VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

The Evolutionary Shopper | What They're Doing Now

An Ethnographer’s Notebook | Observing Shopper Behavior

All too often retail executives are largely absent from their stores, making at best, a quarterly walk-through where they focus more on burnt-out light bulbs and visual merchandising than they do on their customers.

 

I’ve known more than a few high-level execs who tend to rely more on the data and feedback of middle managers or store supervisors than on their own first-hand experience.

 

One of the cornerstones of my career as a strategist and consultant is the practice used by cultural anthropologists to observe, record, and analyze what they see; something I learned when I was studying for my first degree in sociology and anthropology.

 

I often take clients on field-trips to learn how to see and understand shopper behavior, and apply what they see to their own business.

{ “The role of the ethnographer is not simply to observe and record, but to distill the subtexts of behavior through the multiple lenses of society, community, ethnicity, and gender.” }

The role of the ethnographer is not simply to observe and record, but to distill the subtexts of behavior through the multiple lenses of society, community, ethnicity, and gender. People generally behave in what are largely prescribed ways — the conditionings and subconscious behaviors that are learned — and most environments tend to trigger those behaviors.

 

A great practice for retail professional is to keep a journal of observations about people’s behavior in public environments. Whether it’s in parks or town squares, urban street-corners, or the conventional shopping mall, even 5 minutes can offer a multitude of insight and inspiration about how people behave in certain contemporary spaces.

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