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Thursday, July 20, 2006

[Cat and] Dog Days of Summer

"Woman Dogs and Cats" originally uploaded by Sassyarts
What if, ..... rather than being people, our customers were cats or dogs? What kind of retail experience would we need to create? How would stores be different? How would merchandise be shown?

Well, for a cat, you'd probably need some brightly colored objects [maybe feathered?] flying from the ceiling, some others darting across the floor, and a sunny spot up high to bask in while observing the activity. For a dog, you'd need some interesting smells to investigate, and some of that sunny space, but down low.

Cats are relatively similar in size, so displays could be uniform, although ideally stacked in a stair format to encourage vertical browsing. Dogs, on the other hand, vary wildly in size - from a chihuahua to a great dane - and creating appropriate displays would represent amazing complexity. For both, their agility diminishes with age and - assuming the ageing animal is our target - we would need to make decisions accordingly.

Interestingly, more retail establishments are catering to animals [primarily dogs]. Not so much as the target customer, but as an adjunct to the primary human customer:

  • Starbucks on MacArthur Blvd in Washington, DC regularly welcomes dog walkers. Outside the door lies a rug; there's a water bowl, and it's easy to attach the leash to the garbage receptacle nearby.
  • Florida has just signed the "doggie dining" law
  • In anticipation of a similar law being passed in Chicago, chef Didier Durand of Cyrano's Bistrot is ready with a carefully tested canine prix fixe menu

Ridiculous! you say? Perhaps, but.... power is shifting to the [human] consumer and we are only seeing the beginning of radical reconsiderations of accepted norms for meeting consumer needs. So, when is the last time that you looked at your retail environment, experience, branding from the perspective of your consumer?

If your consumer were a cat or a dog, you would probably be in deep sununu. Luckily, your consumer is not. But, don't get too comfortable. Your consumer is -more often than not- a woman, and chances are that your retail environment, experience and branding can be greatly improved.

More establishments are turning upside down their assumptions about how things should be done. Take Target. They have redefined the discounter model. I have fun shopping Target; it's full of surprises, clean, bright, and easy to navigate, never disappointing.

Even consumer banking is getting on the bandwagon. Learn more about Washington Mutual, affectionately called WaMu. They are redefining the whole banking experience including different and patented branches! I'm hearing more and more about Commerce Bank, too: they are open Sundays, early in the morning, and late in the afternoon. What a concept being open when it's convenient for your customers!

So, as you think about your business, carefully consider your customer: observe how she interacts with your store environment, how she reacts to your store experience, how she responds to your product offerings and displays, whom she shops with, what she talks about. How might you do things differently to increase her delight with your total experience? Can she reach product easily? Can you avoid making her bend over or get on the floor to look at stuff? [I hate having to sit on the floor to look at product and I've had to do it more than once]. Is she distracted by the folks she is shopping with and can you help occupy them? [crayons, plain paper and chairs go a long way]. Can you bring fashion statements to your environment with some storyboards or vignettes? How clean are your bathrooms?

Remember that women pay close attention to details; these all represent clues as to what experience they can expect from your environment. And, if you can create a total experience that delights them, they will remember, they will come back, they will buy from you and they will tell everyone they know. So, what's to lose?

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