Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bricks and Mortar and Customer Centricity

The rumours persist -  'Amazon to open physical stores'

This story has been running since the end of last year and the debate rages as to whether the stores might be a Costco approach, pile it high and sell it cheap, or whether it might be a boutique offering that promotes primarily its Kindle range of e-readers
Kindle e-reader: device cover view
Whatever the outcome, or indeed even if the rumours are true, it does suggest that the role of bricks and mortar will not vanish for a quite a while yet.

Who would have thought 10 years ago that Apple would have a part to play on the high street? Have you been in an Apple store recently. Even when they are not introducing a new version of the iPad etc, the stores are always full of customers.


It's because they understand their customer.

Not all customers are truly IT savvy and feel immediately comfortable in switching from a PC to a Mac so they want to touch and feel the product and get some face to face advice.

Not all customers once they've bought the kit are happy to wade through on line tutorials on how to get the most out of the iCloud, so are ok with sitting in one of the free workshops which as Apple say

are taught by people passionate and knowledgeable about Apple products and eager to share their knowledge with you. You’ll have a great time, learn new skills and pick up loads of tips '

Not all customers can solve their technical problems, so why not step up to the Genius Bar? 

Woman customer being helped by Apple Store Genius

Even the way that sales can be processed via hand held devices so there is no real till point is all about making the customer experience second to none. and you haven't opened the box yet!!

They didn't set about by setting a a target for store turnover. They started out by setting a vision of an environment that would make their customers lives better and easier. That's what being customer centric means, and in Apple's case making the store cool enough to hang out at.

We often think that customer centricity is all about data. And to a large extent data helps us understand our customers but being customer centric is thinking about customer needs and wants. 

Yes it is about an amazing in store experience but it is of course also about understanding that customer journeys are not straight forward and don't always start at 'A' and finish at 'B'.

It's about understanding that at different points in that journey their needs will vary. As I write this I came across a nice post from Hubspot on How to Design a Persona Centric Website Experience . And although web specific this section seems very relevant

  • Segment by Demographics: Start developing personas by researching your existing customer base to identify the most common buyers for your products and services. You may have several different types of buyers, so give each one a detailed description, including name, job title or role, industry or company info, and demographic info.
  • Identify Their Needs: What are the biggest problems they are trying to solve? What do they need most? What information are they typically searching for? What trends are influencing their business or personal success?
  • Develop Behavior-Based Profiles: What do they do online? Are they active on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks? What kind of search terms do they use? What kind of information do they tend to consume online? Which of your products do they spend the most time researching? How do they use those products?

  • In the words of Kristin Zhivago one of the presenters at the Fusion Marketing Experience

    Marketers spend the bulk of their time on internal politics and learning new tools – out of necessity. But all this knowledge is worthless without a personal, in-depth understanding of what customers are really looking for and how they want to go about buying it,

    This is certainly something Best Buy considered when they set up their interactive screens in stores for customers who wanted to touch and feel the equipment but also wanted information and reviews on the product.

    If a product needs 'test driving, whether that's a new computer, a car..or a new fragrance, stores still have the upper hand. The trick is to make the experience so amazing,  that the customers buys there and then..and not from an online retailer later on in the day.

    But if they do, it's from the brands own e-commerce offering.

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