Friday, January 18, 2013

Battling Online Retail Giants: Miracle on 34th Street Inspires

Scott Truitt is a Brand Strategist and Designer specializing in Brand Development and Prototype Retail Store Design. His clients include national and international companies such as Office Depot, Nike, Costco, and Miller Brewing Company, as well as professional sports teams such as the Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers, and regional retailers such as Aries Apparel, The Luxury of Leather, and Picasso Exotic Aquatics. Scott employs a unique branding and design process to help his clients to focus and articulate their brand message and to express it in a way that engages their core customer, creates loyalty, and ultimately increases sales. | 206.714.5972

One of the biggest challenges that brick and mortar retailers will face in the coming years (and are already beginning to face), is the challenge of competing with online retailers accessible to customers through smart phones. 

Despite predictions a decade ago that brick and mortar stores would become obsolete, customers continue and will continue to shop brick and mortar stores.  As much as we want the convenience and value of online shopping we still want to see, touch, and experience products before we buy them and we always will.  We also want the service and expertise of store staff, and we want the tactile connection with a company’s brand.
The challenge for brick and mortar stores over the past decade has been competing with online retailers on price.  That challenge is increasing exponentially with customers’ access to online information and sales channels via their smart phones right from the sales floor.  Smart phone apps are already providing customers with the opportunity to scan products in the store to comparison shop for lower prices available at other stores or through online sources.  So how can brick and mortar retailers compete with online retailers whose operating costs are much, much lower? 
The answer lies in a 1947 movie, which you may have just recently watched:  Miracle on 34th Street. 

In the movie, Kris Kringle (aka Santa Claus) “puts the customer ahead of the commercial” by helping Macy’s customers to find exactly what they want, even if it means sending them to another store.  As a result, throngs of customers express their undying gratitude to Macy’s and pledge to become regular Macy’s customers.  Flash forward 65 years, and this becomes the strongest solution to competing with online retailers.  Now, however, instead of being armed with huge books of newspaper ads for other stores, today’s store staff are armed with tablets.
One of the most interesting and dynamic developments in retailing in the past 5 years has been the development and growth of mobile POS systems – allowing store staff to research product availability, stock levels, product details, and even check customers out using mobile tablet devices.  This allows staff to continue to engage customers when they are most interested in connecting with staff, get answers without walking away from customers, and capitalize on the customer’s enthusiasm by processing their sale the moment that they are most excited about the product rather than making them come to the front of the store to check out.

Meanwhile, other customers are avoiding engaging with staff and even slyly checking their smart phones for price comparisons at other stores or online retailers.  This is a two-fold problem:  not only are they shopping elsewhere for the lowest price while standing in your store, but they are avoiding engaging with staff while they do it, denying staff the opportunity to address questions or concerns, or establish value in the in-store experience.
What if store staff went the other way, and offered to use their mobile tablets to comparison shop with the customer or for the customer?  What if they were as transparent as they possibly could be, helping the customer to find lower prices elsewhere using their mobile tablets, giving the customer all of the information that they possibly can not just about what they carry and at what price, but what the customer might find elsewhere? 

What if, rather than begrudgingly accepting mobile comparison shopping as an unfortunate reality that brick and mortars are powerless to compete with, staff used that experience as an opportunity to illustrate to customers that, “Yes, it looks like you can save a couple of dollars by driving across town or by ordering it online.  If you buy here, though, our product comes with X Service, Y Return Policy, Z Warranty, we can save you 20% right now by signing you up for our Loyal Customer Program, and you get to take it home now, not later.  Oh, and here’s my card – if you have any questions at any time, you can call me directly and talk to a real human being.”  Imagine what kind of loyal customers that would create…
Admittedly, on the surface this might sound insane – helping your customer to find a lower price at a competing store.  But that’s exactly what the customers in Miracle on 34th Street thought – and yet their response was to become increasingly loyal to Macy’s for one very important reason:  Trust. 
Granted, Miracle on 34th Street is a work of fiction.  But it has endured for 65 years because it resonates with us – as human beings, and as customers.  We would all like to be treated like the customers in that movie.  And the more we are inundated with shallow and insincere marketing messages, the more we value that kind of respect, understanding, honesty and trust.  And we’re willing to pay more for that.  We’re happy to pay more for that. 

Price is just one factor in the value equation, and it can easily be overcome if you establish value elsewhere in the buying experience that is worth paying more for.  So the irony is that by abandoning the old paradigm of not wanting customers to know what they can get elsewhere and instead becoming their partner in the comparison shopping experience, you create a bond of trust that makes them willing and happy to pay more with you because they see the value that you are providing for that little bit of extra money.
We all know that the internet and mobile technology is going to radically change the way retailers engage customers – we just don’t know exactly how yet.  Increased transparency is certainly one answer.  Who’da thunk that that answer would have been right in front of us every holiday season for the past 65 years?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

[Guest Blog] Benefits of Custom Displays

Custom design merchandiser display for cosmetics. All acrylic.I was talking with my sister on the phone the other day, when she interrupted me from her excitement over her recent impulse buy of black, glitter nail polish. She had gone to the store for some soda, when she explained that she saw this new nail polish sign. She’s not terribly familiar with all of the display marketing lingo. Anyway, after some probing, I found out that she was attracted to this new color of polish because of the display.
Custom displays help by providing that “wow” factor. Visuals convey the power of ideas in a way that words alone cannot. The personality of a retail store is not determined by merchandise alone. Custom displays provide the following benefits when properly designed and deployed.
Consider this. Coke, the NFL, MAC Cosmetics, Bank of America and Proctor & Gamble - just to name a few - are all very familiar with the above benefits and continue to roll out new custom designs.

  1. Elevate Your Brand
    A refined custom display will highlight a product’s main features and effectively market the brand name. A great custom display is built according to the marketing strategy and demographic of targeted buyers. Custom displays allow you to have your name on the display to keep front of the consumers mind, even if the product is sold out. This helps reinforce your brand in the offline world.
  2. Versatility
    Customize it to your needs! Acrylic can be cut, shaped and formed to just about any design imaginable. This gives you more choices than other traditional displays. And stands made of Plexiglas come in multiple forms such as cases, stands, racks, wall mounts or holders. The material can be recycled and reshaped into other plastic objects. We also offer more environmentally friendly displays, made of chipboard or corrugated.
  3. Convenience
    In order to provide easy access for consumers, Crest recently came out with a 2-side product display to merchandise its Oral B brand oral care products, for travel use. Similarly, Swiffer had a pallet display produced in order to feature their fully assembled Swiffer starter kits. No assembly needed! The display was designed with a flexible structure to be utilized as an action alley or end-cap display. Acrylic displays can be wall mounted which helps you to reduce clutter and place your valued products at eye level. With custom and stock displays, you can meet the space and d├ęcor requirements with the retailer easily and effectively and most importantly, provide shopping convenience for the consumer.
  4. Provide More Information
    Innovative fixtures and custom displays provide a platform to launch new products and services. You can also illustrate interesting information related to offers and benefits available with said product.
  5. Increase Profits
    A sophisticated retail display will increase the perceived value of your product and ultimately make an impact on bottom line profits. Research papers from the Point of Purchase Association International (POPAI) state that at least 70% of product selections are made within the store. Suggestive marketing plays a large role in the way that people shop and purchase goods, even if they are not consciously aware. Impulsive buys usually occur with products on elegant POP displays or counter top displays near the cash register. Custom displays enables companies to capture the attention of new buyers, which will likely lead to repeat customers.

With over 25 years’ experience, Benchmark Displays is a trusted creative team of custom display manufacturers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

RIP Norman Joseph Woodland - Retail Revolutionary

Though belated we wanted to take a moment to remember a technology revolutionary, Norman Joseph Woodland. Which few visionaries names go down in the history books, Norman, creator of the barcode made much possible.

His creation came before it's time and wasn't broadly adapted until over 20 years after his inception.

It is said that Norman very much enjoyed shopping at grocery stores and seeing his idea on next to every product available for purchase.

Thank you for your vision and thank you for your contribution to modern retail, Norman.