Posts tagged “retail”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Slot Music – it’s more than just a new format – Here's SanDisk's ecosystem approach (for digital music, not digital books, but still, it's illustrative). Leveraging their technology, they've begun putting digital music on solid state media (i.e., SD cards and what-have-you) that will go into multiple devices. They are piggybacking on the ecosystem of slots that already exists. I think it fully matures as an ecosystem when other other plays start making products, services, and accessories to support this standard.
  • New Yorker cartoon – “This one, when you open it, smells like the Times.” – Cartoon by Leo Cullum showing a sensory-enriched Kindle. Thanks to Tom Williams for the pointer!
  • Book Display Norms – Jan Chipchase – To what extent does the form, peruseability of books facilitate the behaviours around where they are sold?
  • San Franciscan Reads Finnegan’s Wake Aloud, In Public – In the aftermath of the Finnegan's Wake Book Club dissolution.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Words Move Me – Sony adds social networking around reading (but doesn’t seem you can *buy*) – "Words move me" was created by Sony to celebrate the words that move us and to share our reading experiences with others. Connecting with readers around literary moments enables us to express our individuality, share our own stories, and find commonalities with others.
    (Thanks @gpetroff)
  • Sony’s Daily Reader – Kindle Competition: Touchscreen Plus AT&T, for $399 – Includes software to link with local libraries and check out a library-based electronic book. Also has portrait reading mode (showing two pages), touchscreen, and broadband wireless access to add books without a PC.
  • IKEA as destination retail, in Beijing – Although the store is designed similarly to Western IKEAs, the meaning and usage has changed. In Beijing, It's a place to rest and eat, more theme park than shopping emporium.
  • The lost art of reading: David Ulin on the challenge of focus in an era of distraction – Who do we want to be, she asks, and how do we go about that process of becoming in a world of endless options, distractions, possibilities? These are elementary questions, and for me, they cycle back to reading, to the focus it requires. When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13, my grandmother used to get mad at me for attending family functions with a book. Back then, if I'd had the language for it, I might have argued that the world within the pages was more compelling than the world without; I was reading both to escape and to be engaged. All these years later, I find myself in a not-dissimilar position, in which reading has become an act of meditation, with all of meditation's attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It's harder than it used to be, but still, I read. (via Putting People First)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • A thoughtful consideration (that could have so easily gone curmudgeonly) on the changes in how (and how much) we consume art – Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.
  • Michael Pollan on the cultural shifts revealed by themes in food-related TV entertainment – The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit…Buying, not making, is what cooking shows are mostly now about — that and, increasingly, cooking shows themselves: the whole self-perpetuating spectacle of competition, success and celebrity that, with “The Next Food Network Star,” appears to have entered its baroque phase. The Food Network has figured out that we care much less about what’s cooking than who’s cooking.
  • Nine Reasons RadioShack Shouldn’t Change Its Name – Best one is " RadioShack has problems beyond any issues with its name." Also they did already change name from Radio Shack to RadioShack.
  • Radio Shack: Our friends call us The Shack – Do they really now? More proof that you can't simply declare yourself cool. Promo or overall rebranding, it reeks of inauthenticity.
  • Understand My Needs – a multicultural perspective – A Japanese usability professional compares the norms of service that retailers provide in Japan with those elsewhere (say, his experience living in Canada), and then contrasts that to the common usability problems found in Japanese websites. Culture is a powerful lens to see what causes these differences, and how usability people can help improve the experience.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • How commercial software products are developed (or "get some empathy for clients, right here") – I worked on the "Windows Mobile PC User Experience" team. This team was part of Longhorn from a feature standpoint but was organizationally part of the Tablet PC group. To find a common manager to other people I needed to work with required walking 6 or 7 steps up the org chart from me. My team's raison d'etre was: improve the experience for users on laptops, notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. Noble enough. Of course the Windows Shell team, whose code I needed to muck about in to accomplish my tiny piece of this, had a charter of their own which may or may not have intersected ours.

    My team had a very talented UI designer and my particular feature had a good, headstrong program manager with strong ideas about user experience. We had a Mac [owned personally by a team member] that we looked to as a paragon of clean UI. Of course the Shell team also had some great UI designers and numerous good, headstrong PMs who valued (I can only assume) simplicity and so on.

  • Not quite-credible story about Best Buy differentiating on making technology usable/understandable – Mr. Dunn said he wanted to create an atmosphere where consumers were attracted not just to products but also to services that help them master fast-changing technology and configure and connect devices.

    One of Best Buy’s main competitive strategies has been services, something it has done better in the past than any national electronics retailer. That translates into selling product warranties, or help with installing a home theater or configuring a computer.
    Mr. Dunn said a chief example of the kind of thing Best Buy wants to be known for is a service it calls Walk Out Working that it began introducing in May 2007. The service, which is free, helps consumers configure new mobile phones so that when they leave the store they are able to use features like music playback and Web surfing.

    …He argues that [other retailers] cannot compete with Best Buy when it comes to offering individual service, explaining technology to customers and charging to help them adapt to it.

  • Jobless Benefits Web Site Adds Insult to Injury – Jobless people seeking information about their benefits on the Brazilian Labor Ministry's Web were forced to type in passwords such as "bum" and "shameless." A private company that created the site's security system is blamed; its contract with the ministry wasn't being renewed, which may have prompted the pranks.

ChittahChattah Quickies

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • In Recession, Strategy Shifts for Retail – It's hard to parse this piece; it's about a lot of cost-cutting stuff that is happening in retail but the tone suggests that these are innovative ways for companies to be more responsive (better customer service? better localization of products?) and integrated (linking the in-store and online experiences?). I'm skeptical and don't believe the concluding statement that this is happening because we're not spending in stores like we used to, it's too close to the whole "innovate your way out of a recession" talk and I don't think retail is an adaptable industry to take on a frame shift like that.
  • An evolutionary perspective on what we display to others with our consumption (not clear how there's anything new here, though) – Instead of running focus groups and spinning theories,marketers could learn more by administering scientifically calibrated tests of intelligence and personality traits. If marketers understood biologists’ new calculations about animals’ “costly signaling,” they’d see that Harvard diplomas and iPhones send the same kind of signal as the ornate tail of a peacock.

    Sometimes the message is as simple as “I’ve got resources to burn,” the classic conspicuous waste demonstrated by the energy expended to lift a peacock’s tail or the fuel guzzled by a Hummer. But brand-name products aren’t just about flaunting transient wealth. The audience for our signals care more about the permanent traits measured in tests of intelligence and personality, as Dr. Miller explains in his new book, “Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior.”

Good and Bad Business Names

Two L.A.-area business with names that just make sense:
Right of Way, exceeding all of your traffic control needs

Green Set, motion picture plant rentals. This truck was traveling with a another, both with palm trees hanging out the back.

And, for contrast:
Got Kosher? Provisions is a retail outlet for the much better-named Got Kosher? but if you don’t know that, the sign reads quickly as Got Kosher Provisions? which is perhaps one of the worst business names possible.

See more of my L.A. pictures here.

Supermarket tales

I’ve been doing fieldwork for the past couple of weeks, which often means stopping in at a variety of grocery stores for quick bites to eat or bathroom breaks.

In making the rounds, I saw a couple of things I thought were worth sharing.

Andronico’s, Berkeley

I thought this was an interesting way to extend the function of the mirror, and a good reminder of how much more you gain from feedback when it’s deployed at just the right time and place in a process.

Whole Foods, San Francisco

This was without question the most fragrant cheese counter I’ve ever encountered. I was standing with my back to it, looking at the fruit, and I kept thinking something was wrong somewhere. I finally turned around and understood what I’d been smelling.

Who’s thinking about the customer experience here? What would some alternatives be? Put it near the fish? Or how about near the flowers! A giant plastic dome over the whole thing? Perhaps an information station explaining why cheese can sometimes be stinky…

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Some brands remain untouched by discounts – Yet another (rambling anecdotal) story about changes in purchase behavior. We just did an ethnographic study in this area and didn't see (or probe for) the brand-motivating power described.
    "The reasons fall mostly into three categories: old habits die hard, brand loyalty runs deep and the Economics 101 law of supply and demand means the most sought-after brands can command the best prices. Beyond that, there are some items consumers stubbornly just won't forgo — sale or not — no matter how hard they're trying to stretch their budget.

    "There are certain categories … where there are no substitutes accepted. It's infusing your brand with those things that people then say 'I have to have the real thing.'"

    Heather Fox scours stores for sales and clips coupons for food and clothing discounts. But she won't cut corners when it comes to her Marlboro Lights.

    Corlett puts it differently. "You may drink less Coke, but you're not giving up Coke," she said."

Local Starbucks exhibits passion for their customers

Recently I was in the Starbucks in the Lucasfilm Letterman Digital Arts Center and was surprised to see what was written on the chalkboard

Starbucks is the same EVERYWHERE. What makes us different is our customers = YOU. We’ve worked all over the city, all over the state and we can honestly say that you are the BEST customers EVER. PERIOD. We see you everyday. People from LUCAS, PAC UNION, YMCA, B&B, THE PRESIDIO, THE MARINA & so many more…
You make us love our jobs, make us love coming into work – thank you! Thank you for being you.
Lucky us!
Happy Holidays.

I am not a regular at this Starbucks, so I don’t know how genuine this acknowledgment of a special relationship feels. It’s a curious example of transparency, asking customers to care about whether or not the workers like their jobs or not, and it’s a curious example of localized empowerment. Does corporate really want individual stores making statements like “Starbucks is the same everywhere?”

What do you think? Is this believable or giddy holiday spirit from someone who used to work on the yearbook team in high school? Should Starbucks be encouraging or discouraging this sort of expression in their stores?

Veggie Tales

Two favorite topics – groceries and stories – collide when the NYT profiles a Cleveland-area grocery chain

“One of the things Whole Foods taught us is the need to tell stories” about our products, Mr. Heinen said. In fact, Heinen’s has 50 stories that it trains employees to tell customers about its meat, produce, baked goods and other items.

This month, Whole Foods took another step forward on this front, designating one employee from each store as a “value guru.” Those employees now give regular tours highlighting sales, local and seasonal items and popular selections from its private label brand.

With all the scaremongering over Americans not taking vacations this summer, perhaps the Whole Foods tour will be substituting?

The Donut World Tour, in progress

Without donuts being part of the plan when I travel, they seem to show up with some regularity. While Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts seek to provide a consistent experience across geographies, there are also very unique experiences available in the very same category. The notion of donut is rather broad and is reinterpreted in some engaging ways. There’s something about the pure pleasure of a donut that also invites a fun approach to all aspects of the experience: the flavors, the environment, the presentation, the messaging.

Here’s a few I’ve documented. Please leave recommendations for other donuts-shops-to-experience in the comments.

Randy’s Donuts, LA (Amazing site, donuts are pretty good)

Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland, OR: Rex Diablo and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (fun to choose, less to eat)

Murciano in The Marais, Paris (the best thing I’ve ever eaten)

Fractured Prune, Washington D.C. (didn’t get to try it)

Roti Donat, Bali, Indonesia (definitely not good)

Mister Donut sign and exterior, Taipei, Taiwan

Mister Donut Simpsons promotion, Kyoto, Japan (I don’t remember what I got but it was good!)

Fading Kitsch

A few months ago we saw a very cool Hollywood used car lot, Kay Kars, featuring rather poorly executed (and dated) film icons as enthusiastic decoration.

A mural along one wall featured Brando, Marilyn, Clint, and Arnold.

A banner along the street showed some of the same classic stars, as well as Bugs and the Three Stooges.

Meanwhile, an otherwise non-famous bunny encouraged potential shoppers to “Come On In”

A few months along, Kay Kars has either moved or closed down (the website describes their luxury car inventory; not likely the same business) and the empty lot is nothing but sad.

Update: Here’s the scene in February 2009:

Morale and milkshakes

From a strange article in the NYT about McDonald’s holding an employee-only American Idol-style singing competition (for reasons they don’t exactly make clear)

Employee contests with big prizes are nothing new in corporate America. McDonald’s has pitted stores and regions against one another to determine who makes the best shakes.

But I thought that shakes (sorry, not milkshakes) were identical from store to store, based on a standard recipe and ingredients. Then what do you compete on? Speed? Panache?

I Need Flunch

Came across Flunch when I was in Paris.

I guess it’s popular enough that two of their locations (above) are on the same block. I was amused at how ugly that name is in English, though. Flubber biscuit? Definitely not appealing to my culturally-based linguistic sense.


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