Skip to main content

The power of touch.

We’re supposed to be hurtling toward an age where all business is done through ones and zeros, with sales and service more efficiently handled online.

To be sure, we see many examples where this is producing a better outcome for marketers and their customers. Witness iTunes vs. Tower Records, Netflix vs. Blockbuster, Amazon vs. Barnes & Noble or Expedia vs. your neighborhood travel agent.

But this rush to virtual selling is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for all categories and marketers. Some recent examples illuminate our desire to see, touch and feel products, and how the best service is often carried out face to face.

What got me thinking about this is Microsoft’s announcement that it is opening retail stores, with the first launching in Scottsdale and Orange County. Like Apple stores, these outlets will sell hardware and software and offer technical support for people who are proud to be a “PC.”

And speaking of Apple, reports suggest that its stores generate more revenue per square foot than any retailer in the country. What more need be said about the power of a strong retail concept?

Recently, General Motors took the bold step in California to sell its cars on eBay. Great idea, lousy results. Turns out people prefer coming into the dealership to haggle. (I’ve witnessed this dynamic before in automotive research. Customers say they hate haggling but don't want to accept a fixed pricing model.)

Best Buy, a client of BD’M, has a strong online sales channel but knows that its key source of differentiation and repeat business is the knowledge and objectivity of its “blue shirts” working the store aisles.


Jyske Bank, Denmark's third largest bank, represents one of the most famous case studies on the power of a unique retail experience. Jyske re-imagined their savings and checking services as physical "products" to make them tangible and clear and evoke an emotional connection. They created that special "third place" -- a haven that is neither home or work -- that has been the secret sauce behind Starbucks' success. The result? Ad Age reported that Jyske Bank doubled its customer base in one year by improving loyalty while attracting new customers.

I am fortunate enough to have earned United’s double-secret “Global Services” status from our client. The aspect of the service I value most (other than the really cool black card!) is the GS hotline where the phone is answered by a real, empowered person before I even hear the first ring. While not an example of brick and mortar, it is another way to give customers the satisfaction of real and helpful interaction, not automated voice prompts.

The lesson to be learned may be that we are a prisoner of our vocabulary. Brick and mortar. Click and mortar. Retailing vs. e-tailing. Perhaps it's simply about the reassurance customers get from real live human interactions. That can happen in a store. That can also happen online via “click to chat.” Either way, it has to happen. I think we’re starving for true contact.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What makes a premium brand premium?

I was thinking the other day about the DNA of premium brands . One thing is certain -- it's a relative idea. For example, Hyatt is not a premium brand if you're used to staying at a W or a Ritz Carlton. But if your vacations to date have been holed up in a Holiday Inn, then by all means a stay in a Hyatt is a premium experience. Another thing is certain -- a brand is considered premium only when we believe it is worth the price. And that's where we can dig deeper. Why are we willing to pay more for a product when there are others that provide the same service or function at a lesser price? I have spent a good part of my marketing career developing strategies and ideas for a wide range of  premium brands, including American Express, Sony, Callaway Golf, Hilton, Jaguar, Land Rover – even the Toyota Prius.  Through these experiences I have come to believe that a premium brand is built upon specific tangible and intangible attributes that give it a sense wort

Zen and the art of an EV roadtrip.

I remember the anxiety I had when I cut the cord and switched from Cable TV to streaming.   Could I still watch live sports? Would I get all my favorite programs? Sure enough, with YouTube TV, the answer was a resounding yes to both questions.   Now I’m cutting a new cord — the gas pump — as I take my new Mustang Mach-E on a cross-country trip.   And like the time I cut Cable TV, I'm experiencing the same questions.  Will it have the range for a long drive?  Will I waste hours recharging along the way? Well, today is Day 1 on the Mach-E's first ever long distance drive , as we say farewell to Detroit and head to La Quinta.   For those of you thinking about buying an EV, I’ll be sharing daily posts to help alleviate so-called “range anxiety.”   (Trust me, in pressing the start button this morning, I’m taking a big trust-fall to shed the comfy muscle memory of ICE vehicles.) Today’s cool feature:   The FordPass app which plans the route and most efficient charge points, then send

Super game. Dull ads

As a passionate Giants fan it is safe to say that I had a good time yesterday. But as an advertising professional I felt a bit underwhelmed by the caliber of the advertising . Many were entertaining. But few possessed that intangible Super Bowl-ness...big, pop-cultural, fun. Even fewer seemed to have anything relevant to say about the brand, such as the Planters "uni-brow" spot. I loved the Bridgestone "screaming animals" spot, but it would have been a much better spot for the Saab featured in the spot than the tires the car rode upon. As for Bud, good spots, but I've seen the dog and horse thing before. Tide's talking stain was funny, but did it have Super Bowl-ness? My fav? The Coke "balloon float" spot. It was classic Coke (for Coke Classic). Big. Entertaining. Unexpected twist. Utterly charming. And Charlie Brown finally won something. Coke is about smiles. And that spot was just that. The Audi spot that I wrote about last week