In-store events and primary research are key to retail success

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In the first part of this Tricks of the Marketing Trade blog, we examined the ways in which insight, strategy and technology could help to revive the fortunes of bricks-and-mortar stores. In this concluding part, we look at the use of in-store events and conducting primary research in achieving retail success.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers need to concentrate more on the shopping experience.

Make an event of it

“A pleasant shopping experience” is increasingly moving up the priority list when it comes to choosing a store to shop in. This comes as no surprise as tangible, sensory experiences and human interaction is what separates the in-store from the online shopping experience.

Shoppers go to stores for the feeling it gives them and, the more you can do to make shopping feel like a leisure activity the better. Of course, it helps to have a spacious, well-designed and laid-out store, but we might not always have the advantage of that and this is where promotions and events really come into play.

We think of events as celebratory things – an anniversary or a birthday, for example. However, events are also transient which means we need to make the most of it while it lasts and experience it while we can. Conversely that great teenage angst FOMO (the dreaded ‘fear of missing out’) also rears its head as we don’t want to miss something that’s potentially to our advantage!

In-store events are proven to drive footfall and increase brand positivity. Not only that, if properly taken advantage of they can create a lasting bond with the consumer.

There are other factors too. Any parent will know what shopping with kids is like (I have two daughters myself) and the main enemy here is boredom. Boredom leads to fidgeting, running off, attention seeking and just being a general distraction from the shopping mission. Many a potential sale has been lost as a result of parents giving up and going somewhere that will be easier on their children. Stores that can therefore engage with kids will get the thumbs-up from parents wanting a break from the stress, able to focus on what they came in for in the first place.

Let’s just be clear though, putting up some interesting point-of-sale (POS) is not in itself an event. Create events that provide real interactions with a human presence and a sense of occasion, something to be enjoyed while it’s there and missed when it’s gone.

Capture the findings – test, learn and create your own intelligence

With the need for insight and precise shopper data at an all-time high, it is perhaps surprising that many brands and retailers are reluctant to experiment with trials in-store to gather their own information from customers. Only by doing so can specific answers relevant to a particular brand or sector be found – and no amount of time spent searching around Google will change that.

Recently, I was asked by a paint manufacturer how many colour swatches is the optimum number for a customer to select from. The answer to this specific request was not to be found in any available intelligence report, but when it was suggested that testing different amounts of swatches to customers would give them an indication, there was silence. It was hoped that the answer would just be there without having to do anything to get to the result. The trouble of course is that testing is rarely factored into budgets or timings, perhaps understandable baring in mind the commercial pressures all brands and retailers face currently. As such there is very little instore measurement data readily available.

Testing and capturing information directly from customers is hugely important in creating your own unique intelligence database and gives you some license to be bold in trying new and unproven activities. Whether you get the results you hope for or not, it will invariably point you to where you need to be.

As the time honoured quote from Albert Einstein put it, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”

The methods and principals outlined here are by no means the only ways to stand out in-store, but given the rise in eCommerce and increasing competition online, it has become increasingly important to connect with customers in a smarter way as consumers expect a great shopping experience together with an emotional connection they simply cannot get online.

Research conducted by Vista found that 81% of UK consumers see the physical store as vital to the shopping experience and 70% say they enjoy the full experience of going into stores to browse, find out what is new and buy what they like at their leisure. Better still, 60% of Generation Z, who by their very definition are digital natives, prefer to purchase in-store.

It’s safe to say therefore that the opportunity to drive traffic to your bricks and mortar store is there. But only by understanding what your customers want, while being creative and engineering uniqueness, can you can stand out from your competitors and make a long-lasting impression with consumers.

The first part of this blog explored the smart use of insight, strategy and technology by bricks-and-mortar retailers. These, in combination with in-store events that provide a great experience and facilitate the frictionless collection of customer data onsite, provide high street retailers with every chance to not only survive, but to thrive in the future.

David Ballard is creative director of Lick Creative

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