|| The Perspective
Wednesday, 04 March 2015
A year later, retailers are reporting positive results from iBeacon campaigns. There are, however, still challenges from the caveats associated with iBeacons.
Specifically, customers must be iPhone users. They must download the retailers’ app. They must enable Wifi on their phone and opt-in to receive notifications. Many consumers are not willing to opt-in because they have privacy concerns about retailers collecting their data. Physical Cookie gives retailers and their customers the benefits of iBeacons without having to meet all of these requirements.
What is Physical Cookie?
Physical Cookie is a RFID-tag within a piece of plastic, usually on a key-fob, which retailers can give to their customers as they shop. The customer puts Physical Cookie in their pocket and then has to take no additional steps. Electric readers are then placed around the retail store. The Physical Cookie key-fob collects data in real-time in the same way cookies on websites do (hence the name). Digital screens within the store, show customers advertisements based on their behavior. Customers do not sign up or register, so there are no privacy concerns involved. Physical Cookie has operated in the Citycenter shopping mall in Helsinki, as part of a trial since Fall 2014.
Physical Cookie is easier for the consumer to use than iBeacons. Unlike the Bluetooth technology used for iBeacons, Physical Cookie is always on. Instead of pinging a user’s phone, the actual retail environment reacts to the consumers behavior, which feels much less spammy.
The Physical Cookie Customer Loyalty Program
In the Citycenter trial, a customer loyalty program called VIP-key was launched. The VIP-keys were given to 14,000 randomly selected customers who were then automatically part of a loyalty program, without ever having to opt-in, register, or sign up for anything. The trial was in a shopping center but Physical Cookie has said this can work for both retail chains and for brands working within big-box retailers.
While this trial was conducted using Physical Cookies in a key-fob format, the company said in the future this does not necessarily have to be the case. The key-fob format was selected with the thought process that customers enter the shopping center with their wallet, mobile phone, and keys with them. The average customers wallet is already full of loyalty cards, and mobile phones would require opt-in. The key chain was chosen instead because it does not already have any smart device on it.
- The VIP-key cost the equivalent of about two cents in US Dollars.
- 15% of the VIP-keys were active.
- They showed a 14.5% increase in activity between floors.
- There a was a 21.7% increase in time spent in the shopping center.
For more information on enhancing your customers’ retail experience, please visit our About page.
Photo Credit: Physical Cookie
Tuesday, 06 January 2015
Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates
Millennials controlling 70% of the spending power in the U.S. creates vast uncertainty amongst retailers; but with the strongest economy in years, optimism prevails as we begin 2015.
For many retailers, the Millennial consumer is an enigma: they are more suspicious of who to trust and yet, more likely to be influenced by apps and social media than any other generation. Only 19% of Millennials (versus 40% of Baby Boomers) say that, “generally speaking, most people can be trusted” (PewResearch). However, in order to make buying decisions, consumers look to a retailer’s online presence and social influence before considering a purchase.
This generation’s spending habits are moved by its self-paradox. Millennials are self-focused and at the center of their own global communications. It is vital for them to have a positive self-image while finding a sense of belonging when purchasing consumer goods. They desire self-preservation and a personal connection to a product or service.
So, what does this mean for retailers?
The heightened competition amongst store fronts and e-commerce will increase. Currently, roughly ¾ of consumers claim to showroom (Retail Future Trends 2015) or rather compare brands in order to receive the lowest price, best quality and/or widest selection of merchandise when shopping—many times without ever stepping foot in a store. This creates less in-store traffic and increased wavering among dominant brands. So, retailers must draw their target markets in through a strong online presence while providing feelings of exclusivity and individuality for a reasonable price.
To draw consumers into their store fronts, many retailers have begun incorporating various electronic capabilities; this includes the use of tablets, interactive kiosks and beacon technology. Tablets and interactive kiosks extend inventory past what can be offered in stores. The use of tablets has expanded into the retail environment to replace paper signage with digital advertising while providing sales associates quick and easy access to inventory, online ordering, product information and faster checkouts. Interactive Kiosks act in a similar way – allowing for added promotions through electronic ads specified to a department and the time of day. They also enable retailers to connect with consumers by blending in-store merchandising and virtual product displays. Beacon technology, on the other hand, provides the retailer with direct communication to the consumer and has the potential to completely change the in-store shopping experience by creating personalized and targeted marketing in real time. A beacon uses a Bluetooth signal to send special offers to nearby smartphones equipped with the store’s app. App users will receive targeted messages and deals while moving throughout the store.
Let’s say you’re shopping at a retailer equipped with these devices and have previously downloaded the store’s app. As you walk through the doors, your phone buzzes with an exclusive storewide discount. You wander into the home goods department and begin looking for a new blender when your phone alerts you of a sale on KitchenAid products. You can’t pass up the sale price and find the specified blender but are not happy with the color selections available in store. Scanning the product’s barcode at a nearby kiosk, you find additional product specifications, customer reviews and available colors. The color you’d like is available only online. No need to worry. Once your shopping is complete, you bring all of your selections to the nearby associate. They ring you up on their iPad and include the desired blender and ship it directly to your home.
As many stores have already begun implementing this technology, this experience won’t be a thing of the future for long. In fact, Macy’s has added 4,000 iBeacon devices nation-wide and provides coupons via this technology to customers who have downloaded ShopKick. They have also begun testing smart dressing rooms and an image search app. The smart dressing rooms have a wall-mounted tablet that allows customers to view various sizes and colors of a product while the image search app allows customers to snap a photo of an outfit or clothing item to find similar items on sale.
With these exciting advancements in technology, 2015 will be a year to watch how the in-store experience changes to accommodate the self-regarding Millennial. While it is clear that tech-enhanced stores offer an enriched shopper experience with benefits like improved productivity, inventory counts and use of store square footage, we have yet to determine exactly how to incorporate this technology so that it is most useful to each individual without overwhelming them.
Monday, 17 November 2014
Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.
Once again this holiday season has only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, last year had 25 days. Shoppers and retailers are preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year. This less than 4 week window has retailers scrambling to grab and retain the consumer’s attention (and pocketbook). They are doing this in a variety of ways.
Macy’s was the first retailer to announce that they would again be open on Thanksgiving Day. The doors at Macy’s will open at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year’s opening time. The department store chain stated this move was “in response to the significant, sustained customer interest in last year’s opening day on Thanksgiving, both at Macy’s and other retailers.” The Walnut Room, the famous restaurant on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street store in Chicago, will be open for the first time serving Thanksgiving dinner, also at 6 PM. Maybe this is a start of a new tradition, Thanksgiving dinner followed by shopping? Target, Kohl’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney, along with other retailers have since posted they will also be open on Thanksgiving.
Some consumers state that greed has taken over this holiday; however, others have pointed out that the crowds these stores are receiving justify them being open. Jerry O'Brien, director of the Kohl's Department Stores Center for Retailing Excellence, stated that for some people shopping on Thanksgiving Day is no different than others playing football or going to a movie. Conversely, some retailers have opted to remain closed and allow their employees to celebrate the holiday with their families. Costco, Barnes and Noble, and Nordstrom’s are among those retailers remaining closed on the holiday.
Despite the gain in popularity of shopping on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday still remains the king. According to the National Retail Federation, 2013 store traffic on Black Friday was 92 million people compared to 45 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. The high presence of loyalty programs, and the data collected when enrolled in these programs, allow for retailers to pinpoint certain Black Friday offers to a shopper. With offers made via direct mail, social media and email marketing, these campaigns allow the consumer to be well prepared when they arrive at the store.
Toy retailer Toys ‘R Us recently announced a revamped loyalty program for the 2014 holiday season. They have good reason to focus on their 18 million loyalty cardholders, they account for 70% of their US sales. Recently announced, in-store and online layaway programs are now available. As an added incentive to shop even earlier, Toys ‘R Us has offered cardholders 10% off their entire purchase every Saturday during the month of November. This is in addition to loyalty members earning $5 in “R” Us Rewards for every $125 spent. When the “R” Us credit card is used for these purchases, the earnings double to $10. For holiday shoppers with children on their lists these rewards will add up quickly.
Macy’s and Toys ‘R Us have also upgraded their omni-channel features prior to the upcoming holidays. Both retailers now offer Apple Pay. In select markets, Macy’s has implemented Smart Fitting Rooms, fitting rooms with wall-mounted tablets which allow associates and customers to scan merchandise items and see other sizes or colors available. Also, in select markets, Macy’s is offering same day delivery. Consumers can purchase merchandise on the company’s website to be delivered to the store the same day. Toys ‘R Us is offering a similar service. Toys and games ordered online can be picked up in store in less than an hour.open sign
Whether you are working off your second piece of pumpkin pie by racing to the stores Thanksgiving evening, or waking up at the crack of dawn the following morning, rest assured that the stores are ready for you and a few thousand of your friends.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
By David McCracken
I don’t know about you, but it seems every time I’ve been in a Starbucks over the last few weeks, it seems like everyone is scanning their smartphone instead of paying with cash. The retail world is moving so quickly towards convenient technology solutions like these, and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Craig W. Smith, founder of the New Channels Department at London retail giant Marks & Spencer, gave his predictions for the five pretty incredible in-store retail technology trends we will see in the next year. (Original source: http://retail-innovation.com/)
1. First payment by smart watch
Smart watch payment…because reaching into your pocket or purse is too much effort (not!) Smith predicts we will move beyond paying with cash, credit cards, or even smartphones, to paying with your wrist wear. The smart watch will establish itself as a credible payment instrument.
2. First Google Glass in-store retail applications
Google Glass applications are popping up in the medical and hospitality industries, and retail will soon join them. Retailers will offer applications like customer recognition, personalized concierge services and pick, pack & dispatch.
3. Personalized targeting with beacon technology
Smith says retailers will start to engage customers with location-based personalized targeting. When customers enter a certain geographic range, retailers can send targeted promotions straight to their mobile phones.
4. Pay and go using your mobile
Have you been in a grocery store that allows you to scan your items as you put them into your cart? Picture the same thing…but with your smartphone. In the next 12 months, retail stores will trial software that allows customers to scan items as they shop and pay on their phones before exiting the store.
5. Payment on shop floor will move from trial to full-scale rollout
Some retailers are currently taking payments on devices like iPads, but mobile payment is definitely not without its challenges. Over the next 12 months, Smith predicts that hardware and solution providers will fix these problems, which will lead to more and more retailers adopting them. Mobile payments will move from proof-of-concept ideas into fully-fledged rollouts.
In which of these trends do you see the most potential? What other tech predictions do you have for the next 12 months?
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
By Bill Bishop
Stuart Armstrong was pushing the boundaries of using POS data at IRI to understand shopping behavior when I first met him. Today he’s pushing the boundaries of using digital screens to communicate with shoppers inside stores at ComQi.* In between, he developed multi-channel marketing strategies for the consumer goods and retail industries.
I think he has important things to say about where we’re going with the technology-enhanced shopping experience, which changes in the retail environment are most transformative, and how retailers and brands are using interactive screens to build customer relationships.
You’ve spent a long time at the intersection of retail and communications media. How would you describe where we are today?
A lot of the things we’re doing today with omni-channel, big data, technology, millions of dollars, and many hours are taking us back to the future – back to something retailers used to know how to do very well. It’s taking us back to the intimacy of customer service that retailers used to offer.
Back in the day, Sam the grocer might stand on the sidewalk beside his nice-looking produce. When Mrs. Smith walked by with little Patty, he knew what she’d bought, what she liked and disliked, and even that what flavor of penny candy her daughter preferred. It was a great customer relationship. It was personal. He knew her needs and he met her needs. And she talked with her friends about Sam the grocer, the original social media.
Then we moved to the other end of the spectrum with individual consumers. Broadcast media came on the scene, and we went through a bubble. Brands and advertisers developed a theory of reach and frequency, and they built a whole economic structure around mass media: Bombard enough people with messages and the small percentage of individuals that responds will be enough.
Today, we’re trying to get back to the level of intimacy we used to have with individual customers. We may be using technology to get there, but in the end, retail is a high-touch story, not a high-tech story. We’re using purchase histories and data analysis to re-establish relevance and recency. The more we can relate to consumers at a specific time with relevant information, the greater share of mind we gain and the greater the opportunity to influence purchases.
Which recent developments in retail strike you as most important?
There’s been a tsunami of change in the past 5 years. I think these three are important to recognize.
1. BYOD (bring your own device). Smartphones have spread far and wide in the last 5 years, and 40% of shoppers want to use their device while they are in the store – to compare prices, to scan QR codes, to look up alternatives. It’s changed the in-store experience, and now that people can shop anytime, anyplace, retailers and brands need to be present in the digital space as well.
2. The endless aisle concept. Retailers are trying to do more with less – offer more variety, greater selection, better experiences, but with less square footage. This means smaller on-site inventory and fewer back shelves. The endless aisle enables retailers to say “Sure, we can get that for you” and deliver fast.
3. The potential for technology and data to underpin greater levels of customer service. Frequent shopper programs have mostly delivered a sea of discounts. It degrades the brand and takes away the intimacy. There’s huge potential to use technology to improve customer service.
Powerful synergies arise from these developments. Check-in, for example, is a huge opportunity that touches on at least two of them. Say you go to the big electronics store to buy a smartphone and check in by swiping your device. And say check-in triggers the ability of the sales associate to call up your purchase history. The associate will understand your needs better, and you’re going to get much better service. Using technology and data to deliver customer service like this can bring retailers closer to the kind of relationship Sam the grocer had with his customers. Using it just to push promotions doesn’t create the same kind of intimacy or trust, and the more our customers trust us, the more information they will be willing to share.
What do these changes mean for product brands?
Brands are building stronger presence in stores using the “store within a store” concept. Fashion brands have done this for years in department stores, and CPG and cosmetics brands do it in grocery and drug stores mainly with displays, but brands are branching out into other venues now.
Remember that smartphone purchase? The last time I bought a smartphone, my sales associate walked me over to the manufacturer’s display and introduced me to Sally. “Sally will show you how to use your phone,” he said, and for the next 20 minutes Sally did exactly that. Sally works for the manufacturer, and she was servicing, not selling – but because she was servicing, she was selling. (Sometimes brands are delivering this kind of service via kiosk or screen.)
Brands used to print and send out mass mailings and figure that ½ to 1 percent of people would trip over them and buy. Now they’re starting to target stores where they have particular opportunities to grow sales and investing larger amounts of money in those locations.
You talk about the importance of screen-rich environments. What do you mean?
Screen-rich environments are playing a big part in the increasingly interactive store shopping experience.
- “Public screens” deliver one-to-many messages. You find these on the aisle, over the aisle, or even worked into the décor as part of the millwork; they don’t have to be a screen on a stick.
- “Private screens” deliver one-to-one messages and are the best vehicle for customer service. These are the mobile phone screens of individual shoppers, where they can download information and receive personalized offers, support or instruction.
Some screens can do double duty. My company recently helped roll out a digital price board in the automotive service sector that doubles as a “video on demand” screen. Remember Mrs. Smith? Imagine she comes in for an oil change and notices the price difference between synthetic and regular oil and asks about it. Her sales associate might or might not know the answer, but now he or she can use the same sign to show her a 90-second video that explains the difference. Now Mrs. Smith gets the answers she needs to make a decision from a credible source. This would be a powerful tool for many areas within grocery and drug store environments such as health/pharmacy, organics and even the wine department. By the way, it's important to note, that supporting sales in this manner has dramatic effects in increasing sales and trading up the purchase.
Finally, screens can now interact with each other – which means that Mrs. Smith can download the video explaining the difference between synthetic and regular oil to take home and discuss with her husband, and not just in English. If the household is Hispanic why not furnish the information in Spanish? Another example of delivering better customer service that results in increased sales and shopper loyalty.
Which retailers are doing the best job with screen interactivity?
Burberry’s High Street store in London is one of the best. They’ve created an entirely new shopping environment. They can even create a rainstorm to inspire shoppers to buy a raincoat.
There’s a similarly great use of digital screens in the Victoria Secret Harold Square store in New York that includes a 3-story video wall and screen synchronization following the shopper up and down the escalators. (In the interest of transparency, that’s our technology.)
What do you see on the horizon?
More wearables. Google Glass is a prototype, but heads-up display will evolve and wearables will become more common. And more augmented reality, where you can place your phone over a digital or static menu item and it will tell you about calories and nutritional value. Digital signage will serve up targeted content and mobile with will deliver a lot of the information people want without having to print it on a label or a menu or a shelf tag.
*ComQi is a global leader providing a cloud-based Shopper Engagement Technology that influences consumers at the point of decision, in-store, using all digital touch-points: digital signage, mobile, video, touch, web, and social networks. ComQi’s mission is to deliver an end-to-end solution that is tailored to engage consumers by optimizing communications and marketing strategies that provide the best ROI. Learn more about them at comqi.com, follow them on Twitter and Facebook, or visit their YouTube channel.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
VP New Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates
Mizuno Golf DisplayShoppers are bringing a set of expectations and a cache of knowledge gleaned from online research through the doors of stores like never before. New consumer behaviors have impacted especially categories like electronics, books, clothing, household goods and sporting equipment. Numerous studies of multi-channel shoppers make it clear that online research doesn‘t lead just to online purchases. There are plenty of occasions when the store has the final influence on purchase decision.
Increasingly the in-store experience will incorporate tools like touchscreens, digital signage and mobility, but ask any retailer or brand and they will say that merchandising and point-of-purchase displays where the product is the hero are integral to conveying information and making an impression. Products that are prominently and expertly displayed can be a call to action, whether that action is immediate or takes some alternate path.
So what should retailers and brands focus on to create the maximum amount of impact from a display? Here are some of the tips from the pros that are encapsulated in our latest POP guide, Traditional Merchandising in the Age of Self-Service.
Linda Hofflander, director of vertical marketing with the enterprise business division of Samsung:
People get bombarded with signage, and sometimes it’s what is unique or a little bit of a surprise that can be most effective
David Anzia, vice president of sales at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.:
With customers already armed with so much pre-purchase information, retailers have the ability to utilize less copy on their displays. The marketer is able to simplify their message, content copy and photos to distract the customer.
Kevin Lyons, senior vice president of e-commerce with h.h.gregg:
A customer wants to know the most important ways the product will help them, not just everything it does or can do. For example a ‘super radiant heating element’ on a stovetop means nothing to the average consumer, but ‘boils water in 60 seconds’ does! Traditional signage takes on a new role in today’s retail environment as it relates to supporting the mobile customer, those that are researching as well as comparing/reinforcing their purchases.
Dean Cole, brand support manager Mizuno, USA:
If the display can help communicate the benefits of the product and help the consumer visualize how those benefits will improve their experience, the odds of that product being chosen are improved greatly.
Ryan Lepianka, creative director at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.:
Having the ability to touch a product and make a connection with it can beat nearly any other way of selling, and some of the most effective displays the company has designed are those that encourage physical contact.
Tuesday, 08 October 2013
By David Anzia, Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.
I recently gave an interview where I was asked about the challenges of managing retail self-service projects given the rapid progression of in-store technology. With the array of tactical mobile options and digital innovations, there are seemingly limitless opportunities for in-store merchandising to connect retail shoppers to the online and virtual worlds.
We can now provide a call to action for consumers to interact with content on demand on any type of retail display or self-service kiosk. Still other “next big things”, like gesture-based interfaces and virtual imaging, are competing for attention.
The challenge in planning for retail merchandising and self-service projects is navigating with our customers through the practical versus the promising.
Retailers are looking for ways to draw traffic and accelerate their omni-channel agenda in-store. Retailers and marketers straddle the line between wanting to evaluate new technologies and wanting to deliver an experience that is intuitive and accepted by consumers.
Forrester Research recently issued 2013 Mobile Trends for Marketers, which evaluated the readiness of “game changing” mobile technologies. All of these offer the potential of being combined with in-store merchandising. To summarize their analysis:
We expect significant progress in mobile technologies in 2013 — especially around indoor positioning — but not major breakthroughs…While we believe that mobile technologies like GPS, NFC, augmented reality, image recognition, and 2D bar codes will offer phenomenal potential to enhance real-world experiences for consumers, they can’t do so in isolation.
Gaps in infrastructure, the cost of scaling, availability of specific applications on smartphones, and consumer education are all factors that marketers have to consider when making the decision about whether to incorporate promising mobile ‘’on ramps” into in-store merchandising.
Decades of attending trade shows, seeing new technologies demonstrated, engaging in trusted partnerships, and listening to retailers who are constantly taking the pulse of their customers have given us insights that help us evaluate the latest innovations.
What we know is:
- The number of NFC enabled phones is growing but still small.
- More people are scanning QR codes, but the absolute numbers are small. Context and content are important in making these deliver.
- Texting behavior is more pervasive than QR code scanning.
- Augmented reality is still a young and developing industry. ROI is an issue.
- At the same time we are in the midst of rapid change with the ramp up in smartphone ownership – 56 percent of all U.S. adults according to PEW Research.
- Young, active mobile users are a growing force at retail.
While a dose of reality is necessary, the pace of change and the stream of innovation should keep us continuously evaluating the parade of “next big things.” You might say it’s like driving on the highway; we’re aware of what’s right in front of us, but we’re focusing several car lengths ahead.
Tuesday, 09 July 2013
By David Anzia, Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.
Two big motivators are pushing retailers to transcend walled-off commerce and implement omni-channel strategies. The first is connected consumers who have expectations of both individualized and seamless interactions with retailers. The second is the pressure certain retailers are feeling from shoppers engaged in showrooming and the unrelenting competition from online retailers like Amazon, who are the beneficiaries of that behavior.
You need only to attend a retail conference or engage a few retail executives in conversation to understand the need for speed in overcoming infrastructure hurdles to erase the barriers between consumer touchpoints. More than half of respondents to RSR’s 2013 Cross Channel Benchmark survey feel consumer expectations outpace their ability to deliver on a consistent retail experience.
On the consumer-facing side of this retail upheaval, continuity of experience – enabled by engaging interactive merchandising, a choice of self-service options and informed assisted selling – will be the driver for garnering the loyalty of digitally savvy Millennial shoppers. Those are the shoppers that will account for nearly a third of retail sales by the end of the decade.
As an in-store merchandising company whose projects often involve bridging retail channels, it is clear to us that omni-channel retailing offers benefits that transcend the challenges of implementation. Beyond the infrastructure changes and organizational realignments required is a vision for attracting and retaining high value customers and driving greater sales.
Improved Customer Perception
Customers expect integration and will become impatient waiting for it to become a reality. The blurring of channels isn’t just a retail phenomenon. It is advancing into other aspects of consumers’ lives like entertainment, where two-screen viewing is becoming a behavioral norm. Retailers are in a transitional time where speed of implementation can be differentiating and brand-building or slow response can be frustrating and damaging.
Retailers who have inventory visibility and availability in the customer’s channel of choice have a better opportunity to complete the sale. The proof of this tenant is in the success of department store shopping kiosks and category tablet kiosks that give shoppers access to a wider selection and provide multiple points of access to complete the purchase. Consumers who shop across channels are actually spending more with their favorite retailers.
Better Data Collection
Visibility across channels means a more customized experience. Retailers that can track customers across channels and understand preferences can better serve their customers. They also gain insights into crafting offers that motivate customers to get out from behind their screens and engaged in store, where the likelihood of impulse purchase is greater.
An omni-channel strategy can arm store associates with tools that increase access to information and promote efficiency. Tablets have become the front line of defense against customers armed with more information than store employees and a great offense for turning customer data into loyalty-building service.
There are benefits and best practices involved in the use of technologies – tablets, smartphones and touchscreens – that are the face of omni-channel retailing for consumers. The Convergence of the Connected Consumer and Omni-channel Retailing is a new resource we’re offering. It examines how retailers can take advantage of these tools to carry out their omni-channel strategies.
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?