A step by step guide to developing an instore media strategy

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So you wish to engage instore media such as visuals, music or scent to improve the performance of your shop. Where to start?

As my regular readers already know, I strongly urge retailers to develop a well thought-out instore media strategy before plugging in a single screen or speaker. A good strategy will make sure your outings are effective and congruent with your message and goals. So how do you make one?

First, you need to have a clear view on where you stand and where you want to go. Let’s say you own a fashion shop. What distinguishes your shop from other apparel shops? What is your USP and how do you communicate it to your audience? Speaking of your audience, who is it you are targeting?

One might think these are pretty basic questions for any serious retailer but you would be surprised to learn how often I come across large retail chains that lack a clear vision in these fields. Needless to say that in a competitive market they are usually left behind by the ones who do have such a vision. So if you don’t, here’s your starting point. There are some pretty good standard models for determining target audiences and brand strategies out there. Grab yourself a good piece of marketing literature and work it all out.

An important part of your retail formula should be a plan of what a visit to your shop should be like. What do you want your visitors to experience? What do you want them to do? How should they feel? Which products should they pick up? The best retailers out there have designed every inch of their shops to engage the customer in exactly the desired way.

The second step is carefully analyzing your formula and strategy and deciding if instore media would be of added value. The answer to that question will differ per retail concept. Most shops will benefit from music. Many from visuals. Some formulas might benefit from adding scent. Which media should you engage to maximize the positive impact of your shop?

The third step is the hardest and most important part of the successful implementation of instore media. It is the translation of your retail formula into an instore media strategy. This is basically what I do for a living, and I will let you in on a few secrets of the trade to get you started.

To properly translate your formula and strategy into media outings you will need a thorough understanding of the media you are dealing with. You need to know how they affect your audience. Let’s say you wish to display an ad for a specific product you are selling. You might put up a picture of the product on a screen. Perhaps display a short description and the price. Now you will have to ask yourself: if I want maximum impact, where should I position this screen? How will the font I use affect readability? Which background color will trigger the right reaction? What kind of movement will draw the most attention? What kind of movement will draw the right attention?

To answer all these questions properly you will need to dive into the science of our perception and behavior. Let’s say for instance you want to keep your customers in your shop a bit longer to give them more time to make impulse purchases. How to engage instore media to reach this goal?

Making someone stay longer, requires the alteration of time perception and behavior. To reach this requires a constant influence on your audience. So visuals are out of the question since they are only effective when people actively look at them. Scent would be better suited since it is a constantly present form of sensory input. However, there is no evidence that scent affects time perception.

Music then? Yes! We have no ear lids so any music we expose our audience to will have a continuous effect. You can look away, but you can’t hear away. The science of music perception tells us that speed, loudness and complexity of music affect our time perception and speed of activity. If we want people to stay for longer, we will have to engage relatively slow music, of low complexity at low to moderate loudness levels. If you do so, you will most likely find that your visitors will spend up to 15% more time in your shop.

Next, we would like to trigger impulse purchases. For this purpose, visuals are great. We can strategically position screens in the line of sight displaying attractive images of the products you wish to sell. But one might go about things more subtly. Perhaps displaying footage of a cosy dinner will trigger a raise in sales of wines or luxury foods?

As you see here, we have engaged instore media to reach a very specific commercial goal. The result will be effective and supportive of your strategy.

So now that we know which media and what content to engage, we need to find a technical solution to cater to our demands. Keep in mind that LCD screens or loudspeakers are only messengers. The actual content is the message. So always choose your media first, content second and technology last. This way you can be sure that any piece of hard or software you buy will be optimally supportive of the goals you are trying to reach. I will dive deeper into instore media technology in a future post.

The next step is to test your instore media. You have created a detailed strategy, chose your media, chose your content and installed your technical systems. Now it is time to test if you are actually accomplishing your goals. No matter how carefully you design your strategy, you are still dealing with human beings in highly complex situations. So unpredictabilities are always present.

You can test by simply observing your customers’ behavior. Or you might measure specific variables such as visit time or sales. If you really want to get the most out of it you might hire a specialized company to question your visitors and analyze the results.

If you come across any quirks it is back to the drawing board to make the proper adjustments.

So in a nutshell, how to create and implement an instore media strategy:

1. Make sure you have a well thought-out retail formula and strategic goals

2. Decide which media would support your formula and goals

3. Translate your formula and strategy into an instore media strategy and content using the sciences of perception and behavior

4. Choose the right technical solution for your instore media demands

5. Test and test some more. 

6. Go back to step 2

If you need any help with steps 2 -6 please feel free to contact me!

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