Tequila Shopping And The Future Of Digital Merchandising?

Last night, a good friend went to the local beverage/supermarket mega store to buy for a holiday party he and his wife are hosting this weekend. Ten minutes in, he was on the phone calling me to help talk him “off the ledge”, while he was in the Tequila row, of all places! Here’s a snapshot of our call, which started with a blaze of rapid-fire questions…

“When did buying Tequila get so complicated? Who was the genius that set these stores up this way? Why are there so many Tequilas and how does anyone actually know the difference between them? Did you know they have Tequila that costs $400? Why isn’t there some kind of a tutorial or display, or at least some guy standing there to help me? When did it get this complicated?

While his call got me laughing, it hit on something we all experience in every supermarket and most retail stores: there’s too much of everything nowadays. Anyone over forty can remember when the Tequila section had three options: a generic cheapo tequila, good Tequila, and the one with the worm in it. Whether it’s tequila, gin, or whiskey, those days are gone forever. In fact, from pasta, rice, and apples in the supermarkets to Legos and American Girl dolls in toy stores, it feels like you need a consumer product research degree to make confident purchases in today’s retail environments.

Is there a better way? Look around you in retail, you’ll see people googling reviews and hitting their Social networks to make sense of the retail options they face. For brands, marketing to respond to this new reality is vital, but it’s messy, often hit or miss, and often takes purchasing online and away from in-store. The struggle to digitally merchandise in ways that align with today’s digitally connected consumers and their need to buy with confidence from brands they trust, like and understand is a huge challenge. It’s a challenge that’s not just about physical environments, it’s also physiological, getting brands connected emotionally and intuitively through physical devices and digital media. So like any smart dad, I turned to my in-house marketing gurus; my 23- and 11-year old daughters for answers.

In less than two minutes, and after the younger one asked me what Tequila was, they agreed:

“Use short videos to tell the story and make it personal.” I immediately understood the idea of short-form videos to communicate, but wanted to know what they meant by “make it personal”. Their answer? Use screens just like their mobile devices have, small is good. It’s cool. It’s interesting. And it’s more personal. My oldest continued, “You gotta make sure the product message or story is personal Dad, at least in its look and style. Sort of like a tattoos versus corporate logos feel.”

From the mouths of…Millennials. Needless to say, after my surprise at these quick yet unexpectedly thought-provoking responses, it got me thinking:

What if digital signage in the aisle looked more like the digital signage in consumer’s hands?

What if people who are constantly holding and looking at a mini digital sign really will relate to mini digital signage on the shelf more instinctively or intuitively?

What if we built retail environments more populated with these small-format digital displays we spend most of our waking hours bonded to?

While the analytical side of me says we need research and testing, there are some simple truths that have hit home for me, I’d love to hear your what you think…

  • Mixing digital signage display sizes and formats seems really logical and necessary in order to “touch” the most common types of customers you currently serve, and just as importantly those types of customers you’d like to start seeing more of.
  • While traditional digital signage tends to be more about pushing a brand message, moving forward, it ought to be more about “tattoos vs. logos”, in other words more personal visually.
  • In the aisle, and on the shelf, smaller displays make much more sense physically, but may also make sense to more intuitively and more personally connect with Millennials and Perpetuals (those consumers that literally live on their digital devices).
  • Smaller tends to be more intimate when it comes to social gatherings and personal spaces, does it also equate to intimate when it comes to digital content and messaging?

At a minimum, some interesting food for thought for retailers, brands, product marketers and their technology partners – and quite possibly a “digital sign of things to come”.

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