Shopper marketing and retail activation teams are often faced with the question:
How can I improve the Point of sales marketing approach to increase the sell-out at retail? Or, What is the best visual merchandising solution for us to get noticed at retail?
Irrespective of the way you frame it, it remains a challenging question. Even though the importance of visual merchandising on affecting the shopper decision is universally accepted, there seems to be no clear solution to objectively study the same.
Instead of recommending a magical solution that predicts the outcome of your efforts, we recommend a more old fashioned but fundamental way of dealing with the challenge- Invest in continuous generation of shopper behaviour and visual merchandising insights derived from information gathered at point of sale.
Easier, said than done through. Next question being: what kind of process can lead to continuous generation of insights related to shopper behaviour and visual merchandising?
Again, it is difficult to recommend a one size fits all approach here, but let’s keep working on the basics. It is very logical that the factors affecting Visual merchandising approach will be different for different products, stores/channels, and shopper segments. And, to tweak the visual merchandising approach, it will be required to change one of many components (4 basic features we recommend are mentioned below). Therefore, to have a thorough understanding of retail marketing dynamics, we need to capture following factors (list is indicative, based on basic factors we could think of):
- Brand standings
- Shopper Involvement with product category
- Impulse behavior at product and brand level,
- ATL/BTL marketing practices in industry and their impact on shopper
- Store selection, and
- Purchase pattern,
- Average purchase size & frequency
- Brand usage and attitude
- Sellout/Market share trends
- Shopper profile and needs,
- Store layout & Channel dynamics, and
- Trade promotions
- Presence of competition and other industry
- Expression, and
Now, to design a study based on above factors, one should keep in mind that the objective is to understand and measure ‘shopper engagement’. There are 3 main questions that can be explored (which can be taken as insights the study is expected to produce)
Whom do you currently engage?
- Current understanding of brand preferences and shopping process
- Identification of shopping patterns and needs we can influence
- Understanding the scope of in-store engagement in shopping process
What engages the shopper?
- Type of POS elements that work well
- Color, content, size, and execution related parameters
- Variation in POS approach by Channel/store types and by Geographies
Result of engagement?
- Level of engagement generated in-store
- Impact of engagement on brand and product consideration
- Role of engagement in driving final purchase
A good research should follow the process of Query-> Hypothesis->Experiment. On these lines, we recommend that the following activities can be undertaken, either in part or as a combined experiment.
Hypothesize: Whom we engage?
A good way to develop hypothesis is through a primary survey of shoppers to capture demographics, usage, attitudes, brand preference, and shopping behavior across channels. It’ll help us develop hypotheses on the impact of In-store activities in a shopping trip.
Experiment: What engages the shopper?
One way to approach this using a controlled experimentation approach is to constantly capture information related to nature, design, and execution of POS elements and link it to sales data to identify patterns of high performing POS parameters. Trends can then be observed in light of Product, Store, and market related factors which were proposed during hypotheses development stage.Validate: Result of engagement?
Conduct Shopper interviews to validate the Insights gained from Identification of top performing POS elements. To understand how visual merchandising impact shopping decision leading to enhanced brand perception and/or to purchase.
This is a simplistic approach aimed at generation of actionable insights about shopper behavior and point of sale merchandising. It can be further refined and implemented as a process so that there is a continuous refinement in visual merchandising approach based on the actual market dynamics. However challenging it might seem, it is recommended to have a visual merchandising approach based on first hand shopper insights. Otherwise, you are always running the risk of checking your parachute at mid-air.