In part one of a six-part series by Green Room Design, the company's chief creative officer, Mike Roberts, says invest in human experience.
What if I asked you to join me for a wander through Knightsbridge, London, to take a look at some of the stores, perhaps have a little retail therapy along the way? Would you be excited? Inspired? Maybe yes, but probably not really. How about if I said: 'Come with me to step into an emporium of magic, hand pick from luxury designs to create your own exclusive personalised gifts, then enlighten your taste buds by indulging in a luxurious afternoon tea.' Sounds a little different doesn’t it? This is how Harrods encourages its customers to visit their store.
Open All Hours
For those of a certain age, the character of Arkwright in the BBC 80s comedy sitcom Open All Hours, starring Ronnie Barker, epitomises all that is good about our nation of shopkeepers. Arkwright not only sold everything needed, he knew each and every one of his customers. Nirvana for most retailers today? Not quite. Retail has largely gone unchanged for over 100 years; if Harry Selfridge or Joseph Bloomingdale were to walk into one of their eponymous stores today I’m sure they would feel right at home. For decades, price, product and availability were the watchwords. Not any longer; because a new realisation is sweeping through the industry. In an age when consumers are becoming ever more demanding, always connected and able to broadcast their feelings and thoughts, whenever and wherever they might be, a new dynamic is rapidly emerging.
As Boxpark CEO Roger Wade puts it, 'Retail is all about emotions. Not seeing, feeling and interacting with merchandise makes buying online like watching fireworks on TV.' And whilst online continues to dominate many of the headlines, this neatly sidesteps the fact that all consumers also happen to be human beings. And as humans we are increasingly seeking human-centred experiences.
What It Means To Be Human
To be human means to have our own feelings and emotions, to be individuals and to seek to be treated as such, and more than ever as consumers, we are seeking an emotional journey, not merely a transaction. Where is this most keenly on display today? A look back at recent Christmas TV ad campaigns is revealing, big budget retailers increasingly focus less and less on product; opting instead to communicate with their audience on an emotional level, prompting feelings of family, togetherness, giving, sharing – even tears. Everything, in other words, which makes us human. But why would upsetting your audience in any way attract them to your brand? The answer: pure genius. It is that emotional journey, the human-centred approach which is core to changing the way we feel about brands.
Joining The Dots
Whilst virtually every retail brand is still grappling with the challenge of delivering true personalised experiences – which should be relevant, meaningful and add value – global consumer expectations – are both diverse and rapidly shifting. Fed by a variety of influences, we now expect brands to not only know about our lives and our lifestyles, but to be able to put that into practice to deliver real value to us.
But here’s the thing; we are all human, so although we have that high expectation, we are extremely difficult to predict. We are volatile, impulsive, contrary, quirky, irrational and often aren’t fully aware of the influences around us; our subconscious doing much of the decision making. How the senses and emotions affect decision making – the psychology of consumer behaviour – is therefore key to understanding how and why someone shops with one brand and not another.
And it is our shopping behaviour - why we are motivated to buy the things we do – which plays such a key part in retail success or failure. Not only that, but if this behaviour could be altered or influenced, just think of the benefits this could bring to a brand.
Much is written about experiential retail today, however it must always be humans first, technology second. In the lemming like rush to ‘digitise’ the store – it appears that many retailers are forgetting the one simple truth; that not only are we human, but that we seek an easy, simple and straightforward path to purchase. The journey must be pleasant, exciting and, dare I say it with a little fairy dust judiciously sprinkled here and there – it can become magical. But it must never become complex or cumbersome, or downright confusing.
Begin with digital first and the latter is created. Begin with human emotions and an entirely different and wonderful experience can
Embrace Fresh Thinking
With so much today being spoken and written about how digital technology can create a great consumer experience, it is easy to forget that we are human first and foremost. And with that comes all the emotion and senses that we possess as wonderful, unpredictable human beings. Therefore, it takes a new perspective in order to create a great human-centred experience:
a) Think of your brand as a person
b) Create emotional connections through employing the right senses
c) Build a relationship through the different moments
So, if you’re seeking the best in human experience, embrace fresh thinking and a new best practice for tomorrow. Let the journey begin.