Knowledge Bank Blog, Shopper Communication

Designing for Fluency

Are you making things easy? No, really easy?

People who know a lot about design spend a lot of time talking about door handles. Why?

Well, a good door not only allows you to open it. It also signals to you – without you needing to think about it – whether you need to push the door open or pull it. A door with a plate only allows you to push. So, you instinctively push. In contrast a door with a handle is clearly designed to be pulled. So, you pull.

Occasionally, you come across a door that has a handle, but is designed to be pushed. This will confuse the hell out of you. And make you feel pretty stupid when you pull. Even more so, when you do it again the next time you encounter the door. And probably the next time and time after that!

Good design is all about clarity. It should be obvious what to do. For instance, push or pull.

So, why are we talking about this? Retail environments are visually complex. Shoppers are making lots of quick decisions (typically using System 1). They shop based on habit. Habit creates fluency. Fluency makes the shopping task easier. And the easier the shopping task is, the better. Shoppers tend to buy more and tend to come back more often.

For instance, products being in the same location in store each time = fluency. Many people who write shopping lists write them in the order of the store. The shopping task is easy. Products that get moved around = friction. Shoppers have to recalibrate their mental map of the store. Some have to reorder their list. The shopping task is harder.

Things that create fluency are good. They make it easier to get bought. Things that create friction are bad. They make it harder to get bought.

So, how do you maximise fluency?

Fluency in Finding. This means crystal clear signage that directs shoppers to a category. Visible to shoppers on approach – like Tesco’s aisle signage that can be seen by shoppers from the power aisle.   It is about crystal clear sub category signage that directs shoppers to different parts of the category. Too many categories remain walls of similar sized and shaped products.

For new products, tell shoppers exactly where to find them in store – in your ATL communication. This is even more important for products where it is not immediately obvious where they are likely to be located – many snacking products, for example.

Online this means minimising the number of clicks that shoppers have to make – e.g. more products on a page, less product pages. Hover over menus rather than click through. Every additional click decreases the chances of a shopper finding your product. Decreases the chances of it being sold.

Fluency in Understanding. Two mistakes are typically made when trying to communicate to shoppers. The first is assuming shoppers know what you know. So, you often use language that you understand. Not language that the average shopper understands. You may talk about ingredients – e.g. great source of vitamin D – but do so without spelling out why vitamin D is good.

The second is the opposite – being too worried that the shopper won’t understand. So, you over communicate to try to make sure they do. You tell them everything. But most shoppers don’t have the time or inclination to read much more than a sentence of information. So, the more you say, the less clear things actually become.   Shoppers don’t buy something they don’t understand.

It is not just product messaging where this applies. It is equally applicable to promotions. Don’t have the regular price, the new price and the price discount competing for shopper attention. Prioritise the most important element – typically the promoted price – and make that crystal clear.

Fluency in Buying. This is can be about very simple things. For instance, in store it might be how easy a product is to access at shelf. Can it be easily picked up with one hand on the move? Yes = fluent. Or does the shopper have to stop and lift the whole tray of products or rip the outer packaging to access the product? Yes = friction.

It can, and will increasingly be, about new, more fluent ways of buying and selling. For instance, everything that Amazon do is about making the buying process more fluent – e.g. Prime, Subscribe & Save, 1 Click Ordering, Dash Buttons. The easier they make the process, the more shoppers spend with them.   Why buy anywhere else, when it is so easy to buy through them?

As the world gets more complex, the retailers and brands that can create the most fluency will be the winners.

Design for fluency. Do you want people to push or pull?

On a separate note, our monthly article in The Grocer goes out in tomorrow’s edition .  There is a link to it on our website……cess-of-coffee/ ‎

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.