Retailers must make a connection between who is in their stores and their shopping experience

Ever noticed that whatever time of day you walk into a high street shop it always looks the same? The same clothes on the rack, the same products at the front of the store, the same deals and offers.

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The problem with this is that the type of customers going into stores varies across the day. A new report from Warwick Business School finds that, generally, older people, the unemployed and families with small children are more likely to be shopping in the morning.

Come the afternoon, however, and it’s youngsters and young adults that are pounding the high street and by evening it’s “time-pressured” people on their way home from work.

And it’s not just about demographics. The research finds that those out and about early on in the day tend to be more conscientious and agreeable, while those shopping in the evening are more creative and flexible.

For retailers, this means that the way people shop and the types of products they are looking for changes over the course of the day. And for retail marketers this provides an opportunity to target offers, products and services at the people in their store to maximise sales.

This is already happening online. Marks & Spencer has conducted research into the times of day and the sorts of products that people search for and buy on their mobile phones throughout the day.

They found that on mobile, Sundays between 9 and 10pm is one of the busiest times as people look for goods to purchase that week. There is also a peak at around 3.30pm during the week as mums waiting at the school gate to pick up their kids search for schoolwear and kidswear.

Yahoo, in its recent “Time To Buy” report, also highlighted patterns in the way people search that can be used to inform marketers on when is the best time to advertise. For example, consumers are typically on the hunt for electrical goods on a Sunday that they buy early in the week, meaning that any retailer selling fridges or PCs should be targeting their campaigns at these times to maximise ROI.

So far very few retailers are applying these strategies in store. They should if they want to boost sales.

There are simple changes that can be made, such as changing lighting and music to appeal to different shopper backgrounds. A cohesive marketing strategy that looks at a wide range of practices and techniques, from the ambience to the products being pushed and the deals on offer, will help retailers offer a service that caters to the needs of their different customer segments throughout the day.

That can offer up a distinct competitive advantage, particularly if combined with technology to push specific products and offers to customers as they walk around the store.

With Christmas just around the corner and consumer confidence still low, high street retailers must make the most of their main assets, their stores, and use marketing to give customers a personal and unique experience.

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