Don’t visit the zoo, go to the jungle

“If you want to understand how a lion hunts,don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.”Sandy Thompson, the global planning chiefof ad agency Y&R, often uses this saying.

It’sjust as relevant to the world of retail as it is thesphere of communications.

At the heart of the message is that greatretailers naturally put themselves in the shoesof their shopper, both metaphorically andphysically.

It’s about getting out from behindyour desk and taking yourself through the pathto purchase.

Which is why, when I once askedthe renowned observation researcher PacoUnderhill what he considered was the mostimportant tool for analyzing retail, he quipped“rubber-soled shoes”.

The research focus group is a useful tool forgetting to know your customer, but it is asomewhat false forum.

In fact, if you’ve everattended a focus group, you’ll know it’s a bitlike going to the zoo, you sit on the other sideof a two-way mirror and observe your shopper.

Out in the “jungle”, we can watch shoppers in their natural habitat, and look at the world through theireyes.

In the retail savannah, customers let their guard down and astute retailers not only note theirbehaviour, but become a shopper themselves.

I am currently researching retail at one of the major airports, and it was revealing to me to “take thetrip”: the taxi ride, check-in, security, tax refund, duty free shopping, and getting on the plane, all thewhile mentally taking notes.

As I both experienced and observed, I could feel my stress levels rising throughout my airport journey(would I make my flight?).

And feeling stressed is just not something that makes customers feel likespending money.

This provided an insight: manage travellers’ expectations, help them to enjoy ratherthan stress out, and you just might extract a few more dollars on the way through.

It’s important for your store managers to also see the world from the shopper’s perspective. Make itpart of the daily routine to stand back from the entrance to the store, and see what the customer sees.

Are we telling a cohesive story?

Is the promotion properly ‘tied up’? Is the housekeeping in order?

What’s the message we are sending?

Would I actually buy from this store?The world’s most successful retailers – people like J.

Crew’s Mickey Drexler – are those who literallythink on their feet. They make a habit of not only carrying out regular store visits, but also instinctivelywatching shoppers and going through the process themselves.

Others like Zara go one step further,and embed an anthropological approach into their way of doing business – feeding back unsolicitedcustomer comments from the floor to head office every day.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not even statistically valid. But it is fundamental to being a successfulmerchant. And if you don’t get out in the jungle, you may end up being fodder for another retail predator.

Jon Bird is CEO of specialist retail marketing agency IdeaWorks (, andchairman of Octomedia, publisher of Inside Retail. Email: [email protected]Blog: Twitter: @thetweetailer

This article first appeared in Inside Retail’s digital weekly, to subscribe click here.


Comment Manually