How Smart Is Your Store… and Why Does It Need To Be?

Could the secrets to more effective marketing strategies
be lying right in your stores?

How well do you know your customers? I mean really know them. How often do they come in? What do they do while they are in your stores? What services do they buy? Who are the most profitable? Who are the least loyal or infrequent users?

I think you would agree that if you had the answers to these questions and many more like them, you would have a huge advantage in developing marketing strategies that would be likely to yield more productive results. The answers may not be as out of reach as you think. In fact, many of them may already be in your transaction data.

Many retailers have come to understand that the value of their transaction data lies in the ability to connect it to the customer. Not just to total daily transaction activity, or to fulfill accounting and compliance requirements, but to also be able to connect all of those transactions to the actual people who performed them – both customers and staff. Being able to connect customers to their cash register receipts is what gave birth to the dozens of loyalty card programs that offer “member-only” discounts or special offers only to registered cardholders who present their cards at checkout.  Previously anonymous grocery or general merchandise purchases at big box stores or pharmacies were now able to be connected to the actual person making the purchase.

Financial services transactions by their very nature are data-rich with details about the customer. Their name, address, phone numbers, email, physical description, signature sample, banking information and more is routinely collected as part of the onboarding process of a new customer, and then if done correctly, every transaction could, or should be associated with that person.

While all this information may have been captured by your POS or Loan Management system, have you really studied it with regard to the marketing insights that can be mined from that data? If you do, you will realize that you have a variety of customer types or segments, each with identifiable patterns of behavior. If your marketing efforts are targeted to those behavior patterns, they will be more effective in the results they achieve due to their relevance to each segments’ unique needs and behaviors. For example, how many of your customers came in to cash a check at your store and never came back again after the initial sign-up process? If you are like the typical FSC, it’s likely to be nearly half! That’s right, between 40%-50% of the consumers in a variety of FSC databases I have personally studied usually reveals there are this many one-and-done customers lurking in the database. If a marketing campaign targeting this easily identifiable segment of your customers could get just one in ten to cash one more check, you would experience a 4% to 5% gain in check- cashing fees from that effort.

What about your front-line employees? They are your salesforce. Is their proficiency ever really measured? Each signs onto the POS system at the start of their shift, and every transaction they process is associated to them. But how do they compare to each other with regard to metrics such as transactions processed per hour worked, or fee revenue generated per hour, ancillary products sold, etc. These are all easily measured Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can be rolled up into marketing or sales dashboards that can be reviewed at regular intervals to better manage your business. Like the old adage goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. All of this and more is lying in your transaction data, waiting to be put to work.

But what lies beyond the transactions? Do you know how many customers walk through your doors every day? Does everyone make a transaction? Where do they go in the store and what do they do at each of these places?
Are there self-service zones for ATMs, coin counters, copiers or other such devices? Do they use writing counters to complete applications, sign checks or perform other activities? Are there other ways to interact with
them to share product information, take surveys or solicit feedback?

Progressive retailers today are using infrared sensors to capture traffic data, product interaction, dwell times and other such activity to better understand how the customer interacts with the retail space, so that we
might better communicate with them in each of these zones and improve the overall experience of their visit … you know, that WOW moment we’ve all had at one time or another and never forget.

Armed with the intelligence of how your customers interact with your retail environment, and how that interaction ties back to their transaction behavior, you can plan very intelligent path-to-purchase strategies that
will enhance their experience with you, and more likely their loyalty as well – all while you improve your chances to sell them more per visit and increase their overall value as a customer.

I like to refer to this type of strategy as creating a “Smart Store,” that is one that can capture and, with the right tools, report critical business data back to you to help make better staffing, retail environment, advertising and
promotional decisions, resulting in increased sales. Because you see, not all marketing is about creative strategies and cool graphics. There is a science side to it as well, and when you put that to work for you, it results in marketing decisions that are fact-based, not just unproven hunches or theories.

A New Look for Windows

Will prospects walk on by or walk right in?

A New Look for Windows Can Drive Store Traffic

Suppose you were offered a free billboard on a heavily traveled thoroughfare.

Would you ignore the marketing opportunity?

Of course you wouldn’t! But far too many overlook the power of the retail storefront for promoting their business. When you own a retail store, your storefront windows are the first chance you have to make an impression on your customers. They can draw shoppers in — or drive them away.

While you cannot communicate everything about your business on your storefront, a well-designed window display can shout to onlookers that something is happening inside and why it is good for the consumer. And since consumer surveys of financial service centers customers indicate that half of all new customers first learned about a business by its storefront signage, these windows play an incredibly effective role in attracting new business.

In retailing, window displays connect with customers and prospects. Think of the crowds that throng to New York City during the holidays to partake of opulent window dressings at retailers. Certain retailers have whole departments devoted to visual merchandising. Bergdorf Goodman windows are a must see for the fashion conscious. Barneys, with a more irreverent approach, is also an ongoing draw.

In financial services, think of the windows as an advertising canvas. A blank page that can utilize photos, graphics, text and other visual devices – sometimes in a 3D fashion – to let the public know who you are and what you have to offer. The best window merchandising visually impacts the viewer and connects a product with the individual’s personal situation.

Even in the retail cacophony of New York City, bold window graphics can break through. Consider RiteCheck Cashing. Its storefronts use a three dimensional system to accommodate hanging graphics panels along with vinyl graphics applied to the window glass to grab the attention of those traveling by car or on foot. Larger-scale banners, vinyl and clings added punch to the marketing mix, as did dramatic night lighting, which further enhanced the 24-hour operation of this 12 store chain. The new campaign literally drew prospects into the store, increased foot traffic and inspired staff.


Design Matters

An effective windows program might take one of several approaches. The first approach is to transform a building into a billboard. The billboard approach works best for high-profile buildings in urban areas. This treatment employs mega-sized, custom-fitted graphics designed specifically for the individual building’s architecture. The impact is an immediate “wow” for onlookers. Even treating a handful of stores in your network with this format can dramatically heighten awareness of your brand.

The second approach is more modular and easier to roll out. The smaller scale graphics, which employ fixture systems with lights and banners, evoke storefront atmosphere. This approach is also effective, but doesn’t have the scale and impact of the billboard-like applications.

Grafico has found great effectiveness with a combination of these two approaches. A few billboard treatments create the marketing buzz and are then backed up with smaller-scale windows strategies in other locations. After all, not all sites lend themselves to the larger-scale billboard application. The trick is deciding which ones will work best for your network.

Regardless of which window program is selected, execution is key. The challenge is to effectively convey your brand’s message while also creating an impactful visual statement. The design process should be very collaborative between the operator and provider and take the overall scope of the project into consideration. Ultimately the design must be flexible, due to the complex nature of numerous buildings that may vary dramatically in size and shape in a given program. The most effective window displays take full advantage of the given architecture and let simple large images do the talking.


What Works For Windows

What are the keys to successful window merchandising?

1. Develop and assess your retail communications strategy.

How would windows messaging support or enhance your current sales and brand initiatives? It’s important not to isolate your windows initiatives. Window merchandising should be part of a larger communications platform and should tie into direct marketing, advertising campaign, and online and in-store merchandising.

2. Consider whether the marketing need is product or brand focused.

Most of the time, window merchandising works best to promote new product introductions, underselling products or enhance a promotional campaign. Are there specific products that could benefit from an added boost with a new, “outside” audience?

3. Conduct a strategic site analysis.

Look at the entire store and its surroundings. Be careful of potential visual obstructions, both exterior and interior. Take into account there are two viewing levels – pedestrian and then further away (either across the street or from a vehicle).

4. Then, determine which stores warrant the investment based on foot traffic and visibility.

Identify which windows have primary and secondary visibility. Not all stores or windows should be treated the same. And, consider if the goal is portability, or the ability to use a similar windows display throughout the network. Start with the primary window locations. Corner locations are often ideal. A pilot with only a few sites could be sufficient to determine effectiveness.

5. Window selection should complement the store architecture.

Some stores already have signature brand elements as part of the building. For others, a brand color block or other identifier might need to be incorporated into the window graphic design. The types of windows may influence the selection. Effective merchandising can be done with Colonial-style and smaller panel windows, but the most effective window merchandising is executed on large-pane glass.

6. In selecting sites, go outside and look at the window, and through it, just as a customer or prospect would.

Is clutter inside the store visible from the window display? First impressions count. Some FSCs have located an ATM or flat screen display monitors close to their windows. Make sure you maintain visibility for these areas when planning the location of window merchandising.

7. Employ a vendor who is experienced at dealing with the logistical challenges.

Installation usually takes only a day or so for a store, but it needs to be done by certified vinyl installers. These experts know how to achieve an end result that looks professional. If windows are extremely large, a lift, crane or ladder may be needed. Installation also hinges on the weather, as vinyl is difficult to install on outside surfaces in colder weather.

8. Many factors need to be considered, including signage codes and lease restrictions.

Since signage codes vary in every community, consider using the window displays as a temporary marketing product with a shelf life of less than 60 days. This can often side step the need for a timely variance approval process.

9. Use of the interior side of the glass, or second surface, helps avoid issues with codes and landlords.

In addition, the display is also protected from street traffic. On the other hand, use of outside glass provides a punchier graphic by avoiding reflections, especially with highly tinted windows. The use of both inside and outside surfaces usually creates the most interesting display.

10. Creative should be all about color, shape and texture.

Think big and bold. Avoid wordiness. Consider what attracts the eye. Text should be concise and action oriented. Less copy is better, but can be challenging in the financial industry where disclaimers are often required.

11. Select display elements based on desired impact and budget parameters.

Simple window displays can be created with clings or heavy vinyl attached to glass – a perfect solution for smaller, suburban stores. Effective window merchandising doesn’t have to be elaborate, just to the point and visually attractive.

12. Change-outs should be planned to keep the display fresh.

Frequent change-outs provide the opportunity to communicate with customers about more products and keep the messages from becoming background wallpaper for customers that regularly visit your store. Ideally, the goal would be to rotate displays five to six times a year.

13. Day and night lighting dramatically influences the view of the passersby.

For example, flat screen monitors might be dynamite with night lighting but become invisible during the day. One solution is to install a product to help with daytime reflections. Since tinted windows can reduce display effectiveness, place vinyl graphics on the outside of these windows.

14. For prime locations, more in-depth window graphics can be assembled based on the cost versus return on investment.

To give the display depth, some elements can hang from a ceiling fixture inside the window in front of a backdrop. Other graphics might be put right on the window. A layered look can also be created by using vinyl on both the inside and outside of the glass.  Also, in many jurisdictions, graphics displayed inside the windows are not considered signage and therefore may not be subjected to zoning restrictions or permits.

15. Take advantage of cost efficiencies through partial change-outs.

To make the investment pay off, the backdrop might stay the same for a certain period, say six months. The front display, however, might change every month or so to promote new products or services. Be careful, however, to not just change the message. Having a similar visual over a period of months can soon turn a once eye-catching display into wallpaper.


With creative window merchandising, even something as dull as financial services can be made exciting. Effective window merchandising can drive impulse traffic to the store. A halo effect is often seen in more than just the store with the prominent window merchandising. Such displays create more brand loyalty and also heighten awareness and receptivity. Windows can impact not just individual promotions but also boost other dimensions of the brand. Such an effect is hard to measure, as windows merchandising works very much like other outdoor advertising. Except in this case, you already own the space and don’t have to pay hundreds or thousands per month for the use of the medium.



Information, material, and designs in this document are proprietary to and owned by Grafico, LLC and may not be disclosed to any third party, reproduced, posted on a global computer information network, or distributed in any way without the written consent from Grafico, LLC.© 2014 Grafico, LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS Feature – Life in the Cash Economy for “Underbanked” Americans

See the work of Lisa Sevron, a professor of urban policy at the New School in Manhattan, who has taken on the research project of why people choose to use RiteCheck and other check cashers as opposed to traditional banks. Video article features RiteCheck stores, branding and signage as well as their fearless leader, Joe Coleman.

The Appearance of Your Employees Can Dramatically Impact Your Business

Whenever neighborhood financial service centers consider marketing strategies for their businesses, the first things that tend to come to mind are the store signage, interior posters and teller signs, buck slips to be distributed to customers, advertisements in broadcast media or outdoor venues, social networking for word-of-mouth and the like. Seldom do many operators consider the marketing power that lies within their employees. One simple area that is easy to overlook is the appearance of your front line employees.

This crucial group can be a potent extension to your business’ brand statement and merchandising strategy and can go a long way in creating a positive impression of your company to both customers and other constituencies. In fact, as part of its Store Appearance Best Practices Guidelines, This FiSCA committee even included Employee Appearance as a integral part of the focus on store appearance and how the employees can impact that area. Below is an excerpt from the Best Practices Guidelines that pertain to Employee Appearance:

  • An employee’s appearance projects an image that supports the company’s customer service and business objectives.
  • Dress and grooming standards are in place to reflect a sense of professionalism that would be considered appropriate for a business environment.
  • Dress standards do not allow the wearing of clothing that would be typically used for exercise or any other such leisure activity.
  • Dress standards do not allow any clothing with words or pictures that may be offensive to customers or other employees are not permitted to be worn in the workplace.
  • Dress standards do not allow clothing to be in wrinkled, dirty or poor condition.
  • Grooming standards provide for styles for hair, jewelry, makeup and other personal items that are workplace appropriate.
  • Employees adhere to good grooming and personal hygiene practices.

Setting a dress code can improve your company’s marketing efforts by providing these crucial benefits.

Sets the “personality” of the company. A neighborhood financial services center whose employees look like they just rolled out of bed does not impart a feeling to your customers that the employees respect them enough to show up to work dressed appropriately. Public perception of this industry begins with the external appearance of the stores, but is ultimately impacted by the customer’s experience with your staff. A clear, concise dress code policy makes it easy for all employees to fulfill the company’s objectives in defining the personality of its brand.

Eliminates Distractions: When the dress code is clear, it can reduce distractions caused by outrageous attire, inappropriate language printed on garments or the negative image often associated with tattoos and body piercings. This also means people are more likely to be focusing on work rather than chatting about what their coworkers are wearing to work “this time”.

Reduces employee confusion: a clear dress code means your employees don’t have to wonder “what” to wear or whether something would be appropriate to wear to work. It either meets the dress code requirements or not.

Not sure how far to go in establishing a Dress Code Policy for your business? When I consult with financial services center owners about this topic, I suggest that they adopt one of three different levels of employee dress standards for their stores.

Level One: If you don’t want to limit the dress of your employees, I suggest that you adopt the first level of store employee identification: the name tag. The name tag is nothing more than a pin-on sign that employees wear for identification purposes. This makes it possible for employees to choose their level of dress. You will notice that most retailers who use name tags still have dress codes that limit certain types of clothing but this at least provides some level of personalization and accountability. If security is a concern, limit the name tag to a first name basis.

Level Two: The new trend in retail employee dress codes is a sport or polo shirt. This shirt most often matches the store’s colors and is embroidered with the store’s name and logo. In some cases the retailer also specifies that no jeans be worn and suggests the color of slacks to be worn. This level has become the most common standard for many companies in our industry as it is easy and reasonably inexpensive to implement and most employees find it acceptable.

Level Three: This is the high-power “business suit” level. A suit or sport jacket with a tie or a blouse and skirt adds status and increases the perception of professionalism and respect. Although this may not be appropriate for every company’s brand personality, there are several operators who do use this strategy. Many even carry it to their corporate office personnel to communicate a consistent appearance throughout the organization.

Regardless of which strategy you adopt, the important part is that you adopt one, communicate it clearly and enforce it consistently. Like improving the appearance of your facilities, this is another step in making this industry more professional and mainstream in its retail image and marketing, all which lead to improved performance of your business.

Store Design: Image Is Everything

If you were investing your hard earned dollars into purchasing advertising space, you would not place a tattered, out of date image that made you look bad into that medium, would you?  Not likely. You would want that ad to make the best statement about your business that it possibly could in order to attract new customers, create a positive image for your company and maximize your return on the investment.

Then why would you not approach the appearance of your store the same way?

Various research by a variety of organizations all seems to result in the same findings … the storefront is the number one generator of new business. In each and every survey studied, more than 50% of new customers asked how they first learned about a store where they cash their checks, acquire small loans, pay their bills or wire money indicated that it was the storefront or signage that first attracted them.

And if that is not an important enough motivator, what about the improvement to your image in the community that results from a focus on positive store appearance? In October of 2009, FiSCA launched its Store Appearance Committee that provided a set of Best Practices with the goal of improving your company’s performance and image in the communities you serve.
Customers prefer and choose retailers that provide attractive, safe, bright and welcoming environments. A customer’s first impression is developed by the exterior appearance of your property. It is reinforced by the look of the lobby and is cemented by the way your employees present themselves. These are all a reflection of your business, to your customers, your employees and the community at large.

The most convincing case for focusing on the appearance of your store is that most Financial Services Centers that have invested in aesthetic and marketing improvements to their store appearance have reported that they have experienced increases in their business. Implementing these Store Appearance Best Practices encourage better recognition of the store, appeal to new customers that may not have been comfortable doing business under previous conditions, and improve the communication of marketing messages about the various products and services you offer. Simple, low-cost improvements can yield exceptional results.