The Dread Of Going Shopping

On Saturday I visited a major outdoor clothing retailer. The experience confirmed why I dread shopping and got me wondering about the management thinking that underpins and drives the activities of sales assistants.

Much has been written about the changing role of the retail outlet in the context of increased online shopping. It seems apparent to me that there is a disconnect between the rhetoric of retail changing to suit changing shopping behaviours and the death grip of a pushy sales mentality.

Retail psychologists will recognise some of the irks I have. Firstly the experience of being mugged the moment you step across the threshold with the notionally friendly greeting of ‘are you alright there?’ . Whilst the content of the communication is friendly, it is socially inappropriate and is not an expression of interest in my welfare. It is a vacuous utterance from a shop employee who really wants to ask me if I’m going to buy anything from them. In that sense it is deceptive.

Talk about ‘processing’ customers as resources to extract their value. Step one open the ‘process’ with a technique that obliges people to say ‘yes’ because pop psychology tells us this is a good thing. Good for who? The customer?

Having resisted the urge to run out the store because my need to privately explore the product range I have been browsing on the Internet is stronger, I am then confronted with my ‘new best friend’. My new friend wants to follow me around the store to notionally help me but the ‘spider like’ attempt at constraining me in a silken cocoon of product feature verbiage is suffocating.

I just want to escape. I don’t want to be in the place. I don’t want to ‘helped’ to make a buying decision as if I’m suffering from a knowledge and capability disability.

When will retailers learn that sales assistants (sic) driven by an aggressive sales philosophy sugar coated with facile friendliness is bad for business?

People are going shopping for different reasons now. They are going informed and they are going to explore. In that exploring they will use their own capability as thinking adults to buy the product they want.

This was a black experience for me and one that might just stop me exploring the outdoor brand I like in that retail outlet even though the T shirts tell me I shouldn’t.

Goose Fair 2012 Customer Experience Without The Relationship?

The first week of October sees the arrival of the oldest traveling fair in the world to Nottingham. The Goose Fair is probably one of the amusement and entertainment industry’s biggest brands and yet it has formed over the years without the need for centralised brand management and the policing of style guides.

It is a confederacy of family sub-brands that coalesce at a particular time and a particular place to become a brand experience that thousands of people look forward to every year. Come Sunday the tangible evidence of the brand will dissolve as the showmen’s families and their rides go to the next place.

The relationship the visitors have with Goose Fair is interesting. The brand of Goose Fair lives on in the memories and imagination long after the fair has gone and long before is arrives again the following year.

No loyalty cards, no discounts no gimmicks, no effort devoted to forming lasting personal relationships between customer and ride owner. The only relationship that is formed is with the brand experience. A full sensory experience of sights sounds, smells and excitement that the showmen know works time and time again.

So does Goose Fair invite us to think differently about the way brands are portrayed in management text books? Would a style obsessed creative director enforce changes to the ‘look’ of the ride and kiosk artwork, would a zealous brand manager seek to homogenise the offer so that it fits with an over arching corporate ideal? And if they did then what?

The brand of Goose Fair has survived because of its loose configuration and a the delivery of very clear idea. Excitement and Fun. That if you like is the mission and the individual show people choose how to address that mission the way they feel is best. Maybe corporate entities could learn something from a brand that has survived for hundreds of years?

In the final analysis Goose Fair delivers. It doesn’t make vacuous promises about making you happy, fulfilling your dreams, promising you magic. Every year simply turns up and does it. People remember it and that’s why they keep coming back, and telling their friends and family.

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