“Information“ noticeable from afar – but in this case there should actually also be somebody available at all times who can be asked for information. © Praktiker
Customers are looking for guidance in a store, but they don’t want to be patronized and told what to do. Yet they all have different needs. Some want consulting services while others just want to look around. Some want help in their search while others prefer to find the way to the right shelf without the help of store associates. That’s why it makes sense to have a well-thought-out combination of different supports.
Colors and signs – these are the classics types of guest directories. Screens and navigation systems are new technological options. Differently colored flooring and different lighting designs provide orientation and direct walking paths. Signs and photos of products on the ceilings provide a long-range effect. Detailed information on the shelves provides clarity. This could even be for every single shelf in the store. Some retailers no longer make due with a large sign that just simply states “milk products“. They indicate exactly where you can find yoghurt, cream or butter. And sales associates in the apparel and textile retail industry know how time-consuming it is to put garments back into the correct size category.
Große Deckenhänger erfordern einen hohen Aufwand für Transport und Befestigung. Digital Signage verspricht Abhilfe, ist aber kein Allheilmittel. © Panphonics
Signs are inexpensive, but they are not flexible. Large ceiling hangers and wall displays require a lot of time and effort for shipping and mounting. And the message can only be changed via a new sign. Digital signage promises relief in this case. However, digital signage is not a panacea. The necessary technology is sophisticated: you need flat screens that are centrally controlled. They either display a static picture, sequencing pictures (slideshows) or videos. The expense pays off if sales mixes and choices change quickly. A picture is worth a thousand words, because it often appeals to the subconscious mind and evokes emotions and desires.
The staff is crucial
Despite all options that digital signage has to offer: the most important guest information should come from the staff. That’s why the way to the information desk should always be well marked. That said, this is of no use if there is no staff there that can answer questions. Ideally you would have an analysis system where associates could quickly find via mouse click or touch of a button what the guest is looking for. This is helpful in shop design.
It’s said that men don’t like to ask for directions. If anything they can be far better addressed with technological gimmicks. Children and adolescents already grow up with touch screens. Kiosk terminals with customer information are particularly interesting to this technically savvy target group. And retailers can analyze what guests were looking for. But you can do more than just provide a store directory with these info terminals. Matching the search, they can present products, showcase sales items or offer coupons.
Visitor information is certainly also acoustically possible. In-store radio or in-store television can draw attention to offers in individual departments. It’s perfect if you state at the same time where exactly one can find these products. Admittedly, a well-balanced mix of music, text, news and sales offers is necessary in this instance.
Too many signs, too many products?
Many retailers believe that the more products they place onto their shelves and the larger their product selection, the more attractive the range of goods becomes to their customers. But for some consumers it has already become too much to handle. They are spoilt for choice and the propensity to buy turns into frustration. In consumer electronics, new models are being churned out faster and faster without laymen exactly understanding the difference in products. In the dairy section, the sixth or seventh variety of cherry flavored yoghurt barely offers any added value. And: the wider the range of products is becoming, the larger the sales floors and the farther customers have to walk.
Tri-color posters as product recommendations: store brands for the lower and mid-market segments, brand items for discerning customers. © Praktiker
You can also deliberately prune your range of goods, but you should present this to your customers as an advantage, for instance through advertising or respective signs. Like this way for instance: we are the experts and we have researched the market for you. And here now are our favorite products – starting with the cheapest all the way to the more sophisticated. Since April 2011, the German home improvement store Praktiker recommends individual products in three categories on posters: inexpensive, good and professional quality. Up to 29 of these tri-color posters are currently mounted in the stores; in 2012 the posters will be made over and they are scheduled to become even more.
But sometimes, even in the case of signs, less is more. If you put up posters announcing every super, special, extra sales offers above each shelf, in each aisle and also above every checkout counter, you might want to signal how inexpensive things are in your store compared to the competitor around the corner. But to customers the message may read: this is the cheap guy with cheap, junk goods. “Get 20 percent off on everything excluding pet food“ doesn’t just spoil prices, but also the trust in quality.
Visitor directory should therefore not just be left to chance. Retailers should check from time to time on what has been gathered in their store in terms of information material. Signs or terminals should be more than just a directory. They can also evoke desires and thus create more sales volumes.
René Schellbach, EuroShop.de