Welcome to the the Ivey HBA Retail Marketing Management blog. Retail marketing is an exciting, dynamic, important, and very visible aspect of the overall field of marketing. Throughout the year, students will be posting comments regarding contemporary retailing issues. Although this is intended to be used by Bus 4411 students, industry marketing professionals are also invited to join in if they like.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Understand Your Customers….NOW!

Class this week was focused around the science of shopping – the way that consumers react to store layouts, product placement and packaging. In a world that is filled with constant distractions, it has become essential for retailers and brands to ensure that customers are aware of their products, that the products are visible, and that consumers are enticed or led to where the products can be purchased.

The average attention span of people in society decreases almost daily, which makes understanding consumer behaviour as important as advertising or promotions. Customer experience and the ability to capture the attention of customers is a prominent issue, but before capturing attention is possible, retailers must now focus on understanding where the customers will be, and how they will act, in order to ensure products are located in areas that consumers are likely to be in, and that buying patterns of certain customer segments are capitalized on through up-selling and strategically placing associated products together.

Retailers must now put themselves in the shoes of customers to ensure that buyers can not only find what they need, but that they are subjected to seeing what they came in for, or more importantly, what they did not come in for, but are likely to buy, based on the general buying patterns of studied target segments. Retailers cannot expect consumers to come into their stores and leave with merchandise that they had no intention of buying, if they don’t find a way of bringing the consumers to that merchandise, and making them believe that they need it.

Successful stores and companies have long studied consumer behaviour and buying patterns in order to maximize their efficiencies and profits, through catering store layouts and product offerings to customer demand and subconscious shopping behaviour. In today’s busy and technological world however, more in depth research can be done in order to maximize the shopping experience for customers, in turn maximizing sales for retailers. Most successful retailers are placing ever more importance on these trends, and are using technology to precisely predict consumer behaviour, in order to offer the best and most lucrative experience possible to consumers and potential consumers. Huge retailers such as Wal-Mart and Safeway have recently turned to virtual market researchers to better understand their customers. Red Dot Square Solutions has developed a virtual reality software solution which uses 3D simulations integrated with real-time eye tracking and analysis to help retailers and manufacturers test and design store layouts, promotions and product and pack designs.[1] These retailers understand the importance of catering to customer desires, but also to customer behaviours. More specifically, they understand the importance of understanding their target markets’ behaviours.

Understanding consumer thought process, as well general subconscious behaviour, provides retailers with a significant advantage, as they are able to precisely target those in specific target markets and capture attention. There is still a lack of importance placed on the study of consumer trends for many retailers, however the successes of some of the best performing retailers in the world truly shows the effectiveness of understanding consumer behaviour. Those retailers who have not yet taken an in-depth look at the way the layout of their store and their advertisements and promotions affect the behaviours of current and potential customers must immediately spend the time necessary to understand better understand their customers, and consumers’ behaviour in general, to better service and target consumers. Others have already taken the next step by scientifically measuring consumer behaviour trends; those who continue to negate the importance of these studies will not be able to survive in a retailing world where the majority better understand consumers, and run their businesses accordingly. There may be a tomorrow for those who don’t place an emphasis on the study of consumers, but retailers who strive to better understand their customers will slowly capture market share from the slower movers, through better positioning and marketing of products based on the understanding of the conscious and subconscious wants and behaviours of the modern consumer. Better business is by understanding and catering to customers; it is time that all retailers realize this, and reap the benefits.

[1] http://www.mrweb.com/drno/news9519.htm

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