A common thread in the online discussion that sparked my previous post was that (to varying levels, depending on the opiner) “all, most or some” shoppers just want to “get in and out” of their grocery, drug and convenience stores.
This insight is undoubtedly true, but the typical reaction of shopper marketers highlights another “common nonsense” we need to overcome: an innate ability to focus on a symptom rather than dig deeper to understand root cause.
Let’s take it as a given that time is a decreasing commodity these days, and that people really need to save a few minutes each day. There’s a dozen activities they could shave that time from: they could save the four minutes (and more than a few bucks!) spent waiting for their “grande-three-pump-caramel-soy-latte-with-no-whip”; or could walk the four extra blocks to catch the express train and save fifteen. So, why are people so focused on the time “wasted” while in their grocery store?
It’s time to put aside the symptom (“takes too long”) and focus on the actual disease: why do people find time spent in grocery stores so irritating? Why do grocery stores suck so much that the two-minute wait in line is considered more painful than the seven- minute wait (out in the cold, mind you!) at their favorite lunchtime food truck?
Some stores seem to get it, and people seem to linger longer and complain less. As one shopper shared with the world on shopping blog Beth’s Journey: “I could spend a couple of hours in a place like Whole Foods”. On the other hand, ground-breaking location analytics start-up Locately wrote a great article about just how much people complain via social media while in Walmart – and tend to focus their tyrades on the long lines. Not so much the time that is, as the fact that Walmart is subjecting them to lining up.
In short: experience matters.
Kotler, Mehrabian and Russell started productive discussion in the ’70s showing the influence of the store atmosphere on shopper perceptions and, ultimately, behavior.
So, when the experience is poor, simply quickening a bad experience is not the way satisfy shoppers. A swift hand might work for a doctor giving a child his shots, but it’s not the answer for retailers. (And heck, even the doctor gives out candy to finish the experience on a good note!)
In fact, this focus on shaving time off a bad experience is a veritable death spiral – the shopper will always still want you to shave more, and there’s only so quick you can make the whole experience. But worse, a lot of the ‘solutions’ for making things faster make the process even more abhorrent. (There’s a reason some chains are removing self checkout already!)
Imagine instead what we might do to make people love (instead of loathe) those 12 (or 17, or 36…) minutes in store. Or just the 3 minutes in your own aisle, CPG category managers. Shoppers don’t have to jump for joy – just find the time ‘well-spent’.
Perhaps if we can focus on creating 12 enjoyable minutes – instead of cutting it down to 10-minutes that still suck – we’d be treating the root cause, not the symptom, and then will have a better platform to truly connect with shoppers. Or else we can stick to rushing them out the door ever-and-ever quicker… with a sore arm and no candy.
the orange sheep