Should retailers slow down shopping?

Discussion
Oct 30, 2015

The Wall Street Journal last week called out a trend toward "slow shopping," whereby stores tone down "spend now" pushes in favor of more "leisurely and enriching" experiences.

Stores still must accommodate the shopper looking for convenience and a fast-checkout, said the article, but also offer options for upgraded browsing.

According to a recent study on luxury retailing from the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) graduate degree program for beauty industry executives, the trend is partly driven by the increased preference for experiences over luxury purchases coming out of the last recession. Along with the rise of e-commerce, a more "digitally linked" shopper — with quicker and easy access to information product — is also supporting the slow shopping trend.

The FIT researchers wrote: "High touch in an environment that purposefully evokes relaxation and discovery creates a small degree of escapism, which will create a positive affinity with the brand, ultimately driving loyalty."

Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, told the Journal, "The core of slow shopping is to make it interesting and engaging, versus online shopping, which is quick and easy."

Club Monaco champagne

Photo: Club Monaco

Among the examples cited in the Journal report:

  • Origins, owned by Estée Lauder Cos., offers free mini-facials, a huge sink for sampling soaps, scrubs and lotions, a wall specially lighted for selfies, and ample seating.
  • Club Monaco, owned by Polo Ralph Lauren, has a library, flower shop and coffee bar in its New York flagship, and whiskey bars, flower shops, bakeries and farmers’ markets at some of its international locations.
  • Lowes Foods enables shoppers to clip herbs from an in-store garden and sample craft beers.
  • Urban Outfitters at some locations hosts rock concerts or art events, such as making silk-screen designs while serving food and offering haircuts.

The slow shopping trend is somewhat linked to the "slow movement," which began in the eighties and calls on individuals to dial back life’s pace in today’s frenetically-paced society.

But it’s also part of retail’s overall experiential retailing trend. With traffic steadily declining over the last few years, Kohl’s and Target are also opening food concepts, such as cafes and upscale restaurants, to provide something beyond the e-commerce experience.

Speaking to Retail Dive, Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, said retail is just getting back to offering more than shopping "when we think back to the Walnut Room at Macy’s in Chicago, or think back to the days of the soda fountain in the ‘five-and-dime store’."

What types of “slow shopping” experiences do you think are most effective at retail? Can you cite examples in which slowing down the shopper benefits particular retailers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Ten years ago Target’s visual merchandising executive emeritus, Judy Bell, told her Digital Signage Expo keynote audience that "if our guest is happy, she’ll stay in our store longer, and if she is happy and stays in our store longer, she’ll buy more.""
"Well, I know that the beer bar in my local Whole Foods can certainly slow down my shopping experience (and make me buy far too many bags of pretzels)."
"In my case it is simply engaging customers whenever the chance occurs. Just this morning I overheard a young couple talking about how nice the store looked, and that they would like to visit again."

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21 Comments on "Should retailers slow down shopping?"


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Ralph Jacobson
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Whenever the shopper spends more time at a retail location, that’s a good thing! I remember offering seafood cooking classes on the sales floor at the supermarket I managed in the ’80s. Capture the interests of shoppers and you will capture their attention.

Max Goldberg
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Experiences that directly relate to the core story of the retail brand will work best. These experiences reinforce positive images of the brand and linger in consumers’ minds long after the last promotion or sale is over.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Ten years ago Target’s visual merchandising executive emeritus, Judy Bell, told her Digital Signage Expo keynote audience that “if our guest is happy, she’ll stay in our store longer, and if she is happy and stays in our store longer, she’ll buy more.” The key here is being happy. Slowing the shopper’s journey is a commercial benefit if and only if she is and stays happy!

If you slow her journey down without her participation then all you’ve done is frustrate and upset her.

Stew Leonard’s singing puppets not only became a destination but it slowed our in-store grocery shopping journey by mesmerizing our children years ago. The magic formula still works 20 years later!

Zel Bianco
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Well, I know that the beer bar in my local Whole Foods can certainly slow down my shopping experience (and make me buy far too many bags of pretzels). “Slow shopping” experiences that match the needs and interests of the shopper without detracting from the convenience of the store (having a slightly separate space is ideal) work best.

Joan Treistman
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

“Slow shopping” offers retailers an opportunity to differentiate their stores from others with similar merchandise and prices. I agree that the entry point is to create a happy experience for the shopper. To sustain that point of distinction and encourage multiple visits with less time in between requires experiences that are worth repeating.

The beauty industry has an advantage in that people enjoy trying alternative beauty products. But Sephora and the cosmetic sections of retailers have made that option available for quite some time. Engaging shoppers in activities specific to other categories is more challenging.

Personally, I’d be enthralled with an opportunity to experience a personal shopper experience without arranging the appointment or worrying about pressure for purchase. It would be very engaging and satisfying if a sales person offered me a walk around the floor to show me styles of clothing that might fit my needs (work or leisure) and also show me the accessories that I might personally use. Why wouldn’t I come back each season or special occasion for that kind of experience?

Shep Hyken
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

The best shopping experiences aren’t defined by the retailers. They are defined by the customers. Some shoppers want a relaxed and leisurely experience (perhaps with a glass of wine) while others are on a mission. There are shoppers that need help and ask lots of questions. Others just want what they need and they want it fast.

Michael Day
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

“Shopping as theater” has certainly worked well for Costco for a long time now. Not only the food demos, but in terms of merchandising and features that can tell a story and in turn help drive impulse purchases.

Mark Heckman
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Retailers should certainly provide the options for shoppers to do what they want to do. There is no argument there. However, the notion that retailers should be in the business of slowing down or speeding up shoppers implies that shoppers should be manipulated against their own preferences.

While it is true that shoppers that spend a lot of time in the stores might logically spend more money on a trip than those that are in and out, I would maintain that would be the case for only the subset of shoppers that are receptive to the idea of “spending the afternoon” with a retailer. In some retail channels that subset is VERY small.

Obviously, certain retail channels are more conducive to “slow shopping” than others, but the trend across all channels is pointed toward just the opposite behavior — grab and go!

Bob Phibbs
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

As I wrote earlier this week in Stop Trying To Speedily Close The Sale. Slow Down When Selling Retail Or You’re Toast, 8 Tips To Build Value, the emphasis lately on speed is diminishing average ticket size.

That might be a holdover from most marketing programs which are designed for the quick and easy. They try to acquire and attract new customers with discounts versus spending the time and money to retain those who shopped with them prior.

But it takes time to get customers, whether new or existing, to buy. And you can’t do that by “get ’em in and get ’em out” when traffic is down.

When done right however, you can slow down a bit to build up enough value when selling that you are trustworthy. And people buy from people they trust.

Brian Kelly
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

If retailers can increase dwell time, then retailers can increase conversion or basket. That’s the logic. Consultative sell categories are typically most benefited by increased dwell time.

Of course, that is if the shopper mode is one for which slow is relevant. If she is in urgent mode, then slow is bad.

Or as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies!”

Tony Orlando
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

In my case it is simply engaging customers whenever the chance occurs. Just this morning I overheard a young couple talking about how nice the store looked, and that they would like to visit again. I walked over and introduced myself, and we talked about all kinds of things food related, and I brought them to the deli to try my famous homemade chicken breast salad. They ended up buying three different items, all of which were sampled to them, and left with about an $85 ring.

They said they loved how we treated them, and mentioned how they didn’t enjoy the shopping experience at the big box store in town. I gave them my card and told them about our Facebook page and website and our custom meats, which they also purchased. A simple handshake turned into a family that will come back and browse the store at their leisure. A win for both of us.

Lee Kent
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

There are definitely opportunities for slow retailing. Have you ever visited PIRCH? They sell kitchen, bathroom and outdoor. They also know that most of the people who walk through their doors are not going to buy anything.

So what does PIRCH do about that? The customers first introduction to PIRCH is a greeting from a barister who offers to make them a latte or other yummy drink. They chat while preparing the drink. Not selling, not pushing. The customer is relaxed, doesn’t feel pressured and can take a tour or simply walk the space themselves and dream their dreams.

And guess what, customers usually spend at least an hour there and can’t wait to tell their friends. They bond. They come back and buy.

For the right retailer, this is a definite option for my 2 cents.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
3 years 4 months ago
In general, slowing the shopper down is stupid, Stupid, STUPID!!! — with exceptions. And the WSJ article is largely dealing with exceptions, so the retailers cited are not at all stupid. And it all revolves around the issue of experiential shopping. So the question is, are we here to enjoy ourselves, or are we here to get our stuff? The reality is that many retailers that are in NO WAY part of the positive experience crowd, still think people enjoy shopping in their stores. Some do, but very few come there for the “experience.” Forced tolerance is not the same thing as enjoyment. The serious problem is all the retailers who think a strategy to hold shoppers in the store will increase sales, when actually this is a massive sales suppressive strategy, widely believed in. In other words, taking a shopper who is already wasting 60-80% of their time in the store, and getting them to waste even more time! To make it simple, when a shopper comes into an aisle, the longer it takes them… Read more »
Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
3 years 4 months ago

The best “slow shopping” experience I’ve ever had is in suburban Philadelphia. An emerging retail concept from URBN, it has indoor, outdoor retail and entertainment spaces, a cafe and restaurant, as well as outdoor living design services. I would go there frequently to be inspired and rarely left without purchasing.

Ed Dunn
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

I feel “hospitality” elements in retail are being labeled as “slow shopping.” Slow shopping to me is not trying to get the customer in and out the door and let them browse. Hospitality is creating an environment where a customer can feel at home and may not shop there but frequent there to promote loyalty and return visits. I found the WSJ article and FIT paper confusing.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

I think it depends on what the particular retailer is selling. I’ve been to the Warby Parker store in San Francisco and the front is a reading room. That definitely makes sense if you’re selling glasses. To have an effective “slow shopping” experience, a retailer must really understand what their shoppers like and how it connects to what they sell. Providing a seamless experience gives shopeers an extra reason to spend time in the store and gets them closer to making a purchase.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Luxury retailers certainly offer a variety of in-store experiences for shoppers to slow down, explore, indulge, linger, and shop, hoping to create a deeper brand connection.

But what about the retailers that create this in-store experience in abandoned big box stores and truly delight their shoppers? Yes, on the eve of Halloween, I have to say that seasonal pop-up stores, such as Spirit Halloween, offer a great example of how the “slow shopping” experience benefits their customers and their brand.

Halloween pop-up stores are growing in popularity and size as “estimates of what consumers spend on Halloween vary widely, running as high as $11.4 billion on costumes, decorations and candy in 2014, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.”

We track disruptive retail and this is a great example of how a retailer can transform an empty store, hire hundreds of people, spread holiday cheer, then pack up until the next season.

Devilishly disruptive and perfect for Halloween.

Kai Clarke
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

Generally the more expensive, or more important the purchase, the better a “slow shopping” experience becomes. Products like new homes, cars, wedding rings, etc. all fall into this category. As the experience becomes a slower one, the one on one selling relationship also sets in as salespeople, help to close the selling experience in a timely fashion.

Larry Negrich
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

The goal isn’t slowing down the shopping experience but enriching the experience with appropriate engagements for the targeted shopper. Engagement of the customer along the path to purchase in appealing ways should be an actively managed process in any retail format. Samples, demos, well-timed videos, in-store texts and targeted offers — they should all be a part of a well-crafted strategy to engage the shopper and keep them in the store and happy about the time spent. There are lots of customer technologies that can assist in the process and, of course, well-trained store staff is an essential component of a successful engagement strategy.

R Noble
Guest
R Noble
3 years 4 months ago
Just like candy bars, gum and magazines at the checkout OR the merchandising of dairy and meat products at the back of the grocery store, retailers have tested various methods to drive additional sales with higher-margin items. The concept of slow shopping as described by Canadian journalist Carl Honor, “It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.” For a retailer, time spent in their physical store may be more valuable than time spent in their e-store. Creating and enabling the experience of shopping to be more than an in/out dash offers many shoppers the enjoyment of the interaction, the opportunity to be educated and the ability to shop in a less stressed environment.… Read more »
Matt Talbot
Guest
3 years 4 months ago

This is very interesting to me, because the idea of “slow shopping” coincides with the act of “browsing,” in contrast to “buying.”

There are quite a few advantages to having potential customers in-store, even without a guaranteed purchase. For example, if a consumer enters a store and is greeted, well-received, helped by knowledgeable employees etc., they might come back to buy a product — rather than visit another store, or even purchase online. Word-of-mouth can prove equally beneficial. More than likely, costumers with a pleasant in-store experience will feel more loyal to the brand/store and return. I think the most effective “slow shopping” experiences will center around increasing consumer brand knowledge — whether that is through a hands-on task like sampling or even something as simple as extra floating employees to answer questions.

A slower shopping experience is the beginning of fostering many components of an omnichannel, personalized shopping experience — simply because there is time to do it.

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Braintrust
"Ten years ago Target’s visual merchandising executive emeritus, Judy Bell, told her Digital Signage Expo keynote audience that "if our guest is happy, she’ll stay in our store longer, and if she is happy and stays in our store longer, she’ll buy more.""
"Well, I know that the beer bar in my local Whole Foods can certainly slow down my shopping experience (and make me buy far too many bags of pretzels)."
"In my case it is simply engaging customers whenever the chance occurs. Just this morning I overheard a young couple talking about how nice the store looked, and that they would like to visit again."

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