|| The Perspective
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
By Joe Holley, vice president, new business development, Frank Mayer & Associates
In-store merchandising is an integral, tangible representation of a brand and a reflection of the retail environment for which it is created. It is unassailable that the partner you choose to bring your project to fruition can impact factors like design, speed to market, project cost, user experience and so on — things that ultimately determine success. So, how do you make sure you’re applying the right criteria to the evaluation of the merchandising partner that will translate your objectives into a tangible, customer-focused, handsomely-branded, solidly-performing solution.
First, you should approach your choice with more than a one-and-done mentality. Look for continuity. Ask how far back the longest-running client relationship goes and how many clients have been around for a decade or more.
Though not an exhaustive list, there are at least three qualitative areas where you can focus your evaluation of an in-store merchandising partner. We can talk about being creative, and nimble and detail-oriented in a theoretical way, but real-life examples illustrate the true value, so I asked our account executives to provide some.
Everyone in a creative business says they’re creative. You’ve probably heard the adage, “Don’t tell me, show me.” When you’re evaluating an in-store merchandising company, does creative talent come through strongly in the completed projects they showcase? There is more to creating effective in-store merchandising than designing to stated objectives.
Ask yourself if creative capabilities shine through in their work in a way that sets them apart. At GlobalShop 2013, we had a visitor to our booth who saw an electronics display we’d done for a competitor. Without reservation, he exclaimed, “I’ve seen those everywhere. I love them, and I wondered who did them.”
Find out about the depth of creative talent and how it is deployed. Does your potential retail merchandising company have the capability to put more than one designer on a project when necessary. Be sure they’re not stretched so thinly that multiple viewpoints and fruitful collaboration can’t be employed.
Ask to see examples of display-enhancing features that the client never thought to ask for. As an example, we were asked to design and produce customer-facing lens demonstrator kiosks. When we did our research, we realized not all of these kiosks would be placed against a wall in optical shops, and we designed the back of the display to hold a mirror that added value for the retailer and the customer.
Investigate the creative process. When we were asked to design a collateral piece for a display client that included a sliding feature, we didn’t research just within the product category. The category was eye care, but our creative team decided to look beyond the obvious. They studied the construction of candy boxes to understand how slide-out trays were designed.
The greater the array of in-house capabilities, the more responsive an in-store merchandising partner can be. Look for an environment of tightly integrated resources for complete project management from creative design through store delivery. A broad scope of resources will provide you with the greatest flexibility in accommodating program changes, compressing time frames, and delivering a product that is on pace and on budget.
Is it apparent how the team responds when clients come in with revised expectations? The willingness and flexibility to modify solutions and meet challenges as they arise, while continuing to work toward a set date, should be part of the company culture.
It is particularly telling how a partner responds when designing and engineering a display that interfaces with client product and client-supplied equipment that gets incorporated into the overall piece. Neither of those aspects is within the control of the in-store merchandising partner, but the partner should be nimble enough to make the necessary modifications and keep the project on track.
Into the Details
An in-store merchandising partner should be able to assign you team members with the experience that allows them to focus on details you, as a client starting a new project, may not even recognize need to be addressed. Focusing on the details of design and understanding the appropriateness of components can impact user experience and long-term viability. A thorough in-store merchandising partner should know what makes for ease of installation, user interface and durability and be able to show you numbers that indicate a high success rate in the field.
We were recently called to redesign two different projects that were in tests initiated by other companies. They came up with interesting designs and incorporated technology but did not have the depth of experience to integrate successfully the two elements and anticipate problems on the retail floor. Units were becoming damaged in the natural course of use and store maintenance and needed to be pulled.
Being detail oriented doesn’t translate into having an incremental focus. We were approached by still another company that already had a display in the field and were asked to redesign it. Our designers and engineers didn’t come up with just a better-looking display; they noticed the original piece had far too many screws and took too long to set up. They took a holistic approach and the result was a fully collapsible display that didn’t even require the use of tools. Not only did it have the aesthetics they were looking for, it was much more efficient to install. Oh, and the shipping costs were cut in half…
A company’s focus on being creative, nimble, and detail-oriented will tell you a lot about how they approach their work and can ultimately impact the success of your project. What other qualitative criteria would you add to the list?
Tuesday, 21 May 2013
by Ajay Chowdhury, Chairman of ComQi
Ten years ago the received wisdom was that cinemas were dead. The rise of Blu-ray, home surround sound, 50-, 60-, 70-inch screens in the home and the fall in DVD prices as contrasted with the inexorable rise in cinema ticket prices were all factors that had everyone convinced that cinema theatres could not survive.
Ten years later, cinema box office takings are at record levels, films are regularly breaking records for opening weekends, ticket prices are even higher and a carton of popcorn costs as much as a full meal in a restaurant.
What happened to the doomsayers?
What happened was that cinemas reinvented themselves. They stopped being a place to just go and see a film and became a community experience. It was no longer about just seeing a film, it was about the experience of a night out with friends in a plush, comfortable environment. Cinemas now offer comfortable seats that lean back, huge IMAX screens, amazing sounds, sofas, food that is served by waiters at your seat, alcohol and much more. They are also getting clever about pricing – different prices on a weekend, lower prices for families with babies during the week, a different experience for seniors and so on.
What they got right was that it was not about the film, it was about the experience.
Today, rumbles are being heard about the death of bricks and mortar retail. No less a visionary than Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape and one of the savviest investors in Silicon Valley) said a month ago “Retail guys are going to go out of business and ecommerce will become the place everyone buys. You are not going to have a choice.” And this is apparently being borne out on the high street. Large brand name chains that have closed include Borders, HMV, Jessops, Circuit City, Virgin Megastores, B. Dalton, Woolworths UK and the list gets longer every month. And for those retailers who are surviving, they face the threat of ‘showrooming’ (consumers checking out goods in the store and then buying them online or on their mobile), increasing rent, reducing store sizes, lack of qualified staff, customers wanting to order online and pick up in store and so on.
When we speak to retail CMOs, the top two concerns on their mind are: ‘How can we be more like Amazon?’ and ‘Should I get a mobile app?’ But are these the right questions? Amazon is a unique company that is truly visionary and has reached an amazing scale with very forgiving capital markets. (It was loss making on $61bn of revenues last year and is capitalised at $125bn. Contrast this with Target that made a profit of $1bn on $22bn of revenues and is capitalised at a third of Amazon…).
Similarly getting a mobile app is also not necessarily the answer. There are 775,000 apps in the iPhone App store and 80% of them get less than 100 downloads. Of the ones that do get downloaded the majority get used less than five times a year. Not quite a recipe for success. (As an aside, on these numbers, 620,000 apps get less than 100 downloads. If we assume they cost an average of $10,000 to make – that is $6.2bn wasted in app development effort.)
So what should retailers be thinking about? Well, the threat from e-commerce and mobile is real. Although forecasts do say that in five years over 90% of shopping will still be in bricks and mortar retailers, there is a huge variation in this number. A majority of music and book sales is now online. Electronics and white goods are moving the same way. Fashion remains largely a high street activity but e-commerce is certainly beginning to eat into this as well. (See the success of Zappos' and Amazon’s move into clothing…)
Grocery, food and drug are still largely done in person but a small minority is moving online. So what should retailers be doing to ensure they maintain their brands and hold onto their customers? We believe that retailers should be looking at three core principles to succeed over the next decade.
- Provide a superb in-store experience
- Link your online, social, mobile and in-store media experiences
- Use the data generated by your customers to provide real insights
1) Provide a superb in-store experience
"Stores will become more theatrical, more immersive, and more of a life experience rather than simply a place to get something. As much as they are selling products they will be selling a good time, a lifestyle.” Christopher Studach, creative director, KRS
Just as cinemas reinvented themselves over the last decade to provide a great experience, retailers need to do the same over the next decade. Walk into Victoria’s Secret on Herald Square in Manhattan and you will see a true brand experience. Media and technology are cleverly used to move the customer through the store and get them to make a purchase. We believe the in-store experience is about mapping the customer’s journey base on their frame of mind and then providing the right media and incentives to make shopping a pleasurable experience and getting them to buy more. The experience starts outside the store with the show windows using dynamic video projection, holograms and the like to entice people into the store.
Once they are in the store, the use of touch screens for wayfinding, linking to customer’s online accounts and making recommendations can be powerful. As they move through the store the use of videowalls, digital signage, music, virtual mannequins and so on get them to a decision point where they want to buy and buy more. Other technologies like Delay Mirrors in the dressing room (a screen with a camera showing a live reflection of the customer, yet delayed by a few seconds to see themselves in an outfit from all angles) provide an experience that cannot be had anywhere else. Finally, linking these screens to the customer’s smartphone allows them to get recommendations, find out more information or link to loyalty cards providing a truly holistic experience. This is what makes them come back and recommend it to their friends.
2) Join up your online, social, mobile and in-store media experiences
Most retailers have e-commerce sites, a Facebook or Twitter presence, mobile sites and some media in-store. But these are all in silos and not linked up. Imagine the immense value of recognizing an online customer as they enter the high street store. You can offer tailored promotions as they enter your store and give specific recommendations based on their shopping habits. We believe you can do this by using one technology platform for your in-store media to manage your experiences effectively. This platform then links to your external systems such as your e-commerce site, Facebook, loyalty card systems, smartphones, EPOS systems etc. to provide one view of the customer.
We provide a cloud based platform that does exactly this. It allows our retail clients to manage different digital media on a global basis and collect information on their customers. Using our technology we can link customer smartphones to digital media in a store without an app so customers can check in as they enter the store and be identified so that tailored offers can be made to them. The platform links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. so it provides a bridge between the online and offline worlds. This allows two things to happen: The retailer has one view of the customer: Whenever the customer interacts with you, you know exactly who they are, where they are and can make the appropriate offer based on their shopping history The customer has one view of the retailer: Whenever the customer interacts with you, they have the same brand experience and can seamlessly move from one medium to the next.
3) Use the data generated by your customers to provide real insights
Finally big data. This is a real buzzword these days. Retailers have a huge amount of data on their customers but only a tiny fraction of this data leads to insights. Working with companies like Dunn Humby, DS-IQ and Path Intelligence allows retailers to take the data they collect and create real actionable insights which then feed back into the in-store strategy to create a virtuous circle. The world is changing and as the consumer has the power retailers also need to change.
”Steve Jobs didn't ask, 'How do we build a phone that can achieve a two percent market share?' He asked, 'How do we reinvent the telephone?’ In the same way, retailers shouldn't be asking, 'How do we create a store that's going to do $15 million a year?' They should be asking, 'How do we reinvent the store to enrich our customers' lives?'”
- Ron Johnson, Apple’s ex Head of Retail
Monday, 06 May 2013
By Paul Shwabe, Practice Leader - Retail Solutions, RMG Networks
The next mega-challenge for retailers is their ability to measure and analyze when, where and how consumers “touch” each fulfillment channel along their path-to-purchase.
Retailers are spending millions to development modern processes in this era of agile commerce with flexibility to meet the consumer’s multi-channel demand. Presently retailers are struggling with actually tracking the entire journey beginning to end (web, mobile, in-store) as a consumer jumps from one channel to the next channel as they get to the moment of purchase.
Before retailers can solve this question/problem they must ask themselves more questions about the consumer. It is critical for retailers to understand the context, content, and community which the consumer will travel… and only then will retailers be able to analyze and build metrics of commerce.
In the past retailers used to control the entire brand message and communicate it in a very linear and one-directional modality to their consumers. Clearly, those days are long gone and today’s consumers are liberated and free to research a brand to their hearts content, price compare, and now “buy anywhere” (web, mobile, in-store) and even abandon a specific channel experience only to resume their quest later with another channel with the eventual purchase with the demand “get anywhere” (in-store, store-pickup, store-delivery, delivery-to-home).
Retailers need to recognize the relevancy of a consumer’s awareness and selection of a brand product or category based upon the physical proximity and decision proximity. The context of proximity will dictate the consumer’s preferred channel.
As well content and community will influence a consumer based upon whether they are making a product choice or comparison or simply looking for more category educational information. Retailers / store associates whom understand each aspect of relevancy of a consumer will also drive a consumer’s behavior.
Retailers and advertisers blend the physical environment as well as every imaginable digital asset (music, video, and graphics) and technology (WiFi, interactivity, augmented reality, RFID, NFC) to influence and shape the consumers experience in their purchase decision.
The skill and balance is that content visually presented and personalized can be used for both Educational – early in the awareness stage and then Selection – later in brand product comparisons or product choice.
Retailers and brands are recognizing the power of social networks (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+) as well that consumers are inclined to reach out to family, friends, co-workers, store associates, and even strangers with whom have made similar life style purchase choices for their opinions, feedback, how-to, knowledge before they will make their final decision.
Consider the number of retailers that are launching other web sites, mobile apps, blogs to support their brand community (MyLowes, Home Depot’s – The Apron, Macy’s mBLOG, Neiman Marcus’ NMdaily).
Retailers must re-educate their store associates as well sponsor increased employee communicate to alter an era of transaction based culture & attitude toward the consumer so it is transformed to a relationship culture. There is a shift in thinking with both Retailers and Consumers as reference in “The AVATAR moment for Consumers and Retailers.” Commerce maybe a primary objective, but relationship is critical to sustain and grow.
Technology helps support the consumer experience, but consistency in the consumer’s path-to-purchase is the first step to innovation and transformation.
photo credit: VinothChandar
View original article on the RMG Networks blog