Monday, May 31, 2010

Consumer Experience Always Matters

Sometimes we get caught up—caught up in our busy lives, in our desire to solve problems or to take advantage of opportunities.  Stepping back and taking perspective is good, doing it on a regular and productive basis is tough.  It’s interesting what jolts you out of your focus.

 

Recently I was organizing our archives (read: moving old piles of stuff around to get to the stuff we needed to get rid of) and came across a piece I wrote in 1995 for a newsletter for the retail design firm I worked for at the time. I nostalgically read through this and a few others, fully expecting to be embarrassed and shove them back in the box.  I was delighted to see, while dated—remember Incredible Universe?—the core ideas are still relevant (while the writing is a bit

 clunky). 

 

We have a different perspective on what’s important now, but in the end, it’s the experience that matters.  Read below and let me know what you think.

 

Remember Incredible Universe?  Customers had to be members—it was complicated and we stayed away in droves.

 

As we enter the last half of the last decade of the present millennium, how can we not look forward?  Much has been written, spoken, and videoed and typed about entertainment retail.  At the root of this is something that has been true from the beginning: the buying public wants to be engaged.  They want to be wow-ed.  Even when buying trends ebb and flow from value pricing to the highest levels of customer service or one-stop convenience, there is a common thread: engagement.

 

The customer wants to be engaged in the activity.  At one time it was the stained glass or mosaic domes of the grand palaces of retail, then it became the convenient suburban mall that soon offered the budge basement and good costume jewelry that captured the consumers’ imagination and wallet.

 

Then advent of specialty retailing illustrated what the customer was looking for: an engaging environment where the merchandise was of high quality and service was impeccable.  (Meanwhile, department stores were struggling to find direction.)  Next came the warehouse clubs, hypermarkets, superstores and category killers; customers sacrificed environment for another kind of engagement: the perception of dirt-cheap prices.  During the 80s hangover that was the recession-ridden early 90s, who didn’t hear a story about buying a case of paper towels for $5.48 or a 5lb. box of pasta for $3.28 (and those were prices before the member discount!)?

 

As our population ages and becomes more marketing savvy, the challenge to retrial is to five the consumer a substantial experience.  This takes the idea of value-added to the next level.  The value added in this case is that of a transaction that results in the consumer feeling better than they did before they walked into your store.  This is not all that new; it is just being applied in a different way. 

 

Well, here we are and now the superstores are taking a cue from the specialty stores.  Galyan’s Trading Company and Incredible Universe both use product and presentation elements to engage their customer. The climbing wall and new tech showcase invite customers to participate in the store environment.  Not just be entertained by it.

 

So, now we have 100,000 square foot stores with ambience, quality merchandise and service.  Sounds like the palaces of a century ago.  You see, the customer hasn’t changed; they are just a bit more focused.

 

Ok, it was a bit amateurish, but as I look back, the cycles are there, almost predictable, but I think what’s most important is that even when hit with BIG recessions, we all still want to be engaged.

Posted via email from ConsumerX: cXChuck's Stuff

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