Day 2 @ KODW2014: Re-Humanizing The Retail Experience and Grocery Shopping On Subways
June 25, 2014
If you have ever cut out a photo of your jerky boss and pinned it to the dart board for target practise, I may have found the company of your dreams. The head honcho at Amenpapa—a clothing brand with a Christian slant, composed of bright tees & hoodies emblazoned with excerpts of biblical verses—just might be the nicest boss ever. "I want everyone to feel happy. We have a no-shoe rule at our corporate office. We wander about in slippers," says Leo Chan. He believes the happy work culture he tries to foster is a huge reason why his company is doing well—they now have four locations in Hong Kong, an outpost in Shanghai and a spot in the limelight (Sammi Cheng is a huge fan).
Sounds peachy, right? But what does Amenpapa's team management have to do with this year's Knowledge of Design Week (a five-day conference on innovation and design within hospitality and retail sectors)? Well, "retail innovation" is the theme of Day 2. After the boom of the virtual e-commerce world, retailers have realized that they need to re-humanize their physical sales environments to succeed in today's hyper competitive environment.
Kristian Jones, an exec at retail design firm Fitch, believes that re-humanizing retail environments can foster commercial success. During his seminar today, he stated that there is a big shakeup happening in the way consumers shop: the last 20 years in retail have focused on efficiency, which reduced the headcount of shopkeepers. He continues, "we expect the next few years to focus on re-humanizing retail based on consumer demand for higher service."
Proof of this, Jones says, can be found in his team's work with B&Q, a home decor chain. B&Q wanted to boost sales, and his team created a pilot store in China which experimented with an innovative new customer service plan.
To succeed, Jones says his team knew that they needed to gain consumer trust, because the general contracting industry in China had an awful reputation. Cases of home restoration companies promising customers a high-quality renovation only to pocket most of the cost and use cheaper, unsafe products—such as lead paint—were not uncommon at the time. Part of the new customer experience focused on hiring friendly, knowledgeable staff to educate shoppers about B&Q's various design and decor options, complete with a memory card to store their favourite layouts and furniture options. Jones says the pilot has been a resounding success and plans to convert other existing shops are under way.
A second theme in today's retail-focused seminars is the rise of content driven marketing. Bonnie Chan, CEO of marketing firm Icicle Group, discussed how brands that focus on educating consumers create brand loyalty and respect. Bloggers, vloggers and DIY tutorial-makers have emerged as powerful brand ambassadors. Chan says that one brilliant example of content advertising comes from American mega-retailer Wal-Mart, whose marketing team rolled out dozens of entertaining online videos on how to pick, marinate, prepare and grill the perfect steak. Chan says because Wal-Mart was handing out free advice and facts on steak, consumers were associating this positive experience with the Wal-Mart brand.
Rounding off the day was a fascinating case study by Misu Yi, an advertising exec from marketing firm Cheil Worldwide, which discussed how innovation in retail helped British supermarket chain Tesco (rebranded ‘Homeplus’ in Korea) successfully expand into the South Korean market. Since grocery shopping is widely considered a boring chore in South Korea, Cheil came up with an idea to make grocery shopping fun while pairing it with another mundane daily practice. While waiting on a subway platform, commuters could peruse vibrant, realistic photos of selected food items and select their purchases using their smartphones—the goods would be delivered later that day. The award-winning campaign was an instant hit and even spawned numerous rip-off campaigns. Too bad there isn't also an app for cooking the delivered produce—yet.