The world we live in is loud.


I was reminded of this during a recent trip overseas. Ellette and I were fortunate enough to spend a few days in Paris after we attended EuroShop. We found ourselves in a busy, open-air market surrounded by people bustling, dogs barking, phones chirping, and dishes clanking. There was so much to take in. As much as we tried to be present in every moment, sometimes it was nice to fade into the background and be quiet observers to the world around us.

I couldn’t help but think how the current state of retail is experiencing a similar situation: sensory overload. People today are under constant bombardment. Radio, TV, billboards, social feeds, text and emails by the hundreds, snaps, tweets, phone calls, personal conversations, memos - you name it. It’s relentless. It’s no wonder our minds eventually become desensitized by it all. There is simply too much to take in.

As Ellette and I sat, sipping on French wine and nibbling scones, we listened to the locals speak their native language. Every now and then we’d catch a familiar word, but for the most part it was background noise. Beautiful, meaningful noise - but noise nonetheless.

All of a sudden, our ears were attuned to a conversation spoken in English. It rang and resonated. All other conversations became muted. The only one we could hear, was the one we understood.


This is how great retail programs should communicate. They clearly speak in a language their audiences can understand.


Think about it: when an eager shopper approaches your retail offering, how will you break through all of the other noise in her head? In her environment? How will you differentiate your product and brand?

Too often, when shoppers enter a retail space, a common pitfall is to perform the retail equivalent of messaging diarrhea. You know...get so amped up on all of the awesome things you have to say, that you spew out each and every nugget of information, all at once, at rapid fire speed, to all who approach. Gross. Not effective.

Laying it all out there and “wowing” shoppers with endless details, requires you to trust them to be able to pick and choose what is most important and relevant to their unique need - a truly monstrous, and relatively unfair, task to request of your valued customer.

What is becoming ever more apparent, is the need for editing in retail. Countless times throughout my experience at EuroShop, I entered a space only to find the products and services actually being sold were quite different than what I originally expected.  Many spaces felt disjointed, unorganized, and directionless. This not only sparked disappointment, but frustration as well. It is so crucial that retail programs take a step back, and assess whether or not what their saying is sharp enough to cut through all of the other noise.

Editing for retail is not so much about tweaking design and copy as it is about taking the time to anticipate shoppers’ needs before they enter the space. When you try and cast a large net without first testing the water, learning the environment, researching the patterns and trends, you will likely spend a lot of time and energy without ever catching the attention of the truly valuable customers. You have to understand what they are looking for - what will resonate with them. Then, you can thoughtfully craft timely messages that their ears and eyes will already be primed to interact with.


Here are three things you can do right now to make sure your display program cuts through all of the retail noise:

ICONS_Predict Purchase.png

1. Predict the Purchase.  

Today’s shopper has more options for gathering and sorting information than ever before. What was once a linear path to purchase, now takes on a figure more reminiscent of an amoeba.

retail consumer path to purchase

If you can recall from Biology 101, amoebas are single-celled organisms, that contain nuclei, and generally take on the shape of their environments. Likewise, today’s typical path to purchase is fluid, ever-changing, and tends to follow the path of least resistance.

Following the path of least resistance means that which comes naturally and easiest (especially if it is a longstanding pattern) will likely determine which route is taken and choice is made. In science, we can view this through the evolution of a species. In retail, we see this in shopper habits and trends.

At the heart of any path to purchase, is the nucleus. This is the command center of your brand and your product offerings. Your nucleus should respond to the external happenings all around it. We know things about shopper demographics and behaviors that we could have only imagined 10 years ago. Dig deep to find out the inner workings of their mind as they wander the this path so when they enter your space, you can deliver appropriate messaging and product presentation with military precision.


2. Precision Delivery.  

Too much information too soon, and you’ve lost them.  Actually, too much of anything, at any point, will lose them. Organize and present your information and product presentation in a manner that is logical and easy to navigate. Hone in on what is most important, and be strategic in how you communicate that at every level.

Jon Bird, industry veteran with over 30 years of retail marketing communications experience, developed a simple way to view visual merchandising: Hi, Eye, Buy. This concept asks brands to think about the various levels of exposure their audiences face, and use that as the roadmap to effectively deliver messaging.

  • Hi - How can you capture shoppers’ attention at the highest level? What type of signage, graphics, indicators do you need to include that simply introduce the shopper to your brand? How will you invite them into your space?
  • Eye - Once you make the introduction, how will you inform and educate them that your product is something of worth? How will you get them to interact and engage with the display? How will you make it easy for them to navigate the information you are presenting? How will you make a lasting impression...or at least one that remains long enough to get them to the check out?  
  • Buy - What elements do you need to include to convert interest into decision? How does this retail offering instill confidence in the choice they’ve made? What else can you deliver that will cause them to want to return?

3. Edit, Edit, Edit.  

Work with your creative agency and make sure that only the absolute, necessary information is being delivered.  Yes, you might have a million mega-watt gizmo, capable of delivering life at a rate only the sun could imagine, but your next customer may not care about the technology needed to make that happen.  

At the point of validation, shoppers only need to know two things - how your product will make their life complete, and how to buy it.  Don’t overload them and create your own white noise.

Trust in the fact that your audience has already done their research, and knows everything there is to know about your product (and a few of your competitor’s as well). Use extreme discretion when deciding which information will be presented, as you may only have their attention for less that 3 seconds.  

In the words of one of my career mentors, Vince DeVita, K.I.S. Keep It Simple.

In conclusion, prior to leaving for Paris, I had already endured a month of vigorous travel, and once I returned home, it didn’t end. With my attention being pulled in so many directions, and my mind hazy with jet lag, I decided to pull back when I finally returned home for good. I tuned out for a day so I could focus on what was important to me. This much needed mini-break, helped recenter, refuel, and rekindle a desire in me to go out and help others make the most out of their retail offerings.

If you feel like your retail space may be overwhelming - or, on the other end, too underwhelming - I’d suggest you do exactly as I did: take a step back, think about what is important, and make some changes so that what is important is what is communicated. It’s easy to get lost in the noise that surrounds us. Use these three activities to help simplify your retail messaging, and reach out to us if you’d like to discuss how they can be applied to your unique setting.

Life needs some simplicity. Retail needs simplicity. Be a doer of great, and give your shoppers a much deserved break!