Despite the rise in online shopping, Australians continue to readily embrace the physical shopping experience with a post-pandemic report revealing that over two thirds of consumers (67 per cent) believe that physical stores are an important touchpoint, while one third (34 per cent) say they have a new appreciation for being able to touch, feel, or try products in-store since the pandemic.[1]  

Known as the ‘last six feet of a sale’, the physical store environment is an invaluable opportunity for retailers to influence shopper behaviour. While eye-catching product displays and well-informed floor staff are part of any good retail plan, the power of product and shelf merchandising at this ‘last six feet’ cannot be underestimated. However, when it comes to maximising sales, it’s surprising how many brands fail to address merchandising at this final yet crucial stage of the sales journey.

Having products readily available on shelf, ticketed correctly, and well-presented is considered field marketing 101, and having the right field marketing partner on board can make all the difference to a product’s success. This is because field marketing partners augment fundamental field marketing tactics by integrating retail strategies that consider broader elements such as cost optimisation, stock fulfilment, and instore compliance.

The three pillars for in-store success

While there are many tried-and-true retail tactics for engaging customers, success often relies on the following three pillars that support the in-store shopper journey:

  1. Availability: Can’t sell something that isn’t there, so, if a customer can’t find the product they’re looking for, either because it is out of stock or it is languishing in the warehouse, sales are hamstrung. Knowing how much stock is required for each store is equally important to meet customer demand and avoid lost sales due to out of stocks.
  2. Visibility: even if the store has enough stock, it will only sell if customers can find it. Products must be clearly visible and positioned in opportunistic areas to interrupt and capture the shopper journey. This could be in the product’s usual shelf position in the correct category aisle or on an off-location display as part of a sales promotion at the end of the aisle or elsewhere in the store. This also applies to below-the-line campaigns and making sure that marketing investment is carried through into physical execution in stores.
  3. Communication: customers need to understand what separates a product from another potentially cheaper option. If a customer doesn’t know the unique selling point of a product, or whether it has been discounted as part of a promotional sale, they won’t be compelled to buy it. This can be as simple as effective packaging and product point-of-sale material, to retailer staff training and advocacy, and shopper sales programs. The best marketing plans can be affected by instore factors such as product ranging, stock availability, or retailer staff who have different information, affinity to other brands, or other motivations.

Tips for influencing sales in stores

With most shoppers preferring to make their final purchase in store, brands need to create an engaging connection with the customer, which includes making sure their products stand out. These three tips can help influence the last six feet of a sale by optimising customer engagement and taking sales to the next level:

  1. Ranging and distribution: Do you have the right product mix in stores? Having visibility over what’s in the market, understanding which products are your highest growth items, and placing these in the right stores will ensure buyers remain attracted to your brand. Staying on top of the latest product trends and changes in shopper behaviour will also help position your brand as a category leader and innovator, further enticing customers to purchase. With range curation in the supermarkets catering for local store demographics it means there’s hundreds of different planograms and range mixes across Coles and Woolworths. Harvey Norman in certain categories has pushed ordering responsibility back onto stores (reversing a previous decision) meaning the traditional CE sales reps have a greater responsibility in ranging, distribution, and sales.
  2. Merchandising fundamentals: Availability, planogram, presentation, and promotions are merchandising 101. Consider tailoring a compliance & on-shelf availability program to support sell-out at a store level. It is crucial that products are readily available in store, are ticketed correctly, and well-presented on the shelf, which includes making sure the product and packaging are in good condition. Depending on the retail channel it can be as simple as ensuring your promotional investment carries through into execution or developing product and shelf POS to help your product stand out amongst others.
  3. Shopper journey and experiences: Elevate the shopping experience through seasonal and opportunistic promotions. Engage customers with targeted promotions that capture them in store through initiatives such as in-store staff ambassadors, sampling opportunities, or bring the brand to life with interactive product displays.

Every brand is seeking ways to influence a customer’s buying journey, and the key is to not fall short by overlooking the last six feet of a sale where it’s most competitive. CROSSMARK designs intelligent retail strategies that increase sales conversion rates with the help of data intelligence and bespoke technology that is more efficient and transparent with measurable outcomes.  

Pat Servat is director of growth and innovation at CROSSMARK Australia.