We’ve all been there. You enter a store for one thing, but on the way to finding that very item you stumble upon countless other products you didn’t know you needed. A hundred dollars later and you have the $5 socks you came for, and a new blender, some shampoo, a birthday card for your mom, etc.
As consumers, we blame ourselves and our willpower, but really it’s the retailer orchestrating the act.
Retailers have long wanted consumers to get lost in their stores and malls. For many years, dwell time directly correlated to “basket size” — i.e., how much people bought. And it makes sense: people are exposed to more products as they search a store to find their desired item, and for some, the time spent in-store would enable them to remember other things they truly needed, rationalize an irregular or big-ticket purchase, etc.
Those days are over as consumers are in the power position and efficiency is king. Whereas in the 80s, 90s and 00s, consumers accepted the in-store treasure hunt as the only path to purchase, today they've grown used to easy and quick shopping experiences online thanks to Google and Amazon.com. They now expect the same experience offline. Consumers before had little choice and lots of time. Now they have lots of choice and little time.
Yes, stores still offer inherent perks such as offering the ability to “see, touch and feel.” However, when getting what you came for quickly becomes the expectation, maze-like malls and stores that put high-volume items in the back suddenly seem out of touch with shopper realities.
Change won’t come easily either. It would be impossible to undo billions of infrastructure investment in malls or decades of intuitional in-store planning. At Mappedin, we drive search and discoverability in malls and stores through digital wayfinding, so we’ve seen the absolute worst and some of the more improved physical layouts and technologies that can solve for this issue. It’s too early to know what will resonate most with consumers and continue to drive both in-store traffic and conversions, but one thing is certain: efficiency drives basket size today.
Between 2010 and 2013, holiday mall traffic dropped by 55 percent in the U.S., while same-store revenues rose, meaning basket sizes more than doubled per trip.
Efficiency to me means getting a shopper to their desired purchase as quickly as possible. With efficiency comes customer satisfaction, which can lead to greater brand affinity. To the consumer, efficiency also feels like their task is complete. Today, to-do lists drive a lot of our very busy lives. And yet when the shopping list is checked off early and we’ve budgeted extra time, we may find ourselves browsing once again.
Malls and retailers can maintain their dominance if they adapt to shoppers’ changing habits and respect their time. If instead they elect to keep shoppers in the dark, they have only themselves to blame when a customer gets lost and never finds their way back.
Hongwei Liu is the CEO and co-founder of Mappedin, a company that helps retailers manage their stores, enabling consumers to find what they're looking for — by category, brand, product and promotion.
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