Retail Expert, Author Paco Underhill Visits iQmetrix Vancouver

A few weeks ago, iQmetrix had the pleasure hosting Paco Underhill, a world renowned expert on retail spaces. Underhill is an environmental psychologist, the author of the books Call of the Mall, What Women Want and Why We Buy, an internationally recognized bestseller that’s been published in 27 languages.

His retail insight makes him a highly sought after resource for columns and editorials that have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Paco is the founder of Envirosell, a New York City-based market research and consulting firm. He employs the basic idea of environmental psychology in his work: that our surroundings influence our behavior and that we can structure man-made environments to make them conducive to retail purposes. 

iQmetrix invited Paco over, to learn from his expertise and get some hands-on, in-store feedback.

We at iQmetrix have incorporated Underhill’s ideas and philosophy in the design of some of our customer facing software, both in terms of digital signage and interactive stations. We invited him to come and speak to us, as an opportunity for our teams to gain more from his expertise: through his presentation, a conversation with him and hands-on feedback on the design of actual, local stores.

Underhill gave an insightful presentation on the current state of the retail, addressing omnichannel strategies, online retailers, as well as the in-store experience (with specific focus on wireless stores) and the use of the new media within these environments. 

Hip to hip’ customer service is less confrontational than face to face.

Some of the takeaways from his presentation include moving the interaction with the customer from face to face” to hip to hip” (i.e. side by side), as demonstrated in Apple stores. This approach is less confrontational and more friendly. In addition, the lessons like I need to educate before I sell” and Present a well curated set of products rather than all you have” and Store needs to address the community it belongs to” might seem like a common sense, but they easily slip retailers’ minds in the urge to sell fast and sell more.

Retailers need to ask themselves what a customer would be doing at every touchpoint in the store.

I’d say for me two most important things I heard were:

1. A careful consideration of a space information architecture”: This aspect, as we know in software design, can and must be considered in retail environment layouts, from the entrance, even before the entrance, all the way to checkout stations and even past that point. Retailers need to ask themselves what a customer would be doing at this very point, what would he be looking at, touching, smelling, hearing? Would he need to interact with a sales rep here? Where would he move from here? And so on.

Tech marketers and retailers need not explain what the device is, but what consumers can do with the device.

2. At this point in time (especially in consumer electronics and mobile industry), people are no longer asking what are they buying, what are the tech specs and features of any given device (since all the top devices are nearly on the same level) but the main question is What can I do with this device?” This is a game changer in the wireless retail. I think that whoever addresses this question properly in the years to come can take the leading position in their respective markets. Hasn’t Apple done that already…

Underhill discussed the above points in his presentation and also demonstrated practical applications of each during two store visits we had later in the day. He offered plenty of tips, big and small, on how the store environments could be improved leading to better conversion and better sales overall. 

For us at iQmetrix, Underhill showed us that our retail management tools, in-store experience vision and customer facing tools are in line with where the market is going. We are looking forward to further share these concepts with our current clients, prospective clients and partners -- and to of course implement them in our future product developments. 

Thanks again, Paco, for the industry insights and practical in-store experience tips you shared with us and our clients.