Speaking with

Lluís Martínez-Ribes, expert in Retail Innovation

3rd January 2012 0

Lluís Martínez-Ribes, retail innovation enthusiast, is professor at ESADE and consulting partner of the company m+f=! (Martínez +Franch consultores). With 34 years of experience in the sector, he has practiced his specialty in 24 different countries. Here we ask him what he thinks about the pharmaceutical market in Spain.

“You buy something if you feel comfortable and are excited about it”

How can we become the consumer’s preference?

Nowadays pharmacies are in a very different situation than they were some years ago. Before, due to regulations, pharmacies were a sort of local monopoly. Now people go in, ask questions, and go to other pharmacies and compare.

 Many pharmacies are beginning to understand the importance of attracting and keeping their customers. And they may think that their pharmacy is preferred because of their store hours, their service…, or for several other reasons. But this is not how people think. When people make decisions, 85-95% base their decisions subconsciously and even emotionally.  People tend to buy things when they feel comfortable and if they are excited about something. Things that don’t even seem important are determining factors in a final purchase.

What latest advances in neuroscience are being applied to retail marketing?

How would you feel in a pharmacy that was painted red? Most likely, it wouldn’t be a peaceful place where we could go if we had a problem.

On the other hand, a look and feel that provides comfort would. This is known as semiotics, or the language of symbols, and we need to be familiar with it in order to know whether or not our pharmacy is what we want it to be.

How people attend to customers is key. There is statistical evidence that proves that people who are happy and smile sell more. Happiness is contagious. This is what is commonly referred to as positive energy. If the staff is sad, doesn’t smile, doesn’t make eye contact… we might as well put up a vending machine. Facial expressions and gestures are 70% of communication. 

When you say, “retail is about understanding people”, can you explain what you mean?

It means understanding customers.The key to retail sale is not the actual product that is being sold but rather whether or not we understand consumers and their lives. If we don’t understand customers in our area of influence (in a residential area, commercial area, in a train station...), what can we do? More than the product itself, it is important to understand your customers, what they are going through, what makes them thrive.

Is this what is called emotional sales?

Emotions are stirred by tools like semiotics, design and with a positive attitude and with the right products. If it is the time when hair tends to fall out, we should place products specifically for that in sight. And customers can relate when they see these products. If products are not visible, success is hard to achieve. Products need to stand out.

If you enter a pharmacy and products talk to you, you can relate and feel comfortable.

You say that a store should be understood at a glance. Is spatial arrangement so important?

Putting more products in the pharmacy doesn’t predict success. What is important is how the products are displayed… A cosmetic product cannot be placed next to diapers. It won’t work.

What is a good product?

The best product is the pharmacy itself. In retail, the product is called “store”. A pharmacist’s product is his/her pharmacy. That people come to yours instead of going to others.

What changes are being seen in Spanish retail?

Many. Many different changes. Specialty stores are becoming more theatrical, sales points are becoming less commercial:  they are highly social spots, meeting points. There are initiatives everywhere and what counts is personal creativity. The future, as I see it, is a combination of on and off-line, and not only for sales. It’s going to progressively increase.

In this sense, what is the impact of social networks in retail sales?

They can help create a positive image of a pharmacy if your pharmacy is already empathic.

Is it important for manufacturers and distributors to meet?

I think there are two types of suppliers: one is complicit and supports the pharmacist, helps him/her, offers him/her profitability, ideas.. and the other will only sell products with total emotional detachment.

For more information: www.martinez-ribes.com


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