The Seirenes were beautiful but dangerous creatures recorded in ancient Greek literature. Their irresistible and enchanting voices could frequently be heard from islands wafting across the waves in the Mediterranean Sea. Passing sailors who heard the music would be captivated, lose all sense of propriety and inadvertently let their craft run aground on the sharp rocks, risking certain death. One of these islands was Anthemoessa, The Island of Flowers. To overcome the temptation and the risk of certain death, crews would stopper their ears with wax, latch themselves to the ship masts and command each other not to attempt to release each other until they had sailed by and the danger had passed.
Behavioral scientists today could draw many parallels with the Seirenes. People heartily want instant gratification. Ask if they want chocolate or a healthy green salad just now, the answer will probably be chocolate. Ask which one they would prefer in a month’s time, it will probably be the healthy green salad. That is when the diet and exercise program begins, right?
Consumers consistently act irrationally in the way they overly discount and devalue the future in the pursuit of an immediate “fix.” You could be forgiven for saying there is no such thing as rational thought, particularly when it comes to decision-making. The psychologists refer to it as “bounded rationality,” the argument being that purely rational thought alone does not explain the human decision-making process.
Emotion Is King
We live in a marketplace of perceptions, where economic man, that rational, analytical type who makes decisions based on math and the technology, is basically as rare as “hen’s teeth.” He may be a convenient economic model for academic theory, but in reality he barely exists.
You see, shopping is predictably irrational. It is an “attention game,” where irrational forces compete and social norms play tricks on us. We may think we know better, but the fact is that we will never change. That’s why a 50-cent aspirin is always more effective than a 1-cent aspirin when you’ve got that bad headache (when both have the same amount of active ingredient). The mind always gets what it wants when it goes shopping.
I am reminded of an extract I read in Jim Pooler’s book Why We Shop. Emotional Rewards and Retail Strategies. He speaks of a middle-aged husband who owns a perfectly good set of golf clubs, lusting after a new set of $2,000 titanium clubs. Given the poor state of the joint checking account, he knows neither he nor his wife can afford such a frivolous purchase. Nevertheless, his birthday is approaching, and his wife goes out and buys them out of the same joint checking account. Is the husband upset? No. He is delighted, and not surprisingly, so is his wife.
The point of the book, and the reason you should buy it just now, is that two-thirds of absolutely everything we buy today is just about totally unnecessary! A lady will not buy a designer dress and wear it until threadbare, nor a man choose to change his automobile because the latest model doesn’t say something extra about his ego. You see, shopping defines the person, the mind, the psyche and the soul. We make decisions based on peer pressure, personal success and fashion. In today’s consumer world, all of these things are orchestrated by just one factor: emotion.
By nature, humans are emotional creatures. Garden centres should utilize emotional values to appeal to their customers because it has become the new currency of a 21st century retail business. Emotional values like trust and reassurance set higher standards than the purely rational and physical values of a matter-of-fact product that provides information. In fact, only appealing to a rational mind makes consumers think too much. It hurts their brains! It is estimated that 85 percent of good visual merchandising details states of mind and focuses on touch points that immediately connect with consumers. Attention to color, lighting, ambiance, mood and seasonality are instant triggers. Good merchandising has the ability to motivate where no motivation ever existed before. That’s why good theatrical sets, creative combinations of related products, mannequins and literally anything that makes an emotional connection is so important. Surprise is key. Anything that creates a good emotional reaction is a trigger for a sale.
Thrill of the Shop
It’s frequently more than words can say. Just look at the greeting card industry. Greeting cards have created an emotional roller coaster of searching for the right words, the right sentiment and the right image. It’s the thrill of the chase. The consumer becomes fully involved and is riding that emotional roller coaster. Mix in gift sales (which you really should label and categorize as “indulgences”), and it can become the classic example of irrational, or emotional, shopping. It is always a bigger deal for the gift buyer than it is for the receiver. The buyer frequently spends way over their budget, illustrating that emotions have taken over. Could this be why it is never clever to go grocery shopping when you are hungry? The theory is that you are more likely to give into temptation and make bad food choices rather than make a rational, healthy choice.
The Celebration Rose promotion is a classic green emotional offer. Just think. You can buy a celebratory rose to cover just about every milestone in life: births, graduations, engagements, weddings, anniversaries and retirements. There are even roses that could include your best friend’s name. If that doesn’t work, and your friend is your very best friend and your budget permits (which undoubtedly it will), you can have a rose named after her for around $150. Or how about the private collection of three for $400, or the family collection of five for $600? Ten is a good number, how about a set of 10 named roses with your friend’s name for $1,000? Good value? You bet.
How to Stand Out
Remember, we are changing from a goods-based to a service-based (emotion) industry. Many consumers perceive our products as homogenous amongst the various greenhouses and garden centers in their area. The challenge is therefore to be memorable and stand out. Being so must be a central objective. If we believe that most purchases are impulsive and the decisions are guided by emotion, then emotional understanding is crucial in the store environment, in communications and in the customer-staff interface.
Good emotional visual merchandising:
• Makes it easier for the customer to locate the desired category and merchandise
• Makes it easier for the customer to self-select
• Makes it possible for the shopper to co-ordinate and accessorize
• Recommends, highlights and demonstrates particular products at strategic locations
• Educates about the product in an effective and creative way
If you have done all of this right, it will have resulted in unplanned purchasing - lots of it! It will have engaged as many of the senses as possible to make the in-store experience both compelling and memorable. What I like most is that it will have delivered maximum branding for your business at minimum cost.
What may have been acceptable for consumers a generation ago certainly makes little sense now. A generation ago, the only way to sell more was to sell for less, and the only way to sell for less was to sell more. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? However, you can deride this so-called former “logic” through a program of great visual merchandising. The emotional element in visual merchandising is the great driving force that mocks this old fashioned “logic.” It helps set out and define your value proposition, that is, what sets you apart and defines why your prospect should buy from you and no one else. It adds enchantment to your customer experience, and should convince your prospect that a product bought from you will have more value than the very same product purchased elsewhere.
I have always remembered what my mother told me about first impressions: They have a nasty habit of lasting, as we are all preprogrammed to size situations and people instantly. Luckily for good emotional visual merchandisers, this is an advantage. First impressions do persevere, so it is well worth getting things right the first time. Remember, “You may never get a second chance to make a first impression!”
By the way, I have just this minute heard some beautiful voices and music from over the waves, so I now need to lash myself to my ship’s mast. I shall stop my ears with wax and enjoy a few squares of smooth milk chocolate. And yes, the diet starts next week.