FARE 2013: Avoiding 'Retail Hell'

Published in CSP Daily News

Expert talks about using cues, triggers at stores to escape visual chaos

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator

Kevin Kelley

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Telling stories of how his dad was transformed into either a grump or a happy shopper because of how a store was organized, retail designer Kevin Kelley told about 500 attendees at the 2013 Foodservice at Retail Exchange (FARE) conference how they must save customers from visual chaos and usher in order, touchstones and even inspirational elements to drive sales at their locations.

The physical design, displays and messaging of stores inside and out goes a long way in boosting sales potential, said the Los Angeles-based designer at the firm Shook Kelley.

Taking as an example motorcycle icon Milwaukee-based Harley Davidson, Kelley said the independent dealers that run the chain's stores are a tough group to convince to adopt consistency. He showed slides of chaotic displays where too much merchandise caused visual clutter, mannequins poorly dressed for the demographic failed to move product and dark sales spaces contributed to poor motorcycle-jacket sales.

Removing clutter, creating order and logic among the different product categories helped store owners communicate specific ideas--be they about Harley t-shirts, jeans or expensive motorcycle jackets. Kelley said the brand had a lot going for it off the bat, with a loyal group of bike riders who could relate to its image and the rebellious, masculine lifestyle it promoted. He said retailers need to take a page from that text and connect with the story their brand is telling.

Visual cues are very helpful in creating that retail environment, he said. Bringing up the East Hanover, N.J.-based Nabisco brand, he said efforts to develop a shelving area around its Oreo cookies using cues such as cookie jars and rolling pins--a display reminiscent of a country style kitchen--all helped connect shoppers with the product and ultimately increased sales.

Kelley also talked of a small grocer that needed to compete with big-box, high-volume merchants that were getting into groceries. His firm managed to draw out stories from the company's history to create a butcher shop area and a "smokehouse," using messaging and farm-inspired signage to communicate a grassroots backdrop. The successful design re-energized the family business.

Breaking down psychological elements in play with shoppers, Kelley noted three things:

  • Context: Putting the brand against a larger picture or idea, such as a Mother Earth or nostalgia for days gone by.
  • Cues: Visual components that automatically establish and define things like time and place.
  • Triggers: More elements that tap into the psyche, stirring emotion or larger ideas of inspiration and aspiration.

Many of the ideas Kelley mentioned break the mold retailers are used to regarding shopping patterns. For instance, he said the long supermarket aisle is a dated solution. Cutting aisles into thirds, for instance, can encourage a circular shopping pattern around those three islands, which is more conducive to sales. Even putting "parking" areas or visual elements that breaks the aisles down into thirds can help provide logic and respite. Shelving materials can also play a role, with packaged baked goods doing better when shelves have the look and feel of wood vs. metal.

"Environment affects behavior," Kelley said. As a company, "we brought together business, science and design, which believe it or not were groups that were far apart in how they viewed the world. We had to create a new language of 'perceptual design' that was about how people viewed the world."

The annual conference draws attendees from multiple channels and industries including c-stores, hospitals, colleges, restaurants and movie houses to discuss everything surrounding the business of foodservice and especially how it relates to retail applications.

By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
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