I am no longer the woman I used to be…as a shopper, that is. It wasn’t that long ago that my priorities for clothes shopping were to get a good deal (or at least to feel like I was getting a good deal) and to have a large selection to choose from. This philosophy led to many lost hours at stores like Ross and Marshalls, searching through hundreds of tacky garments to spot that one gem at a ridiculously low price. Back when I had more time than money, this was my way of being a smart shopper. Not to say that I have more money than time now, but what I no longer have when it comes to clothes shopping is patience.

Last week, I needed a cocktail dress for a networking event, so I hit the department store circuit. Macys was my first stop, and while the selection of dresses was large, I was overwhelmed by the variety of styles and prices. After more than an hour in the dressing room, and growing self-doubt about my ability to make such an important life decision without the support of a shopping buddy, it came down to two dresses I liked. The better one was more than I planned to spend and wasn’t on sale, so I left empty handed.

The next stop was J.C. Penny. I know, I know – you’ve heard me rant and rave over the past year about how JCP has ruined the shopping experience by making significant changes without using market research to determine what their customers really need and want. But, I digress. I needed a pretty dress, and that brought me off my soapbox and into JCP. When I was in the JCP parking lot heading towards the store, a woman who had just left the store said to me, unsolicited, “Shopping just isn’t as fun as it used to be.” Yikes, JCP! You’ve got brand detractors hanging out in your parking lot discouraging customers as they walk into the store! Needless to say, that set the tone for my shopping experience and I found nothing that made me happy.

Now, I’m desperate. My last hope was a shining beacon across the street from JCP – Von Maur. I’d never been inside this store and, quite frankly, hadn’t heard of it until one popped up in this shopping center, so I didn’t know what to expect. I walked in the door to live piano music filling the room. As soon as my arm reached out to pick up the first dress off the rack, a sales associate whisked it out of my hands and started a dressing room for me. The dressing room itself was amazing – spacious, well-lit, and with a pedestal surrounded by mirrors like you see in bridal boutiques (extra points for putting the Spanx display right next to the formal dress department). With every dress I tried on, the sales associate peeked her head in to marvel at how lovely I looked and detail why that particular dress was perfect on me.

I ended up buying a dress at Von Maur for three times more than I planned to spend without thinking twice about it. And, even though my wallet was significantly lighter, I had such a positive experience that I was compelled to write a blog post advocating this brand.

The moral of this story is that the shopping experience itself can have a huge impact on the customer’s priorities and decision making process. Understanding who the customer is, how they shop, and how they make decisions is critical to providing the right shopping experience. At Clear Box Insights, we have a variety of methods to reveal shopper insights to optimize the shopping experience and fuel strategic decisions.

As for me, just put me on a pedestal and tell me I’m pretty, then take my money. Go ahead, as much as you want.

happy shopper 2