From the Sunday Circulars to Unboxing Videos—The Evolution of the Buying Process

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It wasn’t that long ago when the Sunday newspaper was part of morning ritual—especially spending time looking through the circulars, and finding the latest items on sale from our favorite retailer. That was often our first step in narrowing down and selecting the perfect consumer product. From refrigerators and microwaves to computers and TVs, we’d head off to the store, armed with ad inserts. Once we arrived, our expectation that a knowledgeable sales associate would be able to educate us on our product choice, answer any questions, and have the skill set to suggest extras we hadn’t even thought of (“You’ll need an HDMI cable,” or “Have you considered a laptop stand?”). Sometimes, you’d even make a day of it, driving from store to store in search of the perfect purchase!

The buying process sure looks different now, doesn’t it? For one thing, it’s not that consumers don’t welcome a world-class in-store experience, but in today’s retail, we don’t count on it. Consumers today have far more resources at their disposal than ever before, resulting in a more informed consumer than at any other time in the retail industry. Think back to a recent purchase, and the resources you used to help make your final decision. Pretty sure it didn’t start with the Sunday circulars, right? More likely you went down the rabbit hole of online resources, including customer and professional reviews, retailer websites, Instagram and Facebook ads, and, if you’re like me, unboxing videos on YouTube or social media.

The power of friends and family recommendations

However, somewhere in your top five resources, I’ll bet is a family or friend’s recommendation. As I enter my fourth decade in retail, I’ve learned that once someone owns a potential purchase emotionally, they’ll find a way to pay for it financially. And that emotional connection tends to happen when you least expect it. Maybe you went to a friend’s to watch a big game on their new 65” HDTV, and now even though you hadn’t thought about a new TV, now it’s all you can think about. Or you attended a family barbecue, and their new gas grill was amazing. In the end it’s the emotional connection that kick-starts the buying process. It’s like a fever that begins to rise as you start your own research journey. By the time you walk into a retailer, you’re not asking for sales advice—you want the sales associate to validate your research, and confirm you’ve made the best choice.

So what are your top five resources? Friends and family remain number one on my list, followed by customer reviews, in-store sales associates, YouTube, and in-store interactive displays. Take a moment and list your top five in the comment section.

A shifting buying process, and pioneering solutions

That’s why retailer engagement strategies have shifted. Now sales associates are more likely to ask you about the research you’ve already done, what have you seen that you’ve liked, or suggesting lifestyle use cases that consumers may not have considered. The goal is to strike just the right balance: personalize the in-store experience, while at the same time connecting with a customer’s research journey.

Change in our industry takes many forms. Retailers and manufacturers are visually changing the way they appear to the consumer, making it easier for them to learn and interact with technology both in-store and online. At T-ROC, we’ve also been busy enhancing our experience offerings for both in-store and digital sources, creating innovative end-to-end solutions based on the real challenges that retailers and brands face.

Next-generation customer engagement solutions

Most recently T-ROC launched our VIBA in-store/online customer engagement solution that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) bots along with real-time access to a live person who can answer questions, offer advice, display high-definition content such as videos or images to customers, and even point them to the products they need for sale in the store or on the retailer’s website. By minimizing wait times and maximizing access to a team member who can provide accurate product information and knowledge, sales are increased while brand and product loyalty are further enhanced.

Visual, interactive merchandising—brand refinement makes sure it’s right

From a visual in-store perspective, every year manufacturers and retailers strategize on best-in-class merchandising concepts that enable customers to learn and interact with technology while shopping in-store—from changing signage to creating new displays. This process can be months in planning and is complex—involving multiple partners, from marketing and operation teams to display manufacturers and implementation teams that execute everyone’s efforts during reset week. Any delay or kink in the process has a ripple effect and can impact product launches, leading to missed sales forecasts and loss of much-needed brand awareness in today’s competitive landscape.

That’s why we’ve launched several cost-effective continuity national brand merchandising programs that focus exclusively on ensuring that every client’s assortments are best-in-class throughout the lifecycle of their investment. This is a radically different solution—we don’t leave a store location under the current state that has been identified, with either a plan in place to correct a mishap, or fix it while we’re there. Our efforts on any particular visit are dictated by the needs of the store, and because our solutions include weekly continuity touches, we are much more knowledgeable and therefore we’re able to get ahead of any problems before they become larger issues.

These are just a few of the enhancements T-ROC has pioneered to respond to new and evolving retail challenges. To learn more about T-ROC’s Virtual Solutions for both in-store and online as well as our cost-aggressive Brand Refinement Merchandising programs, contact Lou Kindschuh, Vice President of Business Development, lkindschuh@trocglobal.com.