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Monday, July 19, 2010

A Retail Experience That Doesn't Compete on Price

A retail experience that doesn't compete on priceBack in August 2007, I received an email from a flooring retailer in the midst of moving an existing floor covering store to a new location. Inspired by Don't Compete on Price, he hoped to design a space that proclaimed to customers in no uncertain terms how passionate he was about helping them feel great about their home.

He wrote: "I watched the Cisco clip on your blog and agree with Pamela Danzinger’s advice. The million dollar question is how to achieve this goal with a limited budget? I find these “big picture” ideas easy to agree with but am stumbling with how to implement them."

I recently found my email response and thought I would share it with you here.


I do believe you can achieve a retail experience that doesn't compete on price with a limited budget. Great retailing is a blend of common sense, a strong focus on the customer and creativity. Here are some initial ideas to react to.

STORE LAYOUTS, etc. - I would suggest thinking beyond what might be ideal for a flooring store and rather what might be ideal for a store that offers fashion solutions for a consumer's home. Your focus may be flooring, but the flooring must coordinate with all of the other elements that go into a home. And just because you don't sell those other elements doesn't mean that you can't recommend people who do [perhaps you can invite the paint store to leave swatches and concepts, and the furniture store to place furniture and.....], or that you can't show how to integrate those other decisions with what your store offers...

Look at what other stores that redefine categories have done. Take a walk through Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie [they disavow direct selling]. Also, Starbucks, Barnes/Noble and Apple Store. Observe how those stores merchandise their products, appeal to the senses, use color on the walls, create interesting juxtapositions, etc. [The July 23/30 issue of Floor Covering Weekly has my latest article "Feasting the senses"; I use some of those stores as examples.] They've created spaces where people want to linger, which is what flooring stores haven't yet done successffully. Note that no two Anthropologie stores are laid out the same -- which tells me that any layout can work.

Definitely plan on having several spaces in the store with tables/chairs where consumers/designers can sit and explore ideas [I have a blogpost in the works about the importance of having 'fitting rooms or dressing rooms' or space to try on ideas]. In those areas, try to include peg boards or bulletin boards to put up design inspiration images, color stories, fabric swatches, etc. The nice aspect of the tables/chairs is that they can be the focus of private alcoves around which you can group product displays. That prevents your showroom from looking like a sea of rows of racks.

In fact, can you come up with different 'rooms' to loosely organize your store around? Have a table/chair/inspiration board in each of those rooms. Use a different color scheme and artwork theme for each room....

Plan on leaving lots of space in the store, to get around easily, and space to showcase new ideas/products. [See A Store That Floors: Aggieland Carpet One Floor & Home.  Ron and Claudia Smith have displays on wheels; he creates trends or concept boards and rotates those on a weekly basis. Create boards that integrate soft flooring with hard surface, add some paint swatch ideas, maybe some fabric concepts.

Can you get your store associates to help create a strong design sense for the store?

Or having a contest with local design students to showcase design ideas? [That also gets you some local press attention.] If you haven't already, consider hiring salespeople with a design background. [La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries started hiring designers and saw their average ticket increase dramatically because the designers worked/consulted with consumers to come up with solutions rather than just sell 1 item].

Check out stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls or HomeGoods to get some dramatic pieces to put on walls, to accessorize areas, to create window displays with. Target also has fun items.

Make sure your bathrooms are nice! Definitely use them to showcase hard surface concepts, but also include delightful touches in there [nice soap, flower arrangement, etc.].


What you would add to this response? How would you create a retail experience that doesn't compete on price?


Bruce D. Sanders, PhD said...

Building on your concept of framing the challenge as fashion solutions, I’d add to your comprehensive list one low-cost tool used by many successful fashion retailers: In-store fragrances.
Researchers at Drake University in Iowa and Washington State University report that fragrances in a store distort the customer’s sense of time. People shopping in scented surroundings feel that time passes more slowly. The result is that they’re more likely to stay longer in the store.
Not all smells make consumers want to hang around longer. And strong doses of even pleasant odors can quickly become unpleasant. On its own, new carpeting projects an aroma that many shoppers find appealing. We’ll want to augment, not interfere with that. But when the fragrance is appealing, the people linger.
The most powerful pacing effects from fragrance come if there’s compatibility among the sensory signals. For example, researchers at Pennsylvania State University and University of Singapore found that when scent and music cued the same sort of pacing, impulse buying went up and customers reported higher satisfaction with their shopping experience. This was true both when the store wanted customers to stay longer (lavender scent and slow tempo music) and when the store wanted customers to move briskly (grapefruit scent and fast tempo music).

CB Whittemore said...


In-store fragrances are powerful and I love the ramifications on 'bending' time.

Jordan's furniture regularly has scents reminiscent of the seashore in its outdoor furniture section combined with the sound of sea gulls.

Disney has the smell of baking bread wafting outside certain stories in Disney World. I don't remember specific sounds associated with that...

Thanks very much for contributing these ideas + data to this post about elevating the retail experience. Appealing to the senses definitely qualifies!


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