Archive for November, 2009

PART 2: Visual Merchandising: Storefront Window Displays & Online Promos

Monday, November 30th, 2009

PART 2: Visual Merchandising: Storefront Window Displays & Online Promos

I was lucky to be able to take the promotions group on a field trip down State Street in Chicago to look at different window displays and to see if we could get any ideas for web-based promotions.


Visual Merchandising Field Trip Group

Our fieldtrip started off as we gathered at the elevators. One of the promo team actually was trained and had worked in visual merchandising before and she talked about some of her experiences.

Interior Display in Sears

Interior Display in Sears

Then we went downstairs and out through the Sears Store that is below our offices. As we walked out we looked at the interior displays, such as the one’s from Land’s End and discussed how the role of interior displays and exterior window displays differ. The primary role of the exterior is to grab your attention and then get you in the store. The interior displays are to get you to put the merchandise in your shopping cart even if that item wasn’t originally on your “shopping list.” The interior display had merchandise for sale and the top of the rack had a colorful sign on it. The main technology for attention getting in use was the placement of the rack in the middle of a walk way. We saw that people actually had to maneuver around the rack to move throughout the store. It reminded us of an interstitial ad, interrupting the most direct path of the walkers.

Sears' Land's End Window Display on State Street Chicago

Sears' Land's End Window Display on State Street Chicago

The exterior window display of Land’s End was really interesting. The display is surrounded by branding messages.  One message called out “Save” while another told you there were 10 types of gift ideas you should look at. The other windows then took you through each of the 10 gift ideas.  One thing we noticed was that the window display did not let the observer see into the store.  There was a solid background. Also the items in the display were not all for sale. Some of the items were props, such as the sled and the little evergreen trees.  We wondered how does one make a promo so that the “props” are not confused with the item we want people to be attracted to and to buy.  IKEA is one store that seems to make large displays in which almost every single item is an item that one can purchase, including the pictures that are on the walls. As we watched the people walk by the windows, they seemed to not notice the windows until they were directly in front of them. Their angle of sight was very severe and not until the passerby was right on top did they look at the display.

Window Display from H&M on State Street Chicago

Window Display from H&M on State Street Chicago

When we looked at the H&M window it was very different. There was a display, but there was no background so one could easily see the racks of merchandise. Also the display had groups of items, outfits. If you look near the bottom of each outfit you can see a price placard. But interestingly, they don’t sum up all the individual prices to show the price of the outfit. The H&M display was very effective at catching people’s attention. On the right side of the image you can see the 20% sign. The sign was at an angle and thus very easy to see while walking along. We even saw people stop to read the sign.  This window display also allowed the passerby to look continuously to the side and not have their line of sight broken by window frames of structural wall supports.

Window Display, Nordstrom's Off the Rack on State Street Chicago

Window Display, Nordstrom's Off the Rack on State Street Chicago

Lastly, the Nordstrom’s window display was nonexistent. They just had the racks of apparel right up to the windows. Interesting in that the product itself is the display. It did appear that the labels of the different brands attached to the top of each rack were oriented so that a passerby can easily read them. Even though this display was the most visually full it didn’t seem to catch people’s attention. Perhaps it was just too much so that people didn’t know what to look at.

Some of the Issues or Problems we discussed that might be analogous to web promotions

  • How much product is too much product?
  • Should promos allow you see product (or just say Free Shipping)?
  • How to let people know what items are props only and not for sale?
  • How to use products at different angles to get interest?
  • Should the promos on interior pages of a site be different than on the homepage?
  • How to handle “outfits” of apparel in terms of prices and sums?
  • Should you show all the different colors that an items comes in with a stack of sweaters one in each color?

“DO NOT BUY THIS . . .” Product Reviews on a Real World Billboard

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

“DO NOT BUY THIS. AFTER 5 YEARS IT WILL FALL APART.” 65,842  people see this every day.

I see this big car advertising billboard at the Cleveland stop of the Blue Line CTA in Chicago. Look at the red writing “DO NOT BUY THIS. AFTER 5 YEARS IT WILL FALL APART.” Someone wrote that on the billboard.


Billboard on the Blue Line to O’hare. I’d estimate 65,842  people see this every day.

Some people in the office said that near the college campuses this writing on the billboards is rampant.

Thought 1: How to leverage behavior public commenting

I thought, wow, if people are going to write on this. What kind of campaign could you have where you put blank links or dotted lines and pens hanging on chains to encourage people to write comments. Why haven’t they put in Borders Bookstores little post-its for people to write their own comments about a book and post it beside the book. They do do that with store employees comments on a small selection of books.

Thought 2: How does this go virtual

I showed the photo to Rod Rakic and he said, that people are probably doing this virtually with things like google sideshare. I think the value here could be that the company could “look” and see what customer feedback is and perhaps change their ad to address it.


Viewership is based on the fact that 658,524 ride the system every day, 10 spokes feed into the city, this is one spoke therefore 1/10 of total.

Wordle Quick Analysis

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

At a recent Forrester event one of the presenters used Wordle to do a before-redesign and after-redesign analysis of their page content. I have been using Wordle to do quick quantitative analysis of content. Here is a quick one of uxSEARS blog and another of





Exploring the Cognitive Consequences of Social Search

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Here is a diagram that I adapted from a great paper by Brynn Evans, Sanjay Kairam, and Peter Pirolli. I am using it to help think through what kinds of features and content might be useful at different stages of online tasks.

Social Search

Exploring the Cognitive Consequences of Social Search
There is nothing but “Social Shopping”

Chipotle Chicken

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I ate today at frontera fresca.


Chipotle Chicken Taco

Chipotle Chicken with grilled red onion. – Soft on the outside, crispy inner cruch. Frontera taco sauce, chihuahua cheese, avocado and fresh lime

Agua Fresca Lime

Agua Fresca – Classic Lime Drink.

How it tasted

The tacos were good.  The chipotle flavor was perfect. Hot and you could feel it bite your lips as the red sauce dripped off of the tacos.  Be careful if you are wearing a white shirt! Just like traditional tacos in Mexico, there are two soft tortillas for each taco.  But I noticed something new/strange/delicious though I am not sure if it is accident with my tacos this time or if it was intentional.  Between the two tortillas there was a little bit of cheese. It was almost like wrapping a quesadilla around a taco, but not like what you get in Taco Bell because there was just a tiny bit of cheese.  When I get the next tacos I will check again to see if this is an accident. The chicken was shredded, but not too much.

The lime agua fresca was good when I finally got to it.  I was chowing so much on the tacos. The drink was very clear, not pulp at all. But it tasted a little too sweet.

Visual Merchandising: Storefront Window Displays & Online Promos

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I had a good talk with our “promo” team tonight during our afterparty to celebrate Andrew Daniels’ IxDA talk. They are the ones who make the promos that appear on the home page of and We were discussing what they do and I would argue that they have one of the most important job of the lot of us. I don’t think most people think promos as so important and I’d like to explain my thinking.

Promos should be called Promotion. Promotions are the key reason people buy. People see a discount or reduction or clearance price and they consider it to be a better buy than something without a discount. The promotions team should be looking at the product pages and seeing how we showcase “promotions” there too. It should be about explaining or showcasing thrift, the savings, the value. The promotions team should be thinking about social because people like to talk about and share their “saving savvy.” How could promotions support that. If you look at the twitter traffic, most of the Sears traffic is around promotions that are going on. So how can the promotions team make that easier?

Yanti, the promo manager got excited about this and so next week she asked if we could I could come talk to the promo team. I said yes, but on the condition that we take a field trip. The promotions team and I are going to go for a walk down State Street past the “window displays” of our State Street Sears store and the various competitiors. I think there are alot of learnings and inspirations we might be able to get from the window displays.

A simple example from which we might find inspiration could be storefront displays and how we create home page promos. While the guidelines of good interior displays might relate more to product page promotions. The basic rules of good visual merchandising should apply across the different media.


Dynamic Displays (Good checklists & basics of good design)

Cheese Window of Engagement (I analyze what I consider the best example of window display, it it the perfect mix of product and social. I still wonder if we can approach this perfection in the online world.)

There is only “Social Shopping”

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

With all the talk lately about how we need to bring more “social” into the shopping experience I’ve become concerned that people think there is such a thing as shopping that isn’t social.

I have been reading a book that explores this conceit to a depth that is both grounded in strong theory and long term multi-site, multi-person ethnography. Daniel Miller’s “A Theory of Shopping” looks at shopping for ordinary things and how shoppers develop and imagine the social relationships most important to them through the medium of selecting goods.

E-commerce as currently conceived by E-bay and Amazon does not come close to this central expressive role of shopping. Miller writes “shopping is dominated by your imagination of others, of what they desire of you and their response to you; it is about relationships to those who require something of you.”

The best phrase in his book and one of the chapter titles is “Making Love in Supermarkets.” I am trying to move ecommerce toward supporting people as they seek to do this online.

Miller writes “shopping is not therefore best understood as an individualistic act … rather the act of buying goods is mainly directed at … [firstly] a relationship between the shopper and a particular other individual such as a child or partner, either present in the household, desired or imagined … [secondly] to a relationship to a more general goal … of the values to which people wish to dedicate themselves.”

A very intense book that is probably not easily accessible for casual reading, I got an awful lot of ideas for how online shopping can be redone to better allow buying goods in such ways as Miller writes about.