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Too much information

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.08.27 pmLast week at our local restaurant my wife and I learned more about medical ventilators than we will hopefully ever need to know.

One occupant of the neighbouring table expounded tirelessly and loudly for two hours on the merits of various systems, optimum flow rates, and the skills associated with intubation. One of his companions gamely got the odd remark in, but the other two had clearly lost the will to live.

Too much information, wrong context.

While it used to be desirable to give lots of product information in stores, we now have to rethink that strategy.

From McCartney Design’s recent work with retailers we know that customers generally do their homework before they get to the store.

By the time they get there they have already narrowed down their choice and they typically know more than staff members do about their chosen product.

If we are providing information via point of sale it can be a daunting proposition to keep that information up to date as products cycle through at ever increasing speeds.

So what exactly should we be communicating to our customers instore?

Firstly, we should be showing, not telling. It’s not enough to put a sign up saying that you have the best range in the country, you have to lay your merchandise out in a way that shows or implies that.

We designed a prototype store for Godfrey’s and were told that customers remarked on what looked like an increased range. In fact, the stockholding had been reduced.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.08.14 pmSimple tablet displays can work. Rebel is using a tablet-based system for its shoe wall – a few simple questions and answers get you to your ideal shoe. It’s a useful system for staff as well as customers, and by having it there it shows the brand’s desire to be of service, in a way that having a sign saying “we’ll help you choose your ideal shoe” does not.

In the world of fruit and vegetables, you can put up all the signs you want saying how fresh your product is, but what you really need to do is show it to the customer.

You do this through the design of the fixturing, the temperature and lighting of the environment, the maintenance and merchandising of the product, and even by showing when it was last inspected.

If you are saying that all of your pizza bases are made from scratch instore, then let the customer see them being made.

Customers aren’t really interested in reading information about your product instore. They can find out all they want from wherever they want on their mobile devices.

What they are interested in is what you can offer them as a brand. What kind of service do you offer, for example, am I supporting local suppliers and businesses by shopping here?

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.08.06 pmMany IGA stores make a point of informing their customers of who exactly owns the store and even some local family history and the family’s role in the community, including helping you out to the car with your groceries.

When expressing your brand values, commitment is important. Listing your brand pillars and hanging them on a cardboard poster from the ceiling is missing the point. If you believe in it, cast it into concrete. Build it into the architecture. Again, showing is much stronger than telling.

It’s an exciting transition. Instead of giving the customer lots of tiresome technical information, it’s time to start telling them about yourself.

It’s the brand and the service proposition that’s important – anything more is just too much information.

Gary McCartney is owner of McCartney Design, an integrated design studio. Find out more at or

This article first appeared in Inside Retail Magazine. To subscribe, click here.

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