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New way to rearrange store products could boost impulse buying

“What’s new here is that we designed our model so that customers walking down an aisle they normally peruse will notice products they will likely be interested in based off associations with what was there before.”

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A data-based method for periodically rearranging products enables retailers to optimize new store layouts based on customer familiarity with where their favorite things used to be. 

The Washington State University-led research leverages past customer transactions to provide brick-and-mortar stores with a degree of the personalized shopping experience online retailers such as Netflix and Amazon use to promote impulse buying. 

“What’s new here is that we designed our model so that customers walking down an aisle they normally peruse will notice products they will likely be interested in based off associations with what was there before,” said Chuck Munson, a professor in the WSU Carson College of Business and corresponding author of a study appearing in Expert Systems with Applications. “Our analysis shows that if you are a store that likes to rearrange periodically this would be a smart way to do it.”

Gihan Edirisinghe, study lead author and a former WSU PhD student now at Western Kentucky University, came up with the idea for the research on a Saturday evening trip to Walmart a few years ago. As he and his wife perused the aisles, they quickly realized something strange was afoot. 

“We found ourselves walking the aisles we normally do but all our stuff had moved.” he said. “So, I started wondering if the Walmart folks had put a lot of thought into the rearrangement. When I got home, I checked the literature and it turned out there was a lot of research on one time store rearrangements but literally nothing data-driven on the best way to periodically rearrange products.” 

Edirisinghe discussed his findings with Munson and the two researchers decided to tackle the knowledge gap. They developed and tested a product allocation model that uses data mining techniques to extract profitability and product affinity details from tens of thousands of real customer transactions contained in the Microsoft database ‘Foodmart.’ 

Their model then uses a three-step process to determine ideal product placement for stores that periodically rearrange their wares. 

First, it identifies a store’s most profitable products so they can be placed in highly visible locations. Next, it determines which items tend to be purchased together so they can be placed in a way that customers will notice something interesting next to a planned purchase. Finally, the model utilizes what the researchers call past-aisle impulse to take advantage of customers’ familiarity with where products used to be to determine future store layouts. 

“This last step is designed so that people looking in a familiar place for, say, potato chips will notice something new that our data tells us will interest them,” Edirisinghe said. “Every rearrangement can then be used as the basis for the next. To the best of our knowledge no previous research has considered this effect.” 

Munson and Edirisinghe ran numerical simulations to compare the potential profitability of their new model to previous work on product placement. Their model significantly outperformed allocation methods that rely solely on visual rearrangement as well as other modeling techniques that use data association. 

One important factor they identified that influenced potential profitability was the nature of the retailer’s target market. 

“If it is more like a gas station store next to a freeway where people don’t really have too much familiarity with the layout, we found that a one-time optimization of products was superior to our method of periodic rearrangement because there is no real strong past impulse there,” Edirisinghe said. “However, for a Whole Foods kind of crowd, where there is a higher discretionary income and familiarity with the store layout, our method outperformed one-time optimization.”

Moving forward, the researchers said their hope is that their study will attract enough interest from commercial retailers to put their method to a real-life test. 

“Our allocation method could ultimately be something that store managers could install and use with a little training,” Munson said. “When you take into consideration the fact that 80% of shoppers don’t make a list before visiting a brick-and-mortar retailer, it is easy to see how important something like this could be to maximizing profits and helping physical stores compete with online retailers.” 

Strategies

5 Tips for small business owners to help grow their business online

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity.

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Small businesses are embracing digitalization and catering to their customer needs through a variety of online channels. With new technologies emerging such as artificial intelligence, there is no time like the present to help your small business grow by taking advantage of the online world.

A GoDaddy 2023 global survey examined the status of small businesses including their ways to reach customers and survive in highly competitive markets. APAC countries surveyed, including Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, showed use of a business website, online store, ecommerce or a combination of them ranking at 57% of survey respondents. These results support having a strong online presence with multiple complementary channels can be vital for businesses to thrive and grow in today’s competitive digital environments.

With this in mind, GoDaddy shares five tips to help your small business grow with an online presence.

1. It starts with a domain name

When getting started, check availability of domain names for the desired name. A domain name can be considered a business’ piece of real estate and identity on the internet. It is a way for customers to easily find a business online.

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity. If the .com extension is not available, there are many new extensions available, such as: .shop; .co.; .photography; .tech, to name a few, for you to consider which can help define your business.  After choosing a domain name register it with a reliable hosting provider right away.

2. Build a website 

Websites help create visibility for small businesses and acts as a home base for your business on the internet, even if you have a brick-and-mortar store.  A website can help consumers easily find your business, learn about your product offerings and services, and contact you for more information.

A well-designed professional looking website can offer an engaging customer experience with the use of text along with photo images and video.  Having a website gives you control over the messaging about your business and can serve as a hub by linking with your social media channels.

3. Listen to your customers

The growth of your business is directly related to customer satisfaction. Listen to your customers and pay attention to the needs of your target market. Identify their problems and pain points. How can your offerings act as a solution? Is it possible to develop new products to help solve these problems?  Engage for customer feedback and keep an eye on customer behaviour changes and audience interests.

4. Develop a business support system

By developing a strong business support system, entrepreneurs can benefit from new ideas on ways to address a particular issue or ideas for growth. In addition to close family and friends, consider mentors and business coaches who can provide relevant insights into your business.

5. Review your business plan

Many entrepreneurs make a business plan at the beginning of their business journey, but do not take the time to revisit it from time-to-time. So, analysing aspects of that business plan like target audience and competitors, examining cash flows and what can make the business profitable, while also checking timelines to reach business goals is all equally essential to help ensure continued growth of your business.

For more information on how GoDaddy can help your small business: Domain Names, Websites, Hosting & Online Marketing Tools – GoDaddy PH.

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BizNews

Sticking with old technology can be a strategic move

As competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights.

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Technological innovation — especially disruptive innovation — is often heralded as the best strategy for a company. But new research published in Strategic Management Journal found that as competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights. While the rise of a discontinuous technology does pose a substitute threat to the old technology, it also further exposes niche segments where companies can gain a foothold with customers who favor the old technology.

The analysis by Xu Li, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, used archival data from the traditional Chinese medicine industry in China during the 1990s. In his interviews with managers in the field, he found that some chose not to innovate along with their competitors. In many cases, Li found these companies were performing well, if not sometimes better, by not making changes. Inspired by these conversations, Li chose to study under what conditions a firm may benefit from not innovating.

Li found some prior research on why companies would stick with older technology, but none explored why — during times of disruptive change in the market — sometimes firms are able to survive and even perform better within a small niche with old technology. What Li’s paper showed was that adhering to the old technology can, in some cases, be an effective strategy that ultimately improves firm performance.

The data showed a U-curve effect for traditional Chinese medicine firms that chose not to adopt new technology: The decline in performance began as a few competitors started launching a new technology, but later recovered and reached new heights as most competitors had adopted the new technology and exited the old technology market. But a lack of competition within the niche group of consumers who prefer older technology essentially gave these firms a monopoly within a smaller market as fewer competitors remained.

“Even though the new technology is often superior in terms of functionality, it doesn’t mean that every single customer or customer segment will be willing to move to the new technology,” Li says. “It’s important to understand what customers like about your product. We tend to assume that if a firm introduces something new, then customers must appreciate the new thing or the newness of the offering. But that’s not always true. The emergence of new technology can actually reveal people’s preference for something older.”

The research also refutes the idea that when the market is small, a company won’t perform better — but that depends on how many firms are still serving this niche. If only a few firms are left to serve this market, a company has far more power to charge higher prices among loyal customers with few other options.

“When you see a firm that is not actively innovating, we tend to believe the firm must be either incapable or is suffering — it’s always a bit of a negative tone,” Li says. “Sometimes staying with old technology might actually be a strategic choice, because by doing so it might also lead to better performance.”

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BizNews

Customers prefer text over video to provide service feedback

More people indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

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At a time when one viral video can damage a business, some companies are turning to their own commenting platforms rather than letting social media be the main outlet for customer feedback. Only one wrinkle: in this context, customers appear to prefer writing a message rather than leaving a video.

In a recent study, more participants indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

With more restaurants and hotels turning to AI to enhance their service, the findings indicate that methods that require “low self-disclosure” would work better, meaning ones that don’t require customers to provide very much identifiable information.

“Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share, but for general customers, it seems they feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure. This is probably because people still do not trust AI to that level,” said lead author Ruiying Cai, a researcher in Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

With a lot of hype around AI technology, many people have misperceptions about what it can do, Cai pointed out, perhaps believing it is capable of a lot more than simply recording a message.

The study participants reported being concerned about what would be done with their information in all the scenarios, but this was heightened with the option to leave a video.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, Cai and her colleagues presented different online scenarios to a total of 439 people. The participants were first asked to imagine a restaurant where they had either good or bad service. Then they reported how willing they were to give the server compliments, or complaints, with either text or video on an AI-enabled tablet.

The researchers found that the participants were more willing to give feedback using text, whether positive or negative.

The scenarios also had participants receiving a theoretical immediate or delayed reward to provide feedback, namely a 5% discount of their current meal or a future one. For complaints, the reward timing did not appear to make much difference, which the authors said was not surprising as people tend to be more highly motivated to complain than compliment.

For compliments, the researchers found an interesting connection: with more participants choosing the delayed reward over the immediate one. This may indicate that giving the compliment itself is its own reward as it makes the giver feel good, Cai said.

“It’s a good start to think about how to encourage customers to leave more compliments which could be very important for frontline employees. It could also be beneficial for the customers themselves,” she said.

Even complaints are important to encourage, Cai added. As her previous research suggests, restaurants and hotels should make it easier for customers to complain to them directly rather than go elsewhere to air their grievances.

“There have been episodes when customers were not afraid of posting angry videos on their own social media,” Cai said. “If restaurants and hotels can encourage customers to complain directly to them, then they may be able to recover and solve that service failure before it goes viral online.”

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