Whatever you do, don’t brush their butt

Grocery You know how we say that marketing isn't rocket science?  Well, it isn't.  But sometimes it is about the science of understanding your consumer.  Paco Underhill, in his best selling book The Science of Shopping, identified a significant negative motivator for shoppers.

The butt brush.  Yes, the butt brush. 

According to research, a shopper, especially a woman shopper, is far less likely to buy something if her rear end is bumped or brushed, even lightly, by another customer, while they are both looking at a display. 

The net result of this research is that stores need to be very aware of creating wide and clear aisles.

If you aren't in a retail business, how does this apply to you? 

In every industry, there is the equivalent of the butt brush.  Some little, seemingly insignificant factor, that makes your customer decide to shop or buy elsewhere.   Something that just makes them a little uneasy.

Can you identify what it is for your business?  If not, spend some time watching the shopping and buying patterns of your clients. 

Look for clues. Or better yet, ask.  A slight shift in your selling environment, materials, pitch or product may result in a measurable jump in sales.

Do you have a personal "butt brush" story?  Something that turns you off as a consumer?

Related  posts:

~ How men and women shop differently
~ Describe Kohl's in one sentence

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18 comments on “Whatever you do, don’t brush their butt

  1. This is one of the more insightful books I’ve read in the past year regarding retail. Definitely a fun read and eye opener, as I’d been involved from the manufacturer and supplier side marketing and operations.
    Some of the topics are a little outdated, as some big clients have learned to incorporate some of Paco’s teachings. But nonetheless, a timeless classic read for anyone involved in retail merchandising, traffic analysis, and store operations from a customer-centric viewpoint.

  2. Robyn says:

    I had a most disarming incident happen the other day in a restaurant buffet line. A man obviously newly arrived from another culture where eating habits differ took his hand, grabbed noodles from his plate, and returned them to the buffet bin. Since I value folks from other cultures and hope to help make them welcome, I wondered how I could carefully explain that was a “No, no” here in our culture. I told him kindly as I could and he nodded his head. I reported the problem to the manager who promptly replaced this bin of noodles. This could potentially cut down on people wanting to do business at this restaurant. This was almost hard to fathom, but it happened over the weekend. What would you have done, Drew?

  3. Chris Wilson says:

    I’ve read Paco’s book. It’s a very interesting read.

    Your got me thinking about a shopping instance where the “butt brush” is almost expected because of the close shopping quarters. If you’ve ever been in a Abercrombie or Hollister stores (More so Hollister) then you will know what I’m talking about. The racks and shelves are so close together that it has to be intentional. I just wonder if maybe it’s meant to encourage flirtatious touch, which would make sense. They have been known to use sexuality to sell their close to teens.

    Am I looking at it too deep? Any thoughts?

  4. Mario,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book as well. Agreed — some of the examples are outdated, but the points are still very valid.

    What was the biggest ah ha for you from the book?


  5. Robyn,

    Yikes. I’m not sure what I would have done. I think it was very kind of you to take the risk and correct his behavior. How did he take the tutoring?

    I’d like to think I would have done the same. That goes way beyond the butt brush, doesn’t it?


  6. Chris,

    I suspect you are not looking at it too deeply. I have spent a significant amount of time in both stores (being the dad of a 14 year old daughter) and without a doubt, they are using sexuality and intimacy sell their wares.

    I hadn’t thought about the correlating reality about how they build their displays, but you are right. It’s almost impossible to weave your way through the stores without coming close/having contact with another shopper.

    I doubt it is accidental.


  7. I don’t know if the “butt brush” is simply a tangible way of expressing claustrophobia, but any place that feels crowded and hemmed in to me is an immense turn off. It triggers an instinct to just leave as quickly as possible – certainly not the ideal response desired in a retail setting!

  8. Robyn says:

    It sure does go beyond the “butt brush,” Drew. He shook his head as if he understood and stopped. His wife smiled. Now that we live in more of a global society, there’s lots of surprises out there for us.

  9. Gavin Heaton says:

    Great post, Drew … and I love the “butt brush” concept. Actually the post reminded me straight away of Paul’s series on Kohls. There are many things that we do to unwittingly create barriers for our brands … but the one thing that is hardest to control is customer service/experience. The human element can be the best and worst feature of a brand experience … regardless of whether they touch my butt, or not 😉

  10. There were a few points that stuck out:

    1) The entrance as a landing strip – folks not being completely in the store yet: it’s uncomfortable to be approached by an associate so soon, signage and baskets are practically invisible, and clearance items will reduce traffic to the rest of the store.

    2) Reflective surfaces make people slow down and take notice.

    3) Not enough chairs around

  11. As always you made me laugh, Drew. As I read your post, I couldn’t help but think of the Seinfeld episode with the “Close Talker.” Not only can a person get too in your face, but a business can, too. I hadn’t thought of that analogy prior to reading your post.

  12. Steve,

    I wonder if that is generational or even cultural. Some people don’t seem to mind being packed in like sardines, while others (like you and me) want a little elbow room.

    But, as Chris points out…there may be a very deliberate reason why a retailer would set up their store so that there’s an implied intimacy.


  13. Robyn,

    And hopefully we can all be graceful in both the giving and receiving of cultural guidance. Not everyone would have handled it with the tact that you did!


  14. Gavin,

    Certainly we are all most vulnerable in the customer service/experience arena. We have to count on our people..

    And in most cases, those people are clueless. Not because they’re stupid but because we haven’t taken the time to help them get it.

    Considering some of Paul’s pictures of Kohl’s and some of the employee’s comments — I’m thinking a butt b rush might be better than some other things you might discover!


  15. Mario,

    I really gravitated to the landing strip analogy as well. It’s such a good reminder that even the slightest detail will entice or repel a potential customer.


  16. Susan,

    That’s a great way of thinking about it, though. A business can be too in your face. I always think of it like an overly rambunctious dog — when you walk in the house they are practically climbing up your body to get your attention.

    We want to be enthusiastic, but not to the point of needing to be swatted on the nose!


  17. Um… I think the point is being missed here. You can’t just go around brushing women’s bottoms. Whether it affects sales or not, you’re going to get slapped.

  18. Paul,

    Well sure….there’s that too!


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