Six Steps to Overcoming Shoppers' Moderation Mindset

Before today's shopper completes a purchase, she takes "the cautious pause," according to retailing expert Wendy Liebmann: "With the product in her hand, or in her online shopping cart, she stops and counts to 10 and asks 'Is the product smart? Is it a value? Do I absolutely need it?'"

This cautious, value-conscious shopper is a fact of retailing life today, and she presents a real challenge to retailers' traditional ways of doing business. Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, notes that according to WSL's February 2012 "How America Shops" bi-annual survey, "80% of women say the recession will last three years or more – and all income groups agree on this. This shopper has accepted the new reality, a moderation mindset."

This means retailers "can't push shoppers anywhere they don't want to go, regardless of how fabulous the technology is," says Liebmann, who delivered the keynote address, "Retail Next: Shaping the Shopper Journey" at the RIS Retail Technology Conference last week in Orlando, FL.

Liebmann's lively presentation provided six ways retailers can remain relevant parts of today's shopping processes:

1. Create a different, holistic relationship with shoppers, any way, anywhere and anyhow they want it: Liebmann gave the example of Tesco's Homeplus virtual store in Seoul, South Korea. Digital signage on subway platforms looks uncannily like grocery store shelves, and it includes QR codes that allow consumers to order the items they want using their smartphones. Customers' grocery orders are delivered as they travel home on the subway. "It's about following the shopper wherever she is," says Liebmann. "It's not about 'either/or' any more, it's about using every touchpoint."

2. Break the rules: Retailers need to grab shoppers' attention. The Giant Eagle Market District in Pittsburgh, PA does so by growing some of its produce right in the store. "Not only does this 'break the rules,' it shows people that the produce is fresh every day," says Liebmann.

3. Dazzle them to stay longer and spend more: Eataly, a 50,000-square-foot retail complex in New York City, combines "everything Italian – fresh produce, prosciutto, fish, meat, gelato and coffee bars, wines, cooking classes, an Italian travel service and an Italian bank," says Liebmann. "It's a holistic, extraordinary experience, using old-world retailing writ large."

4. Make the store her/his/"my" store: Localization is about more than product assortment, it's about the entire experience. "Starbucks is moving away from its iconic 'cookie-cutter' stores," says Liebmann. "For example, in Paris, people want to see and be seen as they have their coffee. And Lululemon Athletica creates communities in its stores with old-fashioned tools like bulletin boards as well as new social media."

5. Innovate often and always: Innovation doesn't have to be high-tech. Nube Green in Seattle placed old doors on ceiling tracks, allowing them to "move the walls and create new spaces for their products depending on the season," says Liebmann.

6. Build an emotional connection with a shopper who is being both pragmatic and cautious: "Technology by itself gives us nothing; it's what it can do for us in building relationships," says Liebmann. "We're not in the real estate business or the technology business; we're in the engagement business."

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