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!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Retail Experience and the Human Element

My previous post, Retail as Experience-More Important Than Ever, referred to Jesse James Garrett's manifesto titled 6 Design Lessons From the Apple Store. Here I focus further on lesson #6 and the role that the Human Element plays in delivering on an awesome retail experience.

The Human Element can truly make or break a retail experience. It can mean connecting in a meaningful way with consumers or completely turning them off. It is extremely powerful and the one best able to overcome shortcomings in other areas. Yet, it is also the hardest to manage, to control and to deliver consistently day in/day out. It doesn't require a degree in rocket science, but a lot of people -some of them really smart- bungle it completely because it does require common sense.

Late last week, I made it into Manhattan and 'treated' myself to several retail experiences: Toys R Us/Times Square, the Hershey Store, Zara/5th Avenue, Disney/5th Avenue, Urban Outfitters/3rd & 59th and the Apple Store/5th Avenue.

The Apple Store 5th Avenue. Ahhhh. I was so looking forward to this unbelievable experience! I pre-listened to my TREX podcast and was primed for the experience. I approached the store from the southeast side of 5th Avenue and..... caught sight of it. The cube was smaller than I had expected from the photos. No matter. It still looked really cool and I couldn't wait to go down the glass staircase and be able to absorb from on high the Apple energy below.

Well, it wasn't to be. Instead, I came across orange traffic cones blocking the entrance [see photo], and scaffolding inside the famous cube. Several Apple-guys directed people to a small doorway between some construction and FAO Schwartz, and down a narrow, grungy, concrete staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, 2 more Apple-guys further ushered the traffic down a hallway into the store. One in particular seemed to resent having to hear so many moronic consumers asking the same questions about the store and the construction! No humour, no enthusiasm, no attempt to welcome consumers to the store after an unpleasant stairway walk down to this Apple gem of a store.

What a missed opportunity to connect with people and continue nurturing the relationship. I anticipated experiencing Zen, Wow! and sheer joy and was I ever disappointed. I wanted to understand what was going on with the cube [the Apple was being changed from white to red? and maybe they were repairing some leaks?]. It sure seemed like the store couldn't be bothered with explaining; must have been on a need-to-know basis and consumers weren't sufficienlty worthy.... Not good.

The store was crowded [midday]. Nice bright light coming in from the cube, but I felt trapped underground from having the main staircase blocked off. I spoke with a helpful young man, but my final memory as I squeezed back up the narrow staircase was hearing those same Apple-guys sneering at another poor bumbling consumer.

Here's the irony. If it hadn't been for the construction on the cube, I wouldn't have had to interact with anyone. But I did. And it was lousy. I still want to experience entering from the cube staircase one of these days, but the SoHo store will forever remain my idyllic Apple experience.

The Hershey Store Times Square: I listened to my TREX podcast review of this store before going in and had a better appreciation for all of the details. And, they are spectacular. The store is small, but my how jammed packed with candy it is! Some unique candy, but also plenty of the tried and true. Shoppers within were really into the Hershey's experience and willing to line up to wait to pay. I found it claustrophic.

As I was leaving I asked the 2 guards stationed by the door a question. They had been talking so I expected an attitude from being interrupted. Not at all! They were both charming, helpful, courteous AND had a sense of humour. They smiled and wished me a 'sweet day'! Very nice and appropriate for a candy store. I left feeling great about stepping into HersheyLand.

Urban Outfitters 3rd Avenue/59th: I wanted to visit this store because Herman Miller's Viaro division had supplied a really neat modular ceiling infrastructure that integrates electric, musical, digital, computer cabling and wiring making it easy to modify lighting, setup, displays, etc. without a major construction overhaul. The system was so subtle and effective that if I hadn't been looking for it, I wouldn't have noticed it. The store showcased a fabulous variety of textures and construction elements [wood, brick, wrought iron, etc.] and had an Anthropologie feel to it [by the way, Urban Outfitters owns Anthropologie, and both believe strongly in the consumer selling themselves vs. the traditional hard sell approach]. It was fun, extremely engaging, inviting, whimsical and fun. I found a pleasant seating area at one end by some large windows and.... an amazing seating area in the changing room area! Sales associates were friendly, and looked like they wanted to be there. They greeted me, smiled, but didn't pursue me. I relaxed in there.

At these 3 retail stores, the Human Element played a major role in making these experiences come alive for me. In the Apple case, it made for a bad experience; with Hershey and Urban Outfitters, it made for a great experience. All 3 of these stores are gorgeous retail establishments with fabulous lighting, store design, sight lines, visual displays and sensory elements. The Human Element was the differentiator that led to a Wow! experience.

Customers Are Always lists 10 Ways to Wow Your Customers. Read the list. These are practical, actionable and valuable ways to connect with customers. Some may be more relevant for a browser, and some for a buying customer. But none are difficult or impossible to implement, although they do require common sense! They also call to mind a lot of the wisdom that Jack Mitchell shared in A Good Hug is Worth from his book Hug Your Customers.

So, how do you ensure that your Human Element is completely and passionately on board, delivering your message consistently day in/out? What do your consumers say after browsing your store? Are they wowed? Do they say that your people made their day? Do they rave about the human connections that took place and do they come back? Or was it just ho-hum?

Technorati Tags: ,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...