NEW YORK — Retailers can build sales with existing customers by offering them something for nothing — information.
Stores should explore vehicles for promoting their products and services while they have shoppers on their own turf. One way to do it is through enhanced visual presentation and a unified merchandising message, according to Mark Pucci, president and chief executive officer of the Walker Group/CNI, a retail design-consulting firm here.
“It is very important to integrate all forms of a store’s communication,” said Pucci, who will discuss “Designing the Retail Store Environment for the Nineties” at a retail seminar in Florida this month. “One voice, from advertising to display, helps create a consistent image for the consumer.”
For example, if a store is running a promotion about France, the advertising, display and signage, as well as the merchandise, should reflect that theme. The ads could be enlarged to poster size and displayed in the store to drive home the idea.
“Think of the customer’s perception of France,” he explained. “People relate to French art, or the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. You don’t have to be too cerebral to get the message across.”
He cautioned that a retailer should not stretch beyond its capabilities and end up with poor execution.
“If your organization can’t do props well, for example, don’t do them at all,” he said.
Pucci said stores don’t have to spend a fortune on dramatic interactive effects. They can, however, offer their customers free services in the dressing rooms, information about the merchandise or news about fashion trends.
“That’s a perfect opportunity to inform people while they are sort of a captive audience,” he suggested. “Big department stores might not have the personnel to tend each dressing room, so a store can use a silent salesman.”
For example, a retailer might put up posters recommending:
- The best silhouettes for certain body types.
- Color information.
- Fashion trends — what’s the current “must-have” item.
- Coordinating outfits, or ways to build on pieces already in the shopper’s wardrobe.
- A display touting the store’s other services, like a Federal Express drop-off, travel agency or beauty salon on another floor.
- A store might also use the opportunity to display merchandise from another department, tell about a sale or discuss some benefit of its private label apparel.
He said store design will play a role in generating an emotional response to merchandise in the store of the Nineties, with visual presentation often equated with visual entertainment.
“There are so many retail options today,” he said. “People are looking for added value. Part of that value can be price, but it can also be additional services or a pleasant, stimulating shopping environment. Stores have to offer consumers a reason to come back.”
Using the Nike Town sports stores as an example, he said the company’s advertising evokes a specific response among its customers, and the store environment evokes that same marketing response.
Warner Bros. Studio Stores are another example of an entertainment-oriented retail environment that captivates the consumer, and stimulates an emotional response to the merchandise. Elements like the Looney Tunes characters or the elevator propelled by Superman, make people happy and encourage sales, he said.
Pucci will speak at “Retailing Smarter ’94,” a symposium sponsored by the Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida’s College of Business Administration. The conference runs May 19-20 at the Don CeSar Resort in St. Petersburg Beach, Fla.
Other topics will include the impact of TV and interactive home shopping on retailing; using technology to focus on the customer; Clinton administration initiatives, including health care reform, and how the North American Free Trade Agreement will impact retailing; providing better customer service, and critical factors for succeeding in today’s market.