Best ways to implement new technologies into spa merchandising

Written by Linda Cahan for Spa Retailer Magazine
Customers want what they want — and they want it for the same
price as on-the-floor units. Remember buying a car and adding
goodies one-by-one rather than buying a package? Customers now
want to do that with their spas.
Combine that need for control with integrated sound systems, jet
and water-temperature controls, and sophisticated circuit boards, and
you get customers who want everything they saw online.
Electronics allow you to customize the visual shopping experience
for your customers as well. Nothing says “future” quite like electronics.
The spas in your stores are becoming more complicated and
electronically sophisticated. But are you adding electronics into your
stores as well?
Brian Dyches is a partner with OpenEye Global, a leading Digital
Experience Design Agency in the United States. Well-versed in the
pool and spa industry and as a designer and consultant, Dyches has
worked with numerous retailers around North America. He designed
an award-winning Hot Springs Spa store and worked with Dimension
One on its retail brand program. He has also spoken frequently in the
industry on retail design and digital branding. Dyches suggests that
if you’re adding just one digital element, start with a monitor behind
the service desk or cash wrap. The other ideal location is if you have a
dedicated soak room with a wall. You have a captive audience in this
A good 50-second (looped) presentation will showcase your work,
increase the believability and authenticity of your brand and begin to
build customer engagement while creating loyalty. Make
sure you tell a great visual story. This is your in-store
advertising. The actual technology needed is a digital
monitor and a media player. These give you the opportunity
and ability to create digital content on your own.
Anne Marie Luthro, owner of AML Insights, has
spent the last 20 years focusing a critical eye on all
things retail- and shopper-centric. She has spent two
decades studying the environmental factors that influence
purchasing decisions and the psychology of shopping
behavior. This research has earned Luthro a reputation
as a leading authority in the industry of retail design.
Luthro loves in-store video as well and knows it
makes the shopping experience very contemporary. But
she prefers to see it on tablets in a minimum of three to
four locations around your spas. She stresses how visually
entertaining and important a visual guide on a tablet can
be to showing how a spa unit looks in different environ-
ments. The content on the iPad/tablet can sell not just
your products but also your expertise, installation and
other services you provide. For example: This is how this
unit looks in a gazebo, in the home, the backyard, with
a built-in deck, etc. This type of content helps put
the shopper in that experience. This also gives you an
opportunity to upsell accessories as well as any unique
installations your company offers.
Both Dyches and Luthro say content is king. If you
do something amateurish, it will downgrade people’s
perceptions about your ability to sell, knowledge of your
products, and your ability to successfully install and
maintain what you sell.
Another important thing to note: This isn’t a Best
Buy (or other local or online retailer) purchase. These
units need to be commercial grade or they won’t last for
any length of time.
Luthro says a poorly running digital display will kill
sales and customer confidence. “Can you do the due
diligence to keep the monitor and program in 100
percent working order?” she says. “If not, don’t do it.
A poorly running digital display shows you can’t handle
the technology. If you can’t handle a monitor, how can
they trust you handle the complicated technology that
goes into their spas?”
Luthro also says it’s not just about the monitor, but
it’s also about the entire presentation. That means it’s a
360-degree display — especially for your female shoppers
who notice everything. No one wants to see the back of a
screen, USB and power cords hanging down every which
way. To look professional, it’s got to have a clean look.
Digital signage is rarely used to its fullest potential.
Both Luthro and Dyches suggest customizing presentations
on tablets. Dyches advises creating a content strategy
where you key in a command to jump to images relevant
to your customers’ desires or questions.
Luthro looks at timing. For example, during the
weekdays, if the bulk of your customers are not at work,
they may be retired. If so, it makes sense to have various
images on your monitors to appeal to different generations’
needs and wants. On weekends, you may be getting
families. If so, images that reflect the fun the whole family
can have with a hot tub will appeal to those customers.
Keep track of the average ages of people coming into
your store by day and time. That information will give
you what you need to customize your media for your
I asked both Luthro and Dyches what they thought
of a large digital screen in your window. Both said it
depends on your drive-by and walk-by traffic. If the
screen can’t be easily seen, it’s a waste of money. But if
you have a store near the street, and cars stop at a light
in front of your store, you have an opportunity to create
an experience for these drivers: images of people enjoying
hot tub life. This is your chance to sell them the fantasy.
You have 40 seconds at most, so skip the words and go
straight to the images.
Luthro talks about “info-fueling,” which is when you
give a shopper enough information so they can ask an
intelligent question. Knowledge is power, and people hate
appearing uneducated — but only you and your staff are
the experts. An FAQ page on each tablet gives customers
the opportunity to learn quickly and figure out what they
need to ask. But, Dyches and Luthro say, you don’t want
only fact sheets on the tablets. Make sure each tablet is
geared to the units nearby and has visuals that inspire a
Written and Interviewed by Linda Cahan.
Linda Cahan is an internationally known expert in visual
merchandising strategy and store design. She gives seminars,
workshops, trains and consults for chain stores and independent
retailers. Along with SpaRetailer, she writes for several other retail
magazines, and is the author of two books and seven corporate
visual standards manuals. Cahan lives in West Linn, Ore.
Read more →

Mirror, Mirror On The… Money

Mirror, Mirror On The… Money

1. Made you look!
We have a hard time NOT looking at ourselves in mirrors. Watch us as we pass a dark window on a sunny day. We suck in our tummies and pull our shoulders back and, oh, what a striking reflection we cast! We slow and refocus to look in mirrors. Capitalize on it.

2. Flatter your shopper.

  • The right lighting makes everything look better.
  • Tilting a mirror is not a trick, it is a courtesy.
  • Cheap mirrors contort images, distort egos, and lose the sale.
  • Some colors are good on just about everyone. Some, not. Find ways to allow surroundings to enhance the reflection.


3. Be in two places at once.
Good mirror placement allows associates to see who needs help where. I can see if you’re “just browsing,” or if you’re on the precipice of needing assistance. I can keep an eye on two shopping groups at once.
Shoplifters hate mirrors. ‘nough said.

4. Context
I know what the shoe looks like it—that’s why I tried it on. How do they look on the rest of me? I’m taking my whole body out when I wear them. Different mirror shapes, sizes and placements have different functions.

Worst mirrors? AllSaints Spitalfields
Why? “Antique”-look distorts and allows less light reflection (the mirrors are dark and blotchy- although I doubt cheap.)
Best mirrors? Above the wheelchair accessible sinks in public restrooms.
Why? They’re tilted.

Read more →

Be a better store. 3 things to do NOW

Be a better store. 3 things to do NOW

How are you? You’re fine.

Be better!

1. Add Reading Glasses

If your shopper is over 39, she doesn’t want to have to take her glasses out to read a tag, the receipt, tertiary signage, etc. Reading glasses are ubiquitous, except when we need them. Be a realist. Find a simple way to supply reading glasses at key points in the store.

  • The most obvious places for glasses are fitting rooms and cash wraps.
  • Make your glasses YOURS (e.g. tie a feather to the hinge) to keep them from accidently being worn out the door.
  • Position/Merchandise the first pair of glasses conspicuously to train shoppers to look for them.
  • DON’T make them monocles or one-armed–that just means they’re hard to handle.  1GlassesB

2. Measure Time in Store

I know you’re busy.  That’s the point.  Make the most of busy.  Use your phone’s timer, keep a notepad on you, at the counter, etc. and record the time (hour, minute, second) shoppers enter and the time they leave.  Do math.  Note the duration. DON’T do this when “you have the time,” but prioritize it for one week.  Average time in store is your most important window of opportunity.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 1.56.59 PM

  • Take yourself through your store in that amount of time and  see what you see/do/hear/feel.  Put yourself in your shoppers’ shoes. 
  • When we move along to Next Steps at Being Better, there are more measurements you can add to paint an even more robust picture of your shopper’s experience.
  • DON’T focus on pushing the limits of shoppers’ time in store– work with what you have and it will grow organically, as it needs.

3. Ban the Tape

A sign taped to your window, your cash wrap, a fixture, etc., sends an unintentional message.  Don’t ignore the vehicle- it’s as important as the message. Is it really so urgent you didn’t have time to post it in a finished manner?  Do your store hours really change so often that you can’t print, laminate and suction-cup-hook it to the window rather than taping it? Is taping a one-sided 8 1/2 x 11” piece of paper about the Boy Scouts’ can-drive the best way to support your community?  No.

tapeWindow1 copy   tapeWindow2 copy

Triage all that’s taped:

  • If it’s urgent, put it on an “Urgent” bulletin board in a dedicated “Urgent” space.
  • If it’s permanent information, frame it or at least laminate it and re-imagine where else it may live a happier life.
  • Support your community on a Community Board.  Follow the same rules as “Urgent.”
  • Seanette Corkill of Frontdoor Back (Visual Merchandising/Store Design) coined it perfectly:  “TAPE is a four-letter word.”
  • DON’T think you have to create something permanent on your doors/windows–make it easy to move, change, etc. (think suction cups and static clings.)

suction cup on window   Bulletin board outside   store hours framed

Read more →

Back-To-School Shopping Stays Old School

Back-To-School Shopping Stays Old School

“But the bulk of consumers will continue to do their back-to-school shopping in stores rather than online, according to researchers.” [Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times] [1]
Did you hear the lady? “IN STORES.”

Going to the store to shop back-to-school (BTS) supplies is a rite of passage (at least for privileged American kids.) We’re talking about good, old-fashioned supplies: pencils, pens, spiral notebooks, and Trapper Keepers. BTS supply shopping is the portal into the magical thinking that, “If everything is new and clean and organized, I will perform better!” If you study these kids and their glassy-eyed stares long enough, you can envision them in 20 years as 30-somethings wandering the aisles of The Container Store quietly chanting, “This is what I need. This will change everything.”

Many retailers were on the bandwagon of “giving back” by helping kids get the supplies they need. Target’s Give With Target backpack campaign[2] struck an important emotional and status chord by understanding that simply having the backpack was a huge morale boost for kids who couldn’t afford or access one themselves.

Walmart focused on the value side of the equation by airing ads that show a family shopping, buying and saving in their stores. The best BTS TV spot, though, had to be Kmart’s, Yo Mama[3], a refreshing twist on a usually negative adage.

Macy’s partnered with RIF this year to “give back” (Be Book Smart.) They offered shoppers an in-store coupon for every $3 donated to RIF. RIF is very important, especially to Macy’s. [snark alert] If we don’t teach our kids to read, how will they make their way through all that overload of text on the Macy’s in-store signs and flyers?
Sauce for the goose…sauce for the gander.

We see what we want (or who we aspire to be) on TV and we want at least some essence of that to carry through to the floor of the store. To a 5th grader, going to Dad’s office supply store for BTS is not a celebratory outing. Dad’s stores are old and scary and a little boring. There is a fortress of technology (designed for work, not play) at the front, and nothing in the store says that kids are welcome. Shopping for supplies where Mom shops, however, is a celebration. Target and Walmart are fun. The selection is outrageous. The prices are very competitive and the section is full of life and other kids who are awakening to the beauty of magical thinking. I celebrate at Target; I check something off of a list at Office Depot.

BTS is the second biggest holiday shopping event. It’s a far cry from Holiday (with a capital H, as in Christmas) but it’s huge- a $73B business (Holiday is $579B). This year, the annual household spend on all supplies (apparel/shoes, supplies, tech, etc.) was $635. (Mine was about $36 and I don’t even have kids. I just love notebooks and pens, and I was in the stores for research.) Create a celebratory BTS experience in your media AND in your store and watch your share of that $73B grow.

Read more →

Thank you, Ron Johnson

Thank you, Ron Johnson

Why people weren’t buying at JCP under Johnson’s leadership, I don’t purport to know. (“Carpetbagger Conspiracy” comes to mind, as do poor communication skills and exclusionary, “we/they” thinking.) What he did to bring a modicum of sophistication, contemporaneity and intelligence to middle-income America, I thank him for.
Read more →

Put a hook on it.

Put a hook on it.

The under-the-table bag hook. A simple, little thing that lets the ladies know, “you get it”.  Nothing fancy–just a practical hook (retail price, less than $1) to keep us from having to drape our purses on the backs of our chairs (vulnerable, conspicuous, cumbersome) or setting them on the floor (gross). It’s becoming practice at many places (namely bars and cafes) but not enough.

We feel more confident and comfortable in your space, and we keep it clean and clear. At retail, we free up our hands to shop. Think about it. You put a mirror on the floor for us to try something on. Something usually comes OFF first (a bag, a jacket…). Why not just add a hook to the fixture? Win-win-win.

Just put a hook on it.

Read more →