Shoppers are Changing, but Our Stores …Not so Much

The deliberate, time rich shopper of the past, to whom we market our stores, no longer exists. Quite the contrary, generally speaking, shoppers are time starved, distracted, and in some cases just flat out annoyed when they enter our stores. This new shopper increasingly finds ways to short-circuit the store plan, finding their items and moving on as quickly as possible, despite the retailer’s best efforts to induce the shopper into a long and deliberate visit.

Shoppers are trying to tell us something!

To amplify my point, there exists quantitative research in abundance supporting the notion that bricks and mortar stores are rapidly alienating themselves from the evolving shopper. Among several notable KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators), such as Dollars per Square Foot, Same Store Sales and Customer Counts are trending in the wrong direction for all except the very few that have strategically embraced the new shopping paradigm.

Dr. Herb Sorensen, who I consider the very best source of empirical knowledge on consumer shopping behavior, stated in one of his recent publications that the relatively short time the shopper spends in a retail store is mostly devoted to moving from point “A” to point “B” and not engaged with actual shopping at all. This is particularly true in larger foot print stores of 50,000 square feet and more. In fact, only twenty percent of the entire shopping trip involves the shopper facing the shelf and engaging in the purchasing process.

The implications of this information are profound. Retailers and their marketing partners spend annually $275 billion in the U.S. on advertising, marketing, and promotion initiatives. These monies generally are regarded as less than efficiently spent, due to a variety of reasons, but chief among them is that those funds are not reaching the shopper effectively at the shelf, when and where the majority of purchased decisions are made.

Retailers and brands alike now have access to new research techniques and resulting data that can help them re-think how they lay out their stores and categories. Ultimately, each retailer should have a Visual Strategy for its bricks and mortar stores. Much the same way a web designer uses Google Analytics to build and fine tune an efficient website, physical stores must be approached in the same way.

In-Store “Real Estate Values”….Much to be Learned

Colleague and shopping pundit, Herb Sorensen (, will tell you without hesitation that there is much to be gained by enhancing store layouts, particularly those that impede fluid shopper mobility within the store. As just one example, we known from past studies on the topic that the more aisles and barriers a store has, the slower the pace of shopper spending. This is particularly important when coupled with the knowledge that shoppers do not have an infinite amount of time to navigate through a store.

In fact, after a few minutes into the trip, shoppers consistently speed up their pace, and accordingly decrease the rate in which they buy, speeding by aisles and categories that appear to be irrelevant to the shopper’s immediate needs or more commonly just represent too much time and energy to explore.

Most retailers are oblivious to these shopping tendencies. In fact they design and stock their stores with the mindset that more aisles and products mean more sales opportunities. It is just a matter of manipulating the shopper into spending more time in the store to take advantage of all of these great new products and departments. Nothing is further from the truth.

Retailers who have taken the time to track their shoppers through the store…whether it be by personal observation or by technical means, are often surprised by many of the discoveries, including the following:

1. How deep into the shopping trip, aka how long it takes for the shopper to select their first item for purchase from the time they enter the store.

2. The miniscule percentage of time shoppers actually spend “shopping” as opposed to the time they spend traversing the store getting from one “shopping event” to the next.

3. How little of the physical store shoppers actually traverse on any given shopping trip.

4. How few aisles shoppers actually fully navigate as opposed to “diving into an aisle” quickly for a planned purchase and then revert quickly back to the perimeter of the store.

5. How shoppers migrate naturally to open space, where they can clearly view the entire store, and conversely how consistently shoppers avoid tight, confining alcoves and aisles

Each of the aforementioned shopping tendencies represent opportunities for the retailer to embrace. By understanding these consumer practices, retailers can make both subtle and overt changes to their layout and merchandising plan, resulting in a more efficient shopping experience for the consumer and larger baskets sizes for the retailer.



Mark Heckman– Trius Co-Founder

Cracking the Code of In-store Media

Digital signs, video screens, mobile applications, electronic shelf tags, coupon machines, banners, danglers, self tags, and floor graphics scream at shoppers each and every trip into today’s retailer supermarket. The business model of each one is predicated on gaining the attention of the thousands of shoppers that move through a large retailer store each week.

But what many of the proponents and pundits of in-store media fail to recognize is the mind set of their target audience, the in-store shopper. These mission-driven individuals are NOT in the store long enough (13 minute average trip length for average supermarket trip*), to absorb and interact with the plethora of messages, signs, shelf tags, kiosks, and sampling stations that frequently populate the aisles of many stores. In fact, only 18% of those thirteen minutes are spent in the supermarket’s center store. Shoppers are there to shop, period.

With that in mind, to have any chance of engaging a shopper, media must be intrusive, concise, and help the shopper make a purchase decision. Simply stated, the media and the content must be convey the name and benefits of the product, the price the shopper pays and the amount the shopper is saving, if discounted.

Key to implementing effective in-store media is having an in-store media plan in place. Layering programs on to other programs for the purpose of receiving revenue-sharing checks from third party media providers does not lend itself to success. Too many signs or messages dilute the impact of the entire effort.

It is also important to think as if you were a shopper. What is the most effective in-store media to help shoppers make quicker and better decisions. There is no benefit, none….of attempting to keep the shopper in the store longer than they want to be. Its all about “spending productivity, that is the pace of which they are making purchase decisions and placing items in their cart of hand basket.

If your in-store media is effective, it will not only produce incremental sales, but also make the shopper’s journey through the store more efficient. To a shopper that translates into getting everything they are looking for, and perhaps a few additional items in the shortest amount of time possible. To that point, retailers who are truly interested in optimizing the media they place in their stores, should view it holistically.  One way to constantly improve media effectiveness is to invite shoppers to provide feedback as to their ability to find find what they want in an efficient way.

Mark Heckman –Trius Co-Founder