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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.

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