Building an in store consumer experience

By Deane Hubball, Creative Instore Solutions Group CEO / 21-Jan-2014

In today’s volatile economic retail environment, it’s surprising to me that many brands and retailers don’t acknowledge that lost sales today are not made up tomorrow, they are gone for good.  The reality of a consumer’s path to purchase is that you can't sell it in-store if it's not on the floor.  Moreover, it’s about providing an experience for the consumer in-store that builds engagement, brand loyalty and keeps them coming back for more. Currently, I see this as an area where many brands can potentially refine their approach.    

I recently read a blog article in an online marketing magazine about customers forming a relationship with and ultimately falling in love with brands that deliver value through experiences.  To me this rings true.  A catchy above the line program may get the customer in the door, but it is then up to the in-store environment to deliver on the brand vision and promise.   Brand ambassadors are everywhere, whether it be the customer service assistant, demo team or an engaging point of purchase display, there are multiple mechanisms for building brand engagement and ultimately the elusive brand loyalty.

How many brands and retailers do you know that concentrate spend on the above the line marketing programs with smaller consideration to their in store activations’?    To me it is about the total program balance and ensuring that the in-store correlates with the overall brand vision and messaging.  This is even more evident for retailers who are revamping their main stream mass media advertising with catchy tunes and celebrity brand ambassadors but then failing to capatilise on new brand vision with an equally absorbing in-store experience.  Let’s face it, we as consumers need to feel engaged with the brand at every touch point or our loyalty wanes.

In the IBM Smarter Consumer Study (2013) 63% of surveyed consumers were labelled as apathetic meaning they are “indifferent to their primary retailer” or brand. If such a large portion of the Australian consumer base are apathetic, being driven by price or convenience over loyalty, it begs the question….What will it take to convert an apathetic consumer into and advocate?  

Couple this with the recent POPAI 2012 Shopper Engagement Study, examining pre-store planning, impulsivity and spending patterns, which concluded that, after looking at the relationship between aisle navigation and basket composition, up to 79% share of total shoppers basket was bought on impulse.  To me this continues to show that the in store engagement with a shopper is as critical as ever and a perfect opportunity for brand extension. 

For a brand or retailer to capitalise and set themselves apart from the competition, aligning the above the line brand vision and messaging with what is experienced by the consumer when they reach the store is what I believe will ultimately win loyalty.     Given that we are seeing a large portion of consumers being influenced by store and brand recommendations through social media, often at the point of purchase, it makes sense to focus on winning loyalty at the store level.

Brands that are experiencing strong growth, in this economic climate, are those that are covering the gamut of marketing activities from mass media to online and of course in store.  Let’s face it whilst on-line is in a growth phase, the physical brick and mortar store is not facing extinction overall and therefore shouldn’t be left as an afterthought in a marketing plan.As a POP supplier, I encourage clients to view their in-store activations as one of their many brand ambassador opportunities.  This is achieved by ensuring the POP design reflects the overall brand message as well as creating an appropriate purchase experience for the targeted demographic.      POP displays that engage a raft of the consumers’ senses, will undoubtedly enhance the brand ROI and develop loyalty.  This extends beyond just a visually appealing display and including additional elements such as sound, textures or of course the growing digital element.   Building loyalty on the floor through your brands in store activation, to ensure your product walks out the door, is in my opinion the key to long term success.

First published in Retail World Australia 9th October 2013