Can retailers appeal to both ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ shoppers?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
May 01, 2018
Patricia Vekich Waldron

At the World Retail Congress in Madrid, Gensler Research Institute shared findings from new research indicating that 49 percent of shoppers go to a site intending to make a purchase. The remainder seeks a combination of entertainment, social engagement, discovery and experiences that satisfy their aspirational desires, according to Gensler’s “Experience Index.”

Clearly the retail proposition is bifurcating between these “fast” and “slow” behaviors — torn between the need to appeal to purpose-minded shoppers on the one hand and the more experience-oriented on the other. Brands must determine how they will understand and address consumers’ needs via digital and physical experiences.

Here are two examples of companies that are proving that fast and slow — executed simultaneously — may just win the race.

Indochino’s strategy is channel-specific, but complementary. For custom-suit shoppers, they’ve designed a digital channel to be as clear and frictionless as possible along with physical locations that are inspirational and relevant. This has proven successful, as Indochino is growing twice as fast in cities where it has opened showrooms. And its cost of customer acquisition has been halved. Management understands that brands are an experience, not a product, and have chosen to create memorable in-person experiences that complement its digital shopping model and convert into loyalty and sales.

Amazon.com, the one-click master, is taking an omnichannel approach. Some initiatives, like installing lockers in Whole Foods stores, have proven to be successful in driving traffic and short store visits for convenience shoppers. Here in San Diego, two-hour free grocery delivery is being rolled out. To fulfill orders in-store, Amazon is replacing Whole Foods’ local Pubs with staging areas. While this serves convenience-minded shoppers, it is certain to impact the other half of shoppers who are used to a more experiential visits. We’re all watching what comes next as Amazon continues to converge with Whole Foods’ network and customers.

It’s critical to remember that today most consumers set out to either quickly cross something off a list or to indulge in exploration. Brands need a well-defined offer and value proposition and must understand consumers’ changing desires. Combined, these should dictate the strategy under which digital and physical tactics are created, deployed and refined.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How do you see retailers responding to “fast” buyers intent on making a purchase and “slow” shoppers looking for experiences? Are there other retailers other than those mentioned that you see as positively developing responses for both fast and slow customers?

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Braintrust
"Fast or slow, the very best outcome of a shopping experience is finding something one loves and buying it!"
"Give the shoppers tools that put them in charge of the pace — like mobile self scanning."
"Much can be learned from customer experience analytics in order to take virtually all of the “gut feel” that still to this day remains..."

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15 Comments on "Can retailers appeal to both ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ shoppers?"


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Chris Petersen, PhD.
BrainTrust

The danger in doing both is the possibility of doing neither one well. There have been “fast checkout” lanes for years, but many were not all that fast. Fast checkout is pointless if you still make the customer queue up and wait in line. The key to fast is customer-centric options like specific click and collect counters, pickup towers or lockers. For those that want “fast,” retailers have to deliver it on their terms.

The ultimate irony is that much of retail is still struggling with the “slow” that engages customers with personalized experience. Whereas “fast” can be accelerated with technology and process, “slow” requires investing in people and creating experiences that engage. In today’s omnichannel world it is not a question of either or, but how to seamlessly integrate both. The challenge of being a profitable retailer grows exponentially more difficult every year.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

The discussion of robotics, automation and humanity was a big topic @ WRC. I completely agree that retailers need to focus on the human element – after all a magic mirror cannot tell you if a dress looks good on you!

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This is a critical aspect of retailing to understand. For one thing, I would love to see the demographic breakdown of “fast” and “slow” shoppers. I wonder if the old saw that “men buy and women shop” actually holds up? I doubt it, as I have always believed the idea of “fast” and “slow” shopping are much more category specific — though there is probably some category/gender segmentation involved. I am certainly more inclined to linger and explore in certain sporting goods stores and auto dealerships, but I am in and out of a shoe store in a flash.

I also wonder how these delineations would compare to studies separating “high touch” or high involvement purchases such as electronics from “low touch” categories like groceries. Only old brand managers reliving their youth linger over grocery store shelves!

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

Fast or slow, the very best outcome of a shopping experience is finding something one loves and buying it! A dopamine high, an emotional home run for any human, fast or slow. The underlying merchandising, product assortment and customer experience investments in tech or services leverage fast or slow shoppers into the “high” of the thrill of shopping! Leaving a store with a product one loves is a very a satisfying human experience, creating an emotional connection between retailer and shopper.

Charles Dimov
Guest

Yes — shoppers come in more shapes, sizes and style preferences than one. Omnichannel retailing can help to address exactly this variety of shoppers. You have those who are transactional. They want to buy something fast, and on their mobile device, computer or voice assistant. Then you have those who want to shop for the adventure or human touch. Today’s retail is catching up to this idea that customers are going to shop on one medium, want to continue shopping on yet another and get their items at their convenience from yet a third channel.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Supporting both “fast” and “slow” shoppers is a critical component of retail from now and into the future. As Indochino proves, catering to the experiential shopper shouldn’t add friction for the “fast” shopper but should instead be complementary. The challenge for retailers is that the requirements for each are quite different and therefore so are the costs. “Fast” can be delivered with the help of technology and will be very digital-enabled. “Slow” on the other hand, needs to be much more people oriented and supported by well trained and technology-enabled store associates. Technology can help her as well, but it’s a different investment than for “fast,” – which can often be supported with the right online experience versus an in-store one. Again, the best execution will accommodate both across channels but implemented in a way that doesn’t add friction and only eases the overall experience for either shopper.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

The concept of shopping speed is new to me. Shoppers take a unique journey and path to purchase. Depending upon the item that path is either very direct, or it can be a circuitous requiring diligent search. In the digital/Amazonian world retailers and brands alike need to provide the connected, experiential environments that are required and expected for each path. Shopping aspired to surprise and delight. Today’s digitally-empowered shopper will be surprised if you deliver delight.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Shopping is a private activity in a public place, much like going to the gym for a workout, biking on a path or fishing. As each moves at their pace that day, they will interact with the environment resulting in experience. When browsing and discovery dominate the experience, suggestive selling will be accepted less than at a time when ordering/buying is the focus. In each case the retailer and brand have to be continually telling their story and selling their story, and ideally involving the consumer in that story.

Seth Nagle
BrainTrust

It’s not about fast or slow shoppers but more about the overall in-store experience. As the study mentions 49 percent of shoppers want to be in and out quickly but that doesn’t mean shoppers don’t want an amazing experience every time.

Retailers should not segment shoppers into groups but rather look at a matrix of services, as shoppers preferences will vary week to week and adding services such as in-store pickup, expedited returns and shopping aids will keep shoppers coming back again and again.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Great points, Patricia! This is all about retailers and CPG brands being agile enough to be everything their target audience may want during any potential shopping journey. Much can be learned from customer experience analytics in order to take virtually all of the “gut feel” that still to this day remains in so many marketing organizations. Those brands that don’t see this need to be responsive in a timely and individualized way will not thrive.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

This isn’t a binary question to only cater to fast or slow shoppers. The right technologies and processes can enable both at the same time and allow shoppers to choose. Other than those mentioned, Starbucks is a great example — I can either order on the app and be in and out in less than a minute, or I can stay on-site to take advantage of the people watching and the Wi-Fi. Those that understand that convenience and experience are not mutually exclusive will come out on top.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust
We’re all fast and slow shoppers at some point. Buying a coffee on the way to work might be a fast shopping experience, but buying a birthday present may be a slower one. The best retailers are finding ways to combine these experiences, whether that’s in-store or online. For example Starbucks’ Mobile Order & Pay service lends itself to a fast experience where customers can walk in and pick up their pre-made beverage, but equally Starbucks Reserve stores offer a much more immersive experience where you can watch coffee being made in interesting ways, relax and catch-up with friends. These two services may exist in the same store enabling customers to access whichever they need on that day. There are plenty of other retailers taking this sort of approach and I think we’re in a period of experimentation — what works for one customer base may not work for another. Target for example has a store with two entrances — one for quick grocery top-up trips and the other for leisurely homewear, gift and beauty… Read more »
Peter Luff
BrainTrust

Retailers and brands are increasingly actively looking at this, some as has been pointed out do it through instinct while more actively looking at the science of market research and, in particular, behavioral science and path to purchase. When the analysis is created the two stories can be interwoven; “slow” and “fast.” There will be some journeys that start fast but with the right signposting can become slower, allowing for increased basket sizes. The trick is to structure this without impacting those who want a pure fast experience.

William Hogben
BrainTrust

Give the shoppers tools that put them in charge of the pace — like mobile self scanning. Shoppers who are in a hurry will be grateful and the more traditional shoppers benefit too, from shorter lines at legacy checkouts.

James Tenser
BrainTrust
Is it about “fast” versus “slow” shoppers or “fast” versus “slow” occasions? I’d be skeptical about using a demographics alone to get a handle on this analysis. Each shopper “experience” will be judged in regard to how well it met their need or intention in the moment. With that caveat, this discussion points to a very significant aspect of retailing that is not often analyzed — PACE. Products turn at varying rates related to how they are consumed or used. Shoppers return at varying frequency, depending upon how often their needs reoccur. Too many generalizations about “retailing” and “retail experience” ignore these distinctions. Not every retailer needs to design its offering to appeal to both fast and slow moments. Convenience stores don’t attract many browsers, and jewelry stores don’t attract many grab-and-go clients. Some retail environments — notably mass merchants — may cater to a mix of need states, which makes their challenge more complex. Retailers may find merchandising or promotional opportunities to slow “fast” shoppers down a little bit to win incremental purchases or… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Fast or slow, the very best outcome of a shopping experience is finding something one loves and buying it!"
"Give the shoppers tools that put them in charge of the pace — like mobile self scanning."
"Much can be learned from customer experience analytics in order to take virtually all of the “gut feel” that still to this day remains..."

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