BrainTrust Query: The faster you close sales, the more you will sell

Feb 27, 2009

By Herb Sorensen,
Global Scientific Director, Shopper Insights, TNS Sorensen

Every salesman wearing
out shoe leather calling on prospects/customers knows the rule, “close
early and close often.”
The reason is first and foremost that every sale is all about the close,
and the longer it takes to get to the close, the more likely you will never
close, thereby losing the sale. This personal selling principle controls
in-store digital media as much as any other sales scenario. While most are
focusing on the role of digital media to maximize sales ($$$), perhaps the
media’s role in accelerating the process is not getting adequate attention.

We have known for several years that the largest portion of the typical shopping
trip is wasted, accomplishing nothing of economic value for the retailer,
and mostly contributing to shopper angst. This wasted 60-80 percent of shopper
time represents a vast untapped resource for additional sales.

Let’s look at two ways
of “intruding” on that wasted time.

In the first case, a
barely perceptible classical music soundtrack attracts shoppers’ interests,
and leads them to emotional, non-verbal imaging on a digital screen associated
with fruit sales.The result was a significant sales lift.

The second example is more shopper-interactive, and is a handheld
“personal shopping assistant” (Modiv Media)
that communicates targeted offers which can punctuate the blank spaces between
otherwise likely purchases. The result of using that blank space to
make sales is that the average sale is “closed” in half the time,
with a consequent doubling of sales dollars.

Looking at retailing through “personal selling” eyes is likely
to be far more fruitful than the typical dry mechanics of merchandising and
POP displays, whether digital or otherwise.

Discussion Questions:
What do you think of in-store digital media’s potential as a way to “close
a sale” or drive the final shopping decision? How receptive will
shoppers be to seeing in-store digital media used this way?

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: The faster you close sales, the more you will sell"

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Ryan Mathews

There is no simple answer to this one. Shoppers like education and information, they don’t like intrusion or distraction. So, the effectiveness of the media depends on the media itself. Sure, there is clearly strong potential here, but there’s an equally strong opportunity to take things too far.

George Whalin
George Whalin
8 years 7 months ago

I agree that any comparisons between digital signage and actual salespeople are not valid. Since we don’t really know with any degree of certainty whether digital signage actually improves sales, to think it can be used as some sort of closing tool seems unrealistic.

While many believe digital signage can influence impulse purchases, there is much to be done to prove these assumptions for lower priced merchandise such as that sold in food stores. And we are a very long way from seeing how digital signage influences or impacts the sale of higher priced merchandise such as consumer electronics, furniture and jewelry where salespeople are still an integral part of the selling process.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
8 years 7 months ago

Everything has some potential,
But not everything’s essential.
So we reach out with perfidia,
With today’s digital media.

Black Monk mentions possible intrusion,
Which can cause consumer confusion.
Herb says if you close sales faster,
You’ll become a marketing master.

The jury’s out on this media device.
If it works that would be real nice.
But we gurus are only betting bookies,
Waiting to see if it sells more cookies.

Al McClain
Al McClain
8 years 7 months ago

I’m not buying some of the comments above on the limitations of digital signage. I believe the industry is still in its infancy so, ultimately, the sky is the limit.

If you were at NRF, you no doubt saw the Intel proof-of-concept which combines POS and digital signage and is a “wow.”

Carol Spieckerman

I’m with Ryan (and major retailers are as well); the real opportunity for digital signage and in-store media is to provide education that will make the shopper feel confident and informed (and therefore, ready to buy). Take a stroll through any prototype Walmart and check out the information-based programming on every channel. This presents a real opportunity for marketers who are willing to kick ham-handed sales pitches to the curb and master the art of finessed content-creation.

“Close early and close often” has been replaced by “The more you tell, the more you sell.”

Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson
8 years 7 months ago

In-store media has great potential to help close the sale. And obviously it has one major factor working in its favor: the consumer is already in the buying mindset–no better time to capture their attention. But I also think in-store media has great potential to educate shoppers about products/services, offer lifestyle education and/or entertain other shoppers. The key is ensuring the right content is delivered to the right consumer at the right time.

Dennis Serbu
Dennis Serbu
8 years 7 months ago

Digital Signage? Interruption in the purchase process? Educational and even entertaining. Interesting to some with time on their hands, an annoyance to I believe the vast majority that view shopping as a necessity rather than recreation.

Think Pop Ups on your computer screen as you are surfing for research information. I really don’t want to hear or read about improving my love life while I am looking for recent research on channel migration. This is visual spam which we also find annoying in our email box. I can see a “little” of this being somewhat of benefit, but when have we ever learned boundaries?

James Tenser
One of the several potential roles for digital shopper media is “sale closer”–the last persuasive message at the end of the “engagement funnel” that begins with awareness-building messages out in the world and ends with the moment of truth at the shelf. Within this narrow application, I am in the camp that believes shopper media can and will have a measurable positive impact on sales. I’m less certain that they will save shoppers time, however. And I believe that if we really dug into shopper experience research, we might learn that the large portion of apparently “wasted” time in a shopping trip might not be so easily converted into incremental purchases. Decision-making is stressful. Shoppers may need the mental pauses provided by pushing a cart down the aisle. And pressure to make more decisions in less time (as brought by robotically persistent digital media) may not always be welcome. This is a hypothesis, of course. We simply haven’t done the consumer behavior research that can shed sufficient light on this very interesting issue. Herb’s arguments should be taken seriously, as they are founded on a significant body of experience and study. A final note: Not all digital in-store media are… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

If consumers are provided with the information they want and need to make a decision when they are ready to receive information or ready to make a decision, then the media is effective. The critical variables here are not the type of media but the timing and the type of information provided.

Barton A. Weitz
Barton A. Weitz
8 years 7 months ago

The analogy between digital signs and salespeople is not very useful. Digital signs can never provide the level of information needed for consumers making high involvement purchases like home entertainment systems. Also, the replay of short video clips is not repetitious for consumers in a supermarket that spend, on average, 20 seconds making a purchase decision.

Digital signage will have a significant effect on stimulating sales, particularly in formats like supermarkets in which consumers engage in a lot of unplanned purchases. Digital signage is considerably more effective than traditional signage because the action in the display attracts attention. In addition, the message can be easily changed so that unique messages can be displayed in different stores and locations in stores, and in different day parts. In the future, the “sign” will receive a signal from an RFID chip in the customer’s credit card and tailor the message to the people near the sign.

Steve Montgomery

I support Max and Rick’s thoughts. There is a line between informative and intrusive–the difficulty is knowing where it is. I am sure the designers of the blue cheese ad did not anticipate someone standing there long enough to hear it more than a couple times.

However, I don’t think the advertiser should shoulder all the blame. The retailer should have considered having a broader range of cheese or other ads. We may love a particular song, but the fifth time we hear it in couple of hours on the radio our attitude towards it changes. Is it the fault of the musician, the DJ, or the station that has the limited play list? I blame the station.

Rick Moss

I think Max has it right. Last Sunday, I found myself standing in front of a cluttered specialty cheese case searching in vain for some kind of weird French goat cheese my wife needed for a recipe. There was a looped ten-second ad on a digital display just above my head telling me to buy blue cheese. I didn’t want blue cheese and, even after hearing the ad eight times, I still didn’t want blue cheese.

How ’bout we think from the shopper’s point of view? This is a very promising technology, but it should be used with the same care and consideration as any other customer-facing technique. Would you have your deli associate repeat the same offer to customers every ten seconds?

Max Goldberg

Consumers are rushed, impatient, and most of the time can’t wait to get out of the grocery store. In-store digital media that can make the consumer’s trip more efficient, both time-wise and financially, will be welcomed by consumers. In-store digital media that tries to sell the consumer something she does not want or wastes her time will not be welcomed.

Gene Detroyer

I concur with Max as well. It could not have been put more simply. Based on my experience being involved in in-store media and watching the progress (or lack of it) over the years, I find people trying to make too much of it.

The answer is similar to the discussion earlier this week that referenced research. In-store media is not a replacement media. It is about moving the purchase decisions at the point and at the time of purchase. It should not be looked at as taking the place of or doing the same job as television, magazines or even billboards. In-store media is a reminder (“Oh yes, I do need that product!) or a prompt (“Maybe one night this week we’ll have rice instead of potatoes”) or a call-out (“Hey, that is a great price on Coke. I’ll buy it.”)

That is all in-store media is. It is no more than that. And, until the industry recognizes that, there will be no progress made.


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