Friday, June 28, 2013

Paco - Shopping and Anthropology

Avoid the Butt-brush and raise profits with science. Paco Underhill's advise is coveted all around the world. Working with the best brands, best retailers and best restaurants, Paco has touched your life in a way that is effective, yet hard to notice. That is, after all, what an Anthropologist does. He observes, records and concludes without interfering with his subjects. Paco is known as the father of Retail Anthropology.
Photo of retail anthropologist and environmental psychologist Paco Underhill
Paco Underhill
It would be odd to think that anthropology, a seemingly boring science, could have any impact on the design of the most exciting new products in the market today. Nonetheless, this is exactly what's happening. After discovering Paco's work, it all just made sense to me about 15 years ago.
Starting as a typical anthropologist doing work at Central Park for the city of New York, Paco serendipitously took his academic education and started recording the behavior of music shoppers. The rest, as they say, is history.
All marketing guru's take an artistic approach. There is no science to what they do; it is just a feeling of what seems right. They develop a hunch, which is then tested with your customers without any real certainty of success.
photo of female apparel shopper inside retail store
Paco, on the other hand, makes recommendations that have already been proven to work. Why? Because they follow human behavior rather than fads. Paco's team has documented more shoppers in more countries than anyone else. His methodology is based on the fact that humans have changed very little over thousands of decades. Paco's goal is to improve the retail experience through solutions that are both predictably superior and repeatably effective. That you aren't aware of his work speaks bundles of the secrecy with which companies guard what he does for them.
The kind of science that he deploys is not rigid, fake or unnatural. On the contrary, Paco adds value to the existing environment by making it look and feel much more natural and fluid. If consumers felt that they were being trapped by a scientific experiment while doing something as personal as shopping, they would just exit the store. But consumers respond well to Paco's creative solutions because these resonate with the human nature.
photo closeup of a Subway restaurants napkin with printed nutritional information
Subway Napkins
Have you noticed that fast food restaurants try to keep their tables free from clutter. There are no table tents offering the latest specials, for example. This means that these restaurants miss the opportunity to sell additional products or services to customers who spend more than a few minutes eating alone and without anything to look at. But Paco found a solution. While helping Subway restaurants', he realized that there was a great opportunity to push Subway's main marketing message. So he used the company's napkins to highlight the nutritional values of their sandwiches. The solution was clever and it has become part of the daily Subway experience.
Placing aspirins in the most easily accessible shelve, perhaps near the entrance of the pharmacy, would seem to make sense. Pain medications are an important category. Moreover, these products see strong consumption by the elder; people who generally appreciate ease of access. But Paco knows better. Displaying aspirins in such a main isle will place their users right on the path of fast walking teenagers who rush towards the back of the store to grab the latest energy super drink; resulting in the dreaded Butt-brush. Shoppers, specially the elder and females, hate the Butt-brush. No matter how strong their need for pain relief may be, getting Butt-brushed will force them to shop elsewhere. The data corroborates with the thesis that these are terrible areas for these types of products.
Photo of "Why We Buy" "The science of Shopping" book by Paco Underhill
Why We Buy by Paco Underhill
Paco knows precisely how many minutes will a customer spend looking at a pair of jeans, how often she will consider their price, how many pairs she will try each visit, which way she will navigate the store, and how many times she will experience frustration along the way. His body of data is uniquely robust.
If you are a retailer, a product manager, a manufacturer of consumer products, a packaging designer, or a commercial interior designer, you are missing your biggest tool. You must read his books; starting with Why we buy, The Science of Shopping. This book sets the foundation needed to internalize the concepts. There are no narratives to waste page space; Paco goes to the point. He teaches how to understand consumers and shares the source for his conclusions.
He knows shoppers so well that he is also referred to as a environmental psychologist.
If you are serious about your work and have an open mind to be proven wrong, make sure that you and your team start following Paco today.

Book Title: Why We Buy
Book Subtitle: The Science of Shopping
Author: Paco Underhill
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1416595243

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