Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The best of both channels

“If I won the lottery I’d buy half the contents of this store!” exclaimed my husband as we toured the Lakeland shop in Exeter. My husband loves shopping for housewares and gadgets, from clothespins to grout cleaners to popcorn machines. (He’s not as enamoured of actually using the items, but that’s another story.)

But I was underwhelmed by the store. The Lakeland print catalogue, in my opinion, is one of the country’s best. The copy, the in situ photography, the page layouts, the recipes, all combine to make it nearly impossible not to place an order. The store, however, was just another store selling household items and kitchenware. They were good-quality, and in some instances unique, items, but the browsing experience itself was unexceptional.

“If you think the store is good,” I said to my husband, “wait’ll you see the catalogue.” I left him a copy on his chest of drawers before heading to work the next morning. That night he declared, “If I won the lottery I’d buy one of everything in this catalogue!” Which I take as corroboration that the catalogue is twice as effective a sales vehicle as the store.

Lakeland could easily take advantage of the strengths of its catalogue in its stores (and to be fair, perhaps it does in its larger outlets). A few suggestions, if I may be so bold

* Repurpose the product copy. Sure, most shoppers don’t go to a store to read. But product copy is one of the Lakeland catalogue’s strengths. So why not include shelf tags with one or two sentences explaining the virtues of particular products? You wouldn’t want to feature these for all items, of course; you’d probably limit them to products that have unique selling features.

In the catalogue, for instance, the copy for the OXO Good Grips Silicone Pastry Brush reads “At first glance, it may look just like any other pastry brush. But look closer, and between the heat-resistant silicone bristles hides a row of tiny holes which retain liquid when you dip, so no more messy drips.” Even edited down a bit, this description would make it clear why you should spend a bit more for this particular brush.

And just as hero photos and stopper pages help to slow down catalogue readers, making sure they take the time to peruse rather than scan, a smattering of shelf tags throughout the store will encourage shoppers to pause, linger, and maybe purchase an item they hadn’t known they’d needed.

* Give away recipe cards. The catalogues generally include a half-dozen or so recipes (the Sticky Ginger Cake recipe and photo on page 35 of the Autumn 09 Kitchen Ideas edition are guaranteed to get your salivary glands going). I’d print up recipe cards, complete with the Lakeland logo, URL, and phone number, and place them near the pertinent products (the Sticky Ginger Cake recipe cards, for example, would sit near the Fluted Cake Rings). People who cook—and who buy cookware—hang on to recipes for ages. What better way to keep your brand in front of them?

* Get cooking. We all know how difficult it is to walk past a bakery that has just unveiled a fresh batch of scones or a butcher’s that is placing hot-from-the-oven meat pies into its case. When it comes to taking advantage of the olfactory senses, bricks-and-mortar beats print easily. If Lakeland were to periodically bake one of its bread mixes in one of its bread machines, foot traffic would soar, and impulse buys would most likely follow suit.

* Cross-sell on the shelves. Websites do a great job of increasing order values by recommending related items on product pages. Stores can do the same. While you most likely want to group like products with like, you can also include a smattering of related items on the shelf display. For instance, on the shelves devoted to stock pots and sauce pans, I’d also feature a few soup mixes, in addition to displaying them in the area of the store dedicated to edibles.

None of these ideas are that difficult or costly to implement. But they help make the in-store experience at least as involving as that of reading the catalogue. When your catalogue is as great as Lakeland’s, you’d be foolish not to adapt its features to all of your other channels.

In the meantime, I've got to hide the Lakeland catalogue where my husband can't find it. Given that he doesn't even play the lottery, I envision our bank account taking a big hit if I don't remove the catalogue forthwith.--SC

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sherry,

    Nice article - I'm always keen to read ideas for how customer channels can be optimised to improve service and experience. I like the intent behind the suggestions - to focus on the customer experience to drive interest and sales.

    So much investment goes into implicit selling in stores now, from ambient atmospheres to selecting the right music and scent to tempt our senses.

    I like interactivity in stores - I know that not everyone is interested but it makes a difference if you think there is a human side to the selling. Having a counter where fresh bread is baked, next to relevant products for sale, should add value to some customers.

    The challenge though for any store manager is space optimisation. I guess decisions like this need to be made centrally and then the store managers need to be involved to ensure they are passionate about the changes. There's nothing worse in my opinion than store staff who don't feel the love!