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  • Why Shopping Is Harder Than You Think (And How to Make It Easy)

    Shopping is hard work.
    Harder than it used to be. And getting harder.

    The culprit is choice.
    We are surrounded by choice. The opportunities to choose are growing every day. We can choose to shop where we live or work. We can choose to travel to a store that has exactly what we want. Or we can choose to buy online. We can choose from hundreds, or thousands of stores. And millions of products.

    You might think that more choice makes it easier to shop.
    But it doesn’t.
    Instead, shoppers become paralyzed with indecision.
    When too much choice is presented to customers, their eyes glaze over.
    They move on to the next store, or the next website.

    Don’t customers want options?
    They do. But they want their options to be simplified. They buy when the choices are easy.

    Look at Amazon for example. Amazon offers tons of choice. And the number of choices are constantly expanding. But Amazon helps you choose. Amazon makes it easy to find exactly what you want. Their search feature, customer reviews, recommendations and personalized emails guide you to buy. They make it easy.

    So what makes it easy for customers to shop?
    Three things: consistency, organization and information.

    1. Consistency
    Consistency helps your customer know what to expect. Consistency means you have a strong identity that is carried through your entire company.

    Imagine a store sends out an email featuring new designer fashions. It includes an elegant black & white logo. Classic typeface. Lots of white space.

    What do we expect this store to look like?
    Naturally, a store that has the same identity. A comfortable, elegant shopping environment. A lot of space between racks. Quality merchandise. Helpful service.

    We’re surprised & confused if we find a discount store instead. Or the featured merchandise is unavailable. Or the sales staff are apathetic.

    Maintain consistency in all points of contact with your customers. They just want to know what to expect from you. Customers find it easier to choose when they know what to expect.

    2. Organization

    Shoppers don’t like to feel confused.
    At the slightest hint of confusion, shoppers will turn around and walk away.

    At the very least, a store needs to be clean & neat. Boxes of stock and returned merchandise don’t belong on the selling floor.

    Beyond this, merchandise needs to be organized in clearly defined categories. To determine categories, watch how your customers shop. What products do they buy together? Group these complementary products together.

    For example, imagine a store that sells computers, digital cameras and accessories. Instead of grouping equipment bags together, place camera bags with cameras. Laptop bags next to laptops.

    Customers that find everything they need in one place, choose to buy more.

    3. Information
    Information helps shoppers makes decisions.
    But only if it’s the right information.
    In the right place. At the right time.

    Signs can help you put the right information where it needs to be. Use them to answer frequently asked questions. Do shoppers have questions about how pants should fit? Or how to choose the right printer? Or what the price is?

    But how do you know where to put the sign? Sometimes the answer is not obvious. To discover the right place, watch how customers shop. What are they doing right before they ask a question? Test sign placement to see if customers read it. Test, and test again until you get it right.

    To help shoppers choose, provide the information they need. When & where they need it.

    Use consistency, organization and information to make your customers’ choices easy.

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