Shopping is not simply a matter of getting “stuff.” Whether you’re looking for a bank, a shirt, or a bottle of beer it has become more than a function. Shopping becomes entertainment depending upon the function, need, and desire for the object being shopped. For example, shopping for bras can sometimes be a pain in the butt if it is “needed” for a “utilitarian function” (a “work bra”), but it can become entertainment if the bra is “desired” for other cultural functions. People can also use shopping at second hand stores as a form of entertainment if there is a piece of clothing that is “desired” (a cheap pair of designer jeans), yet if one “needs” to shop for work attire at second hand shops because of a limited budget, it can cease to be entertainment and fall into the world of “errand.”
What this means for shopper marketing is that the best retail experiences, those with the highest degrees of loyalty and sales, are those that project a story and invite the shopper into the narrative. According to the Richard Ellis Group, 92% of retailers plan to increase store openings in 2011. More stores means more opportunity win or lose customers. In such a highly competitive, highly demanding landscape, there is little margin for error and a short time to market. Increasing sales revolves around more than getting people in the store, it involves getting them to think of the store as a destination and thinking of it as a “Place” rather than a “Space.”
In the past, language emphasized the skill and mastery involved in shopping. There were very real, practical results stemming from skill as a home manager. With time, the primal need to “hunt” has changed. Hunting and production are no longer about survival, but about the challenge and the social capital it brings. Lines between work and leisure are blurred. Language used in advertising and inside the retail space needs to speak to the romanticized view of the hunt as much as it does the material benefits of the products. Rather than speaking about functional benefits, the focus needs to reflect on the social capital gained by the shopper and the storyline of the shopper’s life (or desired, projected life).
Create a Stage:
The store is indicative of a theater. Even without the direct associations with a specific story line a retail space should still conform to some very basic principles. Namely, escape, fantasy, and inclusion. The total experience speaks to cultural and psychological triggers of enjoyment and participation. People create memories within places if storylines develop and form personal connections. The stronger the connection, the more likely they are to frequent the space and to buy. A good retail space needs to be create a shared identity, connecting the company and the shopper by developing clear imagery and displays that create the sense that there is a narrative behind the facade.