Customer first

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If you wish to effectively implement instore media solutions in your retail environment, it is crucial to have a clear view of what you want to accomplish. This might sound obvious, but a clear strategic mission is often painfully absent in the retailer’s plans.

More often than you might think, choices are made out of fear of missing a trend. This often results in incongruent instore formulas. Music or visuals often contradict the actual message the retailer is trying to get across, simply because they were not part of the overall strategy behind the brand formula.

A common mistake that exemplifies my point is a mismatch in store image and the loudness of the background music. I will devote more posts to this subject since it is quite important and often done wrong, but let’s take a short look at it now. Retailers choose to play very loud music in shops mostly to engage a young audience. One popular motive behind the choice to play music at high volumes is that the retailer wishes to create a club-like atmosphere that feels trendy and hip. Another is that retailers think that modern youth is so used to extreme amounts of sensory input that they require high impact sound and visuals to be triggered at all. You will find examples of this philosophy in fashion stores all around the world.

Lately I find that more and more shops in other market segments follow this example and increase the loudness of their background music. Even shops where personal contact and good advice are key parts of the formula now crank up the volume and any conversation is drowned out by loud music. If you ask the retailer about the idea behind this the reply is usually that loud music is standard practice in fashion and that it will give them a fresh and young image.

Needless to say, the functioning of these shops is damaged by this choice. There is a clear mismatch between the overall well thought-out formula and the addition of loud music. The retailer spots a trend and implements it in his own formula. A strategic plan is missing.

Therefore I feel it is crucial that instore media are part of the overall strategy behind a retail formula. Music, visuals and scent can boost the impact of a formula tremendously, but they will only do so if they are in perfect harmony with everything else.

The starting point should always be the customer. Who are you targeting? What do these people like and dislike? Why would they choose you over the competition? What is the exact need you are catering to? What is the fulfillment of this need worth to the average customer? These are just a few of dozens of questions you want to have answered when you are building your formula.

I see in my daily practice that retailers who work from a customer-centric point of view and build everything else around that find it much easier to adapt to changes in the market. Their customers are more loyal and less focussed on prices. These retailers easily out-perform competitors who have an inward focus and force their ideas onto the market. A non customer-based strategy often caters to a non existing market resulting in failure of the formula.

The philosophy above is basically my job description. Since most retailers implement instore music, visuals and scent after completing their overall formulas it is crucial to create the perfect synergy between these existing formulas and the to-be added media outings. This is where I come in. I translate the commercial goals of a retailer into an instore media strategy. This way we create a congruent experience for the customer that optimally supports the strategic mission of the retailer. This often results in higher customer satisfaction scores and increased sales.

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