Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers



Traditional Merchandising in the Age of Self-Service

Posted by admin on 4/22/14 11:00 PM
Topics: college store customer service, college retail, merchandising, Marketing to Students

Many customers still enjoy the experience of physically shopping in a store despite the many options available online. How can you make sure that the in-store experience is executed as effectively as an online one? According to a report sponsored by Frank Mayer and Associates, featured on Retail Customer Experience, it’s essential that your employees are helpful and educated about your products, and that any signage is clear and not overdone. The following excerpt offers the key details from the report, but be sure to check out the full article available here.

For many people, the act of making an everyday purchase follows a similar pattern. They'll visit their favorite store, find the section carrying the product they are searching for, compare it to the two or three others at the same price point, make a decision and head for the register.

If the lines at the register are a few customers deep, they'll head for the self-service checkout to complete the transaction. In fact, many purchases these days occur without any contact between the customer and a store employee.

"Customers don't want to have to deal with someone to ask questions," Merriman said. "They want to do it themselves, and if they have a question they want to have it answered easily."

Whatever the reason may be, ranging from increasing cost pressures to a labor market where retail jobs can be somewhat lacking in prestige, the perception is growing that many sales associates are somewhat lacking in the knowledge they need to answer customers' questions. In many cases, it may be difficult even to find an associate able to provide assistance.

"Because so many consumers are doing research before buying a product, by the time they get to the store they feel like they're somewhat an expert themselves," Merriman said. "If they find themselves in a situation where they are asking questions of someone who may not have as much knowledge as they do, they can walk away feeling disappointed in the store."

Providing the right information

In the days before nearly everyone had a computer on a desk and a smartphone in a pocket, one of the key goals of merchandising was to provide as much information as possible about a particular product and attempt to answer whatever questions might occur in the customer's mind.

Today, it's safe to assume that in many cases shoppers already have a fair amount of information before they even enter the store. If they don't know details about the product itself, at least they know what task they are trying to accomplish.

So what makes an effective display, and what are the right things to incorporate into that display? The right answer to that question is that there is no right answer. It depends on the product, the retailer's brand, the space available and a host of other factors.

In general, though, it often comes down to doing something that attracts the attention of the buyer. Working with an experienced professional to develop an effective merchandising program may be the best option.

In today's world, less is more, retailers say. Put too much information on displays and signage, then it all becomes white noise.

"With customers already armed with so much pre-purchase information, retailers have the ability to utilize less copy on their displays," Anzia said. "The marketer is able to simply their message and content copy and photos to distract the customer."

Some experts suggest identifying the two or three things that are most relevant to the target customer and focusing on those.

"A customer wants to know the most important ways the product will help them, not just everything it does or can do," said Kevin Lyons, senior vice president of e-commerce with retailer h.h. gregg.

"For example, a 'super radiant heating element' on a stovetop means nothing to the average consumer, but 'boils water in 60 seconds' does." Lyons said. "Traditional signage takes on a new role in today's retail environment as it relates to supporting the mobile customer, those that are researching as well as comparing/reinforcing their purchases."

Related articles on Foreword Online

Article comments