Monthly Archives: October 2012

Conversion (no, not the religious kind)

Conversion is a simple equation: The number of people that walk in / The number of people who actually buy something. The start of the second chapter in “Why We Buy” focuses on what retailers typically don’t know. Unfortunately this book is a slight bit outdated because most major retailers have taken care of the conversion mystery with automatic counters at the door and fancy computer systems that compare the number of transactions for the day against the number of people who entered. However, the concept of conversion is still just as relevant.

When I began working at my job, one of the seasoned associates informed me that I should watch out for the clothing censors in relation to conversion. If someone sets off the front door alarm without understanding the cause, about half of people will walk through the censor again just to be sure it was them. This messes up our conversion rate. “I don’t even consider theft anymore,” my coworker admitted. “I’m just like, get out of the doorway, you’re messing up conversion!”

I appreciate the method that the book uses for discussing the different expectations of conversion. If you are a fast food chain, you would expect 100% conversion, because people enter with the intention to spend money because food is a necessity. If you are an art gallery, you probably have a conversion rate of 1% or less, assuming 1 out of every 100 people who enter the gallery purchase something, and that is expected for that genre of store. My work sets their goal at about one-third, which is typical for clothing. Mostly because not everyone NEEDS what they have to offer.

All of this to say: conversion is like a measure of real success. Once the customer is actually in the door, what are the odds they will actually make a purchase? How can you improve the number of people who actually purchase something once they are inside? Part of this is customer service, or perhaps availability of items desired, but a large part is merchandising and making the product appealing and accessible.

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Consumerism from the Aisle

I close chapter one with two quotes I found astonishingly unrecognized and entirely true.

“If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something, and if  once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse, boom.”

“As a result, an important medium for transmitting messages and closing sales is now the store and the aisle.”

-from Paco Underhill’s “Why We Buy”

Today in church the preacher spoke of decisions. He said the average human makes around 65,000 choices per day, from deciding which shoe to put on first to electing a president. He went into further analysis of the grocery store, and discussed the numbers of choices to be made there. There are 70 different toothpastes to choose from, 114 salad dressings, and more than 400 types of cookies in a single average grocery store. One must decide which to purchase somehow, be it from brand loyalty, trial and error, or “this one is in the prettiest box!”.

The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, everyone sells. Whether you are selling your skills at a job interview, selling the idea of buying a new car to your spouse, or selling snow to an eskimo, you are selling SOMETHING. The crux of all this is that you take part in a consumerist society that is driven by sales. Tonight at work, my boss was complaining that the last few hours that were under her watch had slowed down and the sales goal was not attained. “You don’t know what mean things happen to managers who don’t make their sales goals for the day,” she told me and my coworker, only half kidding. Another reason why I will never be a sales manager. Just an artist.

Deals at the Door Make A Businessman Poor

I’m just to page 30 of the book and I have come across a faulty mistake dozens of retailers make every day. The sale rack belongs in one place: the back, and with good reason. Many retailers during the summer will put the sale rack just outside the front door to lure people in. It gets the unsightly muss of non-cohesive merchandise off their selling floor, and gives people a reason to come up and look. However, if people find nothing of interest on the sale rack (which happens more often than not) they will never bother entering the store. If they are the type to look for a deal (which is the customer you are trying to lure inside with this rack on the street) they will rifle through, find nothing, and never come in because they believe, as they should, that everything else in the store is full-price.

On another note, tucking the sale rack just inside the front door is also a no-no. This is what was directly discussed in “Why We Buy”. The difference is that those people who do enter the store are immediately taken in by the nearby sale rack. This can go south just as fast as having it outside if they find nothing. But if they DO find something, they are much less likely to buy anything else. People don’t even bother to look around at full-price when they think they can get a good deal.

The best place for the sale rack is in the rear of the store. Not hidden and ashamed, not hard to get to, but nonchalantly in the caboose region. This way, anyone looking for a deal will at least have to look around before they come to the sale rack. It draws people inside, keeps them inside, giving a salesperson time to begin a conversation and instigate the selling process. Sale racks at the front door = less business. Simple as that.

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Why We Buy: Introduction

Who knew a book about stalking people in the name of retail science would become a national bestseller? Paco Underhill, founder of Envirosell, the “stalkers for hire” consulting agency, has three books on the market, and this one, “Why We Buy” is the first. I am doing an analysis of this book to better my own knowledge of selling, merchandising, and why people spend money on anything and everything.

In short, Envirosell monitors, anaylzes and draws conclusions from following people and recording certain areas of retail environments and public spaces. They can tell you more than just the average number of people in the store per day (most major retailers have an automatic people counter above the door) but how old they are, how they’re dressed, what they bought, how long they were present, and more. They collected so much data on tape at one point, “Kodak told us we were the single largest consumer of Super 8 film in the world”.
After just a few pages, my favorite statistic listed is about jeans. Sixty-five percent of men who try jeans on buy them, but only twenty-five percent of women buy jeans after trying them on. There are a thousand explanations for this, but the fact remains. As a retail fitting room attendant, I can attest to that entirely. As a result, I will feel more validated knowing that only one out of the four women trying on jeans will actually buy them. Knowing this gives me more realistic expectations.

Anyway, I report more as I get through the book. So far I can see why it is a bestseller. The writing is masterful yet personal, but the content is thick and juicy. Can’t wait to tell you more!

Buy bye!

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Expose the Tools

 Fine artists of fashion are completely underrated. It is difficult for a customer who knows nothing about how a garment is made without a demonstration of time, effort, and finances. Many are not willing to pay for a $400 belt when they can get a $40 belt that looks similar. The difference: hopefully, the $400 belt was handmade painstakingly with a superior leather and a hand-fashioned buckle. The $40 belt was probably made in China.

One of the more effective ways to convey the artistry of any business is to expose some element of the process. This picture above is inside Pinkham Millinery in Portland. PM was recently featured as one of the top 20 millineries in the world, one of only 4 in America, and the only one not located in NYC.

Inside Dayna Pinkham’s shop, she displays just one of a hundred elements of her trade: hat forms. Shelf after shelf of wooden blocks of all measurements and hat styles line the west wall of her shop. The craft is a fine one, and this way anyone who enters can see the challenge of making a hat so perfect as one of Dayna’s. This effective bit of Visual Merchandising is not only a great conversation starter with clients, but also a truthful display of the work that goes into her art.

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Greetings :)

Green field with close-up of small flowers

Hey there, just wanted to introduce myself: my name is Kelsey and I am beginning a blog about the retail industry, visual merchandising (VM), the psychology of buying, and consumerism, all in the name of preparing myself for a dream job in merchandising.

I will begin over the next few weeks with a book series written by Paco Underhill, who people-watched and literally stalked people inside stores, eavesdropping to find out what led them to that crucial decision: “To buy, or not to buy”. His first book, “Why We Buy” is no thicker than one of the Chronicle’s of Narnia, so I hope to get through it fairly fast, yet take it all in.

I am also currently a student of fashion marketing here in the beautiful and wet city of Portland, and have a concentration in digital art and VM as well as sustainability, so you will be reading a lot about that, I am sure.

Well, just wanted to get the courtesies taken care of. Now that we are no longer strangers, go ahead and like, follow, and comment to your heart’s content 🙂

Buy Bye!

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