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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Retail Experience Roadmap

This article, titled "The Retail Experience Roadmap," appeared in the February 9/16, 2009 issue of Floor Covering Weekly, in my column "flooring the customer."

What serves as your retail experience roadmap? Three resources ground me when I think about the retail experience: Paco Underhill’s "Why We Buy," Raymond R. Burke’s "10 Principles of Retail Shoppability," and Pamela Danziger’s "Pop! Equation: Field Guide to Shops That Pop" from her recent book Shopping.

Paco states that amenability and profitability are inextricably linked. To that end, he applies the tools of an anthropologist to retail environments, examining how shoppers behave and interact with product, displays, signage, and people in stores. The more comfortable and convenient a store, the more likely a shopper is to spend time and eventually buy. Makes sense.

Raymond R. Burke, professor of business at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, studies retail including marketing research, retailing, shopper behavior, and data mining. His "10 Principles of Retail Shoppability" represent the common elements he identified across a range of successful retail formats. Although the 10 principles may seem basic, they are critical and yet often aren’t addressed in the retail environment.

Show the product
Provide effective navigational aids
Simplify product organization and presentation
Minimize clutter
Maximize product affordance
Showcase new items and new ideas
Make the shopping experience convenient
Make the shopping experience enjoyable
Speak with authority
Maintain flexibility

Pamela Danziger’s "Pop! Equation: Field Guide to Shops that Pop" captures the soul or magic that great stores infuse into their retail experience. Her equation assumes that the basics have not only been covered, but also elevated to new heights to deliver more for the consumer. Such stores should:

Offer high levels of customer involvement and interaction
Excite consumer curiosity to explore & experience
Exude contagious energy & excitement
Represent a fine synergy between tangible and intangible elements
Capture an authentic concept
Offer superior value at a reasonable cost
Welcome all with an inclusive [not exclusive] attitude

Let’s take a visit to the Apple Store as an example. You position yourself first outside the store and watch to see how subjects approach the store, what they look at, how they enter. You follow. Once inside, what do they do? Where do they go? How do they interact with displays? How long do they stay? Do they buy?

Then, step back and observe the store itself. Remember that a store is about bringing people and product together, so both can interact. Successful store experiences engage the senses, as a store is about the product seducing the shopper into making a purchase.

The Apple Store is a sparse contemporary environment: plain white box; bright ethereal lights; very clean. The product, though, shines! It is available throughout the store on simple, accessible rectilinear tables. Shoppers are encouraged to play with it, interact, consult MapQuest, listen to music, ask questions, consult a Genius, obtain training. Bold graphics celebrate the beauty of the product, its stylishness, its newness.

If you need help in an Apple Store, you can easily consult the Genius Bar or an employee dressed in uniform t-shirt with an identification badge hanging from his or her neck.

Listen to the buzz of the store. It’s alive with energy, excitement, enthusiasm. Not only are shoppers involved with product, but they interact with one another. They are curious about what they don’t know and eager to share with others. It’s contagious! It also demonstrates the value associated with Apple products. An Apple product welcomes you into the Apple community. Whether you buy or not, you are invited to spend as much time in the store as you’d like.

Now, leave that Apple store. Keep that template or roadmap in mind and go back to your store. What do you now see that would improve your retail experience?

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Ted Hurlbut said...

The one thing I would add is engagement; engaging - not selling - the customer. Apple associates are outstanding at engaging customers at their level of understanding in a very personal way. Apple associates move very easily from customer to customer, answering questions, demonstrating features, solving problems, writing up orders. They are passionate and knowledgable, but in a very easy, understated way. Apple has clearly been very focused on this capability when hiring associates. It's an integral part of the overall Apple customer experience.

CB Whittemore said...

Ted, excellent addition to the list. The farther we get from hard selling, the better and 'engagement' captures what shoppers now respond to and expect. I know I do. Thanks.

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