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This chapter is from the book

A New Kind of Shopper

Shoppers are more knowledgeable than ever before. The Internet allows access to information that was previously unavailable to them. They also have more places to shop—retail stores, online stores, catalogs, and TV shopping networks.

To customers, shopping is shopping. They have ingrained knowledge that doesn't often transfer easily between the kinds of stores they shop, unless these stores are designed to be familiar. Each store has a unique format, yet customers seek consistency from format to format. Intuitive store design is based on how people shop for products and applies that knowledge to the store plan.

People shop on the web because they seek information about products to purchase and because it's convenient. Sometimes they will then purchase from an online store and become a customer instead of a shopper. Or they may purchase at retail or from a catalog. Regardless of where they actually make the purchase, their experience with an online store in seeking information determines whether or not they would purchase from that store either now or in the future.

A company that sells through multiple channels, for example, online stores, catalogs, and retail store outlets, is particularly affected. These days, customers can do their "shopping homework" online, and then go to the retail store just to pick up the item.

Integrated Shopping Behaviors

This new online shelf integrates historical shelves, the customer, and the new frontier. Now with more options, customers decide where and when to purchase a product—and the choices continue to grow. Today's customers have many shopping alternatives. Their experience extends from retail, TV, and catalog to online shopping. Traditional retail, however, is still by far the most dominant influence.

Customers don't think about the type of shelf they buy from or the process they use. Even within the retail channel, consumers don't necessarily focus on the type of store they visit. If they have a particular need, they will go to Costco, for example, to find it. They don't consciously think about visiting a club store. It's natural for customers to think of purchasing a toaster at Wal-Mart. But it's rare for a consumer, in her search for a toaster, to identify "a mass merchandiser" as her target retailer.

That's why shelf integration must be transparent to customers. Their only concern is finding their product, getting a good value, and obtaining good service.

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