The Maxxinista in Me

If you are female, you have it in your DNA. If you are male and have it too, shopping is never a drudgery. We, the shoppers, create our own fun and games in the stores, especially when we’re on adventure mission mode for a bargain.

Enter the Maxxinista. She reads the September issues. If  you have to ask, stop now and thanks for stopping by.

She seeks silhouettes, colors, fabrics. This is not about brands, it’s all about style, tempered by what you can get away with for dates, work, conferences, you know…the cleavage factor…a.k.a. how short IS that skirt.

In a lot of high end retail, the selection is curated and adapted from the runway collections. In TJ Maxx, it’s great knock offs and prizes galore. At half the price or less. Mastering the experience is part of the empowerment, right?

This retailer knows their shopper psyche, enhancing the experience with better merchandising, nicer dressing rooms with a limit of TEN garments, not 6, and don’t forget they have year-round layaway!

Only yesterday, which was Labor Day, I overhead a well-heeled woman in a very busy TJ’s store exclaiming delight at finding current Nordstrom dresses at half the price. She was beaming, I might add.

Those Ellen Tracy “Spartan Green” skinny jeans for $39.99?  Those Vince Camuto slim fit spot-on trendy blue ankle pants for $24.99? Searching and finding trendy Michael Kors key pieces that fit?

What’s not to love? Half off. What’s not to inspire more shopping?

Now stop and think about the 60% of the population that hasn’t had a raise effectively since Lyndon Johnson was President. Welcome to the largest shopper segment in America.

What’s your strategy to win her over?




The Primal Urge

It’s August and I’m shopping. Like a siren, the back-to-school shopping crave pulls me into Nordstrom.  But my kids are out of school and I’m not in school. I saw no ads, I have no flyers from the postman. I should resist the primal urge. But the bell’s ringing in my head and I want to be in the stores.

I have rationale, believe me! Industry conference season is coming up and I’m a consultant. That equals a need, but really, a desire to be in the stores browsing all the new arrivals is the real pull.

I have yet another rationale! This one involves upcoming  travel to the Caribbean and summer sale racks. This means nice clothes without sticker shock. Works for me, and is surely the reason the for a jam packed parking lot.

I know why July retail sales were up, and why Back-To_School forecasts f02 2012 are up. It’s just that we really WANT to be in the marketplace. It’s primal, and seasonal. Just like the urge to go to the farmer’s market for the late summer harvest, we are pulled to the mall.

For the sake of the industry of shopping, this pleases me.

So does this cute seasons’ hottest mustard skirt I bought.  And the shoes!  Nothing beats new red shoes!.


Be. Very. Afraid.

Just take a look at this chart.


What shoppers had to say in Q1 2012 about their method of shopping.

Shoppers said shopping in bricks and mortar retailers is reliable and safe.

Reliable and Safe. Reminds me of the guys my parents used to tell me to date when I was seventeen. I then brought home guys of whom they were very afraid.

Reliable and Safe. Major brick and mortar retailers in the U. S. should be very afraid.  These words are not the hallmarks of the future of in-store retail, in my humble opinion.

The kids are bringing home convenient, easy and favorite.

Recently, I was reading The Buying Brain, which has a chapter about several types of in-store experiences that engage shoppers’  brains, causing them to rate that experience as more superior. In this neuroscience research, conducted by Nielsen-owned NeuroFocus, the types of experiences shoppers connect with in brick and mortar stores have one of the following elements:


Information. (as in findability)


Social/Self Worth.


We need to ask shoppers about these words. But, first, we need to deliver on them in store-based retail. It’s not impossible, but it takes commitment and investment in more than just the goods on the shelf.

Reliable and Safe. These words are a hint to the kiss of death, not the kiss of a passionate connection.

Real live retail without a passionate connection to the shopper?

Be. Very. Afraid.

Is Sinking Shopper Conversion is a “No Shit, Sherlock” Finding?

It seems that otherwise very successful retailers are having an effectiveness problem.  Their social media efforts to boost traffic and sales from their mobile commerce sites aren’t working.  Fancy that! The shopper is isn’t converting to buyer at rates the retailers had hoped.

This bears looking into.

The company who produced and reported these metrics supports the mobile apps and commerce platforms for retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, Ralph Lauren, Sephora, Anthropologie, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GNC, Steve Madden, TigerDirect, West Marine, Timberland and Crate & Barrel.

The CIO of the company, called Branding Brand says this: “Many retailers are flooding social media and jumping on the bandwagon, (to get shoppers to visit their mobile sites and apps) but are they attracting someone who will actually buy?”

I have different questions.

1. Who is tracking the target shopper’s in-real-life response to the content being delivered on social media? Is the shopper actually going to the store to buy instead of to the mobile site or is there no compelling content in the social media that is inspiring engagement at all?

2. Is the social media being done on a local basis? National social media trying to drive very market based retail sales has continues to show poor results. Localizing the origin of the social efforts will typically produce better results because shoppers consider shopping a local activity, and they want to talk about it and do it with those in their closer networks, not a corporate social media manager sitting in some office somewhere.

3. Speaking of lack of engagement… is this a “no shit Sherlock” finding? Note the retailers that were part of this “conversion drop-off “study are highly experiential and engaging places to shop.  A mobile experience that enhances convenience is quite different from the pleasure of a self-indulgent trip to Sephora. I can’t imagine the mobile commerce experience having much of a sensory pull like the store does.

There are so many ways to influence a shopper. Pushing social media at them with a call to visit mobile commerce sites may not be what’s even remotely close to effective when  in-store experience delivers on shopper’s desires for interactive and meaningful interactions. At most of these retailers, the shopping experience even includes real humans to help you!

Perhaps the social media efforts of these retailers should be more focused on a local call to action to meet up at the store, to engage in and enjoy the experience the retail brand is known for, not just use a mobile app that’s about price or convenience.  A shopper visit that converts is one that delivers what the shopper craves…an emotional human connection. Someone to help. guide, inform, entertain, feel in community with….. Imagine that, an enhanced shopping experience at retail. Human influence as effective media versus efficient.

In the world of all things digital, perhaps we need to stop and consider human behavior as it is, instead of using digital media and technology as a come-on that doesn’t feel like much more than another efficient spend on a marketing push.

Shoppers can see right through that one-way push, and they ignore it.  Shoppers are hard-wired to enjoy the social shopping experience. I say let’s use more local social media to inspire and empower the shopper to get off the couch and come on back to the store.

What’s your take on it?



Is price the only answer to showrooming at retail? I think not.

If you touch retail in any manner in your profession, you’ve no doubt heard about “showrooming” – the practice of using a smartphone from a store aisle to check prices and potentially buy from another retailer or an online only retailer.

This practice isn’t going away, in fact I believe it will increase, causing a potential billion dollar problem for our nation’s retailers. Amazon is the most notable beneficiary of the dollars that leak out of both the retailer’s physical store and website.

This week, an article in the Wall Street Journal posed the thought that the only answer to this problem is price. The common belief is that retailers have to do whatever it takes to get their price points down to match Amazon. I SAY THIS IS CRAZY.  If price is the only rathole left for retailers to go down, I, for one, am going to call it a day and go work on a golf course driving the beverage cart. (my dream retirement job, in case you don’t know me that well).

Why do I feel this way? Because my years in the business of marketing strategy have taught me a few things about the almighty shopper, even those with the smartphone in their hands in the aisle.

First point. Price is important.There are a lot of shoppers who will flit from retailer to retailer for price. So let’s just give up now, right? WRONG.

There’s one solution on the table that makes sense in the digital world, and that is to use “near-field” communications to offer an in-aisle shopper a price-match to retain the sale in the store. “Offering people personalized prices through their mobile device may be the most effective way to beat showrooming,” said Anne Zybowski, director of retail insights for KantarRetail, a global consulting firm. But that practice has huge margin implications, for the likes of Walmart, Target and BestBuy, especially as showrooming behavior escalates.

BestBuy is on to a good old fashioned retail idea – incentivize the sales person to close the sale on the floor. Really.

If you are a student of human behavior, and I am, it’s clear that marketing should always intersect with anthropology. You’ll want to remember that for ages and ages, and still today, the number one influencer of purchase behavior is information from other people. Also known as word-of-mouth. Human influence. Yes, it can come from a smartphone in the aisle, in the form of ratings and reviews. The shoppers are absorbing content that influences their behavior from other humans. The smartphone is just the device to bring the content to them in a most convenient way! But really, it’s best from human to human.

REMEMBER THIS  – Over 70% of conversations that influence behavior take place face-to-face. Read this blog post from Keller Fay to see the details. Only 10% of it happens online.

REMEMBER THIS TOO – 75% of consumers say they will walk out of the store if they don’t have access to knowledgeable associates. And 80% of consumers say their shopping experience is improved when staff is eager to help. This comes from a whitepaper from Retail TouchPoints based on research conducted late in 2011.

AND THIS – 71% of retail executives say that shoppers want a meaningful experience with the sales associate as brand ambassador with strong product knowledge and the ability to up-sell and cross-sell for greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. This comes from a Deloitte Retail Survey in 2011.

Just consider those recent research results. I’ve been reading similar research for decades. So why is price the only solution to showrooming? It’s not.

Maybe if the retail show room actually was a showroom with people to “show shoppers” something, to perhaps participate in some face-to-face human influence, retailers might have a more powerful weapon against Amazon and other online only retailers. And they might just provide the kind of shopping experience shoppers crave. Fancy that.

Despite whatever is said about not being able to “afford” this human solution, I propose that it might just be worthy of a little more face-to-face discussion. I’d bring the chart below from Nielsen as Exhibit A.

Human conversation. Face to Face. A alternative solution to showrooming.

The debate on using BIG DATA for retail insights!

Yesterday, the RetailWire discussion board posed some questions about the merits of using big data sets to gain understandings and insights into shoppers. Use of big data sets is a growing trend, in part because the data is available, and in part because advanced (and mega-fast) analytics truly can churn out a lot of information.

But the key is what is actually done with the data, both on the front-end query and the back-end actions taken from data outputs.

The comments are here in the link below. Whatever your job, if you touch retail in any manner, this is worth ten minutes of your time to read.

(In my humble shopper marketing opinion!)



How to keep current on retail issues!

Today, I’m posting a link (above) to my comments on the RetailWire discussion site. It’s a wonderful site, and I’m proud to have been a BrainTrust panelist for a number of years.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about you.

I encourage you to read and participate in this daily discussion board. Anyone can post, not just the panelists. It’s great to see what everyone has to say. I use links to RW discussion boards all the time to keep up on issues and inform my clients.

Here is the link to the main site, so you can bookmark it for daily or weekly reading and posting.


Windows into the Future

Occasionally, when I’m out and about, I’ll take photos and post my personal opinions about retail merchandising. If you find cool things and want to share them here, let me know and I’ll lend you a page here to do that!

Perhaps taking a page from the Ralph Lauren book of best-in-class story-telling at retail, BestBuy gets a “nice job” from ShopperAnnie on the window displays I ran across in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. Dramatic in their styling, each tells a different lifestyle story, and two of three featured QR codes to embellish the information available to window shoppers.

My particular favorite is the kitchen window featuring Keurig coffee makers. Who knew you could get one of those at BestBuy? Perhaps I’m enamored more because I covet a Keurig. BestBuy not only tweaked my desire, but got on the list. Time did not allow me to explore the in-store presentation in the Chicago store, but I’ve got a trip to BestBuy on my brain to check it out. Do I dare hope to get an actual cup of coffee while in-store? If it were me, I’d make that event happen in-store and add, even on a temporary basis, a window cling with “come on in for a cup of coffee” on it.

Come on in for a cup of coffee!

I also liked the “photo story” window, although it may have been stronger if it featured an actual photo story.

Every picture tells a story, don't it?

The least impactful window, to me, featured tablets. In a category that’s hot, this display effort, while matching the visual theme of the other two, fell way short of creating any real desire. Maybe they’ll jazz it up a bit with the iPad 3 launch.

And by the way, enjoy the reflections of a bit of Chicago in the photos. It was a gorgeous sunny Saturday when we shopped Chicago.

My Invisible Hand is choking me.

Last week I read about an extension for Google Chrome browser called Invisible Hand, which can inform me when items I am searching for online can be purchased cheaper on another site. Sounds like a good plan for a savvy shopper, right? I installed the extension and have been test driving it.

My experience in the first 48 hours was interesting. Without a doubt, Amazon is the winner of this shopping game. And most often, the lowest prices are from resellers that are in fact paying Amazon for the opportunity to undercut all the classic retailers websites. This is especially true in cosmetics and beauty care.  Note at the bottom of the picture below, the item is being sold by “BeingJoli” (WHO?) for $30.60 which is $7.00 cheaper than anywhere else.


Specialty beauty retailer Ulta has it online for $42.00, which is the same price as the website offers. Plus shipping.  I’m not sure of the in-store price at Ulta and the nearest Ulta store is a 20 minute drive from my house. My experience tells me the in-store price will not be less that $42.

My Amazon Prime membership offers me two day free shipping on everything I buy. I want this product, I use this product and I’m not really ready to pay $12 more.

But I’ve yet to hit the “1-Click” order button because frankly, because of my profession, I feel like I’m being choked by an Invisible Hand.

The traditional retail industry feels the same tightness around their throats. The time to solve is now.


Best Buy Trains Shoppers to Distrust Pricing


…that 86% of consumers are somewhat or highly likely to move their business to another retail brand when they encounter inconsistent pricing across channels?

It’s true, and here’s the source: 2011 Shopper Preference Study, RetailTouchPoints Whitepaper, August 2011

One would think that major retailers would know this. Best Buy obviously doesn’t know, or doesn’t care. It’s no wonder the press is all over the stories of their imminent demise.

All I can say is this. Good thing I did my pre-store homework, researching for a portable phone to replace one that no longer works. On the Best Buy website, I put one in the cart, but decided to visit the store since I was going to drive by it anyway on another errand.

The online price – $24.99 – either shipped or for store pick up. The in-store price – $34.99

I expressed my STUNNED reaction to the $10 upcharge to the sales guy, who offered to price match. Then, I followed him around to not one, but two in-store terminals so he could verify the online price. He then walked me to the register with a price adjustment slip, but when I checked out,  I had to wait even longer for a manager to come over and approve the transaction price.


When I asked the cash wrap guy why, in today’s age of transparent information, there could be a ten dollar discrepancy on a $25 item, he just shrugged and said  “that’s a good question” as if he could have cared less.


I think Best Buy has the power and knowledge to fix this problem. I also think ShopperAnnie is not unique in saying she might be done with Best Buy if they don’t.