Tenser to Lead NARMS Webinar: “Whose Store Is It, Anyway?”

THE DIRECTOR of the In-Store Implementation Network, James Tenser will pose this provocative question in a 60-minute Webinar hosted by NARMS, the National Association for Retail Merchandising Services.

The Webinar will take place at 1:00 PM Central on Thursday Oct. 28. Review the program here.

Currently some larger Merchandising Services Organizations and Sales/Marketing Agencies are offering proprietary Store Execution Management software to retailers as a value-add. The implications are complex, and they have potential to affect core business practices, including the establishment of what might be called “merchandising captains.”

Should retailers accept “free” SEM software provided by their MSOs and SMAs? Who gains? Who loses? Who should own the data? What other implications of this practice need to be examined for the best interest of our industry? Tenser will explore these issues and answer questions in a lively online program.

(Special Offer: NARMS normally charges guests $99.95 to attend its webinars, but has generously extended a discount price of $29.95 for ISI Network Members. To register, phone the NARMS office at 888-526-2767 and tell them you’re one of us.)

© Copyright 2010 James Tenser

Six Dimensions of Shopping Time

When retailers seek to optimize the shopping experience and understand channel choice, much consideration is given to aspects of convenience. The literature generally breaks this down into two core elements: effort and time. For brick and mortar stores, the goal is to make shopping as easy as possible, and attractively quick, but not so fast that sales opportunities are missed during the shopping trip. In a multichannel environment, the puzzle gets more intricate.
Shopping time covers multiple factors, including hours of operation, travel time, search time, time to check out, delivery time, and time to return. So time-saving convenience is highly conditional:

  • A mother will drive across town to a 24-hour drug store at midnight when she has a sick child, but she may leave a convenience store when faced with a long checkout line during the morning coffee rush.
  • An electronics shopper may spend hours researching flat screen TV prices online but grow impatient when forced to wait 10 minutes for sales help at the local electronics superstore.
  • A discount store shopper may watch TV at home four hours a day, but will attend to an in-store digital screen for exactly eight seconds before moving on to the next purchase task.
  • An online shopper will gladly wait three days for free delivery of a purchase from a multi-channel retailer, but grow agitated waiting five minutes to return the same item at a local branch store.

These examples are illustrations of what I observe to be six dimensions of shopping time. The academic literature generally identifies four of these:

1) Time to access (i.e. to reach the store or shopping site)
2) Time to search (i.e. to identify and select product to buy)
3) Time to transact (i.e. to complete the purchase transaction)
4) Time to possess (i.e. to physically obtain the purchased merchandise)

This classification may not reflect a complete picture of the influence of time on consumers’ retail channel choices however. I would add two additional time elements to the list:

5) Time of operation (i.e. days and hours that the retailer may be patronized)
6) Time of return (i.e. to return an item for refund or credit).

Considering these time factors is especially important as we reason about the choices shoppers make between options in a multichannel environment. It takes minutes to find and order a book on Amazon.com – even at midnight – versus an hour or more to stop by Borders during business hours and search the shelves, but the Borders shopper may leave with the book in hand, while the Amazon.com shopper waits days for delivery. Which is more convenient? Well, it depends…what did the shopper need most at that moment?

Leading multichannel retailers give deep thought to understanding this complex of time-saving behaviors. The best evidence that I’ve seen is the growth of “order online, pick up in store” service offerings at some consumer electronics retailers. Instant gratification is still a motivation, but shoppers like the protection from stress that comes with pre-shopping on line in the calm safety of the family den.

Shoppers’ time-related behaviors, I think, are relatively independent of current economic conditions. In general they will choose the options that suit their need states of the moment. At the same time, we may observe that some shoppers will devote more time and effort to planned shopping trips by clipping coupons, preparing lists, and advance online price comparisons, especially as retailers continue to make these activities as time-efficient and easy as possible.

But the general rule (and its inverse) still applies in retailing: Time is more valuable than money for shoppers who have more money than time.

© Copyright 2009 James Tenser

SCAMP: Five Pillars of Shopper Experience

I HAD AN INVITATION recently to address an executive summit on Shopper Experience on the subject of In-Store Implementation. Regrettably, the event did not materialize, but the thought process it inspired could not be stopped. I decided to capture some of it here in the Tirades.

But first, are you experienced?

If you have ever shopped, of course you are. Shopper Experience is one of those big ideas that is hard to define because it encompasses everything we encounter in connection with a retail shopping visit. It begins with the traffic on the drive to the store, takes in the sights, sounds and smells of the store environment, and layers on the actions that take place while we are there. It probably even extends to the drive home and the interaction with purchased products.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. It can also be used to mean an individual experience over one transaction.”

A large and complex construct, as the consumer behaviorists might say. To my mind, Shopper Experience cries out for a bit of de-construction. I took a crack at it.

As I see it we can break down the shopping experience into five “pillars” or components. Taking each in turn may make the whole concept easier to grasp for purposes of analysis. More importantly, it may lead us toward practical ways to improve the whole shopper experience by optimizing its elements.

My proposed five pillars of Shopper Experience are: Service; Convenience; Ambiance; Merchandising; and Price (SCAMP). I’ve thought about these pretty carefully and I believe this breakdown meets the MECE test. That is, they are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Each of the five pillars merits its own definition, and each encompasses much detail. For the purposes of the present post, let’s briefly define each:

Service. People, practices, policies, and the training that enables them. Top performing retailers excel at both hiring the right people and setting service practices that sustain and support their success.

Convenience. Both time-saving and effort-saving. Sometimes the line between time and effort may be blurred with other pillars – as when it takes too much effort to locate a desired product. Is that a merchandising problem?

Ambiance. Physical design of store environment, including lighting, spaciousness and other sensory cues like temperature, odors, and sound. And yes, other patrons figure into this experience pillar – we tend to like to shop with people like ourselves.

Merchandising. The product assortment; their arrangement on shelves or displays; all associated messaging designed to inform and persuade.

Price. Base or every-day pricing and store price positioning, of course, but also promotions and markdowns when they occur. Shoppers tend to form a relative price-value perception or price image for each retailer based on all these cues.

SCAMP is submitted for your consideration. I find it a useful first cut at analyzing Shopper Experience. Of course, each of the five pillars merits much more detailed discussion. That’s an opportunity for future Tirades.

© Copyright 2008 James Tenser