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Consumer, Interrupted August 17, 2011

Posted by christinapappas in Consumer Marketing.

Store Layout

Over the last month I noticed something happening in a couple of the stores I frequent; my experience was interrupted.

It started when I went to Walgreen’s and took my usual path to the toilet paper/tissue item only to find an aisle full of baby food. A little disgruntled, I backtracked to make sure I was in the aisle I intended to be in. Did I walk too far? Did I turn right when I should have turned left? Where am I?

Then, a couple weeks later a similar experience at the grocery store (Stop & Shop). It started with the produce section. The potatoes were in the back instead of the middle. The tomatoes were at the front instead of the side and the bags of pre-mixed salad were at the front instead of the back. Rearranging the produce section I can handle, but a couple weeks later and the entire store had gotten a facelift.

As a consumer, I am a bit pissed off. I wasn’t aware of these changes (they must have been planned – right?) and nobody asked for my permission or my feedback on changing the location of items.

As a marketer, I am completely confused. Yes, in the case of the grocery chain, the eggs and milk belong in the back farthest from the door corner to inspire impulse purchases, but what difference does it make if the peas and corn are in aisle 3 vs. 4? Would love to see the research that suggests this is good for anyone.

Are We Disrupting the Market or the Consumer?

We talk a lot about disruptive technologies. Netflix disrupted Blockbuster. Software-as-a-service disrupted on-premise software. Amazon.com disrupted Barnes & Noble. iTunes disrupted the music industry.

Were these innovations disrupting the industries or consumers? The second the consumer’s journey is interrupted or disrupted, the brand has lost. There is a difference between offering a solution to a problem you didn’t know you had and creating the problem outright.

iTunes may not have been adopted by the consumer overnight and it may not have been as ‘easy’ as buying a CD in a retail store but the availability of it as an option never interrupted me (that is until the option for me to purchase a CD goes away entirely i.e.Blockbuster).

With Walgreens and Stop & Shop, I have no option. Their decision to change the entire layout of the store is disrupting me without giving me options. In fact, I can guess a few outcomes to their sending me down a ‘new’ path:

  1. I see more goods in the store and perhaps make more impulse purchases
  2. I wander around the store determined to find what I came for and memorize the new location for future visits
  3. I wander around the store determined to find what I came for but never return
  4. I leave frustrated

I, like a majority of consumers, ultimately choose #2 because these are necessity stores.

Last week, I overheard the manager of Stop & Shop asking a loyal customer what they thought of his ‘new store’ to which they replied ‘it’s nice but I can’t find anything.’ Was it new management? Does the new management need to put their stamp on the store like a dog peeing on a tree to make it ‘theirs’? And at what expense to the consumer?

Disrupting the consumer goods/grocery market or simply interrupting me the consumer?

Has your consumer experience been interrupted? How and by whom?



1. Vassiliki Simoglou - August 19, 2011

Great, article!


Vassiliki Simoglou

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