George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
He should have worked in marketing. Just because we say it, doesn’t mean shoppers hear, listen, find, choose and buy because of it.
We can strategise and craft messages for all manner of demographics and target audiences. However, it’s all for naught if we don’t successfully engage the shopper.
As the retail environment evolves, our ability to control the message that the customer receives becomes more difficult.
This is where behavioural intervention come into play. If we want to influence a decision, we need to shift the focus from messaging to action.
From saying something to doing something
Simply saying and not doing is much like the biblical farmer sowing seeds which rarely land on fertile soil – a wasted effort. The big trends in our space seem to support this.
Retailers like their stores to be clean of branded noise. Tools to measure display media are about as reliable as election polls – and they can only measure a fraction of communication.
Pandemic challenges, increasing consumer demand for sustainability and a rise in the level of information available for shoppers wishing to make more informed choices, have all accelerated the need for innovation in getting the customer to digest our message properly.
Nurturing the right environment for in-store behaviour
Many people now feel uncomfortable in crowded shops or wish to limit their time/contact with the retail environment. Customers can consider cardboard and plastic displays to be wasteful. Meanwhile, heavily discounted prices can carry a sense of suspicion and doubt.
Magpie shoppers go on a journey of deselection: tempted by the shiny and new, snapped back to reality by a myriad of competing factors.
What does this mean for our carefully crafted messages, jostling for top-of-mind position? We have a much more powerful tool at our disposal – more powerful than having the loudest voice. Personal experience: understanding shopper behaviour, directly intervening in it and influencing it.
What’s especially good about this approach is that it need not – indeed, must not – be complicated. Influencing in-store behaviour can be achieved through simple yet effective tactics.
For an industry that prizes big ideas, this is an area where no idea is too trivial. Sometimes the smallest interventions turn out to be more powerful than big ideas that ask the shopper to join in, download or go on the journey.
By way of illustration, here are five inspiring examples of how in-store behaviour has been influenced:
Coca-Cola’s contactless drinks fountains and vending machines
The drinks brand developed a simple contactless solution for a multitude of in-store scenarios.
Their contact-free dispensers flip your size and flavour selections screen onto your phone, while maintaining customer experience of product customisation. There is no need for an app or sign-up, and it allows you to complete your purchase on your device.
The predominant feature here is that it’s safe, but engages with customers as well. It brings a novelty value that grabs attention and reassures the customer.
Lush Lens and Naked stores
Beauty brand Lush launched their own augmented reality app, which uses artificial intelligence to scan products with zero packaging. It delivers the relevant product info and ingredients list, without the need for wasteful packaging.
The new ‘Naked’ stores are designed to eliminate the need for packaging. It also allows customers to read deeper into products without having to pick them up from the shelves.
There’s no need for bragging when it comes to Lush’s sustainability credentials. The stores say it all – zero packaging waste.
This approach builds a relationship between the customer and the brand, by inviting them to take part in the process and be a part of the solution.
Happy eggs, happy hens
The Happy Egg Company invite customers to go online and check out exactly what their farms look like.
There’s more to convince you of their ethical farming claims. Each egg is branded with an online code, showing which specific farm your eggs are from.
In a world where customers are most suspicious of products’ Environmental, Social and Governance claims, this tells the story through direct and provable action. And again, the customer is part of the process, being persuaded to do the research to back up the brand’s claims themselves.
Links tester shelf strips
Who’s never squirted some deodorant into the can lid at the fixture, secretly wondering if they’re going to be told off by a store manager?
The Lynx shelf strip celebrates that behaviour loud and proud, giving shoppers a trial of the product at the same time. It creates a connection between brand and customer and influences the beginnings of a purchase.
Sephora augmented reality beauty displays
The augmented reality displays, currently advertising Sephora products, allow customers to test out their brand without the need to directly apply any makeup.
Many beauty products aren’t that easy to try out, if you’re simply passing by on your lunch break or you already have makeup on, for example, but this display answers that problem.
It also uses technology that’s not even that new, in a way that engages the customer before they even reach the interactive screen.
Given the popularity of augmented reality camera apps, it’s no surprise that these units attract a lot of customer attention. Customers are trying out products that they may not even have considered buying at all before walking into the shop.
In-store behaviour, more than communications: a true north in a changing world
All of these examples do a better job of communicating with shoppers than any claim, message or call to action. They do this through the magic of experience: as a shopper experiences each display, they understand the brand’s message at a deeper level than if it was merely ‘said’ by a passive display.
I’d also like to suggest, as retailers change, grow busier and more digital, that human behaviour rather than communications offers an enduring constant. It makes shopper’s journeys and retailer’s environments more efficient, enjoyable and even profitable.