We use shopping as therapy, reward, bribery, pastime, as an excuse to get out of the house, as a way to troll for potential loved ones, as entertainment, as a form of education or even worship, as a way to kill time. There are compulsive shoppers doing serious damage to their bank accounts and credit savings who use shopping as a cry for help.
If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something, and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse.
The science of shopping is meant to tell us how to make use of all those tools: how to design signs that shoppers will actually read and to make sure each message is in the appropriate place. How to fashion displays that shoppers can examine comfortable and easily. How to ensure that shoppers can reach, and want to reach, every part of a store.
The cash/wrap area (where people stand in line to pay for what they buy) is the most important part of any store. If the transactions aren’t crisp, if the organization isn’t clear at a glance, shoppers get frustrated or turned off. Many times they won’t even enter a store if the line looks long or chaotic.
Our studies prove that the longer a shopper remains in a store, the more he/she will buy. And the amount of time a shopper spends in a store depends on how comfortable and enjoyable the experience is.
Here’s another good way to judge a store: By the percentage of customers who have some contact with an employee. All our research shows this direct relationship: The more shopper-employee contacts that take place, the greater the average sale. Talking with an employee has a way of drawing a customer closer.
Have you ever seen anybody cross the threshold of a store and then screech to a dead stop the instant they’re inside? Neither have I. You can’t see it , but they are busily making adjustments- adjusting their eyes to the light and allowing their pace as they crane their necks to take in all there is to see. Here is where they make the transition from being outside to being inside. Whatever’s in that zone they cross before making that transition is pretty much lost on them. If the sales staff hits them with a “Can I help you?” the answer’s going to be, “No, thanks.” Put a pile of fliers or a stack of shopping baskets just inside the door and they will barely see them, and will almost never pick them up. Move them up ten feet in and the fliers and baskets will disappear. It’s a law of nature- shoppers need a landing strip.
Today many stores have automatic doors, which make life easier for customers, especially those with packages or baby strollers. But the effortlessness of entering only serves to enlarge the transition zone – there’s nothing to even slow you down a little.W
What can you do with the transition zone? You can greet customers – just a hello, remind them where they are, start the seduction. You can offer a shopping basket, a map of the store or a coupon. There’s a fancy store In Manhattan where, just right of the entrance, is the store’s flower department. As you enter, you see it from the corner of your eye, but you don’t usually stop in – instead you think, “Hmm, flowers, good idea, I’ll get them on my way out.” Another solution is to totally smash the transition zone rule by placing deeply discounted merchandise that will stop shoppers in their tracks. An out-of-the-box concept – Instead of pulling back from the entrance, push the store out beyond it – start the selling space out in the parking lot. At one seaside resort, a supermarket had all its barbecue supplies, beach toys, suntan lotion and rubber sandals in a tent outfitted with a clerk and a cash register – allowing beachgoers to pull up, grab a few necessities and drive away, all without having to drag their sandy selves through the food aisles and long checkout lines.
I was viewing footage from the camera we had trained on the checkout line, witnessing a shopper trying to juggle several small bottles and boxes without dropping one. That’s when it dawned on me: The poor guy needed a basket. Why hadn’t he taken one? The store had plenty of them, placed right inside the door. The transition zone – the baskets were so close to the entrance that incoming shoppers blew right by without even seeing them there. And I thought, if someone gave these people baskets, they’d probably buy more things! We suggested that all employees be trained to offer baskets to any customer seen holding three or more items. And as the basket use rose instantly, so did the size of the average sale – up just like that. In retail, the easiest way to make more money is to sell more stuff to your existing customer base.
The lesson seems clear: Baskets should be scattered throughout the store, wherever shoppers might need them. The stack should be no lower than five feet tall to make sure the baskets are visible to all, yes, but also to ensure that no shopper need stoop to get one, since shoppers hate bending especially when their hands are full. For books, a canvas or nylon tote bag would be much better and would have the added advantage of being saleable merchandise.
There’s a rather elaborate way of keeping customers’ hands free that I’d love to see some retailer try. The idea would be to create a combination coat check - package call system. Customers could unload their encumbrances as soon as they enter the store. And instead of carrying their selections around with them, they’d instruct salesclerks to dispatch the bags and boxes to the will-call desk near the exit. After a full session of vigorous, hands-free shopping, the customer would head for the door, pick up coat and hat and purchases, and be gone, into car or taxi or waiting limousine.
The most amusing manifestation of the hand issue was in a supermarket I visited. Like just about every retailer in America today, this market has decided to put in a coffee bar, where shoppers could sit and drink, if they wished. This wasn’t the first coffee shop I’d seen in a supermarket, but it was the first one to truly understand how the whole thing should work: it had also put in cup holders on the shopping carts, meaning that you could drink and drive. That clever touch sells coffee, I’ll bet.
People step inside the store and it tell them things. If everything’s working right, the things they are told grab their attention and induce them to look and shop and buy and maybe return another day to shop and buy some more. They are told what they might buy, and where it is kept, and why they might buy it. They are told what the merchandise can do for them and when and how it can do it.
First you have to get your audience’s attention. Once you’ve done that, you have to present your message in a clear, logical fashion – the beginning, then the middle, then the ending. You have to deliver the information the way people absorb it, a bit at a time.
So you can’t just look around your store, see where there are empty spots on the walls and put the signs there. You can’t simply clear a space on a counter and dump all your in-store media. You’ve got to get up and walk around, asking yourself with everything.
Fast-food restaurants used to hang all kinds of signs and posters and dangling mobiles in and around doorways to catch customers’ attention fast until studies showed that nobody read them. When you enter a fast-food restaurant, you are looking for one ...See More
Banks, fast-food restaurants and the post office have this in common: lots of customers standing still and facing the same direction – ideal opportunities for communication. We were hired to study all aspects of a bank branch including the large rack that held brochures describing the money market funds, certificates of deposit, car loans and other services and investments offered. The rack was hung on the wall to the left of the entrance, so you’d pass it on your way in. Everyone passed within inches of it. No one touched it. Again, the reason seems obvious: You enter a bank because you have an important task to perform. Nobody goes to a bank to browse. And until you perform that task, you’re not interested in reading or hearing about anything else. The fact that the rack was to the left side of the doorway, when most people walk to the right, only made it worse. We took that rack and moved it inside, so that customers would pass it as they exited rather than entered, and we had a tracker stand there and watch. With no other change, the number of people who saw the rack increased fourfold, and the number of brochures taken increased dramatically.
There’s one arena of life where sign design and placement isn’t just a somewhat important issue, it’s a matter of life or death. I’m speaking about our roads, our interstate highway system. The principles seem simple enough: no extra words; the right sign at the right place; enough signs so drivers don’t feel ignored or under-informed; not so many signs that there’s clutter and confusion. On the road we use a vocabulary of icons - the universal language- that tells us what we need to know without words. That’s the best way to deliver information to people in motion. Also on road signs, the technical aspects are usually perfect – the color combination provides enough contrast, the lettering is large, the lighting is good and the positioning is just so. The best sign is one you can read fast, and positioned so you can read it while moving. And the only way to achieve that, in most instances, is to break the information down into pieces and lay them out one at a time, in a logical, orderly sequence
People slow down when they see reflective surfaces. And they speed up when they see banks. The reasons are understandable: Bank windows are boring, and nobody likes visiting a bank anyway, so let’s get past it quickly; mirrors, on the other hand, are never dull. Armed with this information, what do you do? Well, never open a store next to a financial institution, for when pedestrians reach you they’ll still be moving at a speedy clip – too fast for window shopping. Or, if you can’t help being next to a bank, you can make sure to have a mirror or two on your façade or in your windows, to slow shoppers down.
Here’s another fact about how people move (in retail environment but also everywhere else): They invariably walk toward the right. Because shoppers automatically move to the right, the front right of any store is it prime real estate. That’s where the most important goods should go, the make or break merchandise that needs 100 percent shopper exposure. All shoppers reach right, most of them being right-handed. So if a store wishes to place something into the hand of a shopper, it should be displayed just slightly to the right of where he or she will be standing. Planograms, the map of which products are stocked where on the shelf, are determined with this in mind: If you’re stocking cookies, for instance, the most popular brand goes dead center – at the bull’s eye – and the brand you’re trying to build goes just to the right of it.
Picture this: If you’re walking straight down a store aisle, you’re looking ahead. It requires an effort to turn your head to one side or the other to see the shelves or racks as you pass them. This issue is not limited to a store’s shelves. On the street, how do you approach a display window? In most instances, from an angle – as you’re walking toward the store from the left or the right. This comes up regarding outdoor signs, too. They should be positioned perpendicular to the building, so they are visible to pedestrians approaching from either side, and not parallel to it, so they can be read by maybe 5 to10 percent of possible customers approaching the façade from directly across the street. But how can our insistence on walking and looking forward be accommodated inside the typical store? One method is used in almost every store already. Endcaps, the display of merchandise on the end of virtually every store aisle, are tremendously effective at exposing goods to the shopper’s eye. In a sense, they serve as a billboard, both reminding us of the product and giving us the option of buying right then and there. Of course, there’s a built-in limitation to the use of endcaps: There are only two of them per aisle, one at each end. But there’s another effective way to display goods so they’ll be seen. It’s called chevroning – placing shelves or racks at an angle (45 degrees), like a sergeant’s stripes, so more of what they hold is exposed to the vision of the strolling shopper. There’s only one catch: Chevroning shelves takes about one-fifth more floor space than the usual configuration. So a store can show only 80 percent as much merchandise as it can the traditional way. It’s certain, however, that especially for products that benefit from long browsing time, chevroning works.