Flooring The Consumer on Simple Marketing Now

Please visit Flooring The Consumer's new home on SimpleMarketingNow.com where you can subscribe to receive updates to blog articles in real time!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mooving On To Greatness

"It's Your Moove"a originally uploaded by girlzoot.
Greatness means being relentless about DELIGHTING your customers!

Great companies, per Jason Jennings, author of several books including "Think Big, Act Small", share certain characteristics. He described these last week during the CCA Global Summit in Denver.

Jennings researches companies around the world to determine which are the fastest [Cabela's], the most productive [World Savings], the most consistent growers [Nucor]. And he continues with his quest - he and his team are now looking to identify the CEOs of America’s Fortune 1000 who have done the best job creating shareholder value, to then examine the connection between ‘values’ and ‘financial performance’. You can learn more via his project blog.

Another example of greatness: Commerce Bank [[Cat and] Dog Days of Summer] the fastest growing bank. The owner purchased Commerce to demonstrate that a bank could be run like a Burger King [he owns BKs] rather than like a bank and could actually prosper by offering convenient times and other customer friendly concepts!

Jennings made the following points:

  1. Great companies have a cause that's more than about money.
  2. Great companies master the art of letting go.
  3. Great companies have figured out that satisfied customers leave.
  4. Great companies get people to think and act like owners.
  5. Great companies have leaders who are stewards.

Point 1: The cause is neither a mission nor a vision statement. Rather, it is the very reason for the existence of the organization [think The Power of Stories]. Causes are big, bold, inclusive; they fix something that is wrong and give meaning to people's lives. They provide purpose, fuel passion, drive momentum and build cultures. And, culture, is the ULTIMATE competitive advantage [remember Jack Mitchell's comments in A Good Hug Is Worth: you hire for cultural fit, the rest can be learned.] A leader's responsibility is to create culture and move it through the organization.

Point 2: It's critical to be able to let go of ... yesterday's breadwinners, one's ego, same old/same old so as to be better able to deal with change and rivals. Letting go allows one to become aware of what's happening in the marketplace before the competition does!

Point 3: The new rule is to set out to completely satisfy the right customer. Two-thirds of all customers who stop doing business with you will describe themselves as being satisfied. Complete satisfaction, per W. Earl Sasser - author of "Why Satisfied Customers Defect" from 11/1/95 Harvard Business Review - is the key to generating intense customer loyalty and superior long term financial performance.

Point 4: To think and act like an owner, everyone must know that creating value counts, and how what they do creates value. That means that decision rights go to the right people [i.e., those with the knowledge] and people are compensated for the economic value that they create. They are also held accountable.

Point 5: Stewardship amounts to service over self interest. It demands selflessness, nurturing and authenticity. It means sharing rather than hoarding information [i.e, democratization of information], being accessible, keeping one's hands dirty [i.e., moving the cause and keeping one's hands on the customer], standing for something [i.e, having 4 or 5 guiding principles that are non-negotiable], getting rid of superficial distinctions, being a coach and mentor, and feeling called to serve. The mantra: "Try not. Do or do not; there is NO try." [Yoda/Star Wars].

A true cause builds a culture which believes passionately in delivering complete satsifaction to its customers. That's what moves companies on to greatness!

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Making the World a Better Place

Lavender Moon originally uploaded by ObedientMuse
Do you know a woman who has made your world a better place? If you do, consider nominating her for Mannington Mill's Stand On A Better World Awards Program. You still have another 7 days, until August 31, 2006, to submit nominations.

Think how many women have made a difference in your life: teachers, moms, wives, sisters, daughters, associates, friends...., and consider nominating one of them! You have three different categories --social, economic, environmental-- to choose from and you'll find a wealth of information on the Stand On A Better World Awards website, along with some great stories about other women who believe in making the world better.

This is the 2nd year of the program, and I remember being floored at the beauty and elegance of calling attention to and celebrating the good that women do day in/out - be it in business, in non-profit sectors or simply in life.

In case you are thinking "what's the point?", read this previous post Doing Good that discusses the value of being associated with doing good. Through this award, you have an opportunity to recognize what SHE - i.e., your retail customer - has been doing!

Do also look at this press release from Cone, Inc. which conducts regular studies on the state of cause marketing. It is chock full of interesting insights, and even though conducted in 2004, they are as relevant if not moreso per the research quoted in Doing Good.

The 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study shows that eight in 10 Americans say that corporate support of causes wins their trust in that company, a 21% increase since 1997.

Companies Must Talk More About Their Cause-Related Efforts
Some companies have recognized the positive impact of supporting social issues, and have aggressively communicated their efforts over the past few years. At the same time, many other companies have traditionally been reluctant about such communications, seeing them as boastful. An overwhelming majority of Americans (86%) want companies to talk about their efforts, but only four in 10 say companies are doing that well.

“These facts side-by-side are a mandate,” says Cone. “For senior executives, they are a mandate for action on social issues. For marketing executives, they are a license to communicate the company’s commitment and efforts.”

So, celebrate someone in your community making the world a better place. Nominate her for the Stand On A Better World Awards, and then let your customers and your community know about it!

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Good Hug Is Worth....

"Big hug" originally uploaded by Wam Mosely.
What would you say to a business strategy based on hugs? This is the approach that Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers and CEO of Mitchells of Westport, Richards of Greenwich and recently Marshs of Long Island [high end clothing retailers], described in a CCA Global Summit presentation in Denver last week.

Hugging is a metaphor for what Mitchell and his folks do day in and day out to express to customers "I care about you!". These hugs essentially encompass all of the daily activities that touch people in a personal way, from a smile, to using a person's nickname, to walking a customer to the right section of the store, to remembering that they prefer coke over pepsi. These are simple caring gestures executed consistently and with PASSION!

The Hug strategy creates a unique selling culture where every person in the company -from IT to the mailroom to the salesfloor- treats customers similarly. It inspires a passionate focus on customers! Everyone must spend time on the selling floor to understand firsthand the power of hugs and how hugs create friends who develop loyalty for life! How can hugs do this? Because everyone loves a hug; it's a natural, requiring little training; it's easy, it's contagious and it's fun.

Mitchell challenged the audience to do two things:
  • Commit to focusing on each's top 100 to 150 customers.
  • Commit to focusing on each's employees.

Focusing on one's top customers means tracking and accessing many details about them to be able to hug them effectively. Technology can help by generating reminders around simple caring gestures and recording information about purchases, personal preferences, special dates and other details. These amount to investments in one's customers! Mitchell's organization even sifts through data on an SKU by customer basis rather than the traditional product basis.

Some examples: customers receive a personalized letter when they first visit the stores. Any customer purchasing $2000 receives a personalized letter from CEO. Associates call their best customers regularly.....

As it relates to one's employees, this means celebrating their successes, remembering their important dates and sending cards on birthdays or anniversaries. They are as critical to success as customers are and need to be treated as such. Focus on them and they will focus on the customer. It all starts at the top.

Note: Do check out this post titled Reichheld on Employee Loyalty from a fascinating blog called Brand Autopsy. I mention Reichheld in an earlier post "Good Tea. Nice House." from the perspective of customer loyalty. Here, John Moore from Brand Autopsy emphasizes the importance of employee loyalty to develop customer loyalty via a quote from his book "Tribal Knowledge" re: his days at Starbucks.

It is vital to hire the right associates who are passionate about customers first, then about product. In short, Mitchell's organization hires for culture. The rest can be learned. He listed five criteria for hiring great people:

  • honest [do they have the right open work ethic]
  • positive attitude
  • competent [i.e., self confident]
  • passion to listen, learn and grow to be the best that they can be
  • be nice

From a marketing or advertising perspective, Mitchell spends not a dime unless it touches the customer. He focuses on repeat customers because they affect referrals, then on new customers [e.g., send a box of hangers with a brochure to certain new home buyers]. Furthermore, no mark downs! Product that is out-of-fashion or obsolete is simply shipped to Filene's basement. Mark downs go against business strategy; they don't match customer expectations. Wow!

The hugging strategy is NOT about transactions. Rather, it's about developing a longterm relationship with a customer. At the heart of any transaction are personal details. Know those to create a relationship! Create a WOW transaction so customers become extremely satisfied.

It's about positive personalization with passion; simple and powerful. It means that local retailers can indeed be dominant through hugging, by being personal with customers and associates.

As it relates to marketing to women, hugging is right on target! Women pay attention to details. Women have higher expectations than men do for the retail experience. So, if hugging is effective with men [an important customer segment for Mitchells, Richards and Marshs], imagine how powerful it can be in a flooring environment where the core customer group is women!

Not only does hugging create loyal customers, but it also develops tremendous employee loyalty. A good hug is really worth it! So, what are you waiting for? Go hug your customers AND your employees!

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Water Droplet Girls

"dive" originally uploaded by megditizio.
Imagine a fashion runway. Three women covered from head to toe in shimmering grey spandex walk together along the catwalk, undulating vertically in counterpoint to one another, holding..... Delta Faucets!

These are the water droplet girls in a tour-de-force fashion presentation by Fischer Homes Lifestyle Design Center in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, outside of Cincinnati, OH. The brainchild of Thomas L. Hoskins II, Corporate Merchandising and Lifestyle Design Center Manager, this fashion show was titled "Fashion, Faucets, Fischer" and its goal was to connect fashion to faucets and Fischer Homes.

Thomas shared video clips of the final event last week in Denver during a FloorExpo presentation. What sent chills up and down my spine was that --via an unusual venue for a non-7th avenue NYC fashion house-- he was bringing the excitement and energy and edginess of fashion week to a design center, complete with spotlights and pulsating rhythms, practically dragging the kitchen sink in, too!

You may say 'big deal'. Or, that's interesting, but that's not my business. Or, no way. Or, what's the point. But, I say YES, WAY! This is momentous. It is big, and totally relevant to all product categories that make a house a home, including FLOORING!

A previous post, "What Consumers Really Think", refers to Trading Up by Michael Silverstein in which the author describes the home as being at the top of the trading up list. Furthermore, "Americans distort their discretionary spending toward the home more than any other category.” It is truly the most emotionally charged place in a person's life. Those items that go into making a house a home, that create fashion statements within the home must be treated as fashion and NOT as commodities.

Remember, what Patrick Hanlon says in Creation Stories? "Companies today have two choices. They can be the low-cost provider (which almost no American company can achieve faced with foreign competition) or they can create sustained differentiation by surrounding themselves with a community of enthusiasts who flock to the brand and stick to it no matter what." The opportunity in flooring is to separate oneself from the masses selling commodities, and focus on fashion and newness.

Thomas will tell you about other Fischer Homes events that bring together groups of consumers to experience a wide range of home related products. These are all showcased and discussed with PASSION and ENTHUSIASM and EXCITEMENT. No one drones on about facts, figures or specs! Rather, they are romanced and presented in terms that are relevant to a consumer's lifestyle. Aren't these qualities and emotions that consumers want captured in their homes?

So, if you want your flooring retail experience to stand out, consider bringing in some water droplet girls [or carpet fiber-ettes] to showcase the fashion and passion of your operation.

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Two Hands

"Two Hands" originally uploaded by stickerbandit.
Most people have two hands. Have you considered the implications of this for your retail environment?

Hands are connected to arms. Arms extend out from the body. Together, they create a half-sphere frontwards --from above the head down to the legs-- of relatively comfortable reach for the hands. Try this and see where your arms feel most comfortable.

Arms also bend at the elbow. The optimal reach is from the waist parallel to the floor up to about halfway to the shoulders. It's a more limited range.

Try now to extend your arms holding a weight; take your arms through that half-sphere and experience where you are most comfortable and notice when and where your arms start to hurt. Do the same with your arms bent. Kind of interesting, eh, especially when you consider that the weight in a person's hands might be your product.

Arms and hands are part of the upper body. Did you know that women tend not to have the same upper body strength that men do? You can observe that firsthand in an airplane as people put their luggage away in the overhead bins. My new rolling computer bag no longer fits under the seat in front of me and must now go overhead. Computers + papers + books weigh a lot more when lifted overhead than when pulled on wheels!

Watch around you to see how people use their hands. What do they carry in their hands? How do they use their hands to express themselves? What do they do with the stuff in their hands if they have to do something different with their hands?

Comfortably seated at Starbucks with my venti non-fat latte, I watched the downtown Denver morning commuters. On their way to work, men might have a computer bag and a coffee. Lots are empty-handed. Every woman I see carries a shoulder bag; some carry an additional bag. Some wear backpack bags. None are empty-handed.

I watched how folks in the Starbucks approach the payment counter. The men are pretty efficient, single-handedly getting wallet out and paying. The women have to put their bag down on the counter to get a wallet out and then pay. That payment counter is not the roomiest in the world, so if you have a portfolio [I did] and it doesn't fit on the counter, you have to improvise [tried to clutch it under my arm, then placed it between my feet].

The most challenging situation for the hands occurs when you are dependent on crutches. My friend, Randy, just broke his heel. He needs those crutches and he needs his hands to use the crutches. No surprise, this limits his ability to easily do things with his hands that we take for granted [e.g., getting food from a buffet table]. So he has to be extremely creative in coming up with solutions.

In a retail environment, the hands are the most critical tools that a consumer possesses. The hands enable a person to interact with product, to feel it, to evaluate it, to start imagining it in one's own posession! Watch consumers in stores, particularly women, and notice how they use their hands to feel how soft that cashmere sweater is, to sense if that cantelope is ripe, to evaluate the weight of a suitcase or to confirm that a carpet feels plush and thick.

So, if you don't acknowledge that your consumer needs her hands to become engaged in your retail experience, then you are handicapping yourself! Reconsider your space from the perspective of someone who most probably walks in carrying a bag of some sort and come up with clever solutions. If it's raining, how might you deal with wet umbrellas? If it's snowing, what about the gloves, the coats and the boots?

Is there an easy way for consumers to pick product samples out and take them to a table maybe to consider them? If they look best on the floor, is there an easy way to evaluate them without having to bend over, get on your hands/knees or sit on the floor?

Are your carpet samples all within easy reach [not too high, not too low] and easy to pick up?

How easy is it to complete transactions with you? Is there enough room at your counter to put down a bag and maybe a clipboard or folder or portfolio filled with sources of inspiration, questions and notes?

Check your bathrooms! Are there hooks on the stall doors? I hate having to put my purse on the floor. Is there a place to set other stuff [e.g, that portfolio or folder] down? The Denver Convention Center bathrooms not only have no place to place books and folders, but the stall partitions have no structural elements against which to lean things [my usual improvisation]. They do have hooks. Don't people going to convention centers tend to carry lots of stuff?

These are all details that women notice. Coming up with clever and thoughtful solutions to these situations tells her that you care about her and her shopping experience. It tells her that you have thought about her life, and how best to offer her a helping hand - something she will appreciate and remember.

Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Creation Stories

Once upon a time.... These are the magic words of storytelling that capture the beginnings of a story, how the story came to be, in other words -- the creation story. Creation stories capture the imagination and engage the emotions. It's the 'what's your story?' of a brand or retail experience.

Patrick Hanlon, author of "Primal Branding" [see Recommended Reading/Business & Marketing Trends], describes in the July/August 2006 issue of Advertising Age's Point in an article titled "The Code of a Brand Community" the 7 elements necessary to building a primal brand. The first element is a creation story.

Hanlon explains in the article that a primal brand is one that is so powerful that it creates brand zealots. Think of the passion that Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and New York City have created in people. According to Hanlon, primal branding is necessary because of the competitive choices that companies face to succeed in today's world: "Companies today have two choices. They can be the low-cost provider (which almost no American company can achieve faced with foreign competition) or they can create sustained differentiation by surrounding themselves with a community of enthusiasts who flock to the brand and stick to it no matter what. The result is a powerful brand community that resonates outward and becomes a part of the culture at large. " He provides other fabulous examples of primal brands [e.g., the Rolling Stones, the World Cup, the Marines...] at his blog,Thinktopia.

Brand creation stories surround us. Some are made more explicit than others. La-Z-Boy, for example, has made a point to include its creation story not only on its website, but also visually within its La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery stores. Its story captures a rich heritage and everyone buying a La-Z-Boy product be it a recliner or a stationary piece of furniture purchases some of that history. So why not explicitly share it with consumers?

Here is the Wear-Dated creation story - going back to a very different retail world in New York City:

In 1962, the Arnold Constable Department Store in New York City was going out of business. The store had a long and proud history - Eleanor Roosevelt had been one of the many rich and famous who bought her clothes there.

The store sold men's shirts with an interesting label in the collar area: if the shirt wore out before the date stamped on the label, a customer could return it and receive a full refund. The store referred to the label as its "wear-dated" guarantee. Bob Born, from Chemstrand [Monsanto's/Solutia's first wholly owned subsidiary],liked the label idea and bought the rights to it.

Thus began the Wear-Dated franchise. From apparel, it was expanded to include upholstery fabrics and carpet. Today, it is a strong carpet fiber brand known for durability.

You have a creation story. How do you share that with your customers?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What's Your Story?

"A Story to be told" originally uploaded by Dave Pinn.
Stories also enable us to connect with one another. Aren't you often asked some version of "what's your story?"? The answer lets us tell others where we come from, what we are about, which commonalities we share and how we fit into one another's world.

Women are particularly attuned to this, starting from a very early age. Have you ever watched how girls interact? Even four year olds! They try to find links and connections to one another. You hear them complimenting one another on a hair ribbon, on what they're wearing. They'll express surprise and delight at having a similar birthday [Yours is in May??? Mine is in June!!!]. They love to discuss personal details and exchange STORIES.

My friend, Ben, says that anytime you compliment a woman on a piece of jewelry or an item of clothing she wears, you will hear the story associated with the object. That's how powerful stories are to her! They envelop her being. They give meaning to the objects in her life.

As it relates to a selling environment, not only do you need to have a compelling story to tell [see The Power of Stories], but it also means being prepared to listen to your consumer's story - particularly if she is a woman! After all, women represent our target audience, making or influencing at least 80% of purchase decisions and closer to 95% of flooring and carpeting decisions.

Your consumer's story offers a wealth of information! It lets you know what she is looking to accomplish, what matters to her and how specific products and colors might work for her. Understanding her story allows you to 'romance' your product offerings, highlight the fashion statements that they make, and generally offer aspirational solutions that are relevant to your customer's story.

Through that story, she offers you the tools you need to select the right portfolio of product options. It is also an opportunity, an invitation to connect with her. For, IF you listen carefully, you can start to establish your trustworthiness. That's the first step to developing a relationship with her. And, then the story leads to closing this sale and a multitude of additional sales with her and with all of the people she will have referred you to. If you don't respect what that story represents, she will walk away and tell everyone she knows to stay away!

Many retail experiences miss the boat by focusing too much on facts and figures and product attributes, and not enough on acknowledging how important she and her story are. Remember, the goal is to assist her, support her, advise her on how best to build her magic castle. Not to force her into doing something she isn't comfortable with.

Lisa Johnson -- co-author of "Don't Think Pink" [see recommended reading/Marketing to Women] with Andrea Learned, see Learned On Women -- published the following newsletter in April, 2006. Titled "Trade with the Insiders", it addresses the topic of Sales and Customer Service through the example of a Nordstrom personal shopper. This personal shopper asked questions to uncover the consumer's story, and listened very carefully to come up with the right solutions. According to Johnson, an Insider:
  1. Asks the right questions
  2. Offers industry intelligence
  3. Saves you time, money and hassle
  4. Wants an ongoing relationship
  5. Gives you a heads up
  6. Treats your referrals like gold
  7. Enjoys the relationship as much as you do
  8. Pushes your limits - in a good way
  9. Offers a reality check.

An Insider essentially becomes a part of a customer's story.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Power of Stories

"Story time" originally uploaded by shooz
Imagine a world with no stories. Just facts and figures and no context... That would be a world of commoditized offerings and experiences.

Stories provide context. Stories are how things have meaning, and why they matter. Stories provide value.

Stories come in different types: the explicitly stated story of a brand or store which communicates directly to the customer; also, the romantic aura that has built up around a brand or product because of its history in the marketplace. Some stories capture both elements.

As I approach a Starbucks to order my venti non-fat latte, I experience a sense of calm and anticipation. When I see the Starbucks' green mermaid, I know what to expect. Starbucks tells a story of quality and consistency, in a soothing environment, with baristas who exude competence and enthusiasm.

When I reach a Target parking lot or see the red Target bullseye, I also know what to expect: a consistent, clean and fun experience that will inevitably lead to an unexpected design related discovery. The Target aura is such that every product in the store has a reason for being. It reinforces the Target story.

Each is like opening a favorite book and reading a familiar story: Starbucks and Target are distinct from one another, but each is memorable and each's aura helps me immediately make sense of the offerings within. Each one represents a powerful story that captures the imagination and becomes the basis for numerous word-of-mouth referrals! These are stories that have evolved as store and product have evolved.

Some of you may be familiar with Anthropologie. It's a retail chain, offers a catalog as well as a website. No two retail stores are laid out the same. From the website, you get a feel for its whimsical and compelling story. This is a more explicitly stated story that reflects a desire to communicate the nature of its environment directly to the consumer. Notice the language used to describe the Anthropologie retail experience:

"You relish the tales your belongings tell and delight in the unique aura they cast around you. If someone toured your home, they would encounter not just beautiful things but works of art. Not just function but ingenuity. And not just objects but stories.

You’ll find that magical spark in the clothing and objects in Anthropologie’s stores and catalogs. And in our staff, you’ll find friends who share your passion for exploring worlds other than our own.

We carefully select and design our products with an eye for craftsmanship, the small details, and that certain something special that makes each item you find more than a novelty but a personal discovery. "

Doesn't that tell an interesting story? By the way, did you know that Anthropologie has never advertised, relying instead on word-of-mouth referrals? And, it disavows direct selling, preferring instead to create the most engaging, magical and consistently memorable story possible within its stores, on its website and through its catalogs.

Futurelab's Alain Thys recently wrote a fascinating post titled "The Ten Truths of Branded Storytelling". I'll list them here: Seek the Story to Rule them All; Great Stories Come to You, If You Listen; Amplify Those Stories That Others Can Tell; Connect Your Branding Efforts to Your Unique Story Proposition; Connect your Story Efforts to Your Bottom Line; Know Your Classics [yet don't get hung up on them]; Storytelling is Not Just About Words; You Don't Need to Tell it All; Let Go of the Illusion of Control; You Cannot Fake Authenticity.

Pay particular attention to Truth #7: storytelling is not just about words! Be sure to reflect your story in everything you do.

Do you have a story? I hope so.

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, August 04, 2006

Technical Difficulties...

João TV originally uploaded by joaobambu.
I encountered some technical difficulties today publishing my latest post titled "Walking in Her Shoes".

It successfully loaded onto Flooring The Consumer, but --for some reason that the tech folks in cyberspace are looking into-- wasn't distributed to those of you on email subscription.

I regret the inconvenience, but didn't want you to miss out on a fun post!

Have a great weekend!

Walking in Her Shoes

"Sexy feet in b&w" originally uploaded by la vista de aca. From the "Take a Walk in Her Shoes" fundraiser for Chrysalis city, a women's domestic violence resource center in Gainesville, FL. In color, it is known as "Men in Heels".
sexy feet in b&w
Taking the time to walk in your customer's shoes is vital. It gives you a chance to view the world from her perspective, to see things with a new set of eyes, to experience what she experiences without blinders.

An article from the 7/30/06 Gwinnett Daily Post titled "Retailers look at what triggers consumers to spend their money" offers a fascinating look at what Paco Underhill , author of "Why We Buy", referred to as the "Science of Shopping" in his recent conference on the topic. The article states: "More sophisticated then ever, retail is a science that uses psychology and anthropology to find what shapes consumer behavior."

This has become more critical as retailing has gotten increasingly more competitive. Those retailers not taking this seriously [i.e., think traditional department stores] are falling by the wayside; those that do are generating buzz, loyalty and profits.

The article is a fun read -- bringing up examples of how music, mirrors, lighting, wooden tables, aroma [men prefer the smell of cinnamon rolls!] can enhance the shopping experience -- and references Paco Underhill: "Underhill thinks retailers have to be innovators. After all, consumers are becoming older, wiser and harder to please. At the same time, the retail playing field gets more crowded every year."

Walking in your customer's shoes is not limited to retail. Many other industries are getting into the act. For example, banking! This article, titled "Talk to Our Customers? Are You Crazy?" by Ian Wylie from the July 2006 issue of Fast Company describes the process that Credit Suisse is taking via "experience immersion", created by customer-experience renegade David McQuillen, to make itself more relevant to its customers.

It seems that too many companies "simply assume that customers are just like them. No, they're not, says McQuillen. And the problem with thinking they are is that companies end up creating products and processes that suit them, not their customers. "You need," he says, "to go out and talk to customers to find out what they want."

The result has generated changes in bank branch design, projects to reduce wait time, and generally make it easier for customers to do business with Credit Suisse. Wow!

Another example, chipmakers! This article by Bary Alyssa Johnson titled "How To Build A Better Product—Study People -- Anthropology Moves From The Classroom To The Corporation" offers another fascinating glimpse on how walking in your customer's shoes provides you with priceless insight. Indeed, "consumers have so many choices today, so you have to work hard to understand what people want and need."

So, what size shoe is she?

P.S.: If you haven't read Underhill's "Why We Buy", you should do so. It will forever change how you look at the retail experience. I reread it every 12 to 18 months and have included it in my Recommended Reading section under Retail Trends.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Re[tail] Estate

"Pen Sale" originally uploaded by sophiacreek
The front page of the Sunday, July 30, 2006 New York Times Real Estate section featured a lengthy article titled "Sold at First Sight" [free registration required]. The subtitle states "as the market cools, sellers are seeking help from landscapers and professional home stagers to get buyers in the door." The premise: a buyer's market requires a different strategy for success.

It dawned on me: given all of the choices that consumers now have, retail is also a buyer's market, and the same strategies that used to work, no longer do: "with so much to choose from, buyers are getting much pickier." [Hmmm. Substitute 'consumer' for 'buyer.] And curb appeal matters more than ever! Hence the need for landscapers to improve the outside, and for HOME STAGERS who use props "that can be quickly placed outside a client's house to create little vignettes illustrating what life could be like there."

Isn't retail all about considering possibilities? About imagining how a product might look in one's home? The curb appeal of a store tells me a lot about what I can expect from the inside, especially if I am on the lookout for fashion statements for myself or for my home. A store that looks unappealing can be spotted a mile away! Women notice these things!

In a sidebar, the article offers advice from Barb Schwarz, founder of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals:

SURVEY THE OUTSIDE Go across the street, for example, and view the house from a distance, as a buyer would, then walk around the perimeter of the property. Does the front door need painting? Is the shrubbery overgrown?
----> retail: how does your parking lot look? how do your windows look? are there weeds? will the overall look attract drivers by? will it draw them inside??

CLEAN, DECLUTTER AND REPAIR That includes everything from removing seasonal décor and garbage cans (don’t forget the clunker in the driveway, too) to patching the driveway and power-washing or painting the deck.
----> retail: is your store neat and uncluttered? can consumers walk through without tripping? is the bathroom clean? are all of the light fixtures working? have the new samples been placed into their displays and the old ones discarded?

POLISH THE LANDSCAPING Flowers and plants of varying heights should be added to bare areas in the yard or placed in stylish pots and containers. For a crisper look, use a trimmer on the grass bordering walkways, and cover beds with mulch or crushed stone.
----> retail: what about some flowers outside the shop? maybe some window boxes or planters? don't forget to water and weed the plants, though!

CONSIDER ‘THE POWER OF THREE’ Three shrubs planted in a triangle will have more depth than two in a row. And, Ms. Schwarz said, “no more than three colors when painting the house.”
----> retail: consider the power of 3 inside, too! maybe a color coordinated display area to showcase some new fashion patterns and styles.

PAY ATTENTION TO COLOR Earthy colors like burgundy, deep green and taupe help to create a homey feel. “Use the brighter colors for accents,” Ms. Schwarz said.
----> retail: color draws the eye. Consumers may opt for a neutral, but what drew their attention initially may have been an unusual shade that showcased the pattern she ultimately chose. Interspersing some variety - in a carefully considered manner - offers contrast and visual breathing space.

CREATE VIGNETTES. These are cozy scenes that help prospective buyers visualize what life could be like in the house. “You can take an ordinary patio chair and put a pillow or an afghan on it,’’ Ms. Schwarz said, “with a magazine or book on a nearby table.”
----> retail: YES! ABSOLUTELY! Do it! Help the consumer visualize possibilities. She's looking to express her individuality through her choices, and she's expecting you to be an expert, so be one!

My take on this: if you are serious about successfully connecting with your customer, then you need to look at your overall experience from her perspective. In essence, walk in her shoes. See, feel, smell [yes!], hear and experience things as she would. Shopping engages the consumer's senses - ideally in a pleasurable way - and encourages her to interact with merchandise and eventually buy it, just as a pleasurable house hunting experience does. The more satisfying the overall experience, the more likely she will be to return to buy, and then to promote the experience to everyone she knows.

Details matter. Look at the store as if this customer were going to buy the store as opposed to only a few items within.

Tags: , , , ,
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...