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Judging Stores by Their Covers

Our very first blog post “Get it in their hands: the power of demonstration” was written by Meagan, detailing her experience of buying a new camera. She told us all how it wasn’t until she had the camera in her hands that she knew it would be the one for her. Ever since that post, I’ve actually put thought into why I buy the things that I buy. If Meagan shops based on the feeling of holding that item in her hand and trying it out, what is it that drives me to the cash register?

It wasn’t until two months ago that I knew the answer. I went to a yearly sale at a well-known Nova Scotia yarn store, and as I was wandering through the rows of yarn and wool and books and people, I realized that for me, it’s all about appearances.  I would pick up the yarn and get a sense of the weight, the texture, the comfort-level. But it wasn’t that overall need to touch that drove me to a particular aisle. It was the appearance. The décor. The display. It was only when I was attracted by the look of the aisle that I would actually walk down it and pay any attention to the wares that it held.

I’m well aware that I’m a very visual person, but I never really stopped before to think about how that particular trait has influenced my life outside of school and work. Now that I’ve put two-and-two together, I can see how my shopping habits are influenced by the visual cues that I get from the stores that I walk into.

All of my favourite stores – from clothing boutiques, to book stores and craft nooks – have very distinct similarities. They’re all laid out in a way that is very organized and easy to navigate; nothing crowded or hard to walk through. They’re all bright and well-light, and I get a feeling of comfort as soon as I walk through the door, like it’s a safe environment to spend time in. There are a lot of clean lines and displays are put together with a lot of care and thought. And there’s colour. So much colour. No matter which direction I’m facing, there’s something for me to look that invites me to take a closer look. I have a hard time walking out of these stores without buying something, even when there’s nothing that I went in to buy, just because I felt like I should make a purchase.

Now at this point in the post, you’re wondering what this has to do with you. So I like to judge stores by their cover. What does this matter to everyone reading this?

Most people probably don’t care why I buy the things that I buy. But a retail store owner trying to get my business is going to have to put a lot of thought into what she or he can do to get my attention. And now, all of a sudden, I’m starting to feel bad for that store owner. Now they not only need to appeal to me and my visual signals, but also to Meagan, the kinaesthetic shopper. And what about people who take in information through auditory cues? Now your store needs to be visually appealing, people need to want to pick up your wares, and you need good tunes to listen to. What happened to the good old days when you put an item on a shelf and if someone wanted to buy it they did, and if they didn’t they moved along? Now, with so many other stores in the mall, you need to put a lot of extra effort to get my sale, and Meagan’s sale, and everyone else’s.  Retail has always had an element of competition.  Now it’s just a competition for attention.

How do you appeal to different types of shoppers?  What influences you to make a purchase?



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Get it in their hands: the power of demonstration

Earlier this year, I took the photography plunge and bought my first DSLR camera.  My experience at my local camera shop got me thinking about the power of demonstration.

Within 2 minutes of entering the store, I found myself back outside in the crisp March air, camera in hand, and sales guy in tow.   Viewfinder to my eye, I tracked a passing car and squeezed the shutter button.  Pulitzer Prize, here I come.


A glance at the display window revealed a blurry Ford Taurus.

…is there such a thing as impressionist photography?

“Now,” my sales guy continued, “this wheel adjusts your shutter speed.  The higher the number, the faster it closes.  This will let you capture fast moving targets.  Let’s put it up to 1/2000 and give it a go”.

I, somewhat clumsily, rolled the wheel, and zeroed in on my next victim.


I looked at the display and was amazed.  If I didn’t know better, the car could have been stopped at the light, not cruising by us at 60 clicks.  Then I smiled.

Looking back on the experience, I know that the sale was made in that moment, shivering on the front step, and not when I finally plopped down my soon-to-be-weary credit card an hour later.

I learned a valuable sales lesson from that exchange.   “Get it in their hands.”

It could have gone so differently.  I could have walked into the store, been shown an endless variety of models, and been barraged with a list of technical mumbo jumbo that you’d need an advanced engineering degree to understand.  Instead, within minutes, I was taking pictures with MY new camera.

I left the store a satisfied customer, with accessories and extended warranty to boot; it was a good day for my sales guy as well.   Will I be back?  Absolutely.

Do you “get it in their hands” in your store?  What techniques have worked best for your business?  Share your stories!

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