Give Customers What They Need


Thomas Nelson’s Bible division just completed a test of a Bible merchandising concept with great success. Our test stores achieved double-digit sales increases (not bad for today’s retail landscape) over the same period last year. What makes this result even better is that we did nothing to change their inventory mix, traffic patterns or marketing. We simply gave them a merchandising solution based on customer need that replaced a “feature” based system (in the world of Bible selling this feature is translation – important but not a driving shopping motivation for the majority of customers).

To provide some context, we did some research with Bible shoppers and this helped us discover what drove customers into the store to make the purchase. Certain features (like translation, binding, etc.) had importance, but they did not drive or motivate the customer to come to the store and to make the purchase. We wanted to create a merchandising system that matched the driving need of the customer. In this case it was gift-giving, personal study and a concept our research firm dubbed “readability”.

We joined forces with BJ Bueno’s company, Nonbox Consulting, and together developed a truly simply, yet tremendously successful point-of-purchase display for retailer’s Bible sections. Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Keep it simple. Customers don’t want to wade through a maze to make a purchase. They crave simplicity because they have no time. Our customer (and yours too for that matter) simply has no time. Good retailers should respect that fact and make purchasing simple.

2. Focus on Need. Buying for any of us is an emotional experience. Customers come into stores for a reason – a personal need. Let’s match merchandising with their needs. If a customer wants a white shirt for a special occasion, let’s make sure he can find dress shirts easily and quickly. Let’s not merchandise by a feature like button down first (a feature), then go to dress shirts in white after they have waded through all the button downs (of all colors and styles) we have in stock.

3. Break down Barriers. A need based concept let’s us break down the barriers artificially created in many stores. I bought a digital camera at Best Buy a few months ago. Near the camera area were all the things digital that the shopper might need from software to training books. Best Buy didn’t let artificial barriers (I’m sure the corporate-level Buyer for cameras is a different person from book products Buyer) get in the way of successfully and completely serving my NEED.

Bottom line, all customers have needs when they shop and retailer’s ability to satisfy their need quickly and efficiently could determine whether or not they’ve had a positive or negative shopping experience with the store the products. Customer evangelists are built through positive experiences, not negative. In the end, understanding and focusing on your customer’s needs will get you to the customer’s heart.


One Response to “Give Customers What They Need”

  1. Rodney Tripp says:

    I agree that companies should strive to provide the customer with the best product. One of the things about Nelson is.. the lack of key editions. I have posed this question of a quality NKJV Wide Margin, black lettered, 11 font type. for years. And the response is …not at this time. Furthermore, the
    the NKJV should be in a single colunm text edition such as the like of HCSB, NASB, NLT, and now the ESV.
    Give the customer what they want…
    Thanks For listening and pass it on to the boss at Nelson

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