Picking Up the Product: The Four Rules of the Retail “Experience Zone”

An omnichannel marketing approach is relevant far beyond advertising. In fact, applying this approach at retail can make a huge difference in “the last five feet.”

“Omnichannel” is used in this sense as the discipline of providing context for each touchpoint. Many marketers refer to retail as one of those touchpoints, but it’s not that simple. Ignite Partnership’s five zones of influence provide a structure for creating effective in-store programs in context of the customer experience.

The Five Zones of Influence at Retail
These zones are less about physical space and more about the depth of the customer experience, ranging from shallow to meaningful. Each zone has an important job to do. You can remember them more easily when you remember the acronym A.L.E.R.T:

1. Attract – Zone 1 disrupts sightlines or attracts shoppers to the category with exterior advertising, wayfinding signage, or large POP visible from afar.
2. Learn – Zone 2 communicates the core benefit and passive, basic information at the product level. This includes small POP, shelf tactics and even packaging.
3. Experience – Zone 3 gets product in shoppers’ hands or engages consumers with interactive display content that brings the product experience to life. See below for the rules of this zone.
4. Remind – Zone 4 facilitates the shopping journey via mobile engagement to provide a deeper experience for opt-in shoppers.
5. Talk – Zone 5 represents any face-to-face interaction, from sales associate assistance to on-site brand ambassadors.

Four Rules for Nailing the “Experience Zone”
Zone 3 is all about product interaction. When shoppers can experience the product out of packaging, purchase intent skyrockets. Get the product in their hands, and they are considerably more likely to purchase it. Even if your product isn’t designed to display content that actively engages shoppers (like TVs, smartphones or tablets can), the approach you take to the experience zone can provide a huge boost to your product’s appeal.

Rule #1: Study your space.
Zone 3 has a job to do, just like every other tactic. And that job depends on its context. What size is the space? Where is it in the store? What materials surround it?

The roles that these in-store zones play can overlap significantly. For instance, “clean store” policies often don’t allow large POP. That would greatly affect how you craft a product experience that will both attract and engage shoppers. Ignite considered this when creating on-device video content for Samsung. With no guarantee of Zone 1 attractant support, we created looping video content that regularly pulsed to serve as a beacon for itself.

Rule #2: Know your audience.
This requires a delicate balance of your brand’s target audience and the retailer’s customer segments. Considering both will ensure that you understand the state of mind the shopper is in when they are holding your product in their hands.

Who exactly are you trying to influence? Why are they in the store to begin with? What are they likely to already know about the category, product and brand? What assumptions can you bolster or debunk? Remember, your audience is more than a demographic, so you should account for their behaviors as well.

Rule #3: Dictate the experience.
Tell the shopper what to do. It’s appropriate to be bossy here. It doesn’t matter what killer features your product offers if a shopper isn’t directed well enough to find it. Instructional signage for product interaction should be based on observed shopper behaviors. As a product marketer, you’re so familiar with your category and product that you may feel any feature or differentiator should be obvious to the consumer. It almost always is not.

Providing the right prompts builds confidence in your shopper, and confident shoppers turn into buyers. You can see some examples of how Ignite advised ZAGG to engage shoppers in product demos that included concise, clear direction.

Rule #4: Consider the retailer.
Planograms, installation, power sources, security, sales associate competence, store policy and shopper profiles are all major factors in how successful any Zone 3 execution is.

Every retail partner has different policies and objectives, and it takes a great deal of experience to be efficient in creating a product experience that will be effective. If it does not align with retailer goals, it will not be accepted. If it is accepted by the retailer but is a headache for sales associates, it will be muted, moved or removed altogether.

No matter what your product is, it will be examined before it is put in a cart. Think carefully about the impression you want to make on customers, and design your Zone 3 experience accordingly.