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Monday, August 23, 2010

Levi's Customer Retail Experience

As promised in Customer Retail Experience: In-Store and Online, David Polinchock and I will be sharing observations about our June 2010 visit to several stores in New York City, starting with Levi's in SoHo.

I've not been in a Levi's store in ages - mostly because I find buying jeans so painful an experience.  According to MediaPost, I'm not alone and Levi's intends to do something about it!  See Levi's Woos Women With Curves.

The Levi's solution: helping women customers determine whether they require Slight Curve, Demi Curve or Bold Curve jeans. That's done by measuring the difference between one's waist, hips and thighs.

Given how confusing I find most jean sizing schemes, this approach sounded brilliantly simple not to mention logical.

It seems that when David and I visited the Levi's store in June, the new Curve program had just been launched. When we walked into the store, a charming sales associate was busy with a strange contraption consisting of strings and a tape measure. Intriguing and conversation worthy.

I asked if I could take a photo. Answer: no.

After wandering through the store, I returned to the sales associate and asked her to tell me more about the contraption, volunteering that she measure me.

We learned that training had just been implemented and that it made NO sense to most of the store associates.

She diligently went about measuring me and then informed me that I required Demi Curve jeans.  Great, I responded; what size? That she couldn't help me with. That despite being measured with a tape measure.

I have to admit to being dumbfounded. I had spent several minutes being 'fitted' via an elaborate process and the only piece of concrete information I had was that I should explore Demi Curve jeans, which I could have figured out on my own. This seemed more like smoke & mirrors than a legitimate solution for helping me find jeans.  Why waste my time?

I asked whether information on the Curve concept existed online and received an unsatisfactory answer. I don't think my sales associate knew and it's certainly possible that in the training process she wasn't informed.

Interestingly, if you read to the end of the Mediapost article [published in August], it explains that "While women can be fitted at any Levi's store, they can also shop digitally, with an online quiz to help women identify their shape as well as a measurement tutorial."

Here, then, is the link to the Levi's Digital Curve Id quiz which will walk you through creating your own tape measure and string contraption to measure yourself. It also provides more detail on the various measurements and how they work together. However, it, too, doesn't recommend specific sizes to try. Hmmm. 

Levi's Customer Retail Experience Questions:

Why not let me take photos? The Curves Contraption is talk-worthy and I would have loved to share with you a photo of myself being 'measured'. It's not as if it's a state secret; it's readily available online.

Why not recommend specific sizes to try? I haven't tried jeans on in a while. Why not make the process easier? Delight me with suggestions so I'm not overwhelmed.

Why not make sure your sales associates understand the big picture of the product concept including what the digital plan consists of?

While you're at it, have you considered having all of your sales associates go through the measurement process both online and in-store, figure out which is their optimal curve and invite them to wear a corresponding product during sales hours? Talk about an effective word-of-mouth story.

By the way, seems that Old Navy is similarly focusing on matching women with the right jeans via their humorous Booty Reader. Hat tip to Rich Nadworny.

Added 8/23/10: David Polinchock calls attention to Levi's Wear What Fits Event taking place in Bryant Park, NYC, on August 27th from 10am to 4pm. Details in this Facebook Event.

Also, this post inspired David's post No Pictures Please!


Pablo Edwards said...

This seems about on par with most retail experiences I have. Unless I go to a place that hires with the customer in mind, I almost always leave scratching my head.

denise lee yohn said...

yet more evidence of why employee brand alignment is so important -- companies can't expect to roll-out new brand-building programs without informing, inspiring, instructing, and equipping their front line employees to deliver them

CB Whittemore said...

Pablo, it does indeed seem to be on par. Too many retailers don't hire with the customer in mind. That's what drives people to online experiences where the probability of inconsistency is lower.

Thanks for adding your perspective.


CB Whittemore said...

Denise, you are so right. I find it shocking that so many sophisticated brands fail to focus on brand alignment particularly with front line employees. They need your guidance and inspiration!

Thanks so much for adding to the discussion.


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