instore directional signage

The Retailer Customer Conversation

The role of communication, and more crucially conversation, in the retailer:customer relationship is at the heart of marketing and that conversation is on-going. It doesn’t start with an advert, nor does it stop when the customer leaves the store. The customer is participating in hundreds of conversations each day and the art to a retail marketing strategy is to be heard above the other voices.

That doesn’t mean shouting the loudest however. That conversation will be switched off pretty quickly if it intrudes in the customer’s life. The best conversations are the ones that are helpful, interesting and engaging and give the customer a reason to listen out for the retailer amongst the noise. Those conversations build loyalty and brand advocacy.

In-store marketing can often be an after-thought in the conversation. The interesting bit is getting the customer to the store in the first place, once they are there, the product will speak for itself. Not so. The conversation must be continued, consistently underpinned with the core marketing and brand message. The signage must compliment the marketing, the store layout must evoke the same brand values and the path to purchase must be satisfyingly completed to ensure that the customer is receptive to further conversations.

This may all seem rather like a ‘psychology of selling’ article but it is frightening how often the basics are overlooked, and demoted in the budget. A simple aspect of in-store marketing is directional signage. A recent visit to a Poundstretcher which had just been refitted, was a classic example of lovely new fixtures but desperately dull long aisles with no signage at all to help the customer along the path to purchase. On a good note, the staff at Poundstretcher knew where products were on the shelf and were able to help this customer including finding a price because the shelf label was missing.

On the other hand in-store marketing overkill can be as unhelpful as having none. Remember what it’s like to be shouted at? It’s very hard to listen when the noise level is turned too high, and it’s very hard to pick out what is being said if there are multiple conversations going on at the same time. Something supermarkets would do well to understand when they are fighting through all the POS.

Knowing what to talk about, when to talk about it and where to have the conversation should be central to a retail marketing strategy. It should be informed by the customer, which is something Tesco and Morrisons seem to taking on board, and should be consistent at all points of the conversation.

We look forward to seeing how Tesco and Morrisons develop in the coming months and how conversation forms part of their plans for growth.


If your in-store marketing isn’t delivering, and you’d like to discuss it in a language you understand, give Retail Remedy a shout.

Why Department stores are a great fit

The department store has traditionally been where a customer can shop for many different brands, fulfil the majority of their purchasing dilemmas under one roof, get a refreshment and enjoy a retailing experience. That role has even more relevance in today’s retailing landscape than it has had in the past.

What have department stores got going for them?

Space. They are, or should be, in destination locations, the anchor of a shopping mall or retail park, a beacon on our city’s main High Streets. They have the space to be able to offer a customer a hassle free, all under one roof, shopping experience to meet and exceed all of their expectations.

Range. The extensive space of a department store means it can offer a complete cross category range with strong price architecture to meet most customer’s needs. There are opportunities to cross merchandise to maximise calendar events, and to upsell and cross sell to customers. A customer has no need to leave the premises or to go online to compare prices of leading brands because they are all there.

Service. A customer who enters a department store is not going to be just popping in, they are going to be spending time in the store. This gives the retailer every opportunity to engage with the customer and build a relationship demonstrating expertise and product knowledge.

But while they have a lot going for them, department stores also face challenges from the same direction.

Location. Big space equals big overheads so every inch of space needs to be as productive as possible. Range planning and space analysis must be ongoing, regularly revisited to tweak and refine space and ranges which all boils down to space flexibility. Be agile with the space, reactive and proactive, refreshing the environment frequently for the customer so they have a new reason to visit.

Range. Broad ranges results in significant stock holding and process complexity. Department stores need stock management and merchandising systems, reliable systems that store staff understand and can use to improve their knowledge and ability to meet their customer’s needs, whilst minimising the amount of stock in store.

Service. Getting the balance between staff numbers and therefore cost, with customer service is imperative. Once the balance is right, staff must be product experts across multiple ranges to be able to demonstrate authority and offer good service. Product training, customer service training, must be ongoing.

Like every retailer, the department store must give customers a reason to visit. They have the space to create events, destination categories and above all, excitement. Selfridges might be the masters of this, but a department store on any High Street can create the same authority with a clear investment in its staff, its systems and its space.

Retail Remedy provides bespoke, results-focused consultancy for retailers globally, from established brands to high-growth start-ups. Get in touch.

How can retailers commoditise the customer experience?

A positive customer experience doesn’t always lead to a sale but is much more likely to get the till ringing than a negative customer experience. But what does that experience consist of and how can a retailer consistently deliver the same experience across its estate?

Much of what constitutes a customer experience is not tangible and is subjective. The customer will visit a store with preconceived ideas informed by the brand and influenced by friends and it is the retailer task to at least match those expectations to ensure a positive customer experience. Of course, in an ideal world the retailer will exceed those expectations.

Customer experience can be online as well as in store and naturally the online experience is consistent for all customers, whereas the in store experience will be subject to many variables like which member of staff was working, product availability and in store standards.

This is the challenge for retailers, commoditising the experience such that it is replicable across any number of stores and the customer’s experience in that store is the same regardless of which day a customer visits or which branch.

To make the retail experience replicable it needs to be tangible, objective and clear so that interpretation is not necessary or possible.

Staff training, for instance, provides a consistent standard that employees must deliver against, at junior and senior levels. This can include everything from staff dress code to how a customer is greeted, and at senior levels how these standards are maintained on a daily basis.

Processes enable the customer experience to be commoditised, both those that are customer facing and back office. How a store is laid out, use of POS, how returns are managed are all a reflection of the brand and come together to inform an overall impression of the store. Behind the scenes, how stock is managed, when breaks are taken, or simply how staff are motivated all have an impact on the customer’s experience and can all be documented and integrated into the culture of the brand.

These aspects of retailing aren’t sexy, they are not as exciting as touch screens and virtual changing rooms, but they are the backbone of a positive customer experience. Without them, all the bells and whistles are simply wasted.

Retail Remedy provides bespoke, results-focused consultancy for retailers globally, from established brands to high-growth start-ups. Get in touch.