Shining a light on consumer confusion

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The last decade has seen a significant advancement in  the technology used in torches and other portable light devices. Vince Armitage, divisional vice president of consumer batteries manufacturer Varta, explains why independent electrical retailers should refresh their sales strategy for these products to reduce consumer confusion.

In the last ten years, we have seen the introduction of torches with greater power and beam range due to technological developments, including LED clusters, smaller batteries and rechargeables. However, the physical presence on shelf has not developed at a pace to match the technology.

In fact, European consumer and retailer research undertaken by Varta in 2010, suggests complicated fixtures, poor product messaging and uninformed retailers are leading to a confused consumer. The torch segment is perceived to be dominated by too many products, which are not clearly differentiated, feature bulky packaging and lack useful information.

As a result, consumers and independent retailers have been drawn to make a purchase decision based on a cheaper price point or a well-known brand name – neither of which has necessarily met the real needs of the customer. This damages the customer relationship and means the retailer is unable to capitalise on repeat sales.

On the shop floor

To counter this trend, independent electrical retailers need to focus more than ever on their torch sales strategy. It is vital that suppliers, like Varta, support retailers with effective point of sale materials, such as torch testing stations, counter and floor displays, wobblers and shelf rail strips. However, just as important as the visual displays in store, it is essential that staff receive comprehensive product training to allow them to offer the best advice to customers. A member of staff with strong product knowledge could be the tipping point that ensures the sale.

When it comes to merchandising strategy, retailers should stock a solid selection of the most popular products across a variety of price and performance points, while ensuring they do not stock too many brands. Two is ideal to provide the consumer with choice while not confusing the offering.

Suppliers can make this easier for retailers by ensuring their products are clearly differentiated. For example, Varta’s re-launched range of torches has been categorised into three simple segments – Easy, Power and Professional. It features easy-to-understand icons on both packaging and point of sale to indicate product characteristics such as water resistance, shock proofing and red lens, as well as beam range, runtime and light output. This information allows consumers to compare Varta torches with their competitors and helps retailers to focus their shelf space on the most relevant products for their customers.

The location of torches and complementary products such as batteries, bulbs and lens cleaners needs to be carefully considered. While prime positions are at the consumer eye line and near the entrance or exit, a secondary location will also help retailers increase sales. By targeting the customer twice – or more – during their retail journey, the retailer can support impulse purchases which contribute to a significant proportion of torch sales.

Seasonal opportunities

Likewise, a detailed understanding of customer demographics and seasonal trends can help boost sales at key points of the year. For example, it would be beneficial to stock a range of camping and outdoor lanterns during the summer holidays and festival season, while in-car torches and safety products may be more appropriate for the darker winter months.

Put simply, to deliver the greatest return, retailers need to work closely with suppliers to stock products that clearly meet consumer demand.

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