Blog: Ron Bowers 

Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Who is the connected consumer?

With a constant connection to the web and social media via a smart mobile device, the connected consumer is an informed shopper actively seeking the best value for a desired good.

With their own personal audience via the web and social media, they are an empowered group with a desire to feel appreciated by a retailer and in control.

What does this mean for retailers?

The connected consumer is a new challenge for retailers as power has shifted from the company to the consumer. With demands for a relevant, efficient and consistent experience for his/her own personal interests, and control over the conversation, retailers must provide the connected consumer a great shopping experience while merging both digital and in-store channels.

The consumer is engaged through digital technology before ever stepping foot in a store or looking at a catalog. It is possible that the first engagement isn’t facilitated by a retailer at all, but by a friend on social media. For this reason, marketers must have a strong digital strategy that enables consumer engagement across multiple channels and allows for a personalized interaction. Retailers should connect with consumers through various tactics such as emails, social media and in-store engagement while maintaining consistent brand identity and messaging.

To do this, retailers must understand the change in 1) how a customer shops, 2) how a customer makes in-store decisions, and 3) what the expectations of their customers are. The retailers must then develop a customized and distinct response to these questions as their digital strategy, and as a platform for merchandising.  

How does this relate to brick-and-mortar stores?

Merchandising for the connected consumerThe in-store experience is still a powerful aspect of the buyers’ journey even though the digital entity of retail has become fundamental to the entire consumer experience. To best serve the connected consumer while creating store traffic and greater brand loyalty, the in-store experience should act in unison with the retailers’ digital strategy.  

Knowing that the connected consumer utilizes technology to efficiently gain information and make a purchase decision, a sales associate no longer convinces a customer of a purchase. In fact, research shows that customers would rather use their own device followed by an unmanned device like a kiosk or tablet, before speaking to a sales associate to gather information in-stores¹. Thus, retailers should incorporate digital entities with the brick-and-mortar, or rather create an in-store shopping experience that utilizes technology and enables the consumer to stay connected.

The following are a few possible ways retailers can merchandize to the connected consumer in-stores:

Offer free in-store wifi

The consumer can stay connected while shopping.

A retailer has the opportunity to direct the consumer to the store website and current sales or product information after log in.

Utilize interactive kiosks and tablets

The consumer has access to a greater variety of products with expanded online inventory, and vast product information and reviews.

A retailer has greater advertising space with interchangeable digital displays specified to a department and the time of day while providing easy access to store information, online ordering, product information, and faster more efficient checkouts.  

Incorporate beacon technology, a low-cost device utilizing a Bluetooth signal to directly communicate with a customer’s smartphone.

The consumer can receive personalized and targeted notifications for specified products and departments based on their current store location.

A retailer can communicate loyalty programs, payments and current advertisements in real time to a customer.

¹ “The New Digital Divide” by Deloitte Digital (2014).

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Nikki Baird recently wrote an article for RSR talking about brands as storytellers and the importance of setting in conveying a sense of what a brand stands for. Sometimes this task can seem pretty straightforward. The example she used was Tommy Bahama with stores and restaurants that convey a relaxed, casual, beach lifestyle. Communicating that kind of brand story dictates some obvious natural-looking choices of design and materials in creating the environment.

Given what we do here at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc., the RSR thought piece got us reflecting on the importance of delivering on the brand’s promise when designing merchandising.  Of course, we always work with brand, environment and user in mind. Different projects can offer vastly different paths to completion.

Sometimes in-store merchandising is called upon to fit into a clearly defined environment. The Tommy Bahama example above or a Nike flagship store might come to mind. The brand story is already clearly conveyed and an in-store merchandising piece fits into an easy groove.

There are other times when the brand is clearly defined, but the setting the in-store merchandiser or interactive piece goes into may vary. There is a real opportunity through the choices of design and materials to grab onto a brand story and convey it through merchandising that will stand out within its environment. If you think that sounds like a tall order, here are two very different examples that illustrate.

The Nintendo Wii U gaming system is an entertainment product that conveys the motion and light and high definition graphics of next generation technology. The award-winning Nintendo Wii U retail display simulates the immersive experience of gaming with a three-sided back-lit enclosure. The materials and lighting reinforce the high tech product story.

The user is surrounded on three sides with a branded Wii U blue enclosure that screens out the distractions of the retail environment and provides the perfect setting in which to view the 3-D monitor. The game console is displayed in a clear, jewel-like, injection molded case.  Everything about the display connotes that the user is about to have a cutting edge experience. It is an exciting space within a space that makes the user a part of the Wii U story.

Designed for a totally different kind of atmosphere than the Wii U retail display, the goCharge mobile charging stations for sports and entertainment venues convey warmth and a casual feel although they are intended to support high tech products. The brand in this case is not a product but a team or venue.

The first noticeable design element is that they are circular. The shape helps to promote the sense of camaraderie and social interaction that is a hallmark of sports and entertainment experiences.  With a table top and a foot rest, they’re designed for people to “belly up” to. While individual logos employed on each mobile charging station can brand them for specific venues, these pieces universally convey the communal experience of being a fan.

Good retail merchandising helps amplify the message of the brand. The story you want to tell and the main character in the story, the user, should clearly inform the look. When all the pieces fall into place the result can enhance the environment and can even be a real standout!
- See more at:

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