Click still needs Brick. Kind of.

People who know me know that I like to shop. Maybe it’s my early days working in sales and calling on virtually every major retailer from Wal*Mart to ToysRUs,  Office Depot to Best Buy, Target to CompUSA that’s given me an appreciation for smart merchandising, great customer service, and the benefits of being in stock. Or maybe I just like to see the constant innovation that is retail. There’s always something new.

This month I’m outfitting the new world headquarters of Fingerprint Digital. All 1625 glorious square feet of it.  I started my journey where all self-respecting start-ups do …. Online at Ikea.  Choose a couple tables, pick some chairs,  maybe a bookcase, 30 minutes and done, right?  Not so fast.  The pictures looked great. Very stylish and cheap, too. I started ordering.   Until I got to the Galant Birch Veneer conference table.   “This item can’t be ordered online”.  Why not?  No explanation given.  So I was left with a dilemma – order everything else and pay the $100 shipping or go to the store, buy it all in person and have my husband cart it home in his new Ford F-150 pick-up. I opted for the store, navigated the directions “find this item in Aisle 9, Bin 27” and purchased my entire office set-up in less than 30 minutes. Pretty cool, except  I had wanted to buy it online and avoid the whole store thing.  The store visit also saved me from buying a bright orange vinyl sofa that looked amazing online, but was dreadfully tacky in person.

The next task was White Boards.  I figured Staples was the logical place. They have the big red “Easy” button, right? And the free shipping on orders over $100. A quick online search showed me over 200 different White Board related SKUs on ranging in price from $229 to $500 for a 4X6 size, which was way out of my price zone. I then checked Amazon where prices were as low as $100 for virtually the same item.  Since it seemed to good to be true, I went over to Staples to check it out. They had a nice White Board display with a sign that said “ask us about 4×6”  and a price of  $109.  After searching for someone to ask, I went to the self service computer, typed in the SKU number only to have it say “Not Available in Store”.   Interesting. Item not available online. Item not available in store. Just where might this Staples item be available? Office Depot?  Frustrated I found a sales guy with a big red “Easy” button on his shirt. We discussed the White Board.  He didn’t bother looking at the computer. He walked me back into the warehouse and found the item and told me that sometimes the computer system just gets it wrong.  I bought the 2 White Boards and then realized that I’d have my personal delivery guy (aforementioned husband with pick-up truck) come get them. The warehouse guy took down my name on a post-it note and literally stuck it to the register. He said “tell your husband to ask for Bob”.   Bob made the big red “Easy” button a reality – even though multiple processes at Staples had failed.

In the same week I also experienced Home Depot (A+ for customer service, C for stock), Costco (A+ and the coffee maker I bought was 30% less than at Bed Bath and Beyond), Best Buy (ordered online, picked up in store A+ and the whole transaction took less than 10 minutes), and the AT&T Store (don’t get me started).  I had the best experience of all  with Wal* Next time I might start with there!

Undoubtedly I could have bought everything from Amazon, saved a lot of time and maybe money.  But like I said, I like to shop ….. and the reminder I got about creating an amazing customer experience – no matter what the business made the challenges at retail worth the trouble.

True Mass Market Shopping

Over the last couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of shopping.  Shopping Online (Amazon) Shopping in the App Store (iTunes) Shopping at Mass Market (Target) Shopping at Specialty (Barnes & Noble, Williams Sonoma) Shopping in the Suburbs (Salisbury, Maryland), Shopping in the City  ( San Francisco, New York,  Hong Kong).  How people shop. Where they shop. What  makes them shop. When they shop. What converts shopping to buying.  I got to see the art of shopping (and the art of marketing) up close this week in Hong Kong.

A couple of observations.

The lower the price, the more merchandise in the store. The 7-11 store is stocked floor to ceiling with everything from Bananas to Cigarettes with opened boxes of product stacked up and

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down the aisles so tightly you can barely pass through.  The Louis Vuitton store, in contrast, has one of every item, beautifully displayed like priceless merchandise.

A mass market brand like H&M next door to Gucci or Armani gets the halo effect.  I saw 20-somethings shopping in H&M carrying bags from the big  luxury brands  and grabbing handfuls of t-shirts and dresses. Great for H&M.

Unique displays wake up the consumer. The luxury retailer Lane Crawford (similar to Neiman Marcus) reinvented the shoe department. Instead of rows of shoes on displays within a department, they displayed shoes throughout the store tied to specific themes – Ferragamo pink kid skin slippers in the lingerie section. This totally unexpected merchandising undoubtedly works as a great cross sell.

Trained sales people and a lot of them. I visited an Apple Authorized Reseller in search of an adapter. In the 500 sq. foot store there were 6 sales people and I was greeted within 10 seconds and checked out within 5 minutes (after being upsold from a simple adapter to the “official Apple universal travel kit for $400 HK”

Demonstrators.  The  cosmetic companies have invested in pop-up make-up studios throughout the malls.  Dior, Chanel, NARS, and Benefit all had standalone displays fully staffed by beautiful, professional make-up artists soliciting consumers as they walk through the malls.  These are so popular that girls and women wait in line for hours  for their turn – giving the impression that the product is something special and rare.

Outdoor Kiosks. Various manufacturers have set up throughout Hong Kong.  The mobile/wireless companies are leading the charge here. Consumers can touch every phone and price is announced on big posters carried by salesmen on the streets. The merchandising isn’t that much different than the open air markets and really grabs the passersby.

All-in-all, great opportunity to experience a shopping when the “mass” doesn’t relate to big box retail, but relates to “masses” of people all shopping.  Interesting tactics to think about from an experiential marketing perspective.