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Don't blame digital commerce when you physical experience misses the mark

I have been a bit quiet on the blogging front over the past few weeks as I have been hanging out in ‘the land down-under’ spending some quality time with my father and my siblings. In my mind, NZ has often been ahead of the curve in innovation and the standards of our retail vs across the ditch. And while Australia has held the appeal in terms of sheer volume of shopper and geographical diversity, the influx of international retailers to NZ means we have really come into our own.

But while we continue to see the profound change within our customer groups; aging, socio-economically, ethnically and moving out of the big smoke to achieve the NZ dream of owning property; technology is playing a significant role in what shoppers are thinking, feeling, saying and doing.

What really struck me is that there are some fundamental basics that many retailers on the other side of the Tasman are failing on in-store. It is confounding that many of them are blaming the internet for their drop in sales, but I think they have their head in the sand.

Shopper journeys can ping pong, unfolding anywhere, anytime, on any device, so it baffles me to see how bricks and mortar retailers continue to shout, complicate, create barriers or just plain mess up the opportunity they have to connect with their shoppers.

There are some basic principles that every retailer should apply within their bricks and mortar store. The simplest of approaches is to look through the lens of the shopper and asking yourself on a daily basis; “what do I want my customer to think, feel, say or do” as a result of interacting with my store and my offer.

Basic housekeeping standards

NZ retailers would be best to ensure they don’t replicate the following from their Aussie cousins and fall down the slippery slope into the sandpit (or cesspit) of doom:

  • Stores that smell bad (musty, overwhelming odours, dank.

  • Dirty toilet facilities (floors, stalls, mirrors, smell)

  • Dirty and broken surfaces and fixtures (dusty shelves, rubbish on floors)

  • Poorly kept entranceways and store exteriors (signs broken, paint peeling, posters falling down, sticky tape on windows)

  • Dressing rooms chaos (dirty mirrors, dirty floors, broken locks, nowhere to put my clothing or bag, poor lighting)

  • Messy fixtures and displays

  • Extreme temperatures (too hot or too cold)

Messy store aisle

Change room disaster and I hate dust balls on the floor!

This all indicates a total lack of commitment to your store environment, poor training and team engagement and in some cases under-staffing. As a shopper I think you simply don’t care and luckily I have options.

Over communicating

There is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes the store isn’t that place

The other area where retailers are letting themselves down are not understanding the communication hierarchy on the path to purchase. Again, what are you expecting me as a shopper to do as a result of seeing this communication in your store. “What do you want me to do?” Through shopper eye tracking and analysis research shows that shouting or having overwhelming displays simply become wallpaper to shoppers and they turn off.

Gosh - wonder if the chooks are on special??

Also having displays or POS material up for too long a period become wallpaper. For example, if you have launched a new initiative, product or concept, you need to determine at what point it is no longer new and simply part of business as usual.

Magnetic appeal

A key opportunity when using POS to lead shoppers on a journey is to ensure that the path to purchase continues to conversion – simply put, make it easy for the shopper to access that product/service/idea.

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On a recent visit to Kmart (I think many of you will have seen this ad I posted, but here it is again), the store security sleeves, window and front page of the catalogue all featured the super cool hoody. But do you think I could find the darn things?

Those look cool. I need to check them out!

Yes I think this is a thing a need to see!

There should have been a display in a hero location at the front of the store and another in category. I actually had to ask a staff member who informed me that it was down the back in the sporting section. And when I got there, there was no WOW at all. Just a simple product only, end of aisle display and run of aisle product. A wasted opportunity.

Great POS opportunity to engage. Right time. Right place.

Eye candy and buy candy

For some retailers when developing merchandising displays, they get carried away building aesthetically incredible displays that shoppers are scared to touch. Customer fear that if they touch them the displays will fall, be destroyed or look terrible. So they simply don’t shop them. Other times, they build crap displays.

Hmm, this is an underwhelming display vs the environment

Anthropologie is renowned for beautiful, shoppable displays.

Building shoppable displays where customers feel driven to pick-up and purchase is key, ensuring you can easily replenish and drive stock turnover. One retailer who is “best in class” which I saw in Australia was Pottery Barn and West Elm.

H&M are renowned for engaging, inspiring and shoppable displays.

Through the looking glass.

I am incredibly sad that many retailers have lost the art of a stunning and engaging window display. A constantly evolving canvas for you to connect with passing and approaching foot traffic, this is an opportunity to tell stories, evoke ideas and drive shoppers imagination. One retailer who has been doing an incredible job is Kmart.

What a waste of a window opportunity on a high profile site.

Just a few obstacles to my entry. What do you want me to do/look at?

This opportunity needs to become a priority for retailers to invest in to ensure there is a canvas of new, interesting and compelling reasons for shoppers to cross the lease line.

Make the perfect connection

Shoppers carry around information on their person to access anywhere and anytime to help guide their decisions. They can navigate their own way through shopping experiences and buy anything and everything at the tap of a key. They have information, coupons and offers but more importantly they can shop on the spot anywhere/anytime.

Portability of devices and data means they should have access when and where they need it. Retailers need to merge their offline and online to build these shopper experiences. So why the heck are some retailers so, so slow on providing in-store wifi access? This is a wonderful opportunity to gather customer information to continue the dialogue with them once they leave the store.

Walmart has reported in the past that 10% of their online sales, in fact, come from people who are actually within their stores. Even if your ecommerce sales account for 10% vs 90% physical store sales, I have no doubt that the vast majority of physical stores sales were somehow digitally influenced or involved at least one digital touchpoint. So don’t cut yourself off from that opportunity.

So are sub par store conditions driving customers to prefer online shopping?

I have no doubt that some of the most persistently annoying store conditions do and in my next blog I will tell you about my experience trying to track down some shoes in Australia with no success and how retailers could better position themselves to convert sales opportunities.

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