The end of
by John Stanley
As retailers, we are brought up to believe that there
are two types of buying modes: The consumer is either buying a purpose
item or an impulse item. Our stores are then laid out strategically to
encourage impulse sales, especially as impulse sales are often 60
percent of total consumer expenditure in many retail operations, and
these products are often sold at a higher margin.
The recession loomed onto the scene and changed
shopping habits. During a recession, impulse sales naturally decrease
across the board, and this was true of the recession we have just
As we move out of the recession, consumers have
changed. Impulse is now not what they are looking for; they now want
information. The game rules have changed.
You may think that this is where your sales staff come
into their own. Sorry, this is not the case. Our own research in March
2010 indicated that 61.8 percent of consumers believe product knowledge
provided by salespeople has declined in the last five years. Consumers
now rarely trust the advice being provided by salespeople.
Research published by David Evans, the CEO of SPOS
Group, and reported in the May 24 edition of Inside Retailing, mentions
that the “Information” trend started in the USA, and customers want
information to be next to products, without salespeople interrupting
their shopping experience. This means that we need to rethink our whole
merchandising strategy if we are to be in tune with consumers and grow
As a retailer, you need to have an information strategy
that helps consumers as well as provides you with the retail high ground
as the expert in your area. In today’s retail environment, the
competition is not just other physical retailers, but online retailers
So what steps can you take to own the high ground in
the information stakes?
a signage strategy that tells customers what a product is; provide
three benefits and the price. This has been a golden rule of
retailing for decades and still applies in the social media era.
Accept that in today’s market, it is the manufacturer or producer
that is the real hero, not the salesperson. Introduce the supplier
into the communications chain. Consumers now want to know about the
makers of the products, not the seller. This means you may want to
place a picture of the producers next to the products or even
details about the producers’ Facebook page or web page. The provider
now needs to be the retailer’s partner in the supply chain. This
will result in a whole new thinking process in supply-chain
Position leaflets in holders next to the products. Leaflets on the
products you are selling make sound like a dated idea, but in this
information age, there is a role for leaflets that explain about the
technology. You may want to provide a YouTube link that explains how
to use a product. You may want to place a TV monitor next to a
product that explains the attributes of the product. You may wish to
use a quality-control (QC) bar code that can be linked to a web page
and downloaded onto customers’ mobile phones.
Displays and merchandising are still important in the process, but
make sure displays are educational and tell customers how they can
use the products. You may have to link together a number of products
to tell the story for consumers.
Rotate information to avoid overload. Strategic communications is
still part of the game rules; if you place information boards next
to all the products on display, it is going to confuse consumers and
they will get information overload. Decide what you want to sell at
any one time, provide the information and rotate it on a regular
basis. This will improve the knowledge base of your team, plus
customers will be provided with a larger knowledge base because when
they return you will be exposing them to new information that they
are more likely to read and absorb.
Increase sales with social media. Research indicates that when
consumers communicate through social media, sales go up. Therefore,
join in the social media conversation and get them to share their
ideas on your social media pages as well. This gives you an
opportunity to share knowledge with consumers.
Is It the End of Impulse?
Impulse sales will continue; they are a lifeblood of
retailing. What has changed is the way consumers are buying impulse
lines. It used to be if something looked good, people would buy it. In
today’s retail world, if something looks good, consumers want the
knowledge and information required to move from “lookers” to “buyers.”
We are entering a new era of retailing and all
retailers need to re-evaluate their present retail offers and question
whether they are presenting products in the right way for the new
Stanley (CSP) is among the top 10 percent of speakers in the world
today, an acclaimed retail consultant and WA Entrepreneur of the Year
2009. The author of several marketing, customer service and retail
books, his company is WA Small Business Champion 2009. Visit