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A retailer’s in-store superpower: New item discovery

A retailer’s in-store superpower: New item discovery

There’s no denying e-commerce is a powerful tool all retailers should be optimizing. However, in doing so, retailers may be overlooking their in-store superpower – an environment that dominates for new item discovery, according to our most recent wave of the Magid Motivations Study. Every retailer knows that a new, well-merchandised item that connects with customers is one of the biggest drivers of incremental sales.

We found that almost half (49%) of consumers say the ability to discover a new product is one of the top five things that matters the most to them when shopping in a physical store. In fact, nearly half (48%) say that in-store shopping is the #1 way they discover new items (followed by family/friend recommendations at 27%).

48% experience new item discovery in a physical store

Of course, there are differences in discovery behavior, particularly among younger shoppers like Gen Z. Because of their proliferation of digital channels, sources for new item discovery can be more fragmented. But even with their increased exposure to online shopping, ads on streaming services, and social channels like Instagram and TikTok – Gen Z’s top three channels for discovery are still non-digital: in-store (36%), through friend/family recommendations (24%), and by random choice/just decided to try something new (22%).

Gen Z's top 3 channels for new item discovery are non-digital, with in-store leading the way.

Here are some ways we have seen retailers best capitalize on the in-store discovery advantage:

  • Choosing new items that appeal to your shoppers. This comes from understanding your customer base – who are the best shoppers of today? Who is your target audience of tomorrow? Do you know what motivates them to act, or for what moments in their life they’re looking for a solution? While this is the same starting point for all shopping channels, understanding your customers’ attitudes, opinions and behaviors so you can offer products that are a good fit is critical.
  • Giving the new item findability and breakthrough. Merchandising techniques can captivate the shopper’s attention. Strategic placement, eye-catching displays, and attractive packaging entice shoppers and spark curiosity. I’ve spent the past week walking through various store types – grocery, apparel, mass merch, home improvement, electronics – to see how they highlight new items. What I found is that few retailers give ‘new’ the attention it warrants. Instead, I was distracted by large ‘clearance’ signs to move through existing inventory at lower prices (and lower margins). I had to put effort into searching to find ‘new.’
  • Leveraging the five senses. In-store is a tangible experience. Shoppers can touch, feel – and sometimes even taste and smell. It’s a tactile and sensory experience. Shoppers can experience a new product in-hand – literally! Think of Costco and their demonstrations that used to fill the warehouse. I once had a consumer tell me that Costco was her weekly date with her husband. They’d leave the kids at home and enjoy wandering the floor, tasting new products, and coming home with a car full of surprises for the family. Now, not all products and retailers can share product samples, but with a plan, the five-senses advantage is strong. Nothing beats getting to touch and pet the soft, fuzzy blanket or smelling the fresh strawberries before buying.
  • Turning employees into advocates. Retailers have the best ambassadors readily available – employees! Store employees can provide assistance and share their expertise, which leads to increased customer satisfaction. Trader Joe’s turns shoppers into superfans due to, at least partly, their friendly employees. Their staff are engaged and active, interact with the shoppers, and have a vast knowledge of the store products. It’s not uncommon to hear “you’re going to love that” when checking out at Trader Joe’s – a simple affirmation that leaves the customer feeling satisfied with their purchase.

Our Motivations Study data says two out of three consumers are changing their values. They’re looking for more out of life and actively seeking out new items. Being a retailer known as a new item destination has many benefits. It creates excitement and a sense of urgency for purchase. The shoppers’ thrill of finding something unique, discovering an unexpected gem, and having it instantaneously in their hands can be an engaging experience. It fosters retailer loyalty, encouraging further exploration, and increases basket size. And it can be the key to incremental sales.

Let us help you take a new look at “new.” Curious about how you can more deeply understand your customers or optimize your physical store experience? Want to discuss what more we learned in Magid’s Motivations Study? Email me at

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