Melanie McIntosh

Article Summary:

Using Sight and Touch to Enhance Value


We often talk about it, but what does it mean? How do ensure that our customers perceive it?

Value is defined as estimated worth, or the quality of a thing which makes it desirable or useful. When a customer makes a purchase, they estimate that the value of the product is at least equal to the price they are paying.

Everyone wants to get their money's worth. The perceived value of a product must be higher than the sticker value. Pretty basic stuff. No one likes to get ripped off. The hard part is that value is subjective. We have formulas to determine price, but how do we determine value?

The way each person perceives value may vary, but as a retailer, you should have a good idea of what your target market values. Your customers, as a group, may value the quality, aesthetics, or usefulness of your product. Or perhaps your product is one that brings prestige, or respect.

Value may be subjective, but the good news is that you can control many of the factors that affect how your customers perceive it. You need to clearly determine what your target market values, and then you can enhance the perceived value of your product.

Perception is knowledge that is acquired through our senses. To have an effect on the perception of value, appeal to your customers senses: sight, touch, smell, sound and taste.

Enhance the visual perception through your window and in-store displays, signage, store design, layout and merchandising.

A cluttered environment can convey messages of disorganization, cheap products, poor management. Or in an antique shop, clutter may convey the anticipation of discovery, of finding a treasure of great value.

To portray prestige and quality, products are usually presented in a well-designed environment with out clutter. Perhaps they are displayed with other products or props that are known to be valuable.

Products are also valued for their own visual appeal. Customers buy products that enhance the image they are creating of themselves, their homes or businesses, etc. Find out from your customers what styles of dÃf©cor or clothing they like. Then tailor your buying to fit the tastes of the customer. Remember - your customers will not necessarily buy the same things you like.

Successful retailers try to determine what style appeals to their target market, and only carry products that fit the market's needs. Less experienced retailers often make the mistake of trying to please everyone. The customer receives a mixed message instead of a clear visual picture of the image or product of the store.

The key to making visual perception effective is attention to detail. All aspects of your business must convey the same message. The impression of a dirty washroom, or a poorly groomed employee can undermine the time & expense poured into merchandising and design.

Touch is very important to perception. Customers want to touch before they buy. Products need to be accessible to customers to touch, try on, experience.

This is one of the barriers to internet retailing. The customers senses are limited to what they can see, or maybe only read about online. This is one of the factors that limit customers willingness to buy.

The same is true of product packaging. Customers will tear open packages to get a chance to touch the item before they buy it. Research has shown that customers are more likely to buy if they can touch the product first. They want to know the softness of the towel or the weight of the silverware.

Stores that have locked display cases need to focus more energy on sales and service, because customers will refrain from asking for the cases to be opened. Many customers are reluctant to request assistance from the salesperson if they are just looking. The customer may not want to bother the salesperson, or may be trying to avoid an unwelcome sales pitch.

Sample products removed from the packaging, or testers for products like lotions are opportunities for the customer to have a tactile experience of the product.

How often do you purchase a product with out picking it up and examining it from all angles? You usually try on clothes, lie down on a bed or sofa or pick up dishes just to see if they feel right. Usually the less routine the purchase, and the more expensive the item, the more important it is to touch it before buying. When choosing products to sell, be aware of the tactile qualities. If you are selling towels, sell the softest towels you can find. Then emphasize these qualities as features in your selling strategies.

The GAP is an example of a store that enhances its products' visual and tactile perception. The stores are clean, there is no clutter, and everything is visually appealing; from the clothes themselves, to the store design, the fixtures, washrooms, fitting rooms, and even the personal appearance of the employees. The product is easily accessible to customers and the clothes feel like they are good quality. The fabrics have weight, and are not likely to wear out quickly. Some of the cottons are brushed to feel softer. The clothes are made to fit well, so the customer feels confident.

The clothes are basic, yet also follow fashion trends. It is easy to mix and match items. You don't have to worry about making a fashion 'faux-pas'. Through the visual and tactile appeal of their clothing and stores, the GAP has given their products attributes of quality, comfort, and fashion. The product is perceived as having a wide acceptance and even a certain respect and prestige.

Think about your own business. Make a few quick lists:

  • What are the values of your target market?
  • What values are your products aimed at?
  • What can you do to enhance the perception of these values?
  • Write down the five headings: Sight, Touch, Smell, Sound and Taste. Under sight and touch write down at least one thing you could do to enhance these senses.

Melanie McIntosh is a Retail Consultant and the founder of Inspire Retail Solutions, a British Columbia firm that helps retailers create strong, professional business images that attract customers.

Melanie is currently offering a free consultation for interested retailers. She can be reached by email.

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