We're continuing our fascinating conversation on social science as applied to commerce with Mario Vellandi of Melodies in Marketing. Yesterday, CK highlighted the importance of looking to human behavior/ influences/instinct in marketing.
Observation is important, yet if a product does not deliver on its promise, if it looks good, but performs poorly, you need to know that as well. So what about combining observation with testing? In other words, letting users tell you about their experience.
Valeria Maltoni: Did you do any online testing? For example, I met the founder of KDA Research and learned that they do a lot of qualitative research using new media. Do you see technologies that can make it cheaper to put in the hands of consumers not real but virtual products as helpful for behavioral analysis?
Mario Vellandi: I think software tools can be extremely helpful in managing the data (collection, sharing, disseminating) and the project (planning, task assignments, milestones) with multiple parties: end-users, sales channel providers, and research team members.
What I find additionally interesting is how participants may be more candid and open if the tools are designed to easily fit into participants' lifestyles and schedules. But ultimately, I think they're just tools and aren't a panacea for everything. Research projects still must be well defined and related to a particular strategy, planned and executed. Data has to be collected, analyzed, and converted into actionable intelligence. We need apt humans for all that right-brain thinking.
Product/Service design (content, packaging, price) is just one piece of the larger behavioral analysis pie though. There's environmental studies for online and offline purchasing environments. After recently reading Why we Buy by Paco Underhill, I got an immense appreciation for how merchandising and store design affect shoppers' behavior.
[from the comment section Mario added] At my previous employers, we had some key individuals who performed research into fads and trends in the marketplace, then organized this info into lifestyle profiles. This environmental scanning was a constant process. But this was just one element of a larger organization-wide product ideation process that included our shopping trips.
Fads and trends have life cycles of their own that when understood, will qualify the degree of opportunity for each retail channel. [Btw, CK has a great white paper about fads/trends on her website.] Training your salespeople in this info improves their communication with buyers and relationships they build.
Allow me to stress that very last sentence. Relationships matter. If you want to be remembered next season for at least a meeting or presentation, you have to build customer intimacy into your organization's culture and the mindset of your salespeople. This requires looking out for the buyer's interests in regards to product fit, assortment, price points, margin, and # of units on shelf.
Valeria Maltoni: As much as we'd like people to tell us, I think there is also the consideration that we often say one thing and do another. Observing in the context of the purchase is a great way to do a reality check. I think Anthropologie does that in their stores. I wrote about it not long ago. What other stores do that well and why?
Mario Vellandi: Although I'm not a woman, I've heard marvelous things about the service at Nordstrom’s dept. store. I think the common thread between this chain, Anthropologie & Urban Outfitters, and other successful establishments is that they put their focus on the staff first, not the customer. After all, employees represent the company to the customer every day. If they feel good about their employer and the way they're treated, it will reflect in their performance and service to the customer. In saying this, I almost sense a flashback to Made to Stick. The companies are taking care of their troops and giving them the commander's intent, but not the explicit tactics. There are general company guidelines and of course performance metrics to be met as a matter of maintaining service levels. But the trust in execution is placed in the employees.
Did you know that Walgreens has fewer stores than CVS (nation's largest drugstore), but beats them in sales? Although there are differing reasons for their overall success, as outlined in Good to Great, I'll explain one. Walgreens caught on quickly that many shoppers came in wanting beverages and snacks (which give good margin), so they increased their exposure to these categories and transformed the store into a mix of a convenience, general, and drugstore. In the mind of shoppers, they were no longer just another drugstore that sells health, beauty, personal care and pharmaceuticals along with stationary, photo services and a couple other product categories. And that unique positioning was powerful magic for Walgreens because now shoppers wouldn't necessarily think first of 7-11 or the supermarket for certain categories, they'd remember Walgreens.
A last retailer I'll mention for a unique feature is Best Buy. Their staff may be courteous, the prices are nothing special, but the amount of space between aisles and departments is excitingly refreshing. You can feel free to roam around and look, then approach with curiosity. Even if there are many shoppers in the store, you don't really notice them. It just feels awesome.
Thank you for joining in this conversation about how we buy and how we can design environment that will allow us to explore and personalize our experience. Let’s hear it from you – what are your favorite stores? Why?