Retail – Survival By Innovation

Retail Buzzwords

Retail Is Dead

That’s been the mantra for the last few years.  If you are a retail store owner, manager, or employee, there is no doubt you’ve noticed.  Many people blame everything from online retailers to generation gaps and the economy.  No matter what your particular belief, one thing is certain; people no longer buy the same way.

So how does a retailer become innovative?  How do you rise above the static and the noise to win the customer?  The answer is simple, disrupt the buying process!  In other words, retail companies can either do what they have always done and risk losing customers, or they can get creative and earn the business.

To understand how to disrupt the buying behavior, one must first understand the process.

The Old Buying Process

Once upon a time, shopping was simple.  The local big box store had everything you needed.  A weekly shopping trip was nothing out of the ordinary.  Store associates were knowledgeable and helpful.  Today, good luck finding someone with a store name tag, and when you do, be ready for them to “find someone who works in that department”.

People want to be sure their purchase is the correct option.  In the past, retail stores had the experts, and people were willing to wait their turn in line.  People in need of information or assistance were patient because they had to be. Those days are long gone!

Authors Note: Some retailers still cater to the “ask-the-expert” niche.  Though not the norm any longer, when done correctly, they can “own” customers who prefer face-to-face buying versus online or the corporate chain with hard-to-find associates.

The New Retail Buying Process

Smartphones and e-commerce have changed the game. It sucks, but it’s reality.  Many online retailers have the advantage of not charging sales tax, and once free shipping is added, online looks more appealing.  The associate is no longer necessary in the sales process. In fact, most customers have become comfortable doing things on their own.  Google has replaced the in-store expert, and self-checkout counters eliminate cashiers.

Customers now have immediate access to information and alternatives. If answers are not available RIGHT NOW, out comes the smartphone.  Once the appropriate information is found, advertisements to purchase the item are right there on the same screen.  People are buying from your competitor while standing in your store!  Yes, they are… the faster you accept it, the sooner you can fix it.

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Disrupt Buying Behavior

Disrupt is another word for interrupt.  Technology has disrupted the traditional sales process.  The only way to overcome such an obstacle is to eliminate it.  You may be asking yourself, how do I keep people off their phone? Great question!  The answer is found in the old Bonnie Raitt song “Give em’ something to talk about”.

As a retail manager or owner, the goal is to grab their attention and keep it, thus preventing them from reaching for the phone.  Appeal to their curiosity, entertain them, and you activate the distraction mechanism.  No man, woman, or child is immune to distraction.

When people are entertained, it sparks impulse decisions.  Think of a casino.  Why do so many people keep plugging large sums of money into a device designed to take it all from you?  Because it’s fun! What makes it fun?  Lights, sounds, bonus games, cheerful shouts from winners, and the list goes on.

Buyers need distractions! They need something entertaining to look at… POPs!

Point Of Purchase (POP) Displays

Generic POP’s simply don’t have the impact of large, custom, eye-catching signs.  Translation, relying on the manufacturer supplied graphics is not distracting the customer.  Every store similar to yours has the same POP. That certainly doesn’t capture my attention or inspire me to buy NOW.

When used correctly, POP’s can inspire an impulse buy.  For example, vague signage hinting at your deal can be placed at the front entrance, building a gentle and subliminal interest.  Then 2 more custom printed signs with directions to the special item or floor space.  Make the signs entertaining (someone using the product, quotes, or statistics about the product).  Place the final sign next to the product with an irresistible and visually compelling reason for a customer to buy NOW!

Right Now, It Means Everything

Retail spaces printing custom signs move inventory faster.  Waiting on “approved graphics from marketing” can take weeks, even months.  Bananas with brown spots aren’t going to wait for marketing to send you a poster with a sale price.  Additionally, that small space you have allotted for expiring fruits and vegetables isn’t entertaining or enticing.  Rather, it is avoided like the plague because it looks like food that is ready to rot.

As the old saying goes “Time is of the essence”.  Retail owners and managers are aware of time and often use the Loss Aversion Switch.  Imagine having the ability to decide which products need to be on special, and instantly printing a large sign to attract customers attention.  Imagine printing a graphic that can be seen from the other side of the store!

A 60% off clearance rack with an 8.5″ x 11″ sign printed on the copier isn’t attracting attention.  Sadly, it’s not seen by anyone other than the person standing right next to it.  A banner draped from the rafters is seen by everyone (and it’s simple to make… in less than 5 minutes!)

See this video for an illustration.


Buyers are not shopping the same way.  Retail stores must change the way they sell to accommodate the new buyer. Transactions are no longer simple, and many distractions are in the way.  To rise above the noise, retailers must captivate their customers and create buying moments.  The in-store message must be the only voice the customers can hear, similar to a parent who can pinpoint their child’s voice in a room full of other screaming children.

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About Ron Rodgers

Ron Rodgers is an Imaging Ace & Print Industry Hotshot with a passion for helping people turn print into profit! Aside from being the founder of ProPrinting Systems, he is a marketing machine, funtrepreneur (like entrepreneur but more fun), blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, musician, husband, father, sales expert, and all-around nice guy.

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