Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stich up the wounds left by surgical shoppers

It’s no surprise that the economy has changed how people spend their money. Everyone has been pinching pennies and in turn became smarter shoppers. People have been working overtime and getting second jobs. Who has time to browse shops? Who is going to fall for the impulse buy when money was strategically placed elsewhere? The Great Recession may officially be over, but the changes that people made to their spending habits may in fact be here to stay.

The new type of shopping is referred to as “surgical shopping” because the time spent shopping in stores and online has dropped drastically. No one is taking the time to wander stores and browse through websites to stockpile on clothing, necessities, etc. Instead, people know what they want and aren’t sticking around after buying it. Shoppers today visit an average of three stores during a trip to the mall, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago research firm that tracks sales and customer counts at more than 70,000 stores. That compares with an average of five stores in 2006. There is even evidence accounting for stores being messier due to people dumping most items right before the check out.

How are companies and brands adjusting to surgical shopping? Often, through the strategic use of social sites like Groupon.com. The site has attracted more than 25 million subscribers to “group” together to get the lowest price on an item. Subscribers are pitched local discount offers on restaurants, retailers, etc and if enough people take advantage of it, it takes effect. The Gap's recent Groupon offer of $25 off a $50 purchase was a blockbuster Gap’ sold 441,000 offers as part of a one-day only promotion in August, for a total of $11 million.

With this new type of shopper mentality, what’s the best way to get them in AND to leave with your product? To help capture their attention, this might be the time to step up your “social media” strategy beyond the typical Facebook and Twitter. Along with Groupon, foursquare is another great tool to utilize. Promotions through foursquare are coming up everywhere (more on foursquare). I myself came across a promotion while shopping in NYC. Walking into an H&M, there was sign on the door that said “Check-In here and receive a special discount!” With incentives like that, who wouldn’t check in? Companies like Wholefoods, Saks 5th Avenue and Starbucks have all partnered with foursquare as well.

The continued practice of surgical shopping is creating a new reality for brands. And websites like Groupon.com and foursquare are helping them embrace consumers’ new way of shopping.

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