I don’t often blog about B2C marketing – mostly because much of my work is in the B2B world, but being on vacation for a few days with the kids last week exposed me on a personal level to a lot of B2C marketing, and I had a client meeting that brought some it back to the business level.
The particular form of marketing I'm writing about is merchandising. At a retail level, merchandising refers to the variety of products available for sale and the display of those products in such a way that it stimulates interest and entices customers to make a purchase. (Thanks, Wikipedia). Anyone who has ever been to a Disney park knows they have this down to a very well-calculated science. Every major attraction ends in a gift shop and those gift shops are well-merchandised to the attraction you just left.
So this past week, my family and I spent 4 days in New York City and went to the Museum of Natural History, The Intrepid Aircraft Carrier Museum, the Central Park Zoo and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Out of these, only Mdme Tussaud’s is for-profit. The rest are trying to get funds to run a great experience any way they can.
The easy lesson is first. If you run an experience attraction, exhibit, or museum, keep your gift shop open a bit later than the main attraction/event/experience. As much as my kids like the museums, they're still at the age where the gift shop is also an attraction for them (to my dismay). And at both the Natural History Museum and at the Zoo, the gift shop closed at the same time as the exhibits, so we never saw that “exhibit.” (Actually, the History Museum gift shop closed earlier – they wouldn't let us in 10 minutes before closing time). I know for certain that each organization missed out on having me part with a share of my wallet. Do the economics of staying open later make sense? I don’t know for sure, but keeping one or two people on staff for an extra 15 to 30 minutes is probably worth an experiment.
Merchandising for the Intrepid Museum should have been easy. It’s a military exhibit with lots of planes, boats, and history. But a walk into the gift shop was a frustrating experience for a 9 and 10-year old boy. There were a lot of toys for younger kids. Lots of traditional tourist souvenirs. But really nothing for them. They had one basic style of t-shirt, but not in a kid's size. Some models that could be put together if you were a bit older, but none of the basic snap together kinds. Lots of shot glasses or coffee mugs, but no plastic water bottles that my kids would use at their baseball games. And almost nothing they had was oriented towards girls (not women, girls). In short, they did a great job of merchandising to adults, veterans, and parents with little kids, but missed the tween/teen demographic completely. My younger boy decided not to get anything and save his money for the wax museum, which was where he really wanted to go.
The wax museum was a fun experience for the kids, and my wife and I got a few teachable moments talking about some of the more important history figures in the museum. So you would think with replicas of presidents, inventors, celebrities, and artists, there would a great gift shop to follow. But you would be wrong. There were a few items with Madame Tussaud’s name and logo on it, but nothing that would representative of what we had just walked through. No small wax figures. No kits to carve your own statue from a block of wax or clay. No candle (wax) making kits. There were SO many merchandising opportunities based on the people in the museum and what they had accomplished. But nothing was taken advantage of.
All this came rushing back to me when I met with a client opening their first retail space. They've been selling hand-crafted food over the internet and are opening a small kiosk in a newly created space in New York City. We talked about how to leverage that space for their online business and for follow-on business. The one additional suggestion I gave them was to merchandise the space appropriately as well – sell plates, glasses, and utensils that complement the food they're selling. Some people may buy the food, some may buy the accompaniments, and some may buy both.
To help you think about your merchandising – your cross selling opportunities – here are my top 7 tips:
- Think beyond your target audience or customers when selecting your add-on sales products. For example, do parents usually come with their kids? Are you thinking of the kids also? Is your store targeted towards women? If so, what can the men who accompany them do (i.e., spend money on) while waiting for their partner?
- Don’t have huge price gaps in your offerings. You shouldn’t have $2 offerings and $50 offerings. Find products that fill the gaps in the price range as well as serve your audience.
- Make it relevant - It may seem obvious, but tie your cross sell or merchandized products to your offering and brand. For example, if you are a restaurant, do you offer a cookbook?
- Look at the human behavior around your store/exhibit/booth. Does it make sense to leave your gift shop or cart right outside your front door open a bit later to get those who are last minute? (Don’t we all run late when kids are with us?)
- Height matters – Disney does this better than anyone – put things for the kids at kid-level.
- Give away something for free that costs you little but helps your customer or visitor remember you – a printed map of your attraction, a picture of your customers at their table if you're a restaurant, a token (literally) of your appreciation (I have about 5 of those from a local cornstalk maze we take the kids to each year).
- Location counts – merchandise near where a decision gets made. The wax museum had a “make a wax hand” offer in the middle of the tour, but we didn’t want to carry it the rest of the way. If it had been at the end as well, we probably would've done it.
What other tips, ideas or secrets do you have to share?