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Insights That Work

Speed, Creativity and Empathy: How Aaron’s Transformed Old Insights into a New Concept Store

Shapiro & Raj synthesized disparate data into an actionable business plan to launch a new concept store for Aaron's, Inc. that now outperforms its legacy operation.

Editor’s Note: Every year, participants in the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Report survey vote for the most innovative companies in market research. In Insights That Work, these top companies share the real-life challenges and solutions of their biggest clients.

Research Challenge

Aaron’s, Inc., a leading omnichannel provider of lease-purchase solutions, needed to combat decreasing traffic and declining revenues with a new concept store. Like many retail clients, they needed to move fast to take advantage of seasonality. When they came to us, they wanted the new store in the market in six months. They also wanted to start with a market mapping and segmentation exercise—a prudent approach—but one that would require at least six months before any results could inform the new store. We had to think differently.


Research Solution

With the aggressive timeline, the natural place to start looking was at what we already knew. Luckily there was a lot of proprietary Aaron’s research, BI, and customer insights. So much, in fact, it would have been perfectly natural to fall into an “analysis paralysis” trap. But, like great investigators, we had clues about where to look because we’ve seen this situation countless times. Our multidisciplinary team (brand strategists, retail experts and social scientists) synthesized Aaron’s research and layered on syndicated and social data to connect the dots. But it never hurts to have a little backup. So, we put AI on the case and ran text analytics to comb the depths, details and connections embedded in the wealth of words and phrases. This enabled us to quickly find the key ingredients, a high-IQ method that opened the doors for Aaron’s to inject a compelling EQ into its approach. In no time we revealed the story of a socioeconomically challenged customer for which the legacy RTO industry had zero empathy. These are people living a hard life that gets harder with a broken refrigerator or stove for which they have no cash or credit to pay. Sadly, legacy RTO takes a “you need us more than we need you” posture, making a hard life even harder with invasive background checks and sketchy merchandise (take it or leave it). The fact is that people were finding alternatives to get what they needed in more “dignified” ways, so the old rules needed to change to fit the new environment. These simple yet incisive insights led to a strategy that brought the new concept store to life—all within a four-week period and no new research.


Client Result

The new concept store opened eight months after we launched the strategy. The store is currently outperforming the legacy operation by strong double-digit growth as well as beating its hurdle for ROIC. Additionally, the new model is being rolled out to multi-unit program in late 2018.

“The ability to synthesize the myriad and disparate data into an actionable business plan was the key to this methodology. It clearly identified the critical audience need gaps and aligned them to executable strategies within the various disciplines (merchandising, operations, real estate, marketing, etc.) which drove this new business model to unexpectedly high levels of growth. – Tom Carey, CMO, Aaron’s, Inc.


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Zain Raj

Zain Raj

Chairman & CEO, Shapiro+Raj