OPINION: In-store theatre: to be or to be not?

At some time in the 1990s retail marketing decided that the experience shoppers had in-store helped determine how satisfied they were with the goods that they bought. Put simply, this means that they distinguish between the bottle of Coke they buy in Asda and the bottle of Coke they buy from you. While the product is identical, it is likely shoppers will value one more.

The response to this was to invest in in-store theatre, where the products could be included in a sympathetic environment. Quite quickly shoppers reacted to this and negatively. The reason that shoppers no longer rationally evaluated value was because there were simply too many products to compare. Adding theatre made the shopping experience even more difficult.

However, you have to know which market you are in. Here are policy statements from two stores at the polar opposites of the in-store theatre debate.

Target: “We design our stores to be easy and intuitive to shop, with related departments placed next to each other and a “racetrack” central aisle to speed you on your way…We also work hard to make sure your experience is consistently enjoyable, with a clean environment, friendly team members and feel-good details on all sides.”

Apple: ” We wanted to create very distinct experiences for customers, in what they perceive as a public place. More like a great library, which has natural light, and feels like a gift to the community. In a perfect world, that’s what we want our stores to be. And we don’t want the store to be about the product, but a series of experiences that make it more than a store.”

As a local shop operator, you will have a view on how you want to position your shop. The first step you need to take is to work out how much time your shoppers have. If you need a racetrack, how will you provide it? If you need to be a gift to the community, what form should this take?

Even for very small shops, you may need to find an answer. What difference would putting a bench outside make?


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