How to get customers to choose you before your competition.

From product placement to illumination – everything matters!

If you’re looking for ways to improve your store’s sales and effectiveness, consider going shopping at your competitors’ locations. It’s a tactic Ted Hurlbut, leading US retail consultant recommends, “The key to understanding your competition is to understand why their customers — your potential customers — view them as a preferable source for the products and services they offer. And it’s not just your competition that you can learn from, it’s every retailer that you encounter.”

Checking out your competition analytically helps you to build a better store experience for your shoppers and boost your bottom line.

1. Where does your competition  put the staples?

For grocery stores staples, that’s the bread, milk, and eggs. For office supply stores, that is printer paper and ink cartridges. For fashion stores it the basics, the t-shirts and jeans. Check how much ground you have to cover to get to the staples in your competitor’s store, and make sure yours is a little bit more. The more time they spend in-store, the more money they tend to spend.

2. What are they putting at eye-level?

Anthropologie (Montreal) puts their scents at eye (and nose!) level so customers take notice.

These are items they want to sell the most of. You can tell what their high-profit items are by looking here. People are willing to reach or bend for bigger savings, so these will have lower markups. Is it the same range of products as you have? Are yours positioned differently? Never underestimate the power of eye-level display shelving.

3.What do they put just to the left of the entry?

Come September(Toombul) has their prettiest clutches and necklaces to greet you at the entrance.

Consumers tend to move clockwise through a shop, which means that the display just to the left of the door is prime real estate. Displays in this location attract customers’ attention first so they should be stocked with high-profit goods.

4.Do they provide baskets or trolleys?

Size matters when it comes to shopping carts. When they’re full, the customer feels obliged to check out. If the trolley isn’t completely full, they don’t have that ‘finish trigger’. Use a larger basket or cart than they do, and more than likely your customers will buy more.

5.Now for the intangible things – what about the atmosphere?

Brown & Taylor is Dublin’s elite department store and its atmosphere reflects that.

Do your competitors’ stores have a certain feel? If your items are at a higher price point, does your store atmosphere reflect that? Creating an atmosphere that mirrors your image is key. Do you think plain fittings, exposed beams, and a warehouse-y feel is unappealing? Not for the customers who feel like they’re getting a deal! Obviously, high-end stores must cultivate a different climate. Think about it: A bargain bin with closeout deals doesn’t connote high-end shopping and wouldn’t be suitable for an exclusive jewelry store.

6. What music are they playing? What can you smell?

Listen to the music in your competition’s store. Fast music tends to encourage fast purchases…. great in a discount store but not in a boutique. The slower the music the longer the customer will take in store (but young people prefer high energy beats). Your competitor’s choice of music will tell you a lot about their perceived target market! Is there an aroma instore? Scent generators are a useful though subtle marketing technique. If you sell leather goods the smell of leather will give your store authenticity, and customers will trust your product. It’s more than just an addition to a pleasant shopping experience!

7. What size shop do they have?

Desigual (Lyon) is deliberately small and cluttered to give an energetic feel

Retail square footage is expensive, but nothing is more of a magnet than a crowd. Sometimes a smaller facility is a better choice – it gives an energetic, more successful feel than does a cavernous void where shoppers feel unpleasantly alone.

8. What in-store marketing is there?

Loyalty programs are important marketing tools.

Do they have a loyalty program? In-store events? Informational signage about products that you hadn’t thought to educate your customers about? Anything that compels a shopper to spend more time in store and return for multiple visits is something you should notice. Don’t copy, but think of ways you can make your offer more attractive than theirs.

Finally, avoid complacency. Retail is a high-speed market that changes constantly. You should change things regularly too.  Keep making small changes to prevent your shoppers from settling in and making the same purchases day in and day out. Be creative, observant and forward thinking and it will pay off in store. 

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