2016 will be a watershed year for traditional brick and mortar stores as the connected consumer’s expectations continue to change retail.


The connected consumer represents the fastest growing sector of shoppers and is characterized as having direct engagement to the retailer; they are excited to share their interests and expectations. So what does this mean for retail? From website to brick and mortar, today’s retailers have the opportunity to utilize various new technologies that engage with the consumer and allow for direct analysis of their habits.  As consumers embrace the increased number of interactive touch-points, retailers can recognize who their buyers are and personalize the shopper experience. In 2016, we will see that successful retailers are capitalizing on the use of digital services as a competitive advantage to empower shoppers in their store.

blog Dec2015 Expectations

As the connected consumer’s influence continues to grow, the utilization of “Big Data” will increase. That is: with each point of engagement, retailers gain insights into how, when and why the consumer shops. In the new retail environment, one sees these data points exemplified through beacon-based messaging, location based marketing, digital signage recognition, and in-store consumer connectivity through retailer Wi-Fi networks.

The meaningful use of this technology differentiates each consumer’s shopping experience through personalization while allowing the retailer to effectively predict what will sell when, where and to whom.  Many of today’s loyal consumers have begun to anticipate the added convenience and engaged experience this technology delivers.

Astute retailers like Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Target, Westfield Malls and Wal-Mart are among a growing list of retailers launching internal innovation labs dedicated to modernizing and understanding the preferences and needs of the connected consumers.

While it’s true that many factors are considered when planning an approach to retail, even the smallest variant can determine the success of a sales floor. Today, omnichannel strategies, websites, mobile applications, and in-store digital integrations set the benchmark for consumers’ basic expectations. With these new customer centric strategies, retailers must give careful consideration to creating a brand experience that flows seamlessly through their websites to their stores. When this is done effectively, the consumer’s experiences are consistent across all channels; the in-store experience is as convenient and easy to engage with as the website, and it promotes personalization, excitement and brand loyalty for the consumer.

It is an exciting time for retail; one where we will see that the successful retailers curate their brand experiences to exceed the expectations of their loyal customers.

Design elements that transform shoppers into brand ambassadors

Design-and-Engineering_hero-1.jpgAs visual merchandising designers, the team and I strive to create displays that capture the shopper’s attention so they purchase a product or service.  This sets the stage for a conversion from the average consumer into a brand ambassador.  I’ve previously discussed that we’re most successful when we design a retail piece that sets the stage for such transference. That is, our designs should utilize the most appropriate technology and visuals available so that the benefit message of a product penetrates the basic market noise, reaching the customer. If we as designers are able to effectively communicate this promise and the brand can deliver on it, we’re well on our way to gaining a brand ambassador.

This idea of turning shoppers into brand ambassadors is a pretty common objective for most companies, and has been researched extensively.  In my opinion, there are three things we can focus on in design that’ll work to facilitate this conversion in consumers. 

Catch their attention.

This seems pretty straight forward; in order to gain a brand ambassador, you must first capture the attention of your shopper. But how do you do this in a world with so much visual noise?

It’s important to highlight what’s relevant to them. Today’s consumer will not dig for information. Instead, they have to know the essentials right up front. This means messaging should be concise and easy to read.  Visuals capture the shoppers’ attention.  Consider bold colors and forms, or dramatic lighting that entices passersby to take a second look.

Provide easy access.

According to Weinreich, Obendorf, Herder, and Mayer, an average person’s attention span is 8.25 seconds (almost a full second less than that of a gold fish). So, when it comes to your brand at retail, it’s a good idea to take a clean and simple approach when considering your display efforts both in design and merchandising.

Be different. Be unique.

Your brand identity is unique and sets you apart from your competition. It is important to capitalize on this.

With a consistent message specified to your target audience and unique to your brand, shoppers can easily identify your merchandise; this creates a sense of continuity for the consumer. In turn, an understanding develops and strengthens the relationship between the brand and that consumer.

So, when you understand the relationship between your brand and your consumer, it’s easy to seize their attention by clearly providing information and access to your products. The relationship begins to strengthen as you build a promise to your consumers through consistent messaging and validate that trust by providing a quality service or product.  Ultimately that’s what changes mere shoppers into brand ambassadors. 

Tracking For Achievement

It’s 5:15am.

I’ve already hit the snooze button twice as my alarm sirens for me to get out of bed. I sit up and stretch as the timer on my day begins. It occurs to me that in these modern times, we are constantly tracking our every move. That is, we adhere to routine schedules and check-ins while calculating our daily activities and recording progress made in order to achieve the next goal.

Aug2015_blog_biking-country-road.jpgThe morning just described is fairly standard. At 5:15am, my timer begins and I am in a race against time to fulfill the day’s tasks. I start the day with an easy bicycle trek. I’m just trying to see my heart rate rise slightly into the aerobic range and use my Garmin Vivioactive watch to do so. I then use the GPS on my watch to ride at least 15 miles before heading to the local coffee house.

Once there, I refill my water bottle, and purchase a banana and shot of espresso. Later, I’ll record the water I’ve drank and the calories I’ve ingested with the MyFitnessPal app on my phone. After returning home, I get ready for the day and head to the office. My Outlook calendar now controls my movement for the next 8-10 hours. I try and monitor how long I have been sitting and get up frequently to make sure I get the daily steps I need to see on my Fitbit. In the evening, the tracking continues with the added pressure of running kids to and from their after school activities, cooking dinner, balancing expenses, and completing daily chores – all before the daily clock runs out.

It’s probably safe to assume, you can relate to this in one way or another. What are you keeping track of in your daily routine at home and at work?

More importantly, how are you keeping track of these activities and tasks, charting goals and getting your ROI?

Consider this:

If your overall merchandising goal is to convert consumers to loyal brand ambassadors, how are you tracking it? Perhaps once you put your marketing plan in place, you look for an increase in sales, brand awareness, product knowledge, and/or store and online traffic.  How are you doing this? What tools are you using to help you keep track?

We’d love to hear your feedback and welcome responses. 

Plans for Summer: Picnics, Popsicles, and Point-of-Purchase?

July2015-plans-for-summerWhile it’s easy to get caught up in the smell of a freshly lit charcoal grill, the sun warming your face and a cold drink in your hand, it’s important to not lose track of the need to plan ahead. Days are already growing shorter and summer is flying by.

Looking forward to the months ahead, we thought we’d share how you can plan your last minute summer vacation and begin thinking about your future point-of-purchase needs both at once:

 

Pick where you are going!

When you know where you want to go, it’s easy to work toward that goal. If you have picked your destination, planning will become easier as the trip is more concrete.  In retail, you need to pick your destination as well. Understanding the primary objectives of your project will help you better achieve your overall goal. Understand the key benefits of your display for your brand, the retailer, and the consumer. 

 

July2015-plans-for-summer_flip-flops

Know how long you'll be gone!

When you plan a trip, cost is always a concern. But you’ll never know the cost of the trip unless you first know how long you plan to travel. In retail, you must know how long your solution will be in the field. This affects the length of the service agreement, planning for spare parts and the materials used.

When you decide the length of the trip, you typically decide what time of year you plan to go. In retail, you need to decide when you want your solution deployed. The time for design, manufacturing and deployment all affect the overall concept.

 

Stay Focused

When it comes to your vacation, it’s easy to get caught up in what others want and all the extra offers. It’s important to remember why you wanted to take the trip in the first place and what you want to get out of it without going overboard. In retail, remember the objective of your display and the expectations you had for it. You may like what a different brand has done but it’s important to stay true to your brand identity and the needs of your customer. 

 

July2015-plans-for-summer_money

Budget

When you’ve decided where you’re going, what to do and how long you’ll be there, you can narrow down the cost of the trip. Make sure to research your costs and then start saving so you have enough for the trip and do not spend too much while you’re gone. In retail, the budget establishes the foundation for a project. It ensures that the resources of time and talent will be used efficiently and result in the best outcome.

 

Book your trip

When you book your trip, you research the best deals. As you’re searching for the cheapest airfare or hotel rate on KAYAK, Expedia, or Orbitz, you also make sure the company provides the services you need to be satisfied at the most economical rate. In retail, be sure to find a merchandising display company that will partner with you using a proven approach that is creative, responsive and thorough in attention to detail. You’ll want to find a partner that will work with you and balance your brand objectives and the value to the end user.

 

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Pack

When it’s almost time for take-off, you gather everything you need to enjoy your trip. You pack your essentials, bring an extra set of clothes, and prepare for the unexpected. You’ve planned ahead and prepared what you’ll need. In retail, before you move forward to production, you’ll need to make sure you have everything you’ll need. Get your retail checklist and keep it handy. 

 

Enjoy your trip!

You’ve worked hard to get where you’re going so make sure to appreciate it!

Kiosks & Kids: Attracting a Tech-Savvy Generation through Education and Play

When I walk through retail environments, I am on constant alert – looking for innovative design concepts, unique displays and the ways consumers engage with their surroundings. 

Recently, I was walking through a department store and noticed a mother shopping with her young child. The little boy, not much older than three, sat quietly playing with his mother’s iPhone. I was intrigued by this young person – barely able to form a sentence – using such advanced technology with ease. Later on, I passed the family again. The child, now removed from the stroller, ran up to a nearby kiosk and began playing. The thing is, while he may have just been playing, he was using the kiosk correctly – scrolling through images and clicking on various options.

This got me thinking…

As the Creative Director for an in-store merchandising company, I take into account a woman’s perspective. Statistically, women have been noted to account for 85% of all consumer purchases. But, what about kids? How do we consider their influence in retail merchandising?

While I am unsure on the exact percentage, a child’s influence extends beyond the toy and fashion industries through the food, beverage, confectionary, and technology. Their influence provides them with a power over a variety of purchases but, in turn, provides marketers with a greater target audience. A child’s influence depends on the specific product but remains relevant regardless of the industry. So, how do we attract them?

As explained by Jeff Simpson, director of Deloitte Consulting LLD, “Retailers should focus on designing and building customer experiences that play to how their customers are shopping for their products.” For children, their willingness to experiment and use technology is a key consideration when merchandising; however, displays must have a broad appeal – attracting both children and their parents.

Luckily, trends show that adults are widely embracing and understanding new technology as well. Adults, making the purchasing choices for the baby/toddler industry, show increases in digital behavior. “The digital influence in the baby/toddler category jumped from 39% to 52% in one year while 56% of consumers shopping baby/toddler items consult social media for assistance.”

Because of these trends, we will see more interactive (specifically kiosks) used to capture children’s’ interests.

Consider the following examples:

In each of these examples, you notice the word interact. Branded interactive experiences engage children and ultimately create a positive association (hopefully forging brand loyalty at an early age).

The importance of interaction is just the half of it though. We must also consider how to design kiosks for children.

In short, I’ll leave you with my top 4 essential considerations for designing kid-friendly kiosks:

1.)   Think colors

Kids are attracted to visually stimulating things. Merchandising for kids should include colors or lighting and shapes that form neurological connections to play or entertainment experiences for them.

2.)   Remember the buyer

Kids influence the purchase but may not always be the end-buyer. Designs should attract kids and then connect with the parent as well.

3.)   Know your brand

Kids recognize brands from an early age. Most kids know LEGOs or Elmo just as well as they know Mom and Dad. To forge brand loyalty from an early age, make sure every visual detail is on brand.

4.)   Let them play

Kids are drawn to action. Let them touch, feel and listen – let them play!

Self-Service: How the age of abundance and allure of DIY affect retail

Retailers and customers alike live in an age of abundance, a period driven by the internet. There is abundant access to information and seemingly unlimited purchasing choices – which in turn provides the customer with a greater sense of control. Marci Merriman, adviser in digital strategy and retail innovation, Ernst & Young, explains “Because so many consumers are doing research before buying a product – they feel like they’re somewhat an expert themselves”. With this sense of expertise, customers are less likely to seek assistance from sales associates or read lengthy informational copy on displays or around product shelves.

Self-serviceCustomers no longer purchase based on necessity, instead they carefully consider the convenience of where and how they shop, along with brand/product features and benefits. There are more options than ever before and customers are no longer focused on product information but on the overall shopping experience.

When customers do seek assistance, they are programmed for instantaneous responses; if they do not find what they’re looking for, customers are able to take their business elsewhere. In fact, according to a survey completed by TimeTrade, “85% leave without purchasing anything when they cannot find the right person;” yet, “91% of consumers are more likely to [return to] the store after [receiving prompt and knowledgeable assistance]”.

So, what does this all mean for retail?

This abundant knowledge and control has propelled retailers to evaluate their do-it-yourself customer experiences.

Well-executed merchandising and point-of-purchase displays engage the customer in a fast, convenient and consistent brand experience. Many retailers have begun using interactive kiosks, tablets and other smart devices to do this. These smart devices and interactive displays are enabled with current technology, ongoing support and regular updates while providing an intuitive solution to finding information and products. Additionally, they can allow for a retailer to gather statistics and upsell purchases while providing a higher level of service for a greater amount of people.

Biolab_755x675.pngTake the new Clorox® Pool&Spa™ Self-Test Kiosk for example. This kiosk generates self-service pool and spa water care maintenance by allowing customers to test their pool water with the placement of a small amount on a testing strip. This testing strip is then analyzed by the kiosk to recommend a product match. The customer is then engaged during the decision making process and the overall experience allows for a cost effective solution for their pool and spa needs.  With this technology, the customer can avoid both pesky lines and receiving the wrong information from a sales associate – demonstrating just a few of the ways smart devices can improve the customers experience with a brand.

Today, the customer is in control and typically has done research on a product long before coming to the store.  They are no longer dependent on the retailer and prefer to find information on their own before speaking with a sales associate.  Retailers’ displays should focus on unique features of the merchandise and allow for the customer to experience its benefits while maintaining control for a positive brand experience. To do this, retailers may consider using technology that can help minimize search/wait times and alleviate the frustration of inaccurate or limited information.

Connectivity: Changing the Brick & Mortar to Click & Mortar

With the right merchandising, retailers succeed in engaging with consumers and inspiring them to buy more products. Merchandising can range from custom signage or corrugated displays to interactive kiosks – the right one for you is dependent on your company’s needs.

While a corrugated display may fit your business needs perfectly, more and more retailers are beginning to use interactive kiosks and tablet merchandising. Today’s consumer prefers using an unmanned device over speaking to a sales associate. Interactive kiosks and tablets provide a point of connection for the consumer and have become a catalyst to purchasing. These connected kiosks and tablets are changing the Brick & Mortar store to Click & Mortar.

Nintendo Wii U Interactive Retail Display version 2So, how do we connect these kiosks and tablets?

Typically, a kiosk will need its own network connection unless the owner of the kiosk is the same as the store.

Consider a shoe company owning a kiosk in a department store. The shoe company is an outside entity to the department store and is, thus, a potential security risk; so, the department store normally won’t allow the shoe company to use their network in order to connect to the Internet.

If the shoe company does not need remote access, they may decide to forgo any connection to the Internet and use USB drives to manually install updates and download information.

However, if the shoe company wants to remotely access the kiosk to provide updates, software support and monitor performance, they will need their own network connection and will want to purchase a 3G/4G cellular modem, antenna and a service plan from a provider for a cellular connection1:

A cellular modem typically plugs into a USB port on the kiosk’s computer. Software must be installed on the PC to activate the card. Cellular connections are fairly secure and offer a convenient solution but speeds can vary based on the location of the kiosk and the time of day. This signal is not always reliable and one should do a site survey of the store before choosing this option; high traffic areas can affect it.


Department Store KioskNow, let’s say that the department store allows the shoe company to connect to their network.

If this is the case, the kiosk could connect using a hard-wired or wireless connection:

A hard-wired connection connects to the store’s network by using an Ethernet cable. This is a more secure and robust connection than the cellular card and can allow for a faster connection.

Shell Fuel Rewards tablet kiosk

A wireless connection connects to the stores network through Wi-Fi. This is not as secure and can be a slower connection speed. However, there is no need for additional wiring and thus provides added convenience.

In the end, the right connection is dependent on your business needs and what is available to you. Whether through a cellular, hard-wired or wireless connection, utilizing a merchandising kiosk or tablet that is connected to the Internet further enables shoppers to make an informed purchase and provides you with added control over the in-store experience and influence on the buyer’s journey.

[1] Tablets have a cellular connection device built in and you would only need to purchase a service plan.

Merchandising for the Connected Consumer

Who is the Connected Consumer?

With a constant connection to the web and social media via a smart mobile device, the connected consumer is an informed shopper actively seeking the best value for a desired good.

With their own personal audience via the web and social media, they are an empowered group with a desire to feel appreciated by a retailer and in control. 

What does this mean for retailers?

The connected consumer is a new challenge for retailers as power has shifted from the company to the consumer. With demands for a relevant, efficient and consistent experience for his/her own personal interests, and control over the conversation, retailers must provide the connected consumer a great shopping experience while merging both digital and in-store channels.

The consumer is engaged through digital technology before ever stepping foot in a store or looking at a catalog. It is possible that the first engagement isn’t facilitated by a retailer at all, but by a friend on social media. For this reason, marketers must have a strong digital strategy that enables consumer engagement across multiple channels and allows for a personalized interaction. Retailers should connect with consumers through various tactics such as emails, social media and in-store engagement while maintaining consistent brand identity and messaging.

To do this, retailers must understand the change in 1) how a customer shops, 2) how a customer makes in-store decisions, and 3) what the expectations of their customers are. The retailers must then develop a customized and distinct response to these questions as their digital strategy, and as a platform for merchandising.  

How does this relate to brick-and-mortar stores?

Homepage_380x278_wp_Navigating-Connected-Consumer.jpgThe in-store experience is still a powerful aspect of the buyers’ journey even though the digital entity of retail has become fundamental to the entire consumer experience. To best serve the connected consumer while creating store traffic and greater brand loyalty, the in-store experience should act in unison with the retailers’ digital strategy.  

Knowing that the connected consumer utilizes technology to efficiently gain information and make a purchase decision, a sales associate no longer convinces a customer of a purchase. In fact, research shows that customers would rather use their own device followed by an unmanned device like a kiosk or tablet, before speaking to a sales associate to gather information in-stores¹. Thus, retailers should incorporate digital entities with the brick-and-mortar, or rather create an in-store shopping experience that utilizes technology and enables the consumer to stay connected.

The following are a few possible ways retailers can merchandize to the connected consumer in-stores:

Offer free in-store wifi

The consumer can stay connected while shopping.

A retailer has the opportunity to direct the consumer to the store website and current sales or product information after log in.


Utilize interactive kiosks and tablets

The consumer has access to a greater variety of products with expanded online inventory, and vast product information and reviews.

A retailer has greater advertising space with interchangeable digital displays specified to a department and the time of day while providing easy access to store information, online ordering, product information, and faster more efficient checkouts.  


Incorporate beacon technology, a low-cost device utilizing a Bluetooth signal to directly communicate with a customer’s smartphone.

The consumer can receive personalized and targeted notifications for specified products and departments based on their current store location.

A retailer can communicate loyalty programs, payments and current advertisements in real time to a customer.

 

¹ “The New Digital Divide” by Deloitte Digital (2014).

7-part Game Plan for Playing the Trade Show Field

game planWith over 20+ years of experience at trade shows, I have attended more than 100 shows. While each show is different, I seem to always take a similar approach to each one.

I’d like to share my 7-part game plan for playing the trade show field with you. Hopefully, this rulebook helps you accomplish your goals in an efficient manner.

1. Know the Playbook: Almost all trade shows have a Pre-Show Planner on their web site. These planners can assist your company in tailoring your game plan for the show.

The amount of companies exhibiting at a show is overwhelming. You want to know which of your targets will be there before the show kicks off so that you avoid leaving a prospect without coverage. At the same time, you don’t want to rush the passers so make sure to work with your teammates. If you and multiple colleagues are going to the same show, be sure to know who will be tackling which exhibitor or event. You don’t want to double up – wasting your time and making your company seem unprepared/non-communicative.

You may be able to set up certain plays before the show by finding information on prospects via LinkedIn, the company’s website or even the trade show’s publication. Finding this information can enable you to leverage the meeting systems within the trade show organization. Consider establishing a quick meeting ahead of time to page through visual examples and capabilities.

2. Get your Jersey Ready: You want to present yourself so that your prospect welcomes you to their booth, is happy to have you on their sideline and introduces you to their teammates.

Dress professionally. If you belong to a world class company, present yourself as a world class individual. This includes comfortable shoes. You’ll need proper support to endure the entire game. My pedometer shows between 7 -10 miles/day at a show.

Practice good hygiene. You are talking to people and shaking hands throughout the day; so never leave the locker room unprepared – carry some mints and wash up after meals.

3. Train for the Big Game: Get the sleep and exercise you will need to keep you at your best. Trade shows are long days – you will want to be in top physical and mental condition.

Practice what you plan to say to each company. You want to be concise and direct; have a list of questions prepared that are focused on that company’s product offerings and be able to convey what it is you’re searching for. Be able to explain your company’s value proposition within 60 seconds. You will want to focus on the prospect but be able to convey your company’s value so that they remember you and what you are about!

Make sure to take care of yourself. Eat right and get plenty of sleep. Avoid staying out late watching the big game on Monday Night Football.

4. Stay on Your Toes: Be ready for anything from Warm-Up to Cool-Down

Always be prepared to show your value. Talk to everyone on the plane, on the shuttles, at the bar, at the restaurant, in the elevator. Trade shows typically have 1,000’s of people attending them. You never know when the big score is right around the corner.

Be creative. The last thing brands and retailers want to deal with is the “pesky” sales representative who is there to get business from them.  You’ll need to present your company in an interesting way. Bring something of value that is relevant and captures the extensive knowledge base in their specified vertical market. 

GlobalShop trade show5. Scope the Field: Know the show floor and detail your route so that you use your time most effectively and ensure you don’t miss a prospective company. 

If you walk into a trade show without a path of execution, you will wear out long before the second half.  Print a floor plan and highlight the people you want to see – making a route for the day. 

Walk the floor several times. Try to come in and address their sales growth needs through the use of your company’s goods and services.

6. Watch the Play Clock: manage your time wisely, and remember – it is a marathon and not a sprint.

Manage your time from one company to another. Exhibitors are there to sell and they will keep detailing their products and benefits for hours if you let them. If they do not meet your requirements or help to advance your goals, swap business cards and move along. 

Budget time to allow for follow-ups and re-visits you may need to get that contact or business card. Show respect for their needs and they will show respect for yours in return.

7. Review the Tape: Review and follow up with every contact you make.

When you sort through the business cards remind yourself of every detail that is important to fostering a lasting relationship with them. Each night at the show, write a review of the prospect’s needs and follow-up specifics.

Follow up with the individual. Don’t leave it up to the companies you met with to reach out to you.

Overall, remember – the prospect doesn’t owe you the time they are taking away from their important business at the show. Greet them with a smile, and leave them having a smile for meeting with you!

Good luck out there. I hope this game plan helps you succeed on the trade show field. If you plan to attend Global Shop this year in Las Vegas, stop by the Frank Mayer and Associates booth 3829 and let us know if any of these tips worked well for you.

What's in store for 2015?

Millennials controlling 70% of the spending power in the U.S. creates vast uncertainty amongst retailers; but with the strongest economy in years, optimism prevails as we begin 2015.

millennial shoppersFor many retailers, the Millennial consumer is an enigma: they are more suspicious of who to trust and yet, more likely to be influenced by apps and social media than any other generation. Only 19% of Millennials (versus 40% of Baby Boomers) say that, “generally speaking, most people can be trusted” (PewResearch). However, in order to make buying decisions, consumers look to a retailer’s online presence and social influence before considering a purchase.

This generation’s spending habits are moved by its self-paradox. Millennials are self-focused and at the center of their own global communications. It is vital for them to have a positive self-image while finding a sense of belonging when purchasing consumer goods. They desire self-preservation and a personal connection to a product or service.

So, what does this mean for retailers?

The heightened competition amongst store fronts and e-commerce will increase. Currently, roughly ¾ of consumers claim to showroom (Retail Future Trends 2015) or rather compare brands in order to receive the lowest price, best quality and/or widest selection of merchandise when shopping—many times without ever stepping foot in a store. This creates less in-store traffic and increased wavering among dominant brands. So, retailers must draw their target markets in through a strong online presence while providing feelings of exclusivity and individuality for a reasonable price.

To draw consumers into their store fronts, many retailers have begun incorporating various electronic capabilities; this includes the use of tablets, interactive kiosks and beacon technology. Tablets and interactive kiosks extend inventory past what can be offered in stores. The use of tablets has expanded into the retail environment to replace paper signage with digital advertising while providing sales associates quick and easy access to inventory, online ordering, product information and faster checkouts. Interactive Kiosks act in a similar way – allowing for added promotions through electronic ads specified to a department and the time of day. They also enable retailers to connect with consumers by blending in-store merchandising and virtual product displays. Beacon technology, on the other hand, provides the retailer with direct communication to the consumer and has the potential to completely change the in-store shopping experience by creating personalized and targeted marketing in real time. A beacon uses a Bluetooth signal to send special offers to nearby smartphones equipped with the store’s app. App users will receive targeted messages and deals while moving throughout the store.

Let’s say you’re shopping at a retailer equipped with these devices and have previously downloaded the store’s app. As you walk through the doors, your phone buzzes with an exclusive storewide discount. You wander into the home goods department and begin looking for a new blender when your phone alerts you of a sale on KitchenAid products. You can’t pass up the sale price and find the specified blender but are not happy with the color selections available in store. Scanning the product’s barcode at a nearby kiosk, you find additional product specifications, customer reviews and available colors. The color you’d like is available only online. No need to worry. Once your shopping is complete, you bring all of your selections to the nearby associate. They ring you up on their iPad and include the desired blender and ship it directly to your home.

As many stores have already begun implementing this technology, this experience won’t be a thing of the future for long. In fact, Macy’s has added 4,000 iBeacon devices nation-wide and provides coupons via this technology to customers who have downloaded ShopKick. They have also begun testing smart dressing rooms and an image search app. The smart dressing rooms have a wall-mounted tablet that allows customers to view various sizes and colors of a product while the image search app allows customers to snap a photo of an outfit or clothing item to find similar items on sale.

With these exciting advancements in technology, 2015 will be a year to watch how the in-store experience changes to accommodate the self-regarding Millennial. While it is clear that tech-enhanced stores offer an enriched shopper experience with benefits like improved productivity, inventory counts and use of store square footage, we have yet to determine exactly how to incorporate this technology so that it is most useful to each individual without overwhelming them.

What will the Holidays Bring Retailers?

black FridayOnce again this holiday season has only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, last year had 25 days. Shoppers and retailers are preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year. This less than 4 week window has retailers scrambling to grab and retain the consumer’s attention (and pocketbook). They are doing this in a variety of ways. 

Macy’s was the first retailer to announce that they would again be open on Thanksgiving Day. The doors at Macy’s will open at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year’s opening time. The department store chain stated this move was “in response to the significant, sustained customer interest in last year’s opening day on Thanksgiving, both at Macy’s and other retailers.” The Walnut Room, the famous restaurant on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street store in Chicago, will be open for the first time serving Thanksgiving dinner, also at 6 PM. Maybe this is a start of a new tradition, Thanksgiving dinner followed by shopping? Target, Kohl’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney, along with other retailers have since posted they will also be open on Thanksgiving.

red shopping bagSome consumers state that greed has taken over this holiday; however, others have pointed out that the crowds these stores are receiving justify them being open. Jerry O'Brien, director of the Kohl's Department Stores Center for Retailing Excellence, stated that for some people shopping on Thanksgiving Day is no different than others playing football or going to a movie. Conversely, some retailers have opted to remain closed and allow their employees to celebrate the holiday with their families. Costco, Barnes and Noble, and Nordstrom’s are among those retailers remaining closed on the holiday.

Despite the gain in popularity of shopping on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday still remains the king. According to the National Retail Federation, 2013 store traffic on Black Friday was 92 million people compared to 45 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. The high presence of loyalty programs, and the data collected when enrolled in these programs, allow for retailers to pinpoint certain Black Friday offers to a shopper. With offers made via direct mail, social media and email marketing, these campaigns allow the consumer to be well prepared when they arrive at the store. 

Toy retailer Toys ‘R Us recently announced a revamped loyalty program for the 2014 holiday season. They have good reason to focus on their 18 million loyalty cardholders, they account for 70% of their US sales. Recently announced, in-store and online layaway programs are now available. As an added incentive to shop even earlier, Toys ‘R Us has offered cardholders 10% off their entire purchase every Saturday during the month of November. This is in addition to loyalty members earning $5 in “R” Us Rewards for every $125 spent. When the “R” Us credit card is used for these purchases, the earnings double to $10. For holiday shoppers with children on their lists these rewards will add up quickly.

Macy’s and Toys ‘R Us have also upgraded their omni-channel features prior to the upcoming holidays. Both retailers now offer Apple Pay. In select markets, Macy’s has implemented Smart Fitting Rooms, fitting rooms with wall-mounted tablets which allow associates and customers to scan merchandise items and see other sizes or colors available. Also, in select markets, Macy’s is offering same day delivery. Consumers can purchase merchandise on the company’s website to be delivered to the store the same day. Toys ‘R Us is offering a similar service. Toys and games ordered online can be picked up in store in less than an hour.open sign

Whether you are working off your second piece of pumpkin pie by racing to the stores Thanksgiving evening, or waking up at the crack of dawn the following morning, rest assured that the stores are ready for you and a few thousand of your friends.

Are Millennial Brains Wired Differently?

millennial shopperThere is a fascination with studying Millennials since they are a cradle-to-grave digital generation and the heirs to vast purchasing power as their Baby Boomer parents pass the consumer torch. There are some noteworthy contrasts, and marketers should be asking what they need to do to change their stores and products.  

Because Millennials have grown up with a variety of mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops, they are considered by some researchers to be more adept at task switching than older generations. Nielsen’s 2012 State of the Media Report identifies characteristics like multi-sensory processing power and response to intense color palettes when comparing Millennials to their Boomer parents.

In planning for marketing to Millennials at retail, younger people may respond positively to more vibrant graphics and interactivity, but there is still a commonality of experience that requires in-store merchandising not to lose sight of the fundamentals.

In the end, the human animal doesn’t change much. We are all looking for a path to an ideal,especially when we’re young. On one level or another we are often searching for a way to become what we perceive to be ‘more than we currently are’.

For example, I’m going to purchase the pair of headphones that costs $100 more than the next pair if it has been effectively communicated to me, that if I purchase THIS product, in some way, I am receiving some of that famous rapper’s DNA. In making this purchase, I am now ‘more’. This purchase is a step on the journey to actualizing my ideal in a real, tactile way.

laptop/tablet displayAs designers, we’re most successful when we design a retail piece that sets the stage for that kind of transference. We utilize the most appropriate technology available to extend that offer in a way that breaks through the noise, to make that offer to ‘become’ heard and understood.

I’m curious what you think. Perhaps we’re turning up certain tactical elements of marketing and merchandising to appeal to a younger, purely digital generation while acknowledging some universal common aspirations.