As we enter a new year, the rush of ‘five things you need to do’ articles is well underway. As I sift through the shopper marketing and retail articles in my feed, it seems that most writers are convinced that there is much that brands and retailers must to to improve the shopper experience. For most commentators, using screens, virtual reality, you name it, some technology is apparently what shoppers want. Well – indulge me a little while I push back gently on this. Yes, shoppers are all looking for an improved experience in store, but most shoppers are looking for something far simpler. Simply make sure I can find what I want. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, what shoppers crave most is in-store availability.
Now don’t get me wrong. The effective use of technology can significantly enhance the shopping experience. Retail experiences can transform a brand’s performance. Apple has created fabulous stores which create an amazing, immersive and tactile brand experience. When buying a device like an iPhone, that immersive experience is massively important. Remember the first time you touched an iPhone? I do. It was like magic. I’d seen the ads, but nothing quite prepared me for the experience of touching one. And there are lots of products and brands that can benefit from a bit more experience in-store. But that isn’t always the case. The trouble is, a lot of this stuff is expensive. Easy to do when you are selling expensive tech, but harder when you are selling groceries. And the reality is that it isn’t always necessary. You don’t need an Apple store to sell and apple, if you will.
In-store availability – the heart of a great shopping experience
But there is one part of the in-store experience that every shopper wants to be brilliant. One experience that all shopper marketers and retailers should focus on. Ensuring the product is available. According to this report, around one in twelve products is out of stock.
Not being able to find stuff is one of the biggest frustrations for shoppers, both online and offline. And while squillions are being spent on retail tech, it appears that we’re not getting much better at in-store availability. Every time I go on a store visit, out of stocks are found everywhere. As a shopper, I regularly don’t buy what I want to buy because it isn’t available in-store (or I can’t find it, which amounts to the same thing).
Improving in-store availability should be the focus of our activities
So in 2017, before we spend a dollar on technology: flat screens, virtual reality or in-store beacons, can we please get together and make a concerted effort to nail this one thing that blights far too many shopping trips, and kills profitability for brands and retailers. Here seven things to consider to improve in-store availability:
- Review space allocations frequently. If a product isn’t allocated enough space, it is much more likely to go out of stock.
- Reduce the number of promotions you do. Promotions are hard to forecast, and secondary locations don’t help as it’s harder for a store to monitor inventory levels at each location. In recent store visits I’ve noticed that up to eighty percent of out-of-stock lines were on deal.
- Monitor in-store availability (if you aren’t monitoring this, you really aren’t shopper-focused at all!).
- Review merchandising, to ensure product is laid out in a logical manner. And by that I mean a logical manner for shoppers, not manufacturers or retailers. Make sure you test new layouts, however as getting this wrong can cause issues!
- Consider how signage can help shoppers find products, though make sure that signs don’t also have a negative impact on shopper availability.
- Observe shoppers. I was working with a client recently who shared a video of a shopper in their category. The shopper knew what they wanted (they had a plan) but they still spent eight minutes trying to find their product. If shoppers can’t find your brand, then it isn’t available.
- Incentivize availability in-store. If you are a retailer, incentivize your suppliers; if you are a supplier, make some of your payments linked to on-shelf availability.
Trying to create brilliant, engaging shopping experiences is, for some brands, an important way of changing shopping behavior. Retailers too, should seek to differentiate their shopping experience as they try and compete with stronger competition, both on and offline. But all the research we see suggests that a store with better in-store availability would be the best shopper experience for most. To learn more about shopper marketing, try Shopper Marketing Experts, a brand new community for people who want to know more about shopper marketing. Sign up now and try it for free.