What makes a retail experience fun?
Person 1: “I don’t think shopping is ever fun for me. It’s a chore.”
Person 2: “The pleasant surprise.”
Person 3: “Well, for me, it’s two things. The first one would be the successful shop, where I go with the intention to buy something, I find it, I love it, and I buy it. The second would be where I go shopping [without any intention]…and I find something unexpected and I buy it.”
These were some of the replies I heard recently in casual conversation. Retail fun isn’t for everyone it seems, and is a mixture of personal, emotional, and contextual factors.
When I attended the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, one of the sound bites that stuck with me came from the “State of Tech Retailing in 2013: Showrooming, Battling for Online Supremacy, OEMs Going Direct, Private Label and more” panel:
“What’s missing in retail these days is fun…giving customers a reason to just come in and see what’s there.”
-Tony Chvala, Global GM of Merchandising & Buying at Groupon Goods
I would agree, and have found that retailers could be working harder to inject more fun into experiences. I’ve since started retail funspotting, a new word I’m using to describe sightings or stories of fun in retail, not unlike the foodspotting movement that sets out to capture, share, and find great dishes.
A couple of my favourite retail funspotting examples include Stella & Dot’s trunk parties and the Bi-Rite Market’s approach to eating good food. One of my fellow Nuruners recently hosted a Stella & Dot party, which in my opinion borrows from the Tupperware party model, except that it involves jewelry and accessories such as smartphone cases and necklaces. The party was a success and everyone who attended had fun. Not to mention the buzz about the merchandise that has come up in conversations for the last couple of weeks. What I find fun about the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco is that they set out to get customers excited about eating good food. The staff is trained to strike up conversations with virtually all customers and help them learn about the possibilities of the food in front of them (via FastCompany).
If you have any retail funspotting stories to share, I would love to hear them here or on Twitter @jenchow with the hashtag #retailfunspotting.
If you’re a retailer, have you thought about how you might inject more fun into your customers’ experiences?
It was a daylong congregation of retailers, advertisers, data analysts and brand managers who came together to understand how the retail strategies of yesterday are no longer enough. To succeed today, retailers must think differently to integrate, innovate and engage. I attended the Retail Advertising Conference in Toronto last week, and the keynote presentation from Mitch Joel of Twist Image delivered a profound message on how we ought to look at retail today. The themes that emerged from his talk, How to Reboot Retail in a Connected World, transcended traditional tech considerations, framing retail strategy in a context that was familiar and well established, and sometimes surprising.
The power to have direct relationships with customers has changed. Retailers are not just at war with direct competitors, but with its business partners too. The battle to own the customer relationship occurs with everyone in the food chain: the brand, Facebook and the retailer. Kickstarter is challenging the retail relationship model because its platform is built to allow brands and startups to stay directly connected to their customers. Pebble Watch and Pen Type A didn’t need a retailer because they had already established a profound relationship with their customers.
The power of data
Today’s retailers need to look at data as circular and semantic, versus linear. Customer research should focus on looking at who the individual is and ask, “How can we design marketing that will compel them to take action?” Consumers confuse privacy with personalization, but at the same time, customers want relevant experiences that are important to them. It’s a social contract with consumers, and they realize what they are willing to give out to get an amazing experience. Fab.com, a flash sales shopping site, built their platform on this social contract. You, as a customer, don’t buy from Fab.com. Customers join Fab.com and buy from the individual retailers. Fab.com is confidently able to put products on sale for only 72 hours because they know their customers will buy. It boils down to knowing what customers want based on the data they provide. Fab.com currently has a billion dollar valuation.
Utility or death
What value can you, as a retailer, bring to your customers so that they will put you on the home screen of their iPhone? There’s an app out there called Sit or Squat that locates clean bathrooms around you. It’s a value driven app that’s great for frequent flyers. And here’s the kicker – the app is brought to you by Charmin, a toilet paper company. The brand extended their engagement to provide utility to both existing and would-be consumers. Dishtip is an app that aggregates human data, and picks three dishes you must try at the restaurant you’re researching. LEGO provides utility, and consequently drives in-store foot traffic, through it’s Augmented Reality Digital Box. It’s a tool that adds another dimension to the experience that you cannot get anywhere else.
“Technology has started to remove technology from technology.” We live in a one screen, post-PC world. Joel emphasized the significance of the tablet, and the fact that consumers today are untethered. He provides examples of businesses that are attuned to this notion. Nomi is a mobile app that enables retailers to track foot traffic in store(s). Square: no more cash registers.
I’d like to say that Joel saved the best (point) for last, as this topic is a passion and strong interest of mine when it comes to retail strategy. He challenges retailers and brands with the story they are telling. In addition to knowing what story to tell, retailers and brands need to understand how to take this story and spread it cross-channel to deliver a cohesive brand experience. He showed us a video of Chipotle’s recent brand campaign that aired during the Super Bowl. The short film, “Back to the Start,” by filmmaker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. One of, if not the key, factor contributing to the success of the narrative is the soundtrack. Coldplay’s haunting classic “The Scientist” is performed by country music legend Willie Nelson. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.
While KPIs, measurement models, attribution, and optimization remain go-to frameworks of digital marketing plans, I often get the feeling we’re leaning too much on these performance metrics and not actually taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Instead of asking how we can decrease the CPA by 10 percent or increase enrollments by changing frequency caps, we need to do our due diligence to expand beyond our silos and look at the big picture to understand how evolving consumer consumption and usage is truly impacting our business.
U.S. Internet usage has reached saturation, and with that, so has usage of search engines and email. According to eMarketer, overall Internet penetration came in between 75 and 85 percent (depending on the source) in 2012 with a projected 2.4 percent increase this year. With saturation, consumers are developing a more cultured palate for their online experiences, and their expectations have evolved to determine what is and is not acceptable. The days of championing the glorious measureable results of digital media with year-over-year staggering increases in performance are coming to an end…and it is not all to blame on the economy. For example, consumers have become so desensitized to the clutter of banner ads that click-through rates are dismal, and retargeting is now the show pony, saving the day and keeping banners alive. However, with the continual threat of cookie deletion, multiple browsers, and the latest default setting of Mozilla to block cookies, “tracking” and “accountability” could have some challenges ahead.
While Internet usage has reached its saturation point, online ad spending continues to demonstrate healthy year-over-year growth rates and is not expected to dip to single digit growth until 2015, according to eMarketer. With online advertising spending reaching over $40 billion in 2013, we are experiencing a saturation point with these more sophisticated users and continual increases in advertising spending, which is leading to online confusion. With the growth of digital, the idea of a hyper-connected consumer 10 years ago is so outdated that nowadays consumers feel more disconnected than hyper-connected; there is always something they are missing out on, be it using one social platform vs. another, a missed promo code opportunity or daily/flash deal, or (GASP!) maybe a real-life event outside of their digital world.
As we attempt to take a step back and look at the big picture, here are a few things to consider:
There is never a shortage of opportunities to test and try out. If you are always the “wait and see” follower brand you will never stand out amongst the clutter and chaos because consumers become desensitized so quickly. What is new one day becomes standard the next—who doesn’t have a responsive design site? So just like dieting, it’s important to keep a healthy balance and practice moderation to ensure you have a good mix of tried-and-true, and new and innovative that will keep you in shape to be sure you’re continually looking at the big picture for opportunities to embrace the change rather than waiting till it changes you.
This article was originally published on ClickZ on March 13th.
A catastrophe is the result of the culmination of many factors that wouldn’t be of any consequence on their own, but together ignite a disaster. A faulty gauge (technological factor) in conjunction with a veteran pilot who falls asleep (human factor) and the advent of a violent storm (weather factor) leads to a plane crash. Individually, each factor is commonplace and easily managed. Just remove one of these factors from the equation and the catastrophe would be avoided. A nuclear power station is designed to withstand earthquakes and tsunami waves, but not to handle the flooding of its cooling systems that ensues.
What if the materialization of (genuine) ideas was just a positive version of a catastrophe? A designer brings all sorts of personal experiences to the table, draws upon the work of their colleagues and has an antenna tuned to the world. The further away they are from their work, the more factors will come into play to spark an idea. Which one will be the determining factor? Nobody knows, not even the designer. But, remove just one of these factors, and the idea wouldn’t have come about in the first place.
Design Thinking is a systematic problem-solving protocol that utilizes creativity factors to lead to the solution of a real-world problem. You could also call this innovation. That’s why it always starts in the field. No matter the subject, you’ve got to get out and meet real people—empathy isn’t enough. Spend a day in a freezer and you’ll come away knowing very little about what it’s like to work in the cold every day. It is only in meeting and talking to people that you begin to understand their true feelings and emotions.
Project scope notwithstanding, it is always possible to determine explicatory elements that will spark creativity. If you’ve only got 15 minute spend it on Twitter and forums. Search for emotion-laden words and expressions like “I hate car salesmen” or “I love jam”. These statements will reveal more than analytical studies. And if you’ve got more time and ambition, treat yourself to a real ethnographic project.
Once you’ve brought together the factors for a catastrophe, you’ve got to set it off since it won’t happen on its own. That’s why brainstorming is so important to the Design Thinking methodology. Set up a structured meeting, identify a well-defined problem and draw upon real-life experiences and discoveries to solve it. Statistically, if the factors are in place, numerous and varied points of view will emerge, collide, combine, and evolve. In the words of Oscar Wilde’s, “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
Afterwards, all that’s left to do is make a prototype of the idea to confirm interest, improve upon it, send it into production and pass it along to marketing to bring it to fruition. But that’s another story…
This article was first published on Infopresse.
Based on the number of times she repeats the phrase in her new book Content Strategy for Mobile, it’s clear that Karen McGrane wants you to remember the
following: “If people want to do something on the internet, they will want to do it using their mobile device.” While that might sound obvious, the implications of this statement take up a significant portion of McGrane’s 165-page book. That’s because until recently, mobile meant on the move. In this context, it was thought that users required only short bits of quick hit content. A restaurant’s phone number. The operating hours of a store.
No one believed that people would ever want to read considerable amounts of text on a smartphone, which is how separate mobile sites with truncated content (also known as forking) came to be. But forking is a very bad idea according to McGrane, as it requires separate content updates across multiple sites. It’s also impossible to track the type of content users want from your mobile site unless you provide them with access to all of it in the first place.
Thankfully there is a solution — adaptive content. The key elements of adaptive content include:
The first three aspects might sound familiar, but creating content that is structured to be independent of visual presentation often represents a significant shift in workflow and approach. As McGrane explains, the WYSWIG editor creates content that can only be viewed properly on a desktop computer. Instead of chunking content into various elements such as headline, subhead, short summary, long summary, image, caption, etc., WYSWIG tends to generate a blob of content. If nailing jelly to the wall is difficult, try separating a jar of jelly into discrete sections.
Metadata (information about information) is a big part of creating presentation-independent content. (A good example of metadata is “Granny Smith is a type of apple.”) McGrane quotes Jason Scott, an archivist who once quipped that “metadata is a love note to the future.” Good content accrues value over time, but only if it can be retrieved and rearranged into user-appropriate formats.
McGrane’s plea to eliminate the blob is underscored by Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s new book Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content. The overlap between the two books is significant: both discuss the publishing API created by NPR and Wachter-Boettcher includes a two page Q&A with McGrane.
Wachter-Boettcher provides an even more comprehensive look at structured content, including a fascinating (really!) look at content modeling, using the Epicurious website and app as an example. In short, good content not only provides meaning to users, but determines the priority of different content elements on a given page and the relationships between them.
Wachter-Boettcher offers a clear explanation of semantic markup and reinforces the importance of change management in implementing any type of content strategy. She also uses the nifty word “interdigitating” to explain how to best combine different content modules on a small screen in order to “keep the narrative, persuasive, or informational structure of the content intact.”
After reading either of these books, many companies will be frustrated to discover that leveraging their existing content might not be as easy as they had hoped. Some of the solutions offered, such as creating a private API for content, are impractical from both a cost and business perspective. But the basic principles of adaptive content are easy to implement (better metadata, better structuring), provided you can find someone to tame the unfriendly nature of most Content Management Systems. If you love your content, making it adaptive will be the beginning of a long, beautiful relationship.
For many years now “personalization” and “experience” have been the buzz in both online and offline retail. While retailers have been playing a game of catch-up, their customers have become far more digitally connected than we could have ever imagined 10 years ago.
The core need of the customer may or may not have changed, but what has evolved is the technology available to meet those needs. The need to touch and feel a product, or interact with it, hasn’t changed since the dawn of retail. But now we are entering a very exciting time where emerging technology can provide interactive experiences that are starting to mirror the customer’s natural behaviour. For example, some retailers are putting touchscreens in fitting rooms where customers can connect live with a friend and receive real-time feedback about an item they are trying on. How many times have you taken a picture of something and sent it to a friend for advice before you purchased it? The same goes for providing product information – complete with ratings and reviews – on the shelf behind a product using an interactive digital display. What these technologies are doing is enabling an interaction that is already happening, while also building loyalty and trust with customers.
I love what Intel is doing; it brings an innate human experience to life. Truth of the matter is if retailers aren’t providing their customers with the digital tools and transparency to discover products, check prices and inventory, and read reviews, the customers will do it on their own. Without joining that priceless conversation, retailers are practically handing their customers over to the competition.
Most retailers know that digital connectivity is about more than just having a Facebook page; customers are smarter than that. The trick is to understand each retailer’s unique mix of customers and tailor digital solutions to fit their needs and lifestyle. Customers today see a brand or a retailer as one, regardless of channel or business model, and are demanding that they adjust to fit the way they would like to shop. We never really left the era of “the customer is king” and that sentiment only grows stronger.
One thing I am certain of is that technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Many years from now we will be having this same conversation, only around a new type of medium. At its heart, retail is about meeting a customer’s needs. And when that happens, it’s a win-win.