Shelf Improvement – What Retailers Can Learn from the Elf on the Shelf - Medallion Retail
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Strategy, Creativity, In-store Experience

Shelf Improvement – What Retailers Can Learn from the Elf on the Shelf

POSTED ON: 12/16/14 ElfonShelf.jpg

He wears a red suit with white fur trim. His cap is jaunty; his eyes are bright. And he’s crouched behind the coffee maker on your kitchen counter.

This is the Elf on the Shelf. Santa’s scout. Watcher of children. North Pole emissary. Holiday juggernaut.

In just a few short years, the little guy has become a huge part of the Christmas scene. He (or she; there are girl elves who sit on shelves) teaches kids about patience, reward and friendship. But Santa’s tiny arbiter of naughty and nice can also teach retail marketers a thing or two. The Elf didn’t become a bonafide holiday tradition on looks alone.  (Come on, isn’t that sidelong glance just a little creepy?)

So because you’ve been so good, I give you five Elf on the Shelf-inspired retail marketing strategies…

Create an unexpected experience. Kids wake up to find their new buddy having tea with Barbie. Or sleeping in the dog’s bed. Or fishing in the kitchen sink. Each morning, something unexpected. And the kids are thrilled. But the love of surprise isn’t limited to the young. A shopper also delights in discovery. Build opportunities for her to be amazed.  Fanciful design, creative juxtaposition and thoughtful curation all work to deliver an unexpected shopping experience.

Personalize the interaction. The first thing a child does with her new Elf on the Shelf is give him a name. The bonding is instant. After that, the Elf is discovered again and again in situations that directly mirror the child’s own life (My elf likes to play with Barbie just like me!). The Elf on the Shelf experience is meaningful because it’s a personal one. Retail marketers should harness that power of personalization, and find ways to speak to the shopper as an individual. Demonstrating a desire to know her can be as simple as in-store feedback options or thematic displays.

Showcase the “new.” Each morning, there’s a new hiding place and a fresh opportunity to engage. Retail marketers can harness that same desire for the “new” by creating displays where shoppers can explore new items – and new ways to use those items. Work small visual updates into the display plan so that your shopper feels like she sees something new each time she visits.

Make an emotional connection. In this case, Santa’s helper is a child’s friend. There is a relationship; an emotional investment is made. The connection is strong, and facilitates ongoing engagement. Emotion is evident in retail relationships as well. People shop with their hearts as well as their wallets. They seek to connect. Retail marketers can foster that connection by showcasing not just a product, but also the story behind it and the satisfaction that lies ahead.

Create a narrative. It’s all about storytelling; what happened before, and what happens next. The Elf has a mythology that entertains and draws kids into the story. In-store signage and display can do the same thing. Retail marketers can create a context in which their product selection lives. Build a picture in the shopper’s mind that links her to the brand, and allows her to create an ongoing tale of that relationship.

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