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  • The Zoom Effect: How ‘Medium Shots’ Lead Customers Through The Store


    You’ve driven all morning to reach the mountain peak. You get out of the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy the stunning view. After a few minutes, you turn back to the car, get in, and start the long drive back down.

    If that’s all there is, it hardly seems worth the trip.
    The panorama view is great, but you want to see more. It’s much more enjoyable to find a hiking trail. A scenic picnic spot. A hidden lake. You want to stay longer to explore.

    Customers also want more than just the panorama view. Sometimes a store looks good at first glance, but doesn’t draw shoppers inside. Customers walk in, glance around and bounce right back out again.

    So, how do you keep people from bouncing out the door?

    Customers need something to draw them inside
    That’s where medium shots come in.

    Medium shots are used to pull the shopper deeper into the store after the panorama shot attracts their attention. The panorama shot is the wide angle view. It’s the mountaintop vista that attracts the shopper.

    The panorama shot also helps the customer understand how the products are organized. In the panorama approach, merchandise is grouped into three main stories, or sections. The customer can easily understand these three stories without getting overwhelmed. Once the shopper chooses one of these three stories, she’s ready for a closer view.

    That’s where medium shots come in.

    What are medium shots?
    Medium shots focus on a scene within the overall landscape.  In the mountain scene, this would be a grove of trees, a shrub, or a field of flowers.

    In a store, the medium shot focuses on one of your three main stories. The goal is to set up your medium shot to guide and lead your customer through the store.

    Medium shots draw the customer inside
    They invite her to spend more time in the store.
    To explore.
    To browse.

    Let’s zoom in a little to take a closer look at how medium shots guide your shoppers.

    How do you lead customers through the store?
    Medium shots use three concepts to invite shoppers to explore.

    1) Frames
    2) Categories
    3) Pathways

    Each of these concepts is a method to lead the customer deeper into the store. In this article we’re going to examine the first method; frames. Categories and pathways will be discussed in the following articles.

    Let’s look at the concept of using frames in your medium shots.

    1) Frames – Composing the scene
    In photography, framing is a method of focusing attention on the subject. Just like a photographer, you want to focus attention on certain areas of the store. You are composing the scene that you want your customer to see.

    Framing the medium shot includes these three elements:

    A) Foreground
    B) Middle ground
    C) Background

    As the shopper moves through the department, the foreground leads the shopper to the middle ground and through to the background. This organization provides a framework to help the customer find what she needs. When the department is planned in this way, the shopper is more likely to look around the store. The layout frames the merchandise

    Let’s look at foreground in more detail.

    A) Foreground
    The foreground in a store is arranged to draw attention.  Key displays invite the shopper to slow down and start to browse.

    The foreground is made up of the fixtures at the front of the department, near the aisle. These fixtures welcome the customer to the department, and frame the view of the rest of the department.

    The front fixtures may be lower than fixtures in the centre of the department, so the viewer can see the merchandise behind them. Tables are often used in this location.


    A: Foreground tables
    B: Middle ground fixtures
    C: Background

    The foreground may be used for displays , temporary merchandising units, or endcaps of aisles.

    The merchandise and displays in the foreground tend to change often. These areas are used for new or featured merchandise, or seasonal items.

    The foreground leads the customer to the middle ground.

    B) Middle ground
    The middle ground includes the bulk of the floor fixtures. These might be gondolas, tables, tiered tables, shelving units, or apparel racks.

    Typically these fixtures will be higher than the fixtures in the front of the store. Often these middle ground fixtures will be a consistent height, particularly if they are all gondolas or shelving units. In an apparel or giftware shop, there may be more variance in the styles and heights in the middle ground fixtures.

    The middle ground holds the general stock for the store. The merchandise in the middle ground doesn’t change as often as the foreground. Staple items are carried in this area. Often middle ground fixtures are labeled to identify the types of products found there. For example, grocery or hardware stores have signs to indicate the products found in each aisle.

    C) Background
    The background is usually the back wall of the department or section. The background needs to draw shoppers towards it. The back wall, or part of it needs to be visible from the front of the department. The middle ground fixtures should frame, not obscure, the wall.

    In boutiques, the back wall is mostly visible. It features a strong theme and key display. The wall presents seasonal, high margin merchandise, not sale items. The displays and merchandise presentation are highlighted with spot lights. One colour that was featured in the foreground is often sprinkled through the middle ground, and again highlighted on this back wall. This provides a trail of breadcrumbs for the shopper to follow through the store.

    In a large general merchandise store, the back wall is often not as visible. It is still important to be able to see part of the wall from the front of the department. This can be a view down a wide centre aisle. Or it can be a large department sign mounted on the back wall above the level of the fixtures.


    A: Foreground endcaps
    B: Middle ground aisles
    C: Background with department sign

    Using either words or graphics, the sign indicates what shoppers will find in that section, drawing them through the store. This helps the customer get oriented before entering the department. Often in this type of shop, highly desirable basic items are at the back of the store. This encourages shoppers to walk to the back.

    These three areas; the foreground, middle ground and background, provide a frame for the department. Framing focuses the shoppers attention on the displays in the foreground. Then the shopper is led through the middle ground to the background.

    Just like the trip up the mountain, now that your shoppers are in the store, you want them to stay and enjoy the scenery. Framing keeps your customers from bouncing back out the door, and gets them to browse instead.

    But framing is just one of the ways you can use medium shots to lead your customer through the store.

    Next step
    Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at how categories and pathways are used in medium shots. You’ll learn how these techniques work to get your shoppers to explore the store. 

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    How to Use the Panorama Approach to Organize Your Store

    Panoramic photo from the top of Mt. Kobau

    One of my most memorable experiences was when I first stood on top of Mt. Kobau, BC. The landscape spread out below, in a wide panorama from one horizon to the other.  Beyond the trees, and the sage covered hills, the mountain peaks stretched as far as I could see. At sunset, the view was simply stunning. I had to stop to take in the breathtaking vista.

    The customer’s first view of your store has much in common with this mountain top view. When the customer sees your store, the view is a panorama, not a detail view. She gets an overall impression of the store. If this impression attracts and connects with her, she’ll stop to take it in.

    In that moment, the customer gets oriented to the store. There are several questions she has to answer for herself:

    What is the store about?
    Do I like it?
    Do I want to go inside to find out more?
    Where do I go first?

    The way the store is organized helps the customer answer these questions.

    The panorama approach

    The panorama approach organizes the store to make it easy for the customer to understand at a glance. It focuses on the big picture because that’s what shoppers see first. When a store is organized with this approach, the shopper can easily figure out what the store is about, and decide to venture inside. She’ll understand the layout in a glance, so she’ll know where to go.

    So, how do you use the panorama approach in your store?

    Using the panorama approach

    To learn how to apply this approach to your store, there are three steps:
    1) Choose 3 stories to tell
    2) Group merchandise by story
    3) Create a scene on each wall

    Let’s look at each of these steps in detail.

    1) Choose 3 stories to tell

    The first step of the panorama approach is to simplify your merchandise selection. We all get overwhelmed by clutter. When the customer is presented with a huge selection of options, it all starts to look like clutter. By choosing three main stories the product selection, we get rid of the clutter. The product selection becomes more streamlined and organized.

    What is a story?
    A story is a theme, or a message, that you want to convey to the customer. It is a method of grouping merchandise together. Different types of stores are going to have different types of stories.

    A store that is fashion oriented like clothing or home décor tend to have colour or style stories. For example, a colour story could be black and white. A style story for home décor could be French Provincial. Depending on the store, these stories might change with every season.

    A store that sells a wide variety of products such as pet supplies or hardware would have very basic stories. A pet store’s main stories might be food and nutrition, pet care at home, and pet care on the go (traveling, in the car, at the park). A hardware store could have home and garden, building and renovations, and seasonal. These main stories would not change, even though some of the products within each story change from season to season.

    The customer can understand three visual stories quickly and easily. In a glance she can decide if one or more of the stories attracts her enough to step inside.

    Now let’s look at how stories are used in the store.

    2) Group merchandise by story
    Once you’ve decided on your three stories, it’s time to look at your merchandise layout. The products in each story need to be grouped together. Each story needs to be allocated to one section of the store.

    Three examples of story layouts are:
    Balanced: One story on the left of the store, another on the right, with the third at the back.
    Sequential: One story at the front, one in the centre, one at the back.
    Grocery style: One story on the floor (free-standing or on tables),  one on shelves in aisles, one on the walls. Think of the way supermarkets are laid out: produce on tables/bins, canned/processed foods in the aisles, basics (meat, dairy, bread) around the perimeter.

    The way you layout your product stories will depend on the shape of your store, as well as the type of product you are selling. Some products are best displayed on tables, shelves or walls. You’ll need to decide which layout suits your situation best.

    The panorama approach works because you have one section of the store for each story. And that all the merchandise for that story is placed in that section. It is easy for the customer to know where to look for the products she wants.

    All the products are now grouped with their story into one section of the store. Let’s look at how to attract shoppers to that section.

    3) Create a scene on each wall
    The walls of your store are powerful attraction tools. They play an important role in the panorama approach. As customers pause at the front of your store, they quickly scan the store in a glance. As they look across the store at eye level, they will see the merchandise presented on the walls.

    You could think of the walls as the main scenes of each of your stories. For example, when they see the back wall of the store, the shoppers should immediately understand the story for that section of the store.

    The most prominent walls that shoppers will notice are the ones to the immediate right and left of the entrance, as well as the back wall. If your entrance is not located in the centre of the front of your store, you’ll have to determine which walls are most prominent. Do this by standing at the entrance and looking into the store. Take note of which walls you notice the most.

    Focus your merchandise presentation on these walls. For the panorama approach, we are not paying attention to individual displays. Consider the wall as a whole. Plan a balanced arrangement of coordinating merchandise. At this point, you just want to make sure that the arrangement of fixtures and merchandise on the wall is organized, balanced and neat.

    It’s also important to consider what merchandise to place on the walls. It’s not the place for clearance merchandise, or mismatched odds and ends. These feature walls are great for new merchandise and items that will catch the customer’s eye. They will help you to use the feature walls to draw shoppers deeper in the store.

    So, you know how to use the panorama approach in your store. But what if you have too many products that don’t fit into your three stories?

    When products don’t fit into 3 stories
    If you’ve just started using the panorama approach, you might end up with some hard-to-merchandise white elephant items. This is a common challenge. You’ll need to fit them into one of the stories that seems to work the best. And work hard to sell this merchandise as soon as possible. It might take some time to eliminate those white elephants.

    Once you do, you’ll find it gets even easier to use the panorama approach. Once the three stories have been developed it’s going to be easier to avoid them in future. Buying and merchandising will get easier because you’ll know your three stories in advance.

    Give your customers the mountain top view
    Use the panorama approach to get shoppers to pause, take in the view and be drawn into the store.

    You know what to do:
    1) Choose 3 stories to tell
    2) Group merchandise by story
    3) Create a scene on each wall

    Next Step
    In next week’s article we’ll start to look closer at merchandising with ‘medium shots’.
    Missed the first article in the series? Click here to read about The Zoom Effect.

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    How to Use The Zoom Effect To Avoid Confusing Customers

    Cartoon of a monarch butterfly

    Imagine a photograph of a Monarch butterfly
    When you see the photograph you can immediately recognize it from its black-orange-white wing pattern. If you zoom in with camera and photograph a portion of the wing, you still might recognize the pattern of shapes and colours. But if you look at the wing in a microscope on low power, you start to see the scales on the wing. And on an even higher magnification, you see even more detail.

    Introducing the zoom effect
    When you look at the butterfly at such a high level of detail, you can no longer see an image of a butterfly. This is the zoom effect. If you saw this detail first, you would have no idea what you were looking at.

    The zoom effect also happens in stores
    Often stores have merchandise artfully arranged on tables, shelves and display areas.  It’s as if the store displays are a bunch of different photographs taken through a microscope. Each photograph is very beautiful.

    What’s wrong with the zoom effect?
    The zoom effect is just what you get as you move closer and closer to an object.

    The problem is that when we don’t understand the zoom effect, customers get confused.  A collection of beautiful displays won’t be effective, if the customer doesn’t understand how the store is organized.  An organized shelf won’t look attractive if it doesn’t seem  balanced with the shelves around it.

    When the details look good, but the overall layout of the store is confusing, it’s hard for customers to understand how each display relates to another. What they’re missing is the big picture.

    Shoppers won’t show their confusion by stumbling out of the store. But they’ll buy less then they would in a store that organizes the merchandise in a way that is easy to understand.

    How do you use the zoom effect to organize the store?
    Start backwards.

    Don’t start with the displays. Or organizing a shelf. Start with the big picture, and then zoom in. Just like you would with a camera.

    There are three ‘shots’ you need for the zoom effect:
    1) Panorama shot
    2) Medium shot
    3) Close-up

    1) Panorama shot
    The panorama shot is the view of the whole store. This is what customers see when approaching the store, or coming in the door. In a glance, customers take in the entire picture. The brain very quickly maps out the organization of the store.

    It’s important that this panorama view is simple and easy for the customer to take in that glance. If it’s too confusing, the customer gets overwhelmed.

    Organize the merchandise into three distinct stories. While your merchandise might change every season, each of the three stories will have it’s own section of the store. These sections will rarely change.

    For fashion related goods such as; clothing, home décor, gifts and tableware; each story would be a colour, pattern or style theme. A clothing store might have: casual/weekend wear, basics, urban/career wear.

    For a hardware store the three stories might be: yard and garden, interiors, lumber.

    A computer store might have: computers and hardware, software and accessories, cameras and camera gear.

    The three stories will help customers quickly get oriented to the store layout to find what they want. That brings us to the next level of detail.

    2) Medium shot
    The medium shot is where the customer sees a department or section of the store. Just like a photograph, the medium shot in the store has a foreground, middle ground and background.

    The foreground is made up of the fixtures at the front of the department, near the main aisle. These fixtures welcome the customer to the department, and frame the view of the rest of the department.

    The front fixtures may be lower than fixtures in the centre of the department, so the viewer can see the merchandise behind them. Tables are often used in this location.

    Middle ground
    The middle ground is usually the biggest area on the floor. This is everything between the foreground and background. It will consist of most of your floor fixtures. In this area there may be gondolas arranged in rows. In a clothing store it could be 4-way racks, tables and other merchandise fixtures. When organizing these fixtures, it is important that they are grouped to provide a view to the back wall. The middle ground fixture provide a frame for the background.

    Within the middle ground, merchandise is organized in categories, or groups, of similar merchandise. It is important to group merchandise together in a way that is logical and based on the way your customers shop. Organize aisles and fixtures so that items that will be used together are placed in close proximity to each other. This makes it easy for customers to find everything they need in one area.

    A yard and garden department in a hardware store might have categories such as:
    Gardening: seeds, pots, hand tools, stakes
    General Yard Tools: hoses, rakes, large garden tools
    Lawn Maintenance: seed, fertilizers, mowers

    Once all your categories are organized in the middle ground, let’s look at the background.

    The background is the back wall of the department. At least part of the background should be visible at the end of a main aisle, or above the middle ground fixtures. The background provides a destination.

    Often a back wall features a key display and spotlighting to draw customers in through the store. It could also present department signs or lifestyle graphics that demonstrate products being used. Usually customers will see the back wall of a department from a distance, so large signs, graphics or some displays can be placed above eye level. These elements are used to inform the customer about what they’ll find in that department.

    Now that we know how to organize the middle ground, let’s look at the close-up shot.

    3) Close-up
    The close-up is where you organize the details. The close-up deals with organizing merchandise on a rack, shelf, table-top or display area.

    This is where you focus on display techniques that encourage shoppers to touch and browse merchandise. The close-up shots are about creating artistic and appealing presentations. Shelves will present the variety of styles and assortments of colour.

    In key displays, you will also cross-merchandise products from different categories, to demonstrate how they are used together.

    Pulling it all together
    All three shots are needed to tell a good visual story. If you focus on beautiful displays, but don’t consider the overall layout and organization of the store, sales may suffer. Create a strong organizational structure with panorama and medium shots to make your close-ups shine

    1) Panorama shot
    The panorama shots give the wide angle view to help customers understand the layout of the store.

    2) Medium shot
    The medium shots organize categories in a way that customer find easy to understand. Merchandising complimentary categories together helps boost sales.

    3) Close-up shot
    The close-up shots are where you create appealing and artistic displays to encourage shoppers to pick up the merchandise.

    Just like photographs of a butterfly, the panorama shot helps us to understand the beauty of the close-up.

    Next Step
    Over the coming weeks we will look at each of these shots in more detail. Next week’s article will focus on the panorama shot. Look forward to finding out more about how to organize the three main stories for your store.

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    The Self-Fulfilling Sales Prophecy


    Wouldn’t if be nice to have a crystal ball to tell what products will sell?
    It can be hard to predict why one product will be a sales success, and another will languish on the shelves.
    There may be all kinds of reasons.
    It can be timing.
    It can be product quality.
    It can be the placement in the store.
    It can be a combination of many different factors.
    When you put a new product on the floor, it’s hard to know whether it’ll be a dud.
    Or a superstar.

    What can you do when you don’t know which product is going to be popular, and which one will gather dust? You might not have a crystal ball, but you can use the self-fulfilling prophecy of sales to give your products the best chance of success.

    What is the self-fulfilling prophecy of sales?
    The self-fulfilling prophecy is at work when we buy an item for our store because we love it and we’re absolutely positive it’s going to sell.
    The new product arrives in the store and makes you swoon.
    You set one aside and buy it for yourself.

    You’re so excited about this new product, you immediately put it on display at the front of the store. When shoppers come in the door, you mention this new item. You tell them you bought it yourself and why you’ve found it to be a great product.

    You’re so sure this is going to be a popular item, you order more in all the colours available. With this large volume of merchandise, you make a powerful display of the assortment.

    You tell the rest of the sales team what a great product this is. You make sure the team knows all there is to know about how to use this item. You get them all to try it out.

    Sure enough, this product sells like gangbusters.
    You just knew it was going to be a hit!
    Chances are the product may not be any more remarkable than many of the other products you have to offer.
    But, what makes it sell is Attitude.

    Attitude is the self-fulfilling prophecy
    When we love a product, it sells because our attitude changes our actions.
    Our attitude creates the self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Our attitude and enthusiasm are infectious.
    It influences our interactions with customers.

    By taking a closer look at how the choices we make when we love a product, we can consciously choose to have a positive influence on the sales of all of our products. Not just the ones we personally prefer.

    So, what do we do when we love a product?
    We do four things:
    1) Promote more
    2) Buy more
    3) Learn more
    4) Share more

    1) Promote more
    When we love a product, we tend to feature it in a prominent location. We put the product in the window, or near the front door. We put it on display. We make sure that everyone who walks in the store is going to see it.

    2) Buy more
    When we are deciding what products to buy or re-order, we buy more of the ones we really like. We already believe we’ll sell a lot of that item, so we order in quantity. Massing a large quantity of one product is an effective technique to create eye catching displays.

    3) Learn more
    We typically learn more about a product that we really like. We try it out. We buy it for ourselves. We research the background. We examine it in detail. We tend to share this information with other coworkers, and with customers. The more educated we are about a product, the more educated the customer is likely to be about that product. And they tend to buy more. So, pass on your knowledge.

    4) Share more
    When we’re enthusiastic about a product, we offer it to more customers. And customers catch our enthusiasm. Customers more likely to buy when they’re excited about the product. And the more shoppers we offer a product to, the more sales we’ll make.

    Learn to use the self-fulfilling prophecy in your store

    - Act as if you love every product.
    - Rotate displays regularly. Feature all products in a key display at some point.
    - Use sales records to see what products sold well in the past. Buy similar items in volume to create dramatic displays.
    - Learn about and try all your products. Make sure your team is made up of product experts in the items you sell.
    - Inform all customers about new items.

    What’s not selling?
    Take a look around your store.
    Find the products that are not selling as well as others.
    Make a prophecy about their future stardom, then take action to make it come true.
    Start treating these languishing duds like superstars.

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    Community Events: How To Avoid The ‘Screwdriver Syndrome’

    Community events are disappointing
    They seem to promise more than they deliver.
    You put in long hours.
    You spend money on extra staff.
    You buy balloons.
    There’s tents. Face painting. Music. Crowds.
    But no sales.

    All that work for nothing, it seems.
    At the end of it all, you swear you’ll never do another community event.
    Don’t give up too soon.

    Community events can be great business builders!
    To be successful, you have to redefine the goal of your event.
    If you’re trying to hammer a nail with a screwdriver, you won’t be successful.
    But, if you use that screwdriver for what it was intended for, it works like a dream.
    Community events aren’t the right tool for sales.
    Except perhaps for restaurants. And souvenir shops.

    Community events are relationship tools
    Not sales tools.
    They’re opportunities to show you’re a part of the community.
    And most importantly, they’re a chance meet new people.
    People who might not otherwise have discovered your store.
    The goal of the event is to get to know each other.
    So, how do you do that?

    There are four steps to making a community event successful.
    1) Invite guests
    2) Attract guests inside
    3) Get to know your visitors
    4) Give them a reason to return

    1) Invite your own guests
    Don’t rely or the event marketing to attract the customers for you. The event organizers will be promoting the event using mass media, to attract a wide variety of people. You can build on this promotion by marketing specifically to your target customers.

    Use your email and mailing lists, social media, blog and website to promote to your customers. Tell them what special offers they’ll get at this event. Also promote the event through signs and handouts in-store. Send a news release to local media, highlighting what will be offered in your store.

    Now you’ve let people know about your participation in the event.
    What about the big day?

    2) Attract guests inside
    On the day of the event, your goal is to get visitors into your store. You want them to come in, look around, meet your team and get a taste of what you have to offer. What can you do to attract people inside? You need to contribute to the theme of the event, and find a way to connect it to your business.

    Perhaps you can offer free face painting, temporary tattoos, or stickers with selections of designs relating to your business. For an ec0-friendly business, this could be images of nature. For a pet store, the designs could be animals.

    Consider doing a special order of logo merchandise that your customer would value. It could be an inexpensive item that you give away, or a higher priced item that can be sold. Make it an item that has value to the customer, and reflects your business.

    Another option is hosting a live demonstration or activity in the store. You could hire a local musician to play in the store. An art gallery or art supply store could have an artist at work. A retail paint company could give mini-workshops or demos of how to get a great paint finish, or how to paint furniture. A clothing store could host a mini-fashion show, or trunk show. A book store could have readings throughout the day.

    You have a few ideas to use to attract customers. On to the next step.

    3) Get to know your visitors
    Introduce yourself to guests when they come inside. Ask them about themselves. Find out if they’ve visited your store before. Do they live nearby? What brought them down to the event?

    Once you’ve learned more about them, you can let them know about what they’ll find in the store that day. The key to this step is to be friendly and informative, without being pushy. Remember — all you’re doing is getting to know each other. To make this successful, do more listening than talking.

    The more you know your visitors and customers, the more you’ll know about how you can help them.
    Once you’ve gotten acquainted with your guests, what next?

    4) Give them a reason to return
    To make the most of an event, you need to give your visitors a reason to return. Most people are unlikely to make a purchase the first time they visit a new store. To turn your visitors into buyers, you need to give them a compelling reason to come back.

    Invite your guests to come back to another event. Make this event a short educational workshop, seminar or class. It should be a learning opportunity, a topic that solves a problem for your customers.

    The event should be scheduled for the near future, when the shoppers’ experience in your store is fresh in their minds. Inviting shoppers to an event also gives you an opportunity follow up. Ask them if they’d like to receive more information about this an other events and workshops by email. Get them to sign up for your email list. Give clear information about what will be in the emails, and how often they’ll be received. Offer a bonus to anyone who signs up. Perhaps everyone on the email list receives a pass to a VIP event, a free class, or a special report.

    Make sure bonuses and incentives to return are valuable to the customer. Coupons and discounts are overused. Instead of discounts, think of creative ways to add service to your offerings. Service can be information, education, convenience, pampering, special attention. The right service helps your customers solve a problem.

    To get visitors to return, offer them a compelling reason to visit again.

    To have successful community events, you need to be sure you’re using the right tool for the job.
    A screwdriver is ineffective to hammer a nail, but it works great for the job it’s intended for.

    Community events are often poor sales tools.
    But with a little planning, they’re great relationship tools.

    To make sure you’re using this relationship tool effectively:

    1) Invite your own guests
    2) Attract guests inside
    3) Get to know your visitors
    4) Give them a reason to return

    Get your store involved in your next local community event. Build relationships with new visitors!

    Next Step
    Need to know what makes a great education event? Click here =>

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    The Secret To Running ‘Automatic’ Store Events

    Sleepy cartoon woman pouring coffee

    Some people are morning people
    I’m not one of them. When I get up, I stagger around with a foggy brain at first.
    Until my head clears, I can’t do anything that requires me to think.

    So, I put my morning routine on automatic.
    I can make coffee and get my day started, when I’m barely awake.
    I can do this without thinking because I have a system.

    A system can put your events on automatic too
    Events have the potential to be your best marketing tool.
    Events can bring in new customers, and keep shoppers coming back.
    But, events can be a lot of work.
    To reduce the workload, events need to be on ‘automatic’ setting.

    What stops you from holding store events?
    What stops most people is the planning.
    It seems like too much work to hold an event.
    It’s overwhelming.
    There’s too much to think about.

    It’s hard to even come up with a good idea for an event.
    Once you’ve done one event, you have to come up with another idea.
    And another plan. Just thinking about all the planning discourages people from getting started.

    How can you get past that barrier?

    The secret is to have a system
    That system is an annual calendar of store events.
    You sit down with a calendar, and plan all your events for the year.
    The best way to do this is to get out of the store.

    Go to a cafe, order your favourite beverage, and start thinking.
    By doing your thinking now, you don’t have to think as much about each event later.
    You can get all your thinking out of the way in a couple of hours.
    For the rest of the year, you can just follow the plan.

    The system puts your events on automatic, so you can focus on other things.

    What does your automatic calendar system need?
    To create an annual calendar of events, your plan needs three factors:

    1) Simplicity
    2) Repetition
    3) Variety

    1) Simplicity
    The events that go in your calendar need to be simple, or they won’t get done. To be automatic, the events need to be easy to produce.

    Don’t get carried away with elaborate catering, a DJ, a huge guest list, door prizes, gift bags and expensive marketing. One big event per year might be okay, but only if it builds relationships with new customers, or results in big sales.
    Otherwise, it’s just a big effort and big expense.

    Instead of going big, think small.
    Small and simple.
    Fill the calendar with education events that solve problems for customers.
    Then you don’t need lots of entertainment and free giveaways.
    The value is the information.

    A simple event recipe:
    Valuable information
    A small and personal guest list.
    Add a few light snacks, and sparkling water. Or tea and coffee.

    Voila! A simple event that will build your customer base.
    Especially when it’s paired with the next factor.

    2) Repetition
    Once you’ve had a successful event, repeat it. Most people try to come up with something new. If something works, keep doing it until it stops working.

    To encourage customers to return regularly to your store, events need to be held frequently. Holding only a couple of events per year will not build your customer base as effectively as holding events more often.

    There are three methods you can use to repeat your events:

    Method 1)
    Schedule the same event, on the same topic, multiple times. Perhaps on an annual, quarterly or monthly basis. If the event is only scheduled annually, you need to fill the calendar schedule other events as well.

    Method 2)
    If you had an education event on one topic that was successful, use that format for other related topics. Present a series of topics on a weekly or monthly basis.

    Method 3)
    Make the events into classes or workshops. Get participants to sign up for a class that runs for several weeks. Or a workshop that is completed in a day, or over a weekend.

    3) Variety
    An effective events calendar will have a variety of different types of events. There are three main types of events to choose from:

    Sales and promotional events
    Sales and promotional events are easy to overdo. Keep these events to once or twice a year. Put some effort into making this a special event. Put it on your annual calendar, and promote it well in advance. Build it up, so your customers look forward to it each year.

    Community events
    Neighbourhood events that usually happen on an annual basis. Choose one or two that are the best fit for your store. Use these events to meet new people and promote your education events.

    Education events
    The education events are your bread and butter. Fill the calendar with these events.

    Consider choosing topics that relate to the seasons or annual activities. For example, if you sell computers or office supplies, host tax seminars during tax season. Or for a dress shop, offer a talk in the spring on How To Save Money In Wedding Season: 5 Great Ways To Wear One Dress.

    An annual calendar is the secret to creating an automatic system of events.

    It’s like having a system in place for making coffee in the morning. Setting out the coffee and pot the night before makes it easy to brew that java with your eyes closed.

    Once you have the calendar in place for events, you can run them without getting bogged down in the planning. To put your events on automatic, your calendar needs:

    1) Simplicity
    2) Repetition
    3) Variety

    With those three factors, events will become so effortless, you could do it in your sleep!

    Next Step
    Want to find out more about education events? Click here to read Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business

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    Education Events: How To Find The ‘Hidden Treasure’ In Your Business

    It was a six year old boy’s dream come true
    A birthday treasure hunt. The young treasure hunters discovered a battered map in a bottle on the rocky ocean beach. Following the clues to the ‘X’ on the map, the boys found the right spot and started to dig. It didn’t take them long to unearth the buried chest. Imagine the boys’ delight on finding a pirate flag and handfuls of jewels.

    Real treasure!

    Customer relationships are the treasure in your business
    Relationships with loyal customers that come back again and again. These repeat customers are the ones that make your business thrive. One of the best ways to get customers to return is with regular events.
    But not all events attract the right customers.
    And keep them coming back for more.

    What type of event attracts repeat customers?
    Not just any customers.
    Customers that want more than just a product.
    Customers that want to know how to solve a problem.
    Customers that are hungry for information.

    The most effective are education events.
    These events offer that information.
    They solve problems for the customer.

    That brings us to the next question.

    How do you create an education event?
    You need to find a map that will lead you to the repeat customer treasure.
    Sometimes we search all over to find the map.
    We don’t realize the map is right in front of us.
    The landmarks on the map are the customers’ problems.
    The customer problems will lead you to the treasure.

    ‘X’ marks the spot
    Your customers’ biggest problem is the ‘X’.
    That’s the first problem to tackle with an educational event.
    Once you’ve identified the problem, you dig deeper to get more information.
    That’s where you’ll find the treasure.

    But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

    How do you find the X?
    Your job is to find a problem your customers want to solve. And create an educational event that provides a solution to their problem.

    It isn’t as hard as it sounds.
    As I said before, you start with problems.

    1) Discover the customer problems
    2) Pick one problem to solve
    3) Provide the solution

    1) Discover the customer problems
    Talk to your customers in the store. Listen to their questions. What do you find yourself explaining to your customers most often?

    Ask questions. Ask for honest feedback. Find out what bugs your customers about any of your products. What bugs them about shopping? What would make it easier for them to buy?

    For example, let’s imagine you sell women’s dresses. What makes it hard to buy a dress? Let’s make a list of some problems customers might have.

    Problems with fit:

    • Dresses are too long, or too short, in the waist
    • Hem is too low, or too high
    • A dress fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top

    Problems with selection:

    • Can’t find a suitable colour for skin tone
    • Can’t find a dress for figure type

    Other problems

    • Need a dress for a formal occasion, that can also be worn for casual events
    • Need a dress that can be part of a work wardrobe

    These are just some of the problems that customers could have when shopping for dresses. If you have a wide variety of products, you may come up with many more potential problems that customers encounter. At this point, start with a list of 10 of the most common problems you hear from your customers. In the next step, you’ll reduce the list even further.

    2) Pick one problem to solve
    Yes. Just one.

    You can come back to the rest of the list later. For now, you need to focus on just one problem. If you try to solve too many problems at once, you get overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start. The project seems too big to handle. When you choose just one problem, you start to see how to tackle that one issue.

    Multiple problems lead to unfocused messages. Unfocused messages alienate customers. When you focus on just one problem, you attract all the customers that struggle with that one issue. The message is clear, and the customer feels like you are talking directly to her.

    So, just one problem. Let’s go back to our example.

    How do you choose just one problem?
    Well, in this case, problems with selection are more difficult to solve with an educational event, although it can be done. Let’s put aside those problems for now.

    Problems with fit are very common. The other problems listed are also common. However, fitting problems likely cause the most stress for customers. This is a clue that customers may be interested in a solution that you have to offer. Remember, start with the ‘X’. The biggest, or most common problem.

    I’ll pick one fitting problem: A dress fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top

    Now I’ve isolated a problem from my list, but what do I do with it?

    3) Provide the solution
    Now that you’ve chosen a problem, you need to identify a solution to the problem. A solution that you can deliver with an event or a class. This is where you go back to brainstorming.

    What is the solution to the problem?

    What advice would you give to a customer with this problem? Make a list of these points, or steps, to solve the problem.

    Back to the dress shop example.

    The problem: A dress that fits in the hips, but is the wrong size in the top
    The solution: A dress that fits just right (in the hips and the top)
    To get a dress that fits just right:
    1) Wear the right foundation garments to try on the dress
    2) Buy the dress to fit at the fullest point -> either bust or hips
    3) Find a good seamstress or tailor
    4) Have the dress professionally altered to perfect the fit
    5) Accessorize to visually balance the figure

    Now you’ve got enough points to give a seminar or class. You’re ready to start planning your event.

    But, I’m not a professional speaker
    It’s best to deliver the seminar yourself, or use your own staff team. You may not be a professional speaker, but your customers perceive you as an expert. The more you can encourage your customers to use you and your team to solve problems, the more you’ll improve your relationship with them. You want your customers to see you as a solution provider, not just a product seller.

    When customers see you as the solution provider, or expert, they’ll keep coming back over and over.

    And that’s the hidden treasure in your business.

    To uncover the treasure of repeat customers, start digging.
    1) Discover the customer problems
    2) Pick one problem to solve
    3) Provide the solution

    Next Step
    Does running events seem like too much work?
    Come back next week to learn the secret to ‘automatic’ store events. Or subscribe here, to get the next article sent to your email inbox.

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    Pinwheel Principle Mastery Course: Sneak Peek

    Here’s a sneak peek of part of the upcoming Pinwheel Principle Mastery Course.

    One of the bonus sections of the course will be a ‘How-To‘ forum. The How-To forum will give specific instructions on how to display or merchandise fixtures, or sections of a store. Each How-To article will include an illustration to guide you.

    A wee sample…

    Here’s an in-progress sketch, to give you just a taste of what’s to come. Imagine it with details, colour and a full rack of dresses. :)

    Sketch of dress on a two way fixture

    What if you’re not selling fashion merchandise?

    Don’t let the dress scare you off. The course covers general merchandising concepts that can be applied to most, if not all, products. And, you’ll have the chance to ask questions about how to apply the concepts to your products.

    The How-To forum will cover merchandising techniques for a variety of different products and fixtures.

    How do you know that your product will be covered in the course?

    That’s easy. Just ask.

    The course will be based on the people who sign up. Whether you sell framed artwork, candles, paperclips, or some kind of weird widget for building time-machines; you’ll come away with at least one great idea to create great displays. At the very least. :)

    So, what product or fixture do you need help with? Post in the comments below, or send me an email to tell me what type of product or fixture you have.


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    Pinwheel Principle Mastery Online Course

    Do you ever wish you had someone on call to answer merchandising questions?

    If you read a book, or attend a workshop, it can be hard to implement what you’ve learned. How do you know you’re making mistakes? Are you heading in the right direction, or veering off-track?

    That’s why I’m developing a Pinwheel Principle Mastery online course. It will be a bit like having a merchandising consultant on retainer.

    And what’s this course all about?

    The Pinwheel Principle Mastery course will go through the Pinwheel Principle Workbook step-by-step. But it’s not the same as going through it on your own.

    I’ll be there every step of the way. Answering questions. Giving extra tips. And extra display and merchandising goodies that you don’t get in the book.

    Warning: This course isn’t for the faint of heart
    The Pinwheel Principle Mastery course is for those who are truly committed to learning. And taking action. And getting results.

    The course will have daily assignments. 6 days a week, with one day off per week. It is a 6 week course, with one week holiday, and one bonus week to wrap up. So, it’s an 8 week commitment through the summer.

    It’s hard work, but it’s worth it
    You’ll be working hard, and so will I. I will respond to each of your assignments.
    You’ll get daily feedback and suggestions.

    By the end of the course, you’ll know your business better.
    You’ll learn to apply merchandising principles in your unique situation.
    You’ll be confident that you know how to use merchandising to improve in-store sales.

    I’ll be sending out preview goodies to anyone who’s interested in finding out more about the course. And there’s no catch on the goodies. If you want to find out if the course is right for you, you get the goodies. No strings attached. (What are goodies? They’re free samples from the course to help you know what to expect from the course.)

    So, stay tuned. I’ll update here to tell you how to get your preview goodies in a few days.

    Warm regards,

    P.S. Course space is limited. Once the announcement comes out you’ll have to act fast. In the meantime, if you have questions or suggestions for the course, you can leave them in the comments below.

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    How to Create Events That Bring In Customers (And Avoid Those That Don’t)

    Cartoon of happy woman talking and holding a glass of wine

    Charles was worried. It had been over six months of slow traffic in his store. This was usually his busiest time of year.

    But sales had dropped right off. In this previously busy shopping district, stores were closing, or being sold. He didn’t want his store to be the next to shut its doors.

    What could Charles do?
    Slow sales had nearly erased his marketing budget.
    Charles needs to get customers in the store, fast.
    He’d like to host some events in his store to get people in the door.
    But, he doesn’t know where to start.

    What kinds of events are effective marketing tools?
    Shoppers need a reason to go visit your store.
    An event gives them a reason, a date and time.
    Events attract attention.
    They’re special.
    They’re limited in time.

    Events help new shoppers discover you, and get to know you.

    Not all events get results
    Some events can be a whole lot of work, with little payoff.
    Which ones will give you the best payoff?
    Let’s find out by looking at four different types of events.

    Which events are the best marketing tools?
    1) Sales Events
    2) Community Events
    3) Entertainment Events
    4) Education Events

    Not all events are great for building customers.  Let’s have a look at each of these and see which one is the best for building a loyal customer base.

    1) Sales Events
    When we talk about retail events, we often think of sales promotions. These include VIP shopping nights, late night shopping, fashion shows, discounted price specials. These are common in retail, especially for fashion retailers.

    There’s nothing wrong with these events, in moderation. They can be used effectively as bonuses for loyal customers. Or rare special promotions.

    But as an attraction tool, they’re boring. Shoppers have all seen fashion shows. They’re used to discounts. They won’t give up other activities in their busy schedule for yet another promotion. You have to spend a lot of money and energy to promote these events, and make them enticing.

    So, retailers use discounts as an attraction for these events.
    And end up training their customers to only buy on sale.

    Stay away from sales events as a primary customer attraction tool.
    Let’s look at another type of event.

    2) Community Events
    Community events happen in many neighbourhoods. They might celebrate a theme like the Calgary Stampede, or Car Free Days.

    They could be cultural or charity events. Local businesses are encouraged to get involved by sponsoring events, holding sidewalk sales, in-store activities, and displays.

    Participating in these events often adds extra costs. You’re promised a big increase in traffic. More traffic means more sales, right? With high expectations, you buy balloons, add extra staff, create a themed display.

    And what happens?
    Crowds come to the event to eat. Or listen to music. Or participate in activities.
    Your store might be empty of customers.
    Or you might be run off your feet with browsers.
    But one thing is sure, almost no one is at the event to shop.

    After all the hype, and all the work, it’s disappointing when we don’t get the results we expect. We might start to think that community events are a waste of time and resources.

    Community events may not be good for generating immediate sales.
    But they can be effective as a way to connect with people in the community.
    However, that’s another article.

    As a regular customer attraction tool, you can’t rely on community events.
    So, what’s next?

    3) Entertainment Events
    Entertainment events can include hosting live music, DJs, and movies. Entertainment events work well for the right business. They can be effective for art galleries. Music events or art movies are the perfect fit for a gallery. Entertainment is also great for youth oriented products like clothing, skateboarding and snowboarding. For young people, entertainment has high value making it a good addition to a youth oriented store. Of course, entertainment events are great for entertainment oriented products as well.

    Not all products fit into one of these categories. There’s another type of event that works well for most, if not all, products.

    4) Education Events
    Education events include any kind of training or information sessions. They include seminars, workshops and classes. And you don’t have to stop there. Education can be a creative blend of entertainment and learning. It can be a special guest speaker. A demonstration. An artist-in-residence.

    The key to successful education events is to solve a problem for the customer. If you don’t know what kind of problems they have, listen to their questions in the store. Do they have questions about how to use your product? Or about which product is best for them? Think about how you could turn those questions into a seminar. For example, one of my clients sells travel gear. He hosts a regular packing seminar on how to pack for a vacation abroad. His seminars are always full.

    Scrapbooking and sewing stores have classes. Home renovation stores have woodworking workshops. Book stores have author talks, book clubs and writers’ clubs. An art gallery offers pottery and figure drawing classes. Fashion apparel stores provide workshops with image consultants. A home décor store gives decorating seminars by interior designers.

    Whatever product you sell, there are topics you can use to offer relevant education. And when you offer the education shoppers are looking for, they turn into regular customers. They bring friends with them. They want to know more.

    Not only do customers appreciate the education, but they buy more. Education helps the shopper understand what you’re selling, how to use it, and how it helps them solve a problem. And so they’re happy to buy from you.

    So, why does education transform window shoppers into customers?

    Education builds trust
    When the customer learns from you, they learn to trust you. They realize you’re not just after a quick sale. They’re not afraid of being on the receiving end of a pushy sales pitch. Instead, the customer realizes you understand their problem, and you really want to help. People like to buy from someone they know, like and trust. Providing education to your customers builds relationships and builds trust.

    ‘I’d love to have events, but I need more traffic first’
    It’s tempting to think you need a big customer roster to start having events. But it’s actually just the opposite.

    Education events are the tool you need to build the traffic right from the start. Education events provide value for the customer. For example, the chance to learn to dress for your figure type has a high value for the right shopper. More value than just another dress on a hanger. Offering a valuable learning opportunity to the right customer sets you apart from the competition.

    Use your unique offering to start with just a few customers at a time. Try an event for 5 people. Make it exclusive. Tell people about it for a few weeks ahead of time. Have people book in advance. When your first event fills up, don’t just say it’s full. Start booking for the next one.

    There are four types of events you can host in your store.

    1) Sales Events
    2) Community Events
    3) Entertainment Events
    4) Education Events

    Each of these events has a purpose, and may have a place on your retail calendar. But only education events steadily build the customer base without breaking the bank.

    If you’re like Charles and need to start building your customer base right away, you know what to do, right?

    Next Step
    How do you find out what kind of education events would be right for your customers? Next time we’ll look at finding out what your customers want.

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