Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One in a row

Bill writes: A woman walks into a store and takes a cart and a shopping basket. This moment is a retail ethnographer’s wet dream. It’s a weird and interesting shopper behavior and may be something big. HUGE. Like………? Maybe it’s that the shopper doesn’t trust the cart to keep the breakables unbroken, so she’s taken the basket as a “side carrier” which will provide a more gentle ride. Hey, there’s an idea here—let’s suggest they put in padded carts. Wait. Better yet—padded compartments within the carts to hold the eggs. But that could lead to walk-offs, with customers conveniently “forgetting” their eggs until after they’ve checked out. That would be bad. Hmm. Maybe it’s that she’s a germaphobe, and thinks the basket is less apt than the cart to have dried snot or microbes of baby poop on it. That’s it! We need entry door shower mists which spray liquefied Purell all over everything that passes by.

And so on.

What’s unknown from this little tableau is whether a shopper who takes a cart and a basket is a party of one or really one representative of unseen millions. Maybe it’s that she’s the only one today, but the trend setter who millions will be copying any day now. Or just maybe, since this is something I happened to witness, she arrived at the store and was meeting her husband back at the meat department.

It’s one of the reasons we like to use in-store video along with ethnographers when we do store studies. It’s good to be able to see things thousands of times in addition to once.
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