The retail experience, done well

Seth Godin says:

This is dumb, and the web makes it obvious why it’s dumb. It’s dumb because it makes it easier for the clerk, not for the customer. And dumb because it plays to the label’s ego, not to ours.

Does anyone say, “okay, even though my son wears size large boxers, these striped ones are really nice, I’ll buy the small instead.” Of course not.

So why not put all the large boxers right next to each other, regardless of designer and style?

When you go to Home Depot to get what you need to build something out of wood, why don’t you find the glue and the wood saws and the screwdrivers and the screws all together in a section called, “working with wood”?

Just by chance, I was at a retailer which has already taken Seth’s advice on the weekend. They have departments based on function: you can get most items from different departments, but anything you need for a particular function will be grouped together. All your bedroom needs are in one location – and most of those are also available in the storage department, or the household organisation department, or the bathroom department, or…

They work on “add-on” selling too: the bookshelf I was interested in is demonstrated in store in a wide variety of settings: in some places it has plastic boxes on the shelves, in other places wicker baskets, in other cases sets of drawers or a door. In some places it holds books, in some places it holds knick-knacks (all available for sale at Ikea of course). It’s in lounge rooms in some places, bedrooms in other places.

The shop is, of course, Ikea.

They have plenty of other remarkable features too: a restaurant with cheap, but quality, food – including bottles of baby food, and signs encouraging breast feeding. There are trolleys with child seats; baby-change tables in both mens and womens toilets, and even baby seats on the back of cubicle doors (yes, even in the mens!) so that you don’t have to leave your baby for an instant. What other store do you know of that goes to such lengths to make the shopping experience for a young family so easy?

Even Ikea’s marketing messages are spot-on. They have posters explaining why their goods are flat-packed. There’s no handwaving, or vague statements about things being “better for you and us” this way. Instead, there’s a direct statement to the effect that “It lowers the cost you have to pay”. It’s direct, it’s blunt – and it unequivocally lays out the benefit to the consumer in terms that Ikea’s target market care about.

Every time I go to Ikea, I see yet another sign that they understand their target market, and that they’re relentless about making sure that their target market has the best possible experience while in the Ikea store. It’s getting disturbing: I almost want to give them money I don’t have just because I see them doing such a good job at trying to take my money off me.

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