Welcome to the Experience Economy. The traditional retail design philosophy has changed. It's no longer about an architect, a designer and a client. Today's retailing is about an integrated experience - controlling the show and connecting with customers.
If you really listen, you'll hear the customer saying: "Let me do what I have to do and get on with my life. And by the way, I want to have fun while I do it. Let me shop when I want to shop, play when I want to play and relax when I want to relax. And, I have no time, so I want it all now."
Brands and retailers in business today must ask if they are taking advantage of all the touch-points surrounding the customer - from advertising and sales promotion to architecture, design and visual merchandising. Today's in-store retailing is a tangible, live experience.
Take the following seven-point quiz to see how your organization stacks up:
1. Owning an unmistakable visual brand position. Product plus personality equals brand. But there is a good deal more to branding than just putting your name on the package or over the door. Can your brand be immediately spotted in the visual clutter of today's marketplace? Is your retail identity as timeless as Tiffany's blue box? Do you have a visual image with the consistent zeal of Disney's use of Mickey's ears? Does your brand have the visual equivalent of the Golden Arches?
2. Developing a voice. Is your brand more like Starbucks or Maxwell House coffee? Both sell coffee, yet one uses a distribution channel given to product commoditizing. Hint: When was the last time someone gave you a can of Maxwell House for the holidays? Is your brand creating a place that surrounds customers with the passion of a bigger idea?
3. Having relevant, compelling content. Old Navy has defined itself as both a personality and as a market niche. It continually seeks to reinvent and re-interpret merchandise with such authority that the customer is convinced to buy. What is your core competency? Do you have relevant and compelling merchandise? Do you know what a day in the life of your customer contains? Only when you have those answers can you begin to create more opportunities.
4. Creating an emotional, lasting relationship. Experiential retail goes beyond the physical store. Nike's advertising messages reference "anything is possible" and "what ifs." The brand consistently delivers a message through its stores, in-store shops and advertising. While the merchandise is always king, Nike also offers celebrity athlete appearances in its stores, a motion simulator ride, viewing/listening stations and a Ticketmaster outlet, along with other intangibles such as its "Stay-in-School" program. Have you built such a relationship with your customer?
5. Immersing the customer in the qualities of the brand. Swiss Army Knife and Eddie Bauer have core brand values. Through a process of reinterpretation and evolution, Swiss Army Knife now makes watches and tools. Eddie Bauer has evolved from Eddie Bauer, the Pacific Northwest sports enthusiast, to a brand with recognition so strong that it helps brand automobiles. Are you going deeper into your brand to evolve products and services that, in turn, attract new consumers?
6. Communicating with all five senses. Physical retail spaces must be rich in texture. Whether it's through audio, visuals, taste, smell or touch, the retail world is becoming a place where people need to be entertained and engaged. Now is the era of retail as the "one-hour vacation." Borders Books & Music is redefining what the library experience is all about. It creates a community place for leisure and learning through the merchandising of book, music, food and information. We have to ask: Is Borders a bookstore or a Friday night family destination? Is it a restaurant that just happens to have books?
7. Consider share of customer, not just marketshare. You're not in the distribution business, you're in the business of capturing share of time. Is your brand an out-of-home entertainment destination or just a place to pick up goods? Take, for example, Discovery Channel stores. Are they stores, learning centers or children's museums? Is Amazon.com a bookseller or cultural information hub? Is the Sony Store a technology store, a lifestyle, or an entertainment lab of innovation?
Consumer standards are being established by the cities of Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., by Starbucks, Saturn, Martha Stewart, Pottery Barn, Nike, Disney, Gap and by all forms of the media. Consumer expectations are rising emotionally. Are you using communications, marketing, service and the environment to the fullest to evoke an emotional response?