Less really is more


business,path,iconOver the past six months I’ve sat in quite a few consumer research groups for various retail clients.

As a strategist and GM for a design agency, I’ve been delighted, excited, and relieved to hear consumers confirm our hypothesis for branded experiences in retail. There was a time when it was all about shouting your message, but consumers will tell you they’ve had enough.

The rule for creating appealing shopping environments? Stop assaulting my senses and I’m likely to visit you more often, spend more time with you ,and therefore more money.

Here are the top 3 bad habits retailers should break immediately.

Bad habit 1: More is more

When it comes to communications instore, more is not more.

We are bombarded every day with texts, TV, email, street signage, and direct mail (yes still!). The information overload means most messages don’t get through, as they become white noise in the background of our existence, actively screened out much of the time. So too an overload of instore messaging.

When planning communications instore do just that – plan. Plan your hierarchy of messaging and sight lines when standing at the front of store (navigation signage), near the category (category signage), and at shelf (detailed product information).

Choose the right message for the right point in the customer journey. When I enter the store I want to find out where to go. When I walk the aisle I’m looking for a particular category. When I find the category, I’m looking for the SKU that suits my needs best.

Specials messages need to pop and they can only do that if they disrupt. Disruption requires the overall appearance of order as a background for the violator to stand out against, so specials cannot wallpaper the shelf.

Bad habit 2: Stage a performance

The retail store is an incredible canvas to communicate your brand values.

Not only do you have the ability to communicate direct messages through signage and instore media, you have staff who can communicate much through their words, appearance and behavior.

Staff play a crucial role in winning confidence. They must be brand ambassadors, but they must also be genuine in order to form a real human connection. Forcing them to be a human billboard relegates them to a piece of interactive signage and is dehumanising for customers and team member alike.

Recently I visited a retailer (who shall remain nameless) looking for a shampoo that didn’t irritate my skin. This retailer only sells their own brand of hair product.

I approached the staff member for assistance who then proceeded to guide me through a five minute questionnaire to prescribe the right shampoo. The questionnaire was apparently the roadmap to my hair success.

In reality as soon as she had finished, she pointed to the product recommendation. When I paused with doubt, she then pointed out two other alternatives. There were a total of three options in the whole of the store for people with sensitive skin.

To state the obvious, the questionnaire was an act to appear expert, when in fact it just ended up annoying me. A simple, person to person conversation with someone with a reasonable level of product knowledge was all I needed, and I would have been writing about this encounter as an advocate (and maybe even mentioning the brand name!).

Bad Habit 3: Hyper lighting

Bright, fluorescent lighting that beats down from above is a sure fire way to make your customers want to run, not dwell. Not only is it soul destroying, it makes everyone look like they’ve aged 10 years. It is not just me saying this, but consumers, unaided, in general conversations about shopping.

Light to invite and your customers are more likely to visit more often, stay longer, and buy more. Overhead lighting should provide ambience, with spot lighting used to spot not flood the space. Used properly lighting can contribute to creating a space that evolves through the day and changes pace along the customer journey.

Of course it’s crucial to attract attention and get people into store. Great signage that’s flexible enough to get the most from every site; clever, distinctive use of colour and materials; and local area marketing are all the right kinds of tools. Illuminating the shop like teeth at the dentist, isn’t.

People generally have choice about who they shop with. The combined effect of a store experience should establish for the customer that your store is better because it has the right product, the environment has optimised the enjoyment factor, and all the while, expresses the values and proposition of the brand.

Clair van Veen is GM and strategist at Designworks.

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