The retail industry is complicated. Just think about your process (or lack thereof) for obtaining insight into how consumers make buying decisions. Without that insight, in-store marketing initiatives are often funded and launched with little statistical backing.
In return, the understanding you gain of a customer’s at-the-shelf engagement is, most likely, unreliable. So what’s getting in the way?
For starters, the shopping experience is complex. The mind of the retail shopper is difficult to understand, and with growing competition, opportunities for consumers to find what they need elsewhere, and different shopping scenarios, there are an infinite amount of things you must consider to stay ahead of the curve.
Then there’s a lack of metrics. When retailers are clamoring for tangible data to share with stakeholders, this practice of advertising without a plan or reliable marketing strategies only compounds the issue.
Lastly, it’s a disjointed process. Other times, retailers have someone else provide them with the market data that they want, but they have no understanding of how, where, or why to use it. Knowing who you’re marketing to doesn’t matter much without the tools or the “why” to do so.
The path to overcoming these obstacles
At a high level, overcoming such obstacles requires a foundational layer of research. To propel this research forward, a well thought out combination of the following is essential:
- Analytics – transforming data into actionable insights to generate a detailed understanding of customer attributes, behaviors, preferences and motivations.
- Strategy and innovation – good ideas will take advantage of the analytics to forge a path toward improvement, not back to the status quo.
- Retail activation – having the capability or right partnerships to bring it all to life.
Sure, these elements for in-store insight might seem like no-brainers. However, the success lies in how retailers coordinate them effectively. We suggest following this track:
1. Take stock of your current state
In other words, where does your store stand currently, and what kind of experience is going on inside of it? What’s seen and unseen? Discoveries can often be revealed qualitatively through eye tracking technology or shopalongs.
A proper assessment of your location should include both micro and macro attributes. Your macro attributes will cover your overall store design, along with elements such as general signage strategy, layout, decor, and more.
Your micro attributes would be honed in to focus on particular tactics such as “in the aisle” merchandising, promotional displays, technology (i.e., digital kiosks), menu boards, and store navigation signage.
At the conclusion of a successful assessment, you should have the data necessary to truly understand who your customers are, what they want, when, where, and why they buy certain products, who your competing products are, and more. Without this kind of data, creating a successful in-store marketing strategy becomes exponentially more difficult.
2. Test to optimize — in store
This is the step where you begin to test the data you gain during your assessment. We call this store optimization testing. Its purpose should be to validate your existing data, gain data on specific tests, and gain feedback on promotional initiatives that may or may not be feasible for your store.
During optimization testing, tests are designed based on data from the assessment and proves valuable in selecting optimal locations, times, customers, and products to use in each test. At the end of each optimization test, retailers are typically able to make well-supported statements like: “By using X design on a sign in Y location, we are able to improve sales by Z amount.”
Bringing it all together
Through this due diligence of assessing the current state and then performing store optimization testing, retailers become benefactors by:
- Understanding in-store shopper behavior more clearly
- Achieving an ideal, end-state “store of the future” vision
- Determining a clear roadmap to seamlessly activate future measurable test plans
- Capitalizing on data-validated opportunities efficiently and with less risk
If and when retailers commit to this strategic mix of reliable research, assessments and testing, they can then realistically expect to understand their at-the-shelf marketing on a whole new level.
Regina Jones is a Solution Manager for RRD Marketing Solutions.