Are You Shoppable?

The store is at ground zero of today’s Darwinian industry revolution.

As we know, the store won’t be the same in years to come. We’re seeing significant changes in size, location, fulfillment capabilities, and staffing. Success metrics are changing. As are assessments of purpose and overall value.

Which is why I think the paper Benchmarking Retail Shoppability, by Raymond Burke and Neil Morgan of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, is so important. You can find it here, on the site of the Burke-edited Journal of Shopper Research:

Why so valuable?

Burke and Morgan give us a framework—based upon more than 10 years of study and an analysis of near 5,000 shoppers taking some 16,000 shopping trips—for how to translate consumer demand into store-based purchases.

Repeat after me: store-based purchases.

Not “experiences.” Not “personalization.”

This is a deep, detailed study about the most delicious sound in retail: The ringing of the register. And especially relevant now in this cross-channel, unified commerce age.

Read it, and you’ll discover reasons why some stores of some brands succeed, and will continue to do so. And why others are as doomed as dinosaurs.

Let me share with you a simplified, blog-length look at the Burke-Morgan Shoppability framework. (However, if you really want a solid understanding, read the paper. And then dial-up your inner Paco Underhill.)

Shoppability consists of two elements: Shopper engagement and purchase conversion. Engagement is the degree to which a retail setting “activates” a shopper. It’s when an ever-deepening connection to needs and wants is created and maintained. (Even heightened.)

Purchase conversion, of course, is about turning shoppers into buyers. It’s about the removal of barriers and friction points, the paving of a smooth decision glide path to yes.

Second: Can you measure shoppability—and guide others to it?

The good news is that Burke and Morgan say yes, and they give us in the paper five over-arching dimensions that create the engagement and conversion of shoppability:

  1. Relevance. No surprise here. It’s about providing the quality products and services she wants, such as being in stock. Price point impact? It’s relative, and it’s about perceived fairness—are the SKU’s (and services) worth the money? Keep in mind: Lower prices do not automatically win.
  2. Visual Transparency. As shoppers enter the store, can they see what there is to see? Where to go? Does the first impression—and the ongoing impressions—increase or decrease what the behavioral scientists term cognitive stress? Is there clear department and category identification, product organization, and clear-easy information visibility? Are you in a casino-like swirl or an oasis (even an oasis of excitement)?
  3. Convenience. Is the store intuitive, or does it demand a user manual? Does the store minimize the time and effort necessary to engage, find and decide? Can a first-timer shop as easily as a loyalist who may be on a first-name basis? Is there ample parking, wide aisles? Fast and helpful service? Fast and accurate check-out?
  4. Assurance. Ah–here, a break-through insight for most of us. Does the store (through signage and associates) provide the information that gives shoppers confidence that they’ve made the right decision? Are there designated experts on-site or available by phone or by bot? Are web-based ratings and reviews available? What about so-called “solution recipes” that guide shoppers to an end result, be it a birthday cake or backyard deck?
    Here, Burke and Morgan make clear that shoppability is more than merchandising and operations.  Great store retailing is about step-by-step engagement with the shopper journey—and creating that aforementioned glide path to yes.
  5. Enjoyment. It’s not—let’s be clear—“experiences.” Enjoyment is tangible and leads to purchase; it consists of surprise (in which the shopper finds unexpected bargains and new-fun products) and comfort (places to sit and relax, refreshments, a great playlist, and—critically—clean and safe restrooms).

Two other Insights to Share

Burke and Morgan draw a valuable distinction between that what which drives success for planned purchases—winning, for instance, the every-Monday night-fill-the-trolley grocery run—and what produces unplanned purchases, those important basket- and margin-boosters.

What wins planned purchases? Relevance, of course. First and foremost. And transparency, and a lack of clutter—visual clutter, assortment clutter, and marketing clutter.

Unplanned purchases? Surprise, of course, and to an interesting degree, comfort.

Burke and Morgan also include an assessment of conversion. What seals the deal? What pushes the yes button? What I found interesting is what discourages conversion.

More than anything else, it’s a lack of assurance.

Lack of assurance kills conversion.

As the decision scientists make clear, we’re rarely fully confident that we’ve made a right decision—especially in the marketplace. It’s why we regularly turn to online ratings and reviews, and seek the advice of friends and family.

It’s the lack of confidence that leads to hesitation at point of purchase. Maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. The hesitation breeds cognitive stress. Heart rates increase; eyes dilate. And shoppers turn and walk away.

Engage, then convert.

Through relevance, transparency, convenience, assurance, and enjoyment.

Brain food for retailers and retail technologists.

Tell me what you think.


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Jon Stine

About Jon Stine

Global Director Retail Sales at Intel. Jon Stine leads Intel’s global sales and strategy for the retail, hospitality, and consumer goods industry sectors. His CV includes leadership of North American retail consulting practice for Cisco Systems, and a prior stint at Intel, where he founded the company’s sales and marketing focus on the retail industry. His perspective on technology’s value in the industry has been shaped by advisory and project engagements in the United States, across the European Union, and in India, Australia, and the People’s Republic of China, and from 15 years of executive sales and marketing experience in the U.S. apparel industry, working with the nation’s leading department and specialty stores. At Intel, his current areas of research and engagement include the future of the store in this new digital age; how and where retailers turn data into competitive advantage; the role of technology within the new cross-channel shopper journey, and, the critical business and IT capabilities that industry success will demand going forward.