Digital Signage and Out-of-Home Media

Merchant Mechanics became the first to define the dynamics of consumer attention and message responsiveness with respect to time of day, pioneering the understanding and application of in-store “dayparting” in dynamic digital signage. In addition, Merchant Mechanics discovered and defined the link between engaging cash wraps and perceived wait times, demonstrating clear linkages with customer satisfaction.

Client

The United States Postal Service

Goal

Reduce queue abandonment and increase customer satisfaction in branches with high traffic and limited staff through optimization of digital signage.

Engagement

Merchant Mechanics conducted a controlled test of the effects of digital signage placement and content on key behaviors and attitudes regarding customers’ USPS experiences.

Solution

Through our combination of quantitative analysis and expert interpretation, digital signage placement and message content were optimized, exceeding the desired positive change in customer satisfaction and reduction in queue abandonment. As behaviors and attitudes improved, incremental purchases for digitally advertised products increased significantly. Importantly, Merchant Mechanics discovered that with no digital signage, customers tended to significantly overestimate their wait times. The installation of digital signage effectively brought perceived wait times in-line with actual wait times, as a result of increased positive engagement with signage content and a reduction in attention to the inconvenience of waiting.

Results

Significant improvements in both objective and subjective customer experience metrics:

  • Decreased rate of queue abandonment
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved comparative ratings versus competitive shipping options
  • Marked decline in perceived wait times
  • Increased number of full-length messages viewed by matching wait times to message lengths
  • Improved recall of message content
  • Increased incremental sales of cards, collectibles, and packing materials

Consumer Packaged Goods Manufacturers and Category Managers

Fast CompanyMerchant Mechanics understands the need for tight integration and effective collaboration between CPGMs and Category Managers. Our research services help both Manufacturers and Category Managers better understand and positively influence all aspects of the retail environment. Category leaders utilize Merchant Mechanics’ services to generate innovative solutions at the individual product level as well as the category level.

Client

The world’s largest producer of many popular food and beverage products

Goal

Lead the way toward a more holistic and definitive understanding of consumers in multiple categories in order to reverse sales stagnation; resolve conflicting findings of previous research efforts so CPGMs and Category Managers can execute actionable findings with confidence.

Engagement

Merchant Mechanics designed and conducted the most comprehensive path-to-purchase study to date. Moreover, we incorporated what the manufacturer already knew about their consumers, including simultaneous reporting from parallel concurrent research, and helped all of the client’s internal teams begin to speak the same language, enhancing effective cooperation across the enterprise.

Solution

Through our combination of quantitative analysis and expert interpretation, digital signage placement and message content were optimized, exceeding the desired positive change in customer satisfaction and reduction in queue abandonment. As behaviors and attitudes improved, incremental purchases for digitally advertised products increased significantly. Importantly, Merchant Mechanics discovered that with no digital signage, customers tended to significantly overestimate their wait times. The installation of digital signage effectively brought perceived wait times in-line with actual wait times, as a result of increased positive engagement with signage content and a reduction in attention to the inconvenience of waiting.

Results

By tightly integrating six traditional and cutting-edge methods, including the first full-scale, full-store mobile EEG study ever conducted, we delivered a critical, comprehensive, quantitative, and qualitative portrait of all of the client’s shopper segments in the grocery channel. This research is currently being extended to multiple product lines and retail channels.

Our research not only identified the right message to deliver at each point along the Path-to-Purchase, but also how to ensure that message was delivered to the right consumer, through the right media, at the right time.

Client actions taken as a direct result of this research included, but were not limited to:

  • Optimization of label and package design
  • Category architecture optimization
  • Message optimization at each point along the path-to-purchase
  • Segment-specific messaging and product arrangements
  • Implementation of cross-category synergies and elimination of in-category detractors

Retail Design and Architecture

During the development of new environments and renovations, Merchant Mechanics assists architecture and design firms by testing existing and prototype environments to determine which features are most and least successful, and why. This information helps designers decide what to improve, eliminate, or ignore, allowing for rapid and efficient optimization of designs prior to large-scale roll-out. The result is accelerated design cycles and improved profitability with outstanding ROI.

Client

Design firm serving one of the world’s largest manufacturers of durable baby products

Goal

Improve sales and shopper experience in mass channels and help major retail partners stave off looming competition from specialty stores; provide objective, third-party evaluation of current and proposed designs, with data-driven insights related to the effectiveness of new designs.

Engagement

Merchant Mechanics was engaged to analyze consumer behavior and attitudes in existing baby gear pads in the nation’s two largest mass retailers, and to extend learnings to specialty stores through further testing. Additional research and consulting focused on consumer-led generation and concept testing of novel layouts and graphical treatments. These findings were combined with further testing to illuminate benefits and drawbacks of prototype environments and merchandising.

Results

The findings and insights produced immediately actionable recommendations, germane to the client’s capabilities and design intent, leading to accelerated environment and feature design. Notably, we uncovered a number of severe but previously unrecognized barriers to shopper navigation and product interaction in existing environments. These basic failures of existing designs were costing retailers significantly in terms of pad abandonment and lost incremental purchases of consumables by visitors, who favored specialty stores for browsing and mass channels for purchase of large-ticket items. The final designs were submitted to the master client with the highest possible degree of confidence, with the following results:

  • Eliminated target demographic-specific barriers to browsing and product evaluation
  • Restored incremental consumable purchases to mass channel retail partners
  • Improved navigation, salience, retailer, and brand attitudes and engagement
  • Strengthened relationships between design firm, master client, and retail partners
  • Reduced competitive advantages of specialty retailers
  • Improved merchandising and message resonance with target demographic
  • Reduced design cycle duration and improved execution confidence for both design firm and master client

Pop-Up and Brand-Owned Stores

Our testing capabilities extend to all elements of a space in order to improve a store’s design elements as well as the marketing and merchandising materials contained within it. We precisely and holistically define the successes and failures of each element to help refine and perfect the selling space and allow the whole to take best advantage of each of its parts.

Client

A global pharmaceutical firm developing a national product launch campaign for a new over-the-counter weight loss drug

Goal

Determine the most effective way to educate potential users about the new drug’s benefits and risks, and engage customers in a complete weight-loss, healthy lifestyle, and balanced nutrition program to ensure the product’s and the customer’s long-term success; use deployment of a pop-up store in Union Square, NYC, to refine promotional material and pop-up store designs to maximize the effectiveness of an upcoming pop-up store tour through the largest malls in the United States and the official product launch and national campaign.

Engagement

Merchant Mechanics performed a comprehensive, iterative study of both the prototype pop-up store as well as three second-phase designs used for the national mall road-show. By assessing visitors’ behaviors and attitudes toward the product and the environment, and by closely studying the client’s marketing concepts and goals, we were able to guide architects and designers to a more effective and efficient pop-up experience that would most effectively increase consumer notice, awareness, and recall of product utility and features, while increasing engagement rates with interactive store elements.

Results

Our partnership in this iterative design process beginning with empirical evaluation of the first pop-up store and following through the national road show allowed the client to conclusively identify and retain the most effective elements among competing design concepts, ensuring a highly successful and significantly more profitable national product launch. The success metrics attained included:

  • Tens of thousands of dollars saved in the design and transport costs of phase-two pop-up installations, while significantly improving performance
  • Optimized number of staff required to effectively run phase-two pop-up installations
  • Improved customer attitudes, expectations, and engagement in response to marketing materials
  • Increased dwell times and display / literature interaction rates
  • Increased incidence and duration of customer-staff interactions in pop-up space
  • Increased brand awareness and improved brand attitudes and receptivity from first-impression and beyond
  • Improved performance of final national marketing communications and product launch

Prototype Testing and Evaluation

Nothing predicts the success of a prototype better than its performance in the real-world context for which it was designed. Merchant Mechanics’ prototype testing services use converging research methods to provide clients with a comprehensive understanding of their prototype’s ultimate success.

Client

The United States Postal Service

Goal

Decrease queue length at main cash wrap for simple transactions, such as stamp purchasing and package posting; increase customer satisfaction in branches with high traffic and limited staff through introduction of automated interactive kiosk known as the Automated Postal Center (APC).

Engagement

Merchant Mechanics conducted controlled testing on the effects of the APC utility, physical placement, interactive touch screen usability, and introductory signage on key behaviors and attitudes regarding consumers’ USPS experience.

Solution

Through our analysis and interpretation of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the APC’s interactive touch screen content, awareness signage, and physical placement within the Post Office were optimized, exceeding the desired positive change in customer satisfaction and reduction in queue length. Through placement and signage optimization, consumers were efficiently educated on the APC’s utility, and behaviors and attitudes related to its introduction within the USPS improved. Through Merchant Mechanics’ understanding and optimization of the kiosk’s user interface, APC use abandonments decreased, and wait times at the main cash wrap queues decreased as fewer customers required engagement with USPS staff.

Results

Significant improvements in both objective and subjective customer experience metrics:

  • Reductions in main queue wait times
  • Improvements in customer satisfaction
  • Increased customer awareness of APC prototype
  • Confidence in mass roll out of retooled APC
  • Increased ease of use in APC touch screen interactions
  • Decreased abandonment of APC machine