Jul 4, 2008

The retail gemba

People who know me know that I take shopping seriously, so naturally I want to read about it. At the risk of making this blog a book recommendation site, I have to share a story from "Why We Buy: The science of shopping" by Paco Underhill. His consulting firm, Envirosell, is based on the premise that you can take the anthropological view of marketing - watch what people do when they are shopping, then use that knowledge to make it easier for them to buy your stuff.

The lean view of that is that shopping and buying are part of a process. The purchase is the product of the process. So you have to go into the store and watch what happens. Underhill's observers spend hours watching and making notes, videotaping, and studying all the factors of the shopper's gemba.

Here's a fun story:

A company had a new line of microwave popcorn meant to appeal to kids and advertised it heavily on the TV shows kids watched. Food companies select positions in grocery stories and pay rent for shelf space, and the company assumed the parent would buy the popcorn when the kids started asking for it. So they put it on a shelf at a height convenient for the parent to pick it up. The product was flopping.

A gemba video showed one reason why. A little boy was making "repeated flying leaps at the shelf where the popcorn was kept, trying to knock one to the floor. He finally got it down, but when he took it to mom, she said no. Dejectedly, he put it back on the shelf -- not where it had been, but down at his own eye level. And sure enough, the next kid who came by saw it, grabbed it and tossed it into his Dad's cart, where it remained."

Obviously, a bunch of folks in a conference room make poorer decisions about how a process will work than if they go where the work is done and learn something first. The other lesson you already know -- a lot marketing people have watched the gemba and know exactly how to get your kids to make you buy stuff that's not on your list.


Lester said...

So you not only have to go to Gemba, you have to know who the customer really is.....

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