ironies of the retail customer experience
brand-as-business bit: What was old is new again; what is big isn’t best; what’s happening halfway around the world matters here. These ironies describe the retail customer experience landscape in America today. That was my takeaway from a session at the Retail Customer Experience Summit I attended yesterday.
The presentation was by Chris Peterson who travels the world taking pictures of retail. His photos of the markets in Dubai, IT malls in Kuala Lumpur, and cyclists in Hanoi were so eye-opening. Chris’s reports from his world travels made me see the irony of recent developments in retail here in the States:
- In developing countries without good transportation, traveling to stores can be difficult – so can getting products home from stores. Therefore merchants do business by riding bicycles around the city or floating canoes down the waterways to reach their customers. Funny how, now in the U.S., retailers are following a similar trend — e.g., Office Depot is offering online-purchased product delivery by bicycle cart and Uber recently ran an ice cream on demand delivery promo.
- Large retailers aren’t guaranteed success when they enter international markets. In fact, many struggle because they find that people prefer their local markets. They may not offer the selection and low prices of established retailers (and they may have an occasional train or elephant pass through them), but they are run by people who know and have a relationship with their clientele. The preference for local shops sounded familiar, as reports like this one of a local shopkeeper revival have been popping up here in the U.S.
- “Promoter girls” help retailers in Hanoi sell more product, whether it’s a technology store selling computers or a bar selling beer. These spokesmodel-cum-saleswomen are knowledgeable about the products, they are attentive to customers’ needs, and most importantly, they’re good-looking. It seems Apple store employees are the U.S. version of promoter girls. OK, they’re not all beautiful, but most have a cool-ness about them and their service helps Apple produce the highest sales per square feet in retail.
Check out some of Chris’s photos here and be inspired to find other ironies of the retail customer experience.