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Use and Enjoy, or Own and Enjoy?


Guest Blogger

Judy Stapler, Qualitative Insights

“Times have changed. Today people are more interested in what they will use and enjoy than they are in what they will own and enjoy.” Judy Stapler 11/08

You don’t need me to tell you how stressful it has become to live in this great country. While we serve a broad range of consumers, disposable income is becoming a thing of the past and every purchase can now be a major decision for some of them. Gas up the car? Buy food? Keep the home at a comfortable 70°– 72° or a more efficient 65°? Buy the art object or new car we’ve admired for months (now at a greatly reduced price) or decide to spend for something you can actually use. The net effect of this is that consumers at all income levels make decisions more purposefully. It is my opinion that come spring, we will see more people choose to buy those items they perceive that they actually need and can use and enjoy immediately rather than those they simply look at and enjoy owning over time.

So how can a small business stay afloat? I believe retailers need to offer more items the consumer uses and needs. Or items retailers can convince consumers they need to use. If you’re in a business category of desire – not need, convincing may be more difficult. This may require reevaluating the value perception of the item vs. the price. Help your customer at the point of purchase by emphasizing;

  1. The value of the item. Is it more durable? Will it last longer? Is it safer? Organics and perennials anyone?
  2. The item’s usefulness. What does it do? How is it better? Is it the right plant for the right place?
  3. How much they’ll enjoy using their wise purchase. Do the veggies you grow yourself taste better?

As retailers, we must also be wise of items and services we offer the consumer and what she is selecting out of our offering. Choose to focus your effort on selling more items the consumer sees as useful and not just ornamental. That may mean not trying to sell so many things that are purely for looks and serve no useful function other than to show that we can afford them. Ostentatious buying has gone out with the H2 Hummer but many people now own the micro-mansion and need functional products to continue to live in it.

This is the time to focus on selling consumables, although not necessarily rock bottom price brands commonly found in the big boxes. It’s still all about the value that is represented by the product, and we can be bold enough to market them if they are truly better. Be watchful of consumers who are trading down. Is he or she being lured away by a lower priced item claiming similar benefits? Or has she decided to sit out and not purchase? These are questions each business owner will have to answer. Be observant, and ask why they trade down, or why they don’t buy so you will know where you are failing to represent the value. If they do not buy it does not necessarily mean it is not your fault.

Consider the evolving trends in your category and be prepared to translate the value and usefulness where needed verbally and back it up with signage to give your verbal claims credibility. Give your consumer more of what they will use and enjoy.

How do you feel about this? Reply and comment below:

One Response

  1. Hi Sid,
    This is my first visit to your blog and I’ve found some very interesting and insightful posts here.

    I am a huge proponent of “double duty” design and have make it a key element in my landscape designs. I always say, I don’t want my yard to just “stand there and look pretty, I want it to do something!”

    This is our opportunity to give homeowners esthetic solutions for practical yard issues such as lack of privacy, need for shade, space planning and more.
    For instance, a customer with a small yard may express interest in creating an edible landscape but have to tackle another issue like privacy first. I would suggest an edible hedge like Meyer lemon, or espaliered fruit trees that provide fruit as well as function as screens. I would suggest raised garden beds, finished with a cap so that a vegetable garden and can function as a sitting area as well.

    These are just a couple of examples of creative solutions that bring function and beauty to our yards. The possibilities are endless and the nursery aisles are filled with “tools” we can use.

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