Friday, November 30, 2012

Sell ’Er Through the Cellar Door

“Cellar door sales” is a term associated with wineries, but the idea can be applied to selling a broad range of merchandise. Characteristics of cellar door sales include:
  • A retail sale is made directly from the producer to the consumer, with no intermediary. 
  • The sale is made at the place where the item is produced, with the opportunity for the shopper to view the production process and talk with those who participated in the production. 
  • The shopper is encouraged to sample consumption or use of the product before deciding about purchasing. 
     Using interviews of retailers, researchers at Australia’s University of Western Sydney and Edith Cowan University studied cellar door sales of muscadine wines in the Southern USA. The researchers’ interest in muscadines had been piqued when they were told by winery operators that consumer snobbery is a major impediment to these wines’ popularity.
     Here are cellar door selling success factors consumer behavior studies identify:
  • Communicate strong branding. Ensure all public areas are clean. Have distinctive logos and bold signage consistent with your intended personality of the product. This includes on the signage directing drivers to your cellar. 
  • Facilitate the shopping experience. Have sufficient parking space and employ enough staff to greet visitors promptly. Don’t pounce on shoppers, but be easily available to initiative entertaining conversation. Keep explanations palatable. Some muscadine wine vendors had reacted to the snobbery stigma by spouting wine jargon to visitors. The result was more often irritation than positive impressions. 
  • Educate the shopper. Jargon’s okay. The problem’s with the spouting. One-fourth of the muscadine wine vendors said their main selling challenge was the shoppers’ lack of knowledge about the wines. Give shoppers what consumer researchers call a “consumption vocabulary.” 
  • Be a destination or a scripted part of a journey. Join with other cellar door sellers to develop a shopping area. Or as the Apple Hill vendors in Northern California do, distribute maps with your cellar along with other cellars plotted out. Work with tour bus operators to include you as a destination or on a scripted journey. 
     “Cellar door” has been considered by some to be among the most beautiful sounding phrases in any language. Add the word “sales” to it and it will be even more pleasing to the ears of retailers. How might you use the success factors of cellar door sales in your business?

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Remind Others of Falling Gas Prices

Concerns about transportation expenses on even short trips shift the preferences of your target consumers toward shopping online rather than at your bricks-and-mortar store. Therefore, please notice that gasoline prices have, on average, dropped noticeably for this holiday season. A Business Insider post, using data from, notes the prices have dropped 7% in a recent four-week period.
     Now, Business Insider, you and I have noted it. However, even if your target audience of consumers might have, they might not make the connection to the renewed attractiveness of shopping with you.
     It has to do with what economists coined the “Rockets & Feathers” phenomenon. Historically, gasoline prices rise as fast and directly as a rocket, but any price drops we see at the pump come down as slowly and unevenly as feathers.
     Researchers at University of Chicago found R&F occurred in about two out of every three supplier-to-retailer and retailer-to-consumer product transactions. It also occurred with services such as banking: Deposit rates responded more quickly to an increase than to a decrease in money market rates.
     In recent times, there have been fewer feathers in the retailer-to-consumer arena. Still, the history of R&F and consumers’ current high sensitivity to store merchandise prices mean your potential customers could benefit by being reminded that lower gas prices make it less expensive to get to your store.
     Also remind your suppliers, if they’ve not already lowered transportation charges, of the violations now of R&F. Expect the costs to you to decrease. Then lower your prices. When supplier-to-retailer costs go down somewhere in the marketplace, smart retailers are dropping their prices to shoppers more quickly than they’ve done in the past. This means that unless you find those lower supplier costs for what you sell, you’ll be losing business to your competitors.
     Tell shoppers lower supplier costs are the reason for your price decreases. The general rule is to always explain noticeable price decreases to customers. You got a good deal on a large purchase. You want to motivate people to try out a new brand. You want to help out customers when their money is tight.
     Be sure what you're saying is true. But at some point, you'll be increasing prices again. Gas prices will climb. You want to maintain in your customers the impression that the downs as well as the ups in your pricing are for good reason.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Engage Customers Via Digital Coupons

Whenever you’ve required a customer to work to obtain a discount, you increase the customer’s appreciation for the discount. The right level of work depends on the amount of discount you’re offering, the scarcity of the advertised item, the customer’s enjoyment of games, and more. Digital discount coupons—downloadable to an online device—for use in your store call for an effort which is both easy and noticeable. The consumer needs to either print out the coupon or bring a mobile device to the store to show the screen.
     An analysis sponsored by the Shopper Technology Institute and conducted by Partners in Loyalty Marketing estimates that although digital coupons constitute much less than 1% of all coupons distributed, they constitute more than 5% of coupons redeemed. About 34% of coupons delivered via free-standing insert (FSI) attract new purchasers, while about 46% of digital coupons accomplish this. About 68% of FSI coupons result in a larger sale total, while this occurs with about 77% of digital coupons.
     According to Inmar, Inc., about 88% of coupons are distributed via FSI. As with a digital coupon, using an FSI coupon requires an easy, yet noticeable effort. The consumer needs to extract the coupon from the insert and take it to the store. Not as much of an effort, however, and that might account for the difference in results for a retailer.
     Another possible factor has to do with the stigma associated in the past with coupon use. Any concern about appearing cheap at the checkout could be eased by having a mobile device to show off to all onlookers.
     But perhaps the biggest advantage of digital coupons over FSI coupons is the power of personalization to persuade the coupon recipient to do the extra work. By keeping track of what the customer has purchased and what the shopper has considered, you offer that individual items carrying special appeal.
     Researchers at University of Virginia find that the draw of such customized discounts occurs even if the person doesn’t use the coupons. In fact, mere exposure to a personalized coupon campaign had a bigger impact on store sales figures than did the frequency of coupon redemption.
     Customers notice and remember a discount when the items on the coupon are of high interest to them. In turn, discounts which are remembered increase the customer’s impression that all prices at your store offer distinctively good value.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Welcome Shoppers’ Questions About Negatives

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek posting, even the most biting review of your retail business brings profitable attention. Research supports this argument, with the condition that you openly welcome shoppers asking you about any of the points in the review.
     A set of studies at Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Pennsylvania plotted the relationship between controversy about a topic and the interest of people in talking about that topic. The finding is that as the amount of controversy increases, people do want to talk about it more.
     Thus, even a negative review of your business can draw people to tune into your social media channels and come into your restaurant, clinic, office, or store to hear your retort. Actually, consumers who are having a difficult time selecting between alternatives appreciate—and may even seek out—criticism of one of the products or stores. This helps the consumer make the decision.
     But this upward slant lasts only so long. When the degree of controversy reaches a certain tipping point, interest in discussion is outweighed by discomfort at even thinking about the matter. “My gosh! I ate at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar last month, and now I learn that a New York Times restaurant reviewer, no less, asked, ‘Does this make it sound as if everything at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is inedible?’”
     In these cases, you’ll want to pull back the discomfort so the interest in discussion again surfaces and you can make your points.
  • As a retailer, acknowledge the negative review. Researchers at European University Viadrina find that when a salesperson does this, the shopper becomes more likely to trust everything the salesperson says. But keep the words and logic simple. The researchers find that if there’s too much complexity, the shopper won’t hook the talk of negative information to the salesperson’s credibility. 
  • Offer a liberal money-back guarantee known about and trusted by the shopper. Research findings from University of California-Berkeley and Hebrew University of Jerusalem indicate that if your store does this, any negative reviews become much less important to making the sale. Then for any return, ask the customer the reason. This improves merchandising and curbs fraud. Make it a service-oriented inquiry, not an inquisition. Keep questions brief. If a customer asks, “Why do you need to know this?,” reply, “So we can do a better job of stocking the right merchandise for your needs.” 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Temper Shoppers’ Pressing Need to Buy

When your customers feel they’ve had the time in which to comfortably choose a product, they’ll enjoy the product more. They’ll also enjoy the shopping experience more. The motivation to return to your store soon and often will blossom.
     The other side of this is that you shouldn’t expect customers to express as much enjoyment of products they’ve selected from habit, and they’re less likely to brag about what transpired when they shopped at your store for those choices. To increase the consumer’s enjoyment of those purchases and the accompanying purchase experiences, look for opportunities to make it a choice.
     In many cases, you won’t be able to do this, since the shopper wants to finish as quickly as possible. In other cases, though, you can discuss with the customer the product attributes important to them in that product category and then describe how a few of the items weigh in on those attributes.
     Researchers at University of Chicago and Korea University had consumers make selections in seven product categories—coffee blends, novels, music CDs, video games, magazines, DVD titles, and calendar designs. Some of the study participants were asked to choose from each category the one item which best expressed their tastes. The other study participants were asked to choose for each category one alternative to satisfy a need to have an item in that category. As each participant went through the succession of choices, they were periodically asked to report how tired or energized they felt and how interested they were in the product they selected.
     The researchers found that as participants went through the series of seven choices, the “express your tastes” ones reported becoming more energized, while those in the “satisfy a need” group reported becoming more tired. In addition, the people in the first group reported higher interest in choices than did those in the second group.
     These results are what you might expect as an experienced retailer, but one of the implications might have missed your attention: By decreasing a shopper’s driving need to buy a product in a certain category, you’ll increase interest in the product. Sure, people are more likely to buy an umbrella when it’s raining. But they’ll enjoy the umbrella and the shopping trip more if they believe they don’t have to buy the umbrella immediately and can take the time to choose an umbrella which fits their tastes.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Identify When to Use Self-Identity Appeals

“Thanks for participating in this online experiment. Please find a coin, flip it ten times, and then type in how many heads and how many tails you obtain. To make this experiment more interesting for you, we’ll send you $1.00 for each toss that turns out heads.”
     Those are roughly the instructions given to study participants by researchers now at University of California-San Diego, London Business School, and Stanford University.
     This project was assessing honesty, but also something more: Does it make a difference if we caution the participants, “Please don’t cheat,” or say instead, “Please don’t be a cheater”? One group of study participants were given the “cheat” caution, and the rest were given the “cheater” caution.
     It did make enough of a difference to be of interest. The average was 5.49 heads reported by those given the “cheat” instructions. This was statistically higher than the five heads we’d expect by chance, indicating that people cheated. For those given the “cheater” instructions, the average number of heads reported was 4.88, which is not statistically different from five heads.
     The San Diego/London/Stanford researchers conclude that it would be more effective to tell people, “Please don’t be a litterbug,” than “Please don’t litter.” In the realm of retail sales, I’ll add that a consumer interested in safety should be more motivated to purchase if told, “With this car, you can be a safe driver,” than “With this car, you can drive safely.”
     The explanation for the difference concerns self-identity. People are less threatened by the idea that they are cheating or littering than that they are a cheater or a litterbug. The language of specific people is more powerful than the language of abstract concepts.
     There are times we don’t want to use a self-identity appeal: Assume that one of your staff has cheated a customer by not telling the customer a discount on an item was available for the asking. In discussing the incident with the employee, you’d want to describe what happened and point out a possible consequence is that the customer would find out later about the overcharge and have ill will toward the store. In doing this, it would be better for you to say, “Whether you realized it or not, you cheated the customer,” than, “Whether you realize it or not, you’re a cheater.” In these situations, talk about behaviors and consequences, not self-identity labels.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Articulate the Reasoning Experts Use

You’d like your staff to be experts about what you sell so the recommendations staff make to shoppers are well-founded. However, if shoppers ask the reasons for the recommendations, watch out the experts don’t lie.
     Researchers at University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, New York University, and University of British Columbia found that product and service experts don’t stay sufficiently familiar with details of their logic. They’re accustomed to giving advice from habit rather than tracing out the details each time. If pinned down by requests for those details, experts often make up reasons for their conclusions.
     What’s worse is that the experts tend to consider the reasons as genuine. They’ll create false memories on the spot and then accept those memories as real. They don’t know they’re lying.
     Staff members identified as experts are proud of the designation and feel accountable for advice they give. When they can’t recall details in their reasoning, they assume it must have slipped from mind. They dig deeper to fill in the gaps, not realizing the deep digging leads their brains to subconsciously create phony recollections.
     Lying to comparison shoppers, even with good intentions, is problematic, so coach your staff to stay aware of their reasoning in making recommendations. Encourage them to take the time to answer shopper questions accurately and completely. Your salesperson may have heard this question hundreds of times, but for the shopper, it might be the first time the question has come up.
     The subconscious lying is more common with “nonalignable” than with “alignable” attributes of products being compared. Alignable attributes are ones possessed by all the products the shopper is choosing among. With a video game system, it might be the capacity of the hard drive. If one system lacks Blu-ray playback capability and the others have it, that would be an nonalignable attribute. In this example, the expert’s false recall would consist of believing all the systems do have a Blu-ray capability.
     Customers who consider themselves experts present a similar problem. According to Duke University research, these customers’ knowledge about the product category is often out-of-date.
     The Duke researchers recommend that salespeople create an incentive for discovering what’s new: “It is clear that you know a lot about this type of product. May I share with you some of the latest versions we have and ask you what benefits you see that these new products hold for our customers?”

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Add “Please State” to “Other” Choice

In the closing midst of election polling, Time magazine columnist Joel Stein announced he didn’t approve of an “Other” choice on surveys.
There’s no “other” on a menu or my income-tax forms. Cops never ask you if you want to take a Breathalyzer, go down to the station or “other.” When the rabbi asked if I promised to love Cassandra in sickness and in health, if I had said, “Other,” I’m pretty sure the wedding would not have proceeded. 
     I’ve a similar reaction to “Don’t know” on consumer surveys. When you ask your shoppers for their attitudes and they answer they don’t know or have no real opinion, that’s not an agree or a disagree, so it can make interpretation of the survey results more difficult.
     A couple of years ago, shortly after the Echo Group announced their findings from the “American Express Global Customer Service Barometer,” I came across retailers distorting what the findings meant: On the survey, 58% of U.S. consumers said they’ll spend more with companies they believe provide excellent service, and those 58% reported a willingness to spend 9% more. But that 9% was an overall mean average. When dealing with luxury retailers, consumers might be willing to spend 19% more for superb customer service. When dealing with budget-oriented retailers, they might be willing to spend 0% more.
     The available summaries did not allow us to slice the data well enough to know the breakouts, so I wasn’t shocked when I encountered retailers using the 9% figure in discussing how to turn the statistics into profit-making tactics. They were using a best guess.
     I did experience shock, though, when I overheard an influential retailer say, “Okay, so 58% of the people tell us they’ll spend more when there’s excellent service. That means 42% won’t.” This retailer hadn’t acknowledged the 17% answering, “Don’t know.” The percentage saying they wouldn’t pay more for excellent customer service was closer to 25% than to 42%.
     Do include an “Other” or “Don’t know” as a reply alternative. Without this option, survey respondents will feel overly restricted, often causing half-completed questionnaires or circles filled in based on irritation as much as actual consumer sentiment. But be sure you follow with “Please tell us more below,” and then leave a welcoming, unintimidating inch of space for a comment. In online administrations, allow the respondent to type more as the box scrolls down.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Be Thankful for Consumer Suggestibility

It’s not unusual for a retailer to consider one of my shopper psychology tactics and respond, “I do exactly the opposite, and that is working great for me.”
     If I hear this repeatedly, I’ll eliminate the tactic from my toolbox. I’ve plenty more I’m confident will boost retailers’ profitability.
     If I’ve heard the counterpoint only once or twice so far, I’ll reply, “I rarely argue with success. I encourage you to keep doing what you’ve been doing, while at the same time asking yourself why it’s working and what the longer-term consequences are. Knowing the reasons empowers you to improve the tactic further. Knowing the longer-term aftereffects broadens your perspective in assessing what you’ve been doing. And please let me know what you learn so I can continually sharpen up what I suggest to other retailers.”
     As I say, I rarely argue with success. However, I do regularly explore what’s behind it and speculate on the longer-term, even when the success comes from following my research-based advice. An example:
     I advise RIMtailing readers to raise prices noticeably, although selectively, in order to curb consumer hoarding caused by natural disasters and then donate the premium to a fitting charity. In addition, for some time, I’ve advised retailers to craft fear appeals to build sales.
     In response, a store operator whose knowledge I highly respect wrote me the following, which I’ve edited only slightly:
     Well, rain is coming, and I am raising prices, and I did induce fear in one woman who bought more.
     Early in the afternoon I got an email from the city that they were opening their sand bag center.
     So when I saw a tarp in a customer’s cart, I said to her, “Looks like you are preparing for rain.” She said yes. I told her the city was opening their sand bag center, and she said maybe she better buy more.
     It looked like she put three more in her cart.
     Ah, gotta love panic. 
     The retailer gained by selling four tarps instead of one. The customer gained by having the security of extra coverage with a big storm approaching.
     And what’s my point? Well, there’s a tone of, “I sure put one over on that customer!”
     The profitability tactics I propose can be used to mislead shoppers. Shoppers hold a grudge when they conclude they’ve been tricked. If this happens, my tactics have also misled you to favor short-term revenues over long-term success.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stimulate Consumption Visions with Ads

Once the shopper has narrowed the choices to considering one item for purchase, we’d like them to imagine using the item. This increases the probability of a sale. Consumer researchers use the term “consumption vision” to describe a shopper’s mental image which is vivid and specific enough to let a shopper vicariously experience the benefits they would personally enjoy in using the product or service.
     Researchers at National Chengchi University in Taiwan find that ads are more likely to produce consumption visions if they are for hedonic, pleasure-giving, products, such as shampoo rather than for routine utilitarian products, such as dental floss.
     Other research provides tips for formatting the ads:
  • Use vivid language to stimulate the senses: “As you enter your room, you’ll be tempted to take off your shoes immediately so your feet can sink into the plush carpeting.” 
  • In illustrations, include people resembling your target audience in age, ethnicity, likely physical possessions, and so on. This makes the imagining easier than when there’s no plausible match. 
  • Make the illustrations easy to interpret. Arizona State University researchers compared the effects on prospective vacationers of an ad with a photograph and an ad with the photo modified to resemble a creative abstract painting. Those people shown the version with the literal photograph were more positively persuaded. 
  • Researchers from Brigham Young University and University of Michigan say to show the product oriented toward the viewer’s dominant hand. Since most people are right-handed, this means a more effective ad is showing a mirror image of the setup for a right-handed person to use the product. The consumer is looking at the ad, so what would be closest to the consumer’s right hand is to the left of a person whose image faces us in the ad. 
  • Research findings from West Virginia University and Georgia State University find value in asking the shopper to imagine usage by whomever would end up actually using the product. Usually, this is the person who is making the purchase. But with products like pet foods and birthday gifts, the user is different from the purchaser. 
  • Give the shopper the minimum amount of technical information necessary to set up the imagining. Then be ready to provide more details if the shopper asks when they come into the store or proceed on the website. The power of imagining is greater when a person fills in their own blanks. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Offer Late Alphabet Customers Head Starts

Ever notice how your male shoppers with a last name like Wallace are likely to place their orders sooner than male shoppers with a last name like Baker when the items are in short supply?
     Probably not, since we’re too busy to be paying attention to what seems like such a strange influence on purchase behavior. But researchers at Georgetown University and Belmont University had a hunch from prior research that there was what they coined a “last name effect,” and they did pay attention.
     Boys whose last names come later in the alphabet become accustomed to having to wait longer. In the classroom, they’re more likely to sit in the back of the room and on the playground, they’re more likely to be placed later in the line. Then when they grow up into adult male consumers, they’re concerned only the scraps will be left for them unless they act fast.
     The researchers verified the last name effect with opportunities to choose a bottle of wine, take advantage of a limited-time discount on a backpack, get four free tickets to attend a top-ranked women’s basketball game, and enter a drawing for a $500 prize. The effect was weaker for women than for men. That’s to be expected since it depends on childhood experiences, and married women often use their husband’s surname.
     The Georgetown/Belmont researchers believe that this last name effect influences how quickly consumers respond to direct mail offers, replace items like roofs and cars, and learn how to use the latest technologies. In each of these, your marketing appeal which emphasizes getting a head start will pack an extra punch with the men and never-married women on your mailing list whose surnames begin late in the alphabet.
     A person’s name is central to their identity and therefore influences their personality. A store employee with a name tag is more likely than one without to form the sort of relationship with a shopper that leads to store loyalty. One reason for this is that the shopper feels they’re dealing with a real person who has, indeed, revealed information about themself. But research identifies another aspect as well: The employee who is aware they’re wearing a name tag tends to be more conscientious in their behavior with shoppers.
     The last name effect gets consumers to respond, but the name-to-name of shopper and retail staff member helps close the sale.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Navigate Knowing of Black Swans

New York University risk engineering professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb defines a Black Swan as a large event which is both unexpected and highly consequential. Based on his studies, Prof. Taleb argues that, if you navigate your business environment knowing of Black Swans, these events can improve your profitability by weakening your competition and offering you opportunities to learn.
     Analyzing Prof. Taleb’s thesis motivated me to develop my own version, incorporating organizational psychology findings:
  • Maintain dependent independence. Coordinate your business actions with your stakeholders. Take into account customers’ preferences, suppliers’ plans, regulatory trends, and so on. But keep enough independence so that you are not dragged down by failures of your stakeholders and so you can exercise leadership. Don’t undertake initiatives based on preferences of a highly limited set of key customers, don’t tie yourself to only one or two suppliers, and don’t assume regulatory trends are immutable. 
  • Recognize the economies of small. Business researchers point to the economies of scale. But they too often gloss over the advantages of small. Small retail businesses can change course more quickly than large retailers, and there’s usually more entrepreneurial accountability in smaller retail businesses. To realize the nimbleness of small, your retail business requires adequate cash and credit cushions, though. Prof. Taleb makes a case for relying on equity rather than debt. To realize the accountability benefits, have you and your staff involved in as many of the various retailing tasks as possible. Prof. Taleb writes that in Roman times, when an engineer designed a bridge, the engineer was forced to sleep under the completed structure. As I see it, the logic of that tactic depends on the engineer also being intimately involved in the construction. 
  • Plan for unpredictable cycles. A characteristic of black swans is that after we’ve navigated by one, our brains fool us into thinking we should have been able to anticipate it. Mostly, we can’t. So how do you plan for the unpredictable? By having adequate reserves of money and expertise. How do you emotionally traverse the unpredictable setback? By knowing that economies, organizations, and individuals almost invariably go through cycles. What is down will come up again at some point. Black swan advice assumes that your existing strengths when encountering each destructive event allow you to outlast the enfeebled competition. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Size Up Your Shoppers

California’s Contra Costa Times reports a trend for retailers to carry stylish women’s shoes in larger sizes than in the past: Nordstrom Rack, Barefoot Tess, and up to size 15.
     Younger customers, with their sharp fashion sense, are demanding the larger sizes. Size up your shoppers so you’ve the merchandise to fit them, and also to demonstrate you acknowledge them. Stocking larger sizes parallels the inclusion of Spanish text in advertising, store signage, and ecommerce screens targeted to Hispanic populations. It’s like having special sales days for senior citizens. The recipient of your message thinks, “This retailer recognizes my distinctive characteristics. I like the pride in myself this gives me, so I’ll want to give them my business.”
     One reason for the increasing shoe sizes is that consumers are getting bigger all over. This creates profitability opportunities for you. About 65% of American women would be classified as overweight by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards, yet women’s plus-size clothing has traditionally constituted less than 20% of the women’s apparel market.
     Car companies are positioning pedals farther apart for bigger and wider feet. Toilet seats are getting larger, and a few airlines, like United and JetBlue, allow upgrades for augmented elbow and leg room. Men have their “Big Dogs” T-shirts.
     A couple of years ago, the Debenhams department store chain began showcasing fashions using UK size 16 mannequins. Nearly all clothing shops in Britain were using size 8 or 10 mannequins, even though the majority of women in the UK now wear either size 14 or 16. Debenhams’ changes show what the store’s offerings look like on typical customers.
     Is this a good idea? There are consumer psychology findings supporting a “No.” Researchers at Tilburg University and Arizona State University found that when female study participants looked at moderately heavy models, the study participants began having unpleasant thoughts about their own weight. On the other hand, when the researchers showed images of moderately thin women, the viewers’ self-esteem improved. Better self-esteem generated by a display makes people more likely to absorb and act on the display’s message.
     Most women don’t aspire to have thinner feet, though. And for Nordstrom, the focus on feet could be seen as well-grounded. It fits not only the customers’ needs and Nordstrom’s image of extraordinary customer service, but also the business’s history. In 1901, Nordstrom began life as a shoe retailer.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Assume Higher Anchors for Right-Side Items

Where you place items in relation to surroundings affects estimates of their prices.
     Show one group of shoppers an ad for a product, with the ad on the left-hand side of a newspaper page, but no price in the ad. Show another group of shoppers the same ad on the right-hand side of the page. Ask each consumer individually for an estimate of the product price.
     The group shown the ad on the right-hand side of the page will give higher estimates, on average. Similarly, showing a product on the right-hand side increases average estimates of package size, warranty length, and other quantitative attributes. Furthermore, the effect occurs not only with newspaper ads, but with store displays. Items displayed to the right of the visual field will—all else being equal—be estimated by shoppers to carry higher prices.
     Researchers at Chinese University of Hong Kong found two related explanations:
  • Consumers familiar with the labeling on tape measures and graphs assume that numbers appearing to the right are of a higher magnitude than those appearing to the left. 
  • With the exception of situations like announcing space launch countdowns, we count up. Those in cultures that read from left to right will, on average, mentally process an ad to the right later than an ad to the left, so will associate a higher number with it. 
     You can disrupt the effect:
  • Immediately after the Hong Kong researchers thoroughly exposed study participants to clock faces, the effect was temporarily reversed. On a clock face, unlike a tape measure, larger numerals appear to the left of smaller numerals. When these “clock face” consumers were shown a stapler and asked to estimate the price, those shown the product on the left-hand side of the display gave higher estimates than those shown the product on the right-hand side. 
  • Because the effect is subconscious, it fades when pointed out to people and thoroughly discussed with them. 
  • The “to the right means higher magnitude” is one of many considerations for the consumer in estimating price and other numerical measures. If a product with a brand name known for sterling quality is shelved to the left of one with an unknown brand name, the product on the left will probably get the higher estimate. 
  • The effect doesn’t work reliably on the vertical: Items on upper shelves don’t get consistently different price estimates than those on lower shelves. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Set Price Anchors with Price Adjacencies 
Keep Your Eye on Merchandising to the Right 
Prime Your Shoppers Below Awareness

Friday, November 16, 2012

Create Lasting Memories of Your Store

With my having spent the first few years of my life in Newark, New Jersey, a smile erupts on my face when I encounter the word “Bamberger’s.” It happened again when I read a retrospective feature appearing in New Jersey’s The Record about the landmark department store.
     During 1912, Louis Bamberger opened his flagship site in Newark. About seventeen years later, the business was purchased by R.H. Macy Co, but because of the warm associations locals had with the store, the Bamberger’s name remained until 1986.
     The smile that crosses my face is not primarily because of my making purchases at Bamberger’s. It’s because I remember how excited my parents would be when planning to shop there. After my family moved to Los Angeles, long-distance telephone calls to relatives “back east” would occasionally include positive talk about Bamberger’s. The retrospective article in The Record includes many other testimonials to happy memories, with former shoppers and store employees dropping hints of their affection by referring to the place as “Bam’s.” People spoke of an authentic sense of family.
     The Bamberger’s flagship store was an enormous retail operation. The fourteen-story building occupied an entire city block. And there were a number of other Bamberger’s in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. Still, the opportunities for small to midsize single-store retailers to create lasting memories in their customers are as great. Actually, with the additional local ties, the value of those memories is even greater. And even more for the family-run business. And even more than that for the family-run business carrying the family name.
     Regardless of whether you’re family-run, give a sense of family for an emotional attachment which will last. Some retailers say, “Make our customers feel like family.” I prefer, “Give a sense of family,” because research findings seem clear that for maximum profitability, you want to be sure to keep the interactions as a business relationship. Don’t promise more than you’ll deliver. That wouldn’t be authentic.
     Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison documented how Starbucks suffers from a negative image in which the company’s branding of the shops as an authentic coffee experience has come around to haunt Starbucks. Many customers, after being convinced of the importance of authenticity, decided Starbucks was bragging too much about their ability to be authentic.
     How are you jazzing up humdrum shopping in your store so there are long-term memories of authentic enjoyment?

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Give a Sense of Family for Emotional Attachment 
Jazz Up Humdrum Shopping

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Warm Up Cold Calls

An posting from a while back listed phrases salespeople use in cold calls, phrases which irritate prospects. Better yet, the posting proposed alternative phrases to fit into your cold call script. Based on shopper psychology research, here’s my revised version of that valuable list:
  • “I can give you a free estimate with no obligation on your part.” Consumers expect there to be no charge for an estimate, so “free estimate” comes across as bragging about nothing. The consumer then doubts the value of real benefits you describe later. And research at Arizona State University suggests that shoppers become more likely to purchase out of obligation after getting an estimate. The problem is that if you say, “with no obligation on your part,” you reduce the obligation the prospect feels. Avoid the problems by using, “May I run the numbers?” 
  • “Unconditional guarantee.” Researchers at Ohio State University and Australia’s Deakin University find that consumers are less likely to believe an unconditional guarantee than an attribute-specific guarantee, which lists the reasons the retailer will take remedial action. At the cold call start, you won’t want to give a detailed list. Instead say, “Here are ways we support our customers.” 
  • “I’ll be honest with you.” What? Were you lying to me up to now? Decades ago, the word “junkie” referred to somebody addicted to narcotics and probably selling narcotics. I tell you that so you can make sense of adhesive signs which appeared on university campuses at the time reading “Mary Poppins is a junkie.” A rumor began circulating that these signs were showing up all over the nation and Walt Disney himself was so outraged about it, he was hiring detectives to locate the miscreants for punishment. A phony rumor, I’d think, but in any case, new signs popped up. Each one read, “Mary Poppins is NOT a junkie.” Rather than say, “I’ll be honest with you,” use, “Here’s what I think.” 
     There’s a suggestion in the posting not supported by research evidence: Many cold call scripts start out with something like, “How are you today?” This sounds phony. The suggested alternative is to launch with, “Here’s why I’m calling today.”
     However, researchers at University of Minnesota, Utrecht University, and University of Twente found, across six laboratory and real-world telemarketing studies, brief chitchat at the start, such as “How are you today” softens up the prospect’s resistances to a solicitation which follows.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reflect on Reference Prices in B2B Selling

Selling to another business is different in notable ways from selling to individual consumers. Research findings from INSEAD, Indiana University, and University of Southern California focus on differences regarding reference prices.
     For the most part, consumers in North America who are purchasing as individuals prefer fixed pricing because they can then leave the transaction with the belief they got the best available deal. This is true both in-store and on-line. On eBay, which had its start as an auction site, most purchases in recent years have been made with the “Buy It Now” button at a fixed price. The thrill of the bidding was snuffed out by sniping—sophisticated shoppers using automated systems to place the winning bid at the last instant.
     However, business-to-business (B2B) customers expect negotiated pricing. As the retail seller, you benefit by being skilled at adjusting pricing and terms to fit the situation. What’s the size of this sale? What’s the likelihood of and likely dollar amount of follow-on sales? What payment arrangements is the shopper expecting? What out-of-the-ordinary requests are being made?
     In doing this, you’ll have a reference, or anchor, price in mind. So does your B2B shopper. To decide if a price is high or low, each of you is thinking, perhaps subconsciously, of what’s considered a medium price.
     Here’s my adaptation of the INSEAD/Indiana/USC research findings:
  • Business shoppers rely on reference prices when deciding on purchase quantities. If you quote a price for a single item that is lower than the shopper’s reference price for a single item, the shopper tends to purchase a higher quantity. If your single-item quote is 10% lower than the shopper’s reference price, this produces an increase of about 9% in the quantity purchased. 
  • If you quote a price for a single item that is higher than the shopper’s reference price, the shopper tends to purchase a lower quantity. If your quote is 10% higher than the shopper’s reference price for a single item, this would, on average, lead to about a 25% reduction in quantity purchased. Related to this, the shopper will then negotiate more sharply for all aspects of the transaction, beyond price. 
It could be to your advantage to quote a single item price that’s below the B2B shopper’s reference price for a single item. This is counter-intuitive. It seems you’d want to persuade the shopper with higher savings from a larger-quantity purchase.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Stay Aware of B2B Distinctions 
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Monitor for Misunderstood Instructions

Fred and Danny are on a hunting trip one day. Suddenly, Danny collapses and stops breathing. As you can imagine, Fred immediately puts down his rifle, whips out his mobile phone, and calls 911. He yells into the phone, “A man just dropped dead. We’re miles from the road. What should I do?”
     The emergency dispatcher replies, in a syrupy smooth tone, “Let’s take it one step at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. First, I’ll want you to check that he’s actually dead….”
     “Okay,” says Fred nervously, but before the dispatcher can go on with her instructions, she hears the sound of a gunshot, and then from Fred, “Done. What’s next?”
     In my joke of questionable taste, that dispatcher failed to recognize how badly her instructions would be miscomprehended. In the real life parallel, you and your staff might be so accustomed to repeatedly giving the same set of instructions that you assume, in error, everybody else accurately understands the directions and cautions for the customer.
     According to research findings from University of Michigan and University of Iowa, monitoring for misunderstood instructions is especially important with elderly customers. Otherwise you risk the real-life tragic consequences which would not be at all a joke.
     Here are tips to reduce the risk for all your customers, elderly and otherwise:
  • For products popular with seniors, have large typeface instruction sheets available and offer one to the customer. Or at least, if you see the customer straining to make sense of what it says on the package, show them a larger size package version which they can read. Tell the elderly consumer what to do instead of what not to do. Researchers find that the elderly have a dangerous tendency to misremember. They forget the not part. 
  • To the degree that you have time, deliver the message in different ways. Tell the elderly customer the product usage instructions. Demonstrate your points with gestures or even a sample of usage. Then check for understanding by encouraging the customer to ask you questions. In doing this, be sure to respect the dignity of the customer. If they seem confused, let them know you and others in the store are available later. 
  • Make note of which of your instructions are regularly misunderstood so you and your staff will take special caution when giving those instructions in the future. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Check Instructions with Elderly Customers

Monday, November 12, 2012

Clean Money, Cleaner Sale

Start bragging your store’s engaged in money laundering and the law could come by. So think of a different description if you choose washing machines to keep the cash in your registers squeaky clean. Or give customers their cash change only in crisp, new bills.
     However, before doing any of this, recognize the offsetting advantages of dirty money.
     Researchers at Canada’s University of Guelph and University of Winnipeg found that when people are given their change in bills looking worn out, the people want to get rid of the bills quickly. This is the perfect time for you, the retailer, to promptly offer the person another item to buy from you, before the worn-out bills get hidden in the wallet, purse, or pocket.
     When should you give clean money? If you want to impress the shopper with how you keep your merchandise current and how popular your store is. The Canadian researchers found that people take pride in having crisp, new bills in their possession they can spend in front of others.
     The researchers point out that the lower the denomination of the bill, the more often it’s exchanged. A $1 bill goes through more hands each week than a $100 bill and therefore gets dirty more quickly. Past research had found that consumers are reluctant to spend large-denomination bills. University of Iowa researchers showed that when one person has a single $100 bill and another person has five $20 bills, the person with the five bills is more likely to make a purchase. This latest research suggests the contaminated aura of the bills rather than the face value may account for the difference.
     The anti-contamination bias also applies to merchandise. Researchers at University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, and Arizona State University verify what most of us would have predicted: Customers have less interest in an item on a rack or shelf when they're thinking about who else has touched it. They feel disgusted at the idea the product could have been contaminated by other shoppers.
     In this case, there’s no dirty-money-parallel upside to the contamination. In a spring 2010 investigative report, NBC staff purchased intimate items at eight major retailers in a New Jersey shopping mall, soiled the items with baby oil, and then went back to each store to ask to return the items. The reporters later found those identical returned items again for sale.
     Dirty move!

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Give Change in Varied Denominations 
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Decontaminate the Shopping Environment
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Arouse Patrons’ Sensations

Close your eyes as you rub the cashmere sweater against your cheek. Notice how it augments the sensation of the texture. Close your eyes as you sip the wine and then chew the food. Notice how closing off the visual channel arouses the taste sensation.
     Oh, wait. I realize we’re dining at Dans Le Noir?, with the question mark at the end. The question mark is fitting since even with eyes open, the diners must depend on their sense of taste to figure out what they’re being served. At the Dans Le Noir? restaurants in NYC, Paris, London, Barcelona, Casablanca, and Russia’s St. Petersburg, you’ll be dining in the dark. Served by visually impaired staff. Required to sign a liability release and adhere to rules that forbid you from moving to another table without guidance and authorize the restaurant to video record you and the other guests using night-vision equipment. On this variant of a blind date, any hanky-panky is subject to search.
     The chefs take care to keep the flavors distinct in the offerings because the patrons enjoy picking apart each taste, an endeavor made easier since each taste is more striking in the pitch black. A regular customer complaint is that the voices of the other diners are uncomfortably loud. That’s probably because people do tend to raise their voice volume when in an unfamiliar situation. It’s almost surely because the sense of sound is sharpened when you’re deprived of the sense of sight.
     Which sense modalities will do the best job of selling the products you offer? The touch of the sweater? The taste of the food or wine? The smell of the perfume or incense? The sound of the entertainment center? One way to arouse that sense modality for your shoppers is to limit the other sense modalities.
     Just close your eyes, you might say.
     To be sure, there are the items where you want the eyes wide open because sight is your route of appeal. Also, sensations can positively arouse one another. In Buyology, Martin Lindstrom writes:
I often ask audiences to close their eyes. After tearing a piece of paper in two, I ask them what happened. “You just ripped a piece of paper in two,” they murmur, their eyes still shut. It’s not just that they recognized the sound of ripping paper; they were actually visualizing me rip the paper in half. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Learn From & Coach Other Businesses

How often do you visit with other retailers to discover what you can learn from them and how your business might benefit when you help those other retailers by coaching them? Do you regularly reserve time in your nonstop schedule to visit the competition to see what you offer that they don’t? When you spot those products and services, do you tell the floor staff how pleased you’d be to get referrals? How many of the stores you’ve seen as competitors can also be seen as teammates?
     If retailers know you’ve taken the time to get to know them, they’re often much happier to refer a customer to you instead of saying, “I don’t know where you can get that specific product or service.”
     When you pay your visits, search the entire operation for inspiration. For instance, along with strolling the aisles, look around the parking lot.
     How easy or difficult is it to enter the lot from the commonly used access streets? During busy shopping hours, how easy is it to find a space that doesn’t require a cross-country hike to reach the doors to the store?
     How comfortable do people appear to feel in the lot and the store? Do their posture, gestures, or facial expressions suggest uncertainty? If the store is open at night, how well-lit is the lot? For daytime shoppers, how many cracks, buckles, and potholes must the shopper navigate around?
     Impressions created as the shopper navigates into and around the lot prime their thoughts for when they enter the store premises. If shoppers see clean in the lot, they’re more likely to notice the clean while shopping. The parking lot could be considered the true front entrance to the store.
     What clarity, cleanliness, and safety benefits do other lots offer that yours currently does not? What clarity, cleanliness, and safety advantages does your lot offer that the others don’t?
     An Inc. article a while back suggested business people broaden their learning opportunities even more by exploring seemingly unrelated industries. With a mindset of picking up ideas to bring back to your store, you’re likely to discover the host’s business is related to yours. The article tells a tale that, many years ago, a fast food retailer picked up the idea of the drive-through window by noticing one during a tour of banks. This tale might be apocryphal, but consider the idea behind it as gospel.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Visit Other Retailers 
Park Your Carcass to Learn a Lot

Friday, November 9, 2012

Consider Matching Brand Effects

When a customer purchases an item carrying a specific brand name, the customer becomes more likely to prefer the same brand name when going on to select an accompanying item. However, after selecting a few accompanying items with the same brand name, the shopper starts preferring other brands.
     Use this insight about decision making patterns to shape how you build the sale.
     Researchers at University of Minnesota began by noting how the woman buying corn chips often starts looking for the salsa bottle and how the man eyeing the high-definition TV might be reviewing the DVD player/recorders using his peripheral vision. The researchers then went on to find that when the chips and salsa or the HDTV and DVD machine carry the same brand name, the man and woman will enjoy the items more than when the items carry different brands.
     Why is this? Evidence from the four studies showed that it was because matching brand labels suggest to shoppers that the two products were specifically designed and tested to work well together. This may, in reality, be the case. If so, enhance the effect when selling by pointing out specific ways in which the combination is better than the sum of the two parts. The corn chips are flavored delicately so as not to interfere with the zing of the salsa, and the chips don’t wilt when this brand of salsa is slathered on. The plugs on the HDTV and DVD player/recorder are coded to make hookup foolproof, and when you turn on the DVD player, the HDTV carrying the same brand name goes on automatically.
     In other instances, the matching brand name carries no advantage. Your private label brand of one member of the pair might do as well. Recognize that in this instance, the bias toward the match will require you to pump up the persuasion. What does the house brand offer that the national name brand does not? A better price?
     But house brands might bring another problem if they carry the same name and package design across product categories. Research findings from Wake Forest University and University of North Carolina–Greensboro suggest that when packaging is similar across items, the shopper senses a loss of control. The consequence might be that shoppers seek variety beyond the similarly branded items.
     Erase the repetition with distinctive designs and color schemes on signage for different product categories.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
Build House Brand Equity with Distinction

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Use Familiar Measurement Units

A while back, researchers at Ghent University and Tilburg University asked consumers to compare the advantages of a seven-year warranty and a nine-year warranty on an item being purchased. To one group, the duration was stated as seven years compared to nine years. To another group, the identical duration was stated as 84 months compared to 108 months. Those consumers presented the months figures saw the difference between the warranties as larger than did the consumers hearing the comparison in years.
     A similar effect was seen with the measurements of a dining room table (inches versus feet) and merchandise delivery times (days versus weeks). The advice to retailers was that if you want to leave with the shopper the impression of higher magnitude, quote in smaller units. If you want to make things seem smaller, as with delivery time, quote in larger units.
     Then researchers at University of South Carolina and Virginia Tech verified an exception to the rule: Shoppers will consider a table “4 by 5 feet” to be larger than one “48 by 60 inches” if the shopper is considering making the purchase at some indefinite point in the future, not right now. Consumers who are gathering information for future use tend to process measurement information in terms of units rather than numbers. Feet are larger than inches.
     The South Carolina/Virginia researchers uncovered this effect not only with table sizes, but also with perceptions of the time of maturity of financial products, the weight of nutrients, and the height of buildings.
     And more recently, research findings from back at Ghent University suggest another refinement. I’ll call it the “Don’t Be Silly Rule for Giving Measurement Units.” Start describing dining room table dimensions in millimeters or talking about warranty lengths in hours, and your shoppers will consider this odd enough to think less of the retail offering overall. They might think it’s larger, but they won’t like it as much.
     When the shopper is focused on a particular dimension as highly important in the purchase, use a measurement unit the shopper is familiar with for that dimension.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more: 
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Go On, Add On-the-Go

Snack bars are a hot item at retail, according to the Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group at financial services company Rabobank. Knowing this might make you want to add selected snack bars to your merchandise mix. Knowing why this sales boost is happening might lead to you augmenting certain other on-the-go features of your business.
  • The U.S market for snack bars has more than doubled over the past decade, with an average compound annual growth rate of about 6.4%. It dwarfs the 2.4% average CAGR for packaged foods overall. Although the best-selling snack bar brands come from Kellogg’s and General Mills, the manufacturer most responsible for the outstanding growth is Clif Bar & Company, with their Clif, Luna, and Mojo brands. The Rabobank report says this is because Clif has been especially successful in positioning their company’s bars as containing the highest quality ingredients. Consumers will settle for lower quality in pursuit of portability. Screen size on the latest mobile devices lacks the visual pizzazz of a desktop monitor. However, all else being equal, a higher-quality portable item is preferred. 
  • For portability, small can trump all. Were the signals there decades ago with Steve Martin’s 1978 Grammy-award-winning album “Let’s Get Small”? Come to think of it, Mr. Martin did allude to the mobility payoffs from miniaturization when he riffed on getting arrested for being too small while driving: “And they can't put you in a regular cell either, because you walk right out.” 
  • Assisting the popularity of snack bars is that they appeal to a range of demographics and psychographics. Athletes who want to bulk up and couch potatoes who want to avoid a trip to the kitchen when hungry, even if it means bulking up. Soccer moms and professionals who operate nonstop. And snack bars fit with a variety of store identities. They’re being sold in gas stations as well as groceries, dollar stores as well as delis. What portable-use items can you feature as impulse buys when the shopper is ready to get back on-the-go? 
  • Multichannel retailing appeals to the portability mentality. Accommodate it at each stage of consumer behavior. Think of ways you can enable your customers and potential customers to be flexible in when and where they seek out information about you and your products; complete a purchase; use the product; and dispose of the product, such as making a return or exchange. 
Click below for more: 
Get Small with Big Convenience 
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Organize Shelves & Racks to Portray Variety

There are two sorts of product lines where you are especially likely to realize sales increases when your shopper perceives large variety in the merchandise mix:
  • Product categories where you’re seeing a dramatic increase in sales. These increases are a sign you could be a destination location for that sort of merchandise. If you’re selling lots of soccer equipment, expand the merchandise assortment to draw even more soccer equipment buyers. 
  • Product categories which are underperforming in sales compared to what you’d expect. If you’ve evidence that other retailers are selling more baked goods than you are per square foot of merchandise space, consider expanding your variety of baked goods. 
     For these and other situations where you want to portray a large variety, here are shopper psychology tips:
  • Research findings from University of Pennsylvania and University of Illinois suggest that if the actual range of alternatives is relatively small, you’ll portray the assortment as larger if you organize the display by a dimension of interest to the shopper, but not of primary interest. Organize by price, for example. It takes time for the shopper to run their eyes over whatever is there. The increased time translates in the shopper’s mind to the impression of a larger item assortment.
  • If the actual variety is large, organize your display by a dimension of primary interest to the shopper. This is according to findings from University of Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas-Austin. The trick is to identify this dimension. Take the case of shoppers who are familiar with the product category. For luxury products, their organizing rubric might be brand name. The consumer’s eyes home in on their favorite brand. For high-technology items, where the latest versions carry more features or more status, the shopper’s organizing principle, and therefore your rule for organizing the items in your store, might be release date or operating system generation. 
  • Now let’s take the case of the shopper who has limited familiarity with the product category. They’re purchasing the item like a carbon monoxide detector or a patterned scarf because someone told them they really need one. How should you portray that you do, in fact, have a large assortment? Here the researchers would recommend you organize your selection by circumstances of use. For the CO detector, it might be residential versus commercial. For the scarves, it might be formal versus informal wardrobe. 
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Restrict BYOD for POS

You know POS means “Point of Sale.” An article in this month’s National Retail Federation “Stores” wants you to know BYOD means “Bring Your Own Device,” which refers in the realm of retailing to employees bringing their personal mobile devices for use when working in the store.
     Mobile devices help you and your staff keep up with the consumers. If shoppers know you’re out-of-stock before your sales staff do, the shoppers might think the staff are dumb bunnies. So it was of concern that in a survey of 545 retail store associates conducted by Research Now a while back, about 55% said that mobile devices and online shopping tools are allowing customers to be better informed than the sales staff are about a store’s inventory levels. You’ll want to provide your staff with up-to-date inventory information to buttress their reputations.
     The mobile devices can be useful in other ways, too:
  • During brief breaks from serving shoppers and restocking merchandise, staff can send email messages to good customers, tempting them to come on in again 
  • Staff can complete online training modules or access human resources information while remaining on the sales floor ready to greet all incoming business. 
     Risks lurk in employees using their own mobile devices for certain POS functions. And even when the store issues mobile devices to employees, there’s a clear trend for the employees to still bring in their own. The “Stores” article reports that of staff saying they use a smartphone at work, 67% have chosen the device, while only 15% are using a smartphone issued by the employer. Your staff are likely to be more comfortable interfacing with their familiar mobile devices, and using their devices on-the-job allows the employees to also attend to personal matters, like emailing friends, undetected.
     Think through the implications and set clear expectations. If a salesperson can use their own device to scan an item to speed the checkout process, it’s good, but if the salesperson then asks to enter the customer’s credit card information on the salesperson’s device, it’s bad. With the high turnover rates in retailing, compared to other business sectors, you’ll also want to consider that security policies which fit those other sectors might not be adequate for you.
     The BYOD Rubicon has been crossed. There’s no turning back. Formulate and promulgate the specifications your employees and shoppers will need in order to make BYOD profitable.

Click below for more: 
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Honor Your Limitations

Launching my weekend was receipt of this heartfelt email, which I’ve edited only slightly:
Could you consider running helpful posts now that tell people how to best recover from Hurricane Sandy? What to do when your store is trashed, there is no flood insurance, you’re already hocked to the eyeballs, and Christmas season is now. You pride yourself on helping retailers. Here’s where the rubber hits the road. Let’s see you pull your big boy pants on and get some seriously helpful postings from you. People will remember this info a shitload better than your usual punny headline and a couple of research results. You have years of great advice for retailers in your head. Let’s get that knowledge working to really get these retailers in motion and help these thousands of retailers who just got slammed by Sandy. 
     Maybe the last thing RIMtailing blog readers like this one would expect in my response is my sharing news of a just-published research study. Yet again, maybe it’s the first thing they’d expect. In any case, please stay with me.
     A Journal of General Internal Medicine paper looked at whether the increasing number of medical clinics in retail stores is hurting health care. Between 2007 and 2009, traffic at these clinics rose ten-fold among Americans who have private health insurance. There are currently more than 1,300 of these store-within-a-store businesses throughout America.
     Are these clinics attempting to handle medical problems which need specialist care? The evidence is that they are not. As a rule, they go beyond acknowledging their limitations. They honor their limitations, with pride in what they do well and with knowledge of how to refer clients for problems best resolved elsewhere.
     In the same spirit, I honor my limitations. I work diligently to equip myself to give my consultation clients, training participants, and readers premiere shopper psychology advice. My devotion to good retailers succeeding and, now, my concern for the future of communities of merchants devastated by Hurricane Sandy lead to me recommending resources other than myself for different specialist expertise.
     In many cases, a clearinghouse for retailing financing and disaster recovery expertise in the U.S. is your local Small Business Development Center. I conduct my RIMtailing Retailer Profitability Initiative projects in collaboration with SBDCs.
     I realize this post might not satisfy my valued email correspondent.
     But hey, I did write the whole thing without one pun.

(December 4, 2012 update: A Bloomberg Businessweek article indicates that retailers slammed by Hurricane Sandy aren't making adequate use of help available from Small Business Development Centers.)

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