In+Vision Blog

Insights into shopper’s behavior; vision for retailers.


Holiday Make or Break

Insight: This holiday season may be one of the most important for brick-and-mortar retail.

According to several reports, the holiday season is already well underway. Historically, as much as 40% of retail sales are recorded in the final two months of the year, according to the National Retail Federation. But that window has gradually increased over the past few years, and, in 2015, seems to have doubled.

A report commissioned by over Labor Day weekend found 14% had bought at least one holiday present before their kids started school this year. Another study by Rubicon Project found 29% had started shopping by mid-September.

Millennials outpaced other generations for early shopping in the former survey, and an analyst suggested the prevalence of online shipping and heavy retail promotions are actually causing shoppers to look earlier rather than waiting for late deals. In that same survey, a quarter said they’d plan to be done shopping before the end of November. Google says nearly half of shoppers completed all their shopping prior to Cyber Monday last year.

While Market Trak predicts more promising Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Business Insider reminds us that those dates fell below expectations last year likely because shoppers started earlier. Many believe early shopping will further dilute these key shopping dates this year, and some have even noted that this combined with relatively slow August and September retail sales could add up to a very disappointing year.

All the reports are adding up to one thing – to win this holiday, retailers and brands will really need to up their game and sustain a level of excellence over a longer period.

Vision: Go big this holiday in order to imprint the value of your brand into the minds of shoppers.

eCommerce has changed brick-and-mortar shopping in many ways, and the holiday impact is huge. As many as 75% will buy at least some of their gifts online according to Google, a quarter will use their smartphones and these online shoppers will likely spend more than their in-store counterparts. But, even more will use the internet for price comparisons before buying in-store (85%), product reviews (80%) and other shopping research (78%). Search will impact the places they shop as well, with the majority of shoppers exploring new stores during holiday shopping.

All this information levels the playing field in many ways for retailers and brands to differentiate in brand new ways. Look for many to finally jump into omnichannel with both feet, improving store pick-up for online orders and of-the-moment communications to drive urgency, and others to leverage the early shopping trend in creative ways.

Increased focus on merchandise selection and stock levels and other operational factors will become table stakes to continue to grow, with many needing to move into rare and unique items, timed assortments and other creative tactics to stand out.

In addition to all of the above, well trained and exceptional service agents will be necessary to gain and retain customers this holiday season and beyond. Customers already expect associates to be armed with tablets and ready to help with content not found online. To rise above the fray, a rock star up-sell and add-on strategy leverage outstanding service will be a key ingredient.

But above all, it will be increasingly important to win on experience. This can be improved product demonstration, in-store promotions and events, store and display design and immersive interaction. Execution and maintenance must be flawless, with each element clean, efficient and pleasing.

Doing all of this is no easy task. As a representative from Deloitte said, though, “Finding a really differentiated, winning strategy is really tough.” But it’s not too late to begin implementing some of these tactics, or even just a test and learn process to lay groundwork for future innovation. DCI-Artform can quickly help you develop a program. Contact us today to get moving! 


Green Beauty Queen

Insight: Beauty shoppers are progressively more curious about what is in their beauty products because of health and environmental concerns. 

Research from Mintel points out that almost a quarter (24 percent) of facial skin care users say they look for products with natural, organic ingredients. Twenty-two percent seek out products that are free from certain ingredients like parabens or fragrances, and 21 percent are interested in items that are designed specifically for sensitive skin.

According to Euromonitor, consumers are increasingly looking to connect with brands, business models and products that do not associate with negative environmental or social impacts. In addition to expressing interest in the sustainability of cosmetic organizations, consumers are showing an increased interest and demand for ingredient transparency in their cosmetics products. 

A new mobile app called Think Dirty allows consumers to input product names or scan bar codes to get a simplified breakdown of the ingredients in their beauty and personal care products. The app also offers a “cleaner” product alternative. With the convenience of ingredient knowledge at the fingertips of consumers, the competition is increased amongst brands to offer the safest and cleanest beauty products.   

Despite current technology and efforts, there is still a gap in the retail experience regarding product information for cosmetics. 

Vision: Beauty brands and retailers have the opportunity to influence the shopper by sharing ingredient information in-store. 

By taking direction from the Think Dirty app, retailers and brands can utilize visual communication tactics such as “Think Dirty rating” signage at shelf level. With strategic beauty wall organization, there is an opportunity to attract shoppers to new “green” options or product launches in-store. 

Additionally, brands and retailers can communicate product ingredients to shoppers by implementing informative signage and new product displays, placed at beauty counters or end-cap locations. This can attract shoppers and allow them to learn more about products, as well as offer an opportunity for beauty advisors to further assist in the communication of the brand’s message.

DCI-Artform can support your program with insights, concepts and solutions. If you are thinking about how to bring information to your shoppers – let us help!

Retail Science Summary

Retailers – Strategically communicate ingredients through merchandising organization

Brands – Offer signage or packaging that shares ingredient information

Shoppers – Receive an informative and easy-to-navigate shopping experience 

Barriers to Purchase – Lack of knowledge and uncertainty of purchasing a safe and clean product


As a Matter of Fact Tags

Insight: Consumers are prioritizing functionality, battery life and connectivity over carrier and contract.

By the end of 2014, there will be 1.75 billion consumers who have purchased smartphones around the world, a number that is projected to continue to increase in the coming years. When shopping for smartphones, consumers do not always prioritize the importance of attributes the same way across demographic profiles. Although price and terms are very influential, they are not the only things shoppers consider before making a consumer electronic purchase. 

According to a Nielsen global survey, men are most concerned with technical smartphone attributes, such as operating system, battery life, screen size and processor speed, while women are more influenced by camera capability than men. In other consumer electronics categories, we observe similar differences in needs and attributes across various shopper segments.

This creates a problem for retailers and brands because traditional fact tags limit their ability to customize to the audience standing in front of it.

Vision: Rethink the fact tag.

When you picture a traditional fact tag, what comes to mind for most is a bleak paper insert with a too-small-to-read set of price, feature and specification listings.

DCI-Artform is working with brands and retailers to envision fact tags that highlight the attributes that shoppers want to see – customized to the shoppers. This can be done by creating digital fact tags that have the ability to change the information they display depending on the appropriate inputs.

Technologies like RFID sensors, facial recognition cameras, beacons and more can allow retailers and brands to personalize features and benefits to audiences based on time, day or season, age, sex and even past purchases or behaviors. Self-selection could also be utilized to give shoppers control of the features they want to learn about.

Using digital solutions reduces costs over time by allowing for easier, more timely messaging edits or change-outs, as well as weaving in attract loops, further information and shareable moments.

Retailers and brands need to respond to the evolving ways consumers shop. A single message is no longer effective to reach consumers on a personal level. To learn more about how DCI-Artform can help you with your fact tag program, contact us today!

Retail Science Summary

Retailers: Invest in customer-targeted messaging at the fact tag level

Brands: Customize product information at the shelf or display level to convert target audiences

Shoppers: Give the right information to shoppers at the right times

Barriers to Purchase: Displaying irrelevant information to a shopper turns them off and impacts sales


Give Me a Sign …

Insight: Visual signage experiences in-store impact shoppers’ decisions and connect them with your brand.

We all know shoppers are busy and have more choices than ever before. The fight for their attention is increasingly challenging. Eye-tracking research shared at the recent GlobalShop conference indicated that brands have less than 0.5 seconds to get any given message noticed in-store and, in the grocery channel, only about 3 percent of all signs are noted (12 percent for the best-performing). A General Mills study of convenience store signage found 51 percent of shoppers don’t notice signs at all.

So why invest in signage at all? Several research studies have found that most shoppers associate good signage with store or product quality. A FedEx customer survey found that 68 percent have purchased a product or service because a sign caught their eye, and 75 percent say they’ve told someone about a stores’ good signage. Further, several studies have concluded that the quicker a shopper finds a product, the more they buy overall in a store.

The key in today’s fast-paced world is for retailers and brands to sharpen their focus and bring their “A” game to developing signage.

Vision: High-impact, ever-changing signs deliver the best value to shoppers, retailers and brands.

We know through research that the best-performing signage has simple, usage-based images and straightforward, directional language. In the FedEx study, those that bought responded best to signs with clear messages (79 percent), bright colors (65 percent) and pertinent (often price) information (65 percent).

Building on these best practices, store signage should be placed in the context of the decision-making. About 65 percent of signage reading happens in-aisle (or during the evaluation phase of shopping), and 55 percent while waiting (especially at checkout). Only 3 percent of signage noting happens when exiting and 5 percent when entering the store/dealership/location.

Increasingly, we’ve found the pace at which information needs to be updated has accelerated. New product introductions, data-based versioning and brand refreshes are happening at the speed of digital, requiring signage to not just be well-designed and -positioned, but also timely and local (even personally relevant). We’ve found that the more shoppers are confident a retail environment is giving them accurate information in the moment, the more they are likely to buy.

Traditionally, it has not been an easy (or cost-effective) task to ensure the most current information is being presented to shoppers in a visually appealing way. Printed or digital signage production and installation can require substantial resources.

To solve this problem, DCI-Artform created its Magna-Mount interchangeable graphic system and LiveGuide digital content management solutions. These products, available to support any retail environment or display program across any retail sector, contribute to more impactful and productive customer experiences. Plus, they allow brands to react quicker to an ever-changing retail environment than traditional signage does.

When consumers enter a store, it’s about helping them make a decision and have an enjoyable experience to keep them coming back. Proper signage messaging, delivered in a way that allows for maximum timeliness and flexibility, is vital to any shopper program.

Retail Science Summary

Retailers – React quicker to an ever-changing retail environment

Brands – Create better consumer experiences and associations with your brand

Consumers – Receive the most current information and best visual experiences in-store

Barriers to Purchase – Signage that is outdated, unclear, confusing, irrelevant or displeasing is a detriment to shoppers’ brand perceptions and purchase choices



Millennials’ Modern Legacy: Design Trend Special Report

Insight: Shoppers, especially Millennials, are increasingly attracted by natural or traditional materials and imagery paired with modern touches and digital interactions.

In today’s “new norm” economy, every shopper segment has become more cost-conscious and judicious with their time and money. The Millennial generation has come of age in this environment, causing them to be especially discerning when it comes to their discretionary dollars. At the same time, shoppers have gradually demanded more meaningful interactions from retailers and brands.

Take, for instance, the Deloitte Millennial Survey results from earlier this year. Overwhelmingly, respondents voiced lofty expectations for companies, believing they should be judged by much more than profits, namely by how they improve society and the planet.

Similarly, a Bentley University study found Millennials to value authenticity chiefly when evaluating companies. And a report from Adroit Digital showed, outside of financial factors, the No. 1 reason Generation Y will switch brands is if a company is found to have bad business practices or ethics. In that same study, respondents voiced preference for personal recommendations and interactions both from brands and their social networks.

Millennials – perhaps the most important generation to marketers, representing more than 80 million shoppers – are willing to “take their business elsewhere” if a retailer or brand isn’t relevant to them personally while also authentically benefitting society. But, unlike any generation before them, Millennials want all this with a digital spin.

Often called “digital natives,” Millennials are well-versed in social media and web communications, and have come to expect increasingly personalized, seamless and meaningful interactions from brands via digital. The Deloitte study also found Generation Y to expect brands to be continually innovative.

The dichotomy of human and digital – of raw, real and natural combined with technologically advanced, and of artisan and authentic with sleek and chic – is playing out in today’s store designs and brand communications. We think this is a result of attempting to address the Millennial mindset.


Vision: While at EuroShop earlier this year, our global design team took note of trends that juxtapose “raw” and “modern” to great effect for various shopper segments, especially younger consumers.


The use of raw wood and materials alongside digital screens is becoming widely used. Our designers have been noticing more creative uses of color, repetition and shapes to add contemporary flair to wooden finishes.


Representing natural elements in unexpected ways is a big trend right now, bringing human, plant, animal, even outer space, imagery through digital content and creative installations.



Typically, local, organic or “from the farm” produce is merchandised to the shopper with wood displays made to feel like they are farm-used. Millennials dislike this “faux” approach.


The latest trend is to showcase the new technology that is keeping it fresh, tell sourcing stories through digital communication, or present a local flavor of natural produce with a slick, clean design. This targets the Millennial shopper who is health-conscious and prefers natural produce, yet lives in the digital world.


Utilizing “found objects” that signify heritage and tradition and then placing them in contrast with more modern materials, objects or technology also seems to be addressing the dual emotional needs of Millennials.


DCI-Artform design talent across the globe continually looks for trends like these to incorporate them into our solutions – but only when they speak to a consumer need, which we identify through our Retail Science approach.

Retail Science Summary

Retailers – Engage with shoppers through meaningful design that appeals to deep needs

Brands – Establish both cognitive and emotional connection with shoppers through combinations of materials and content

Shoppers – Get what you need, how you want it through the form and function of the store

Barriers to Purchase – Anything from colors, materials, construction and content can take shoppers out of a buying mindset


It’s Earth Day: Where’s Your Recycling?

Insight: Increasingly, shoppers demand retailers reduce their impact on the environment.

The environmental or “Green” movement continues to gain popularity around the country, to the point that it’s affecting legislation in several cities. Cities such as Seattle, Portland, Dallas and the entire state of California have enacted bans on plastic bags, while others such as San Francisco and New York City have banned polystyrene, all to protect the environment.

Going green is popular with shoppers as well as legislators, with most people in a survey saying they would prefer to buy from companies that are socially conscious. These green shoppers also tend to buy more and shop more often than the average consumer.

The green shopper segment is clearly a big opportunity for retailers, but they can be difficult to capture since most efforts to be environmentally conscious are invisible to them.

Vision: Receptacles for waste and recycling not only give a clean appearance, but really do impact a retailer’s carbon footprint.

Providing trash and recycling containers are an effective and attractive way to reduce litter. It is easy to overlook these elements when designing a retail space, but these “Facilities Image Products” provide a highly visible way to let shoppers know you are doing your part to protect the local environment.

Since very little is required from the retailer beyond the initial investment – no new processes have to be implemented and no new training is required – this can be an excellent solution for small businesses looking to reach out to green shoppers. Additional signage can also help you “take credit” for what you’re doing to help the planet.

Often, when looking at a retail space, retailers are concerned that the waste and recycling containers will be ugly or detract from the design aesthetic, but that doesn’t have to be the case. For this very need, DCI-Artform created its Commercial Zone line of facilities image products with a variety of colors, materials and finishes to fit any retailer’s needs.

As an extra bonus, you will be helping to keep your retail space clean, which everyone appreciates!

Retail Science Summary

Retailers – Attract more (and more profitable) shoppers with clear, visible, environmentally friendly practices

Brands – Build brand equity by promoting a clean environment and associating with companies who do the same

Shopper – Given the choice, shoppers would prefer to give their money to socially conscious companies

Barriers to Purchase – Shoppers will be driven away by an unclean environment


The Power and Potential of Pop-Ups

Insight: Consumers say they want new and exciting experiences, but they are busy and rarely deviate from their habitual patterns.

Shoppers love trying new things. It is human nature to seek out new experiences and opportunities, but it is also human nature to establish daily routines that send shoppers down the same streets, to the same stores and along the same paths repeatedly.

When launching new products, highlighting seasonal offerings or delivering new experiences, brands and retailers struggle to get their messages in front of shoppers within their daily schedule. Enter: pop-up stores.

Vision: Bring the store to the shoppers. Pop-up shops offer value when they provide timely, unique experiences in places where their target audiences are already passing, gathering or visiting.  

Pop-ups are a hot topic this year as various companies have begun experimenting with short-term, smaller and uniquely targeted retail locations. While mall kiosks and temporary event tents/displays have been around for years, in the past few we’ve seen the movement toward more permanent spaces. Through short-term leases, brands and retailers are able to provide surprising experiences with the right products at the right time and in the right place.

Once a shopper is actually in the pop-up store, they can be met with a plethora of experiences that they may not typically find at your average, traditional location. For example, there may be amazing designs that could never scale, classes taught by local talent, live demonstrations and entertainment. Many companies are using pop-up shops to experiment with new technologies, markets, assortments and engagements to gather consumer insights before investing in full rollouts at traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

Recently, DCI-Artform executed a very high-profile pop-up program for a consumer electronics company that focused on brand engagement above sales. Not only did the strategy allow them to generate lots of attention and awareness during the ever-important holiday selling season, it also gave them opportunities to engage at the neighborhood level in ways that supported their positioning and grew their exposure to a hyper-targeted market.

DCI-Artform has developed this and other semipermanent tactics to build on greater long-term sales strategies. We think the pop-up store concept is here to stay as shoppers further demand immersive experiences but refuse to go out of their way to find them.

Retail Science Summary

Retailers – Use pop-up stores as a means of market testing before committing to a full-scale rollout

Brands – Better interact with your shoppers by using experiential retailing

Consumers – Get delightful engagement when and where you want it

Barriers to purchase – Forcing a shopper to break their habits is an uphill battle; bring the experiences to them to initiate lifetime value


Bringing Style to Craft Beer

Insight:  As Millennials become the main shoppers for craft beer, they demand a new way to organize the products – by style.

During a recent deep dive into the craft beer category for a grocery client, we learned the varying needs at retail of different key shopper segments. During focus groups, we were surprised to learn that for Millennials, purchase consideration most often starts with the beer style and not brand.

Millennials, who are entering a new phase of their lives, are turning to craft beer. According to the Brewer’s Association, 46% percent of new craft beer drinkers are between the ages of 21-32.

While interesting names, local producers and unique ingredients closely follow, the decisioning process for most Millennials starts with what the type or style of beer (e.g., pilsner, stout, lager, ale, IPA).

Vision: Retailers should organize their craft beer sections by style rather than by brand.

During extensive global audits of grocery craft beer sections, we found that most were organized by brand or brewery location/geography primarily. For craft beer shoppers, especially Millennials, our research shows this is frustrating.

Further, we learned that enticing trial through tastings, “build your own six-pack” and other creative means helps these shoppers learn which varieties they like best. In general, shoppers are not walking into the aisle to load up on their favorite brands, but rather to explore a variety of flavors and styles. And even if they have a few standard favorites, they are very open and willing to try new products if given opportunities.

DCI-Artform has generated many additional insights that can inform an aisle reinvention for craft beer utilizing our InVision Retail Science Lab. We’ve applied our Magna-Mount and Space Solutions products to the space, but we are looking for retailer partners to provide customized solutions!

Retail Science Summary
Retailers – Increase craft beer sales by supporting their shoppers’ decisioning steps

Brands – Entice trial around style/type to generate increased share of the craft beer purchase

Consumers – Support category exploration to determine style preferences

Barriers to Purchase – A sea of product options, organized by brand, scares away shoppers