AmericanHort hosted a day at Columbus’ high-end outdoor mall, Easton Town Center, giving garden retailers insight to what its consumer and store design research, SHIFT, looks like in action.
are some of the standout ideas we saw:
A store with a cause attracts passionate employees and elevates its products. Lush, a store that specializes in soaps of all kinds, had a steady stream of consumers going in and buying expensive soap. It may sell a seemingly simple product, soap (although in many forms, from a bath bubbler — think Alka Seltzer for your tub — to shampoo in the form of a solid bar, or just old-fashioned hand soap), but customers saw it as much, much more.
The walls had hand-written messages about no animal testing, about everything sold having a “handmade touch,” and several other messages, despite the stores small footprint (maybe 600 square feet. Maybe.). The sales staff were alert and welcoming, and had bowls with pitchers of water near by in several spots in the store so they could demonstrate their products right away.
As they used a scrub on your hand, washing and rinsing you, they talked not only about the product, but also about how awesome they thought their store was for living by a credo they believed in.
Our take away? You can’t buy passion. But you can earn it.
Good merchandising creates a rapport with customers. Anthropologie understands its customers, and everything in the store, including its merchandising, reflects that customer. That means when they walk in, they immediately feel at home and relax. Products presented in the midst of these displays immediately seem more likely to work for them, because the store obviously gets who they are.
Anthropologie makes no bones about its customer: she’s well traveled, well read, and creative. She likes to garden. And the displays reflect that. There were several live plants around the stor
e, included a decently sized terrarium with ferns eating up valuable square footage.
Although you could tell there were several expensive fixtures in the store, there were also many, many creative displays made from ordinary items: garlands made from yarn and deflated purple balloons that looked like flower garlands from afar; an undulating wave suspended from a ceiling that turned into hundreds of blue painted clothes pins on closer inspection. And having the ordinary transformed so beautifully appeals to the creativity in customers who love getting ideas from Pinterest.
Even more impressive was the sign on the door customers would see on their way out. It invited customers to learn how to make store displays from ordinary objects at an upcoming class. And they spelled out which materials were going to be used: 4,000 twist ties; 1,000 pencils; 1,500 envelopes; 500 straws; and 500 coffee filters. Our best guess is that those classes will actually be free labor for Anthropologie.
Recruit influential people to be your ambassadors. Today’s consumers stand under a waterfall of information pouring onto them. They’re deluged with all the internet channels, social media links, not to mention the more traditional formats of TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines. So personal recommendations arguably have more value today than they ever had before.
Lululemon, the yoga supply store, has hit on a brilliant solution: its ambassador program. It recruits local yoga instructors to act as ambassadors. They will get free Lululemon products, and in exchange the ambassadors hold classes at the store, usually on Sundays.
It sends its current staff into the community, attending yoga classes and observing how various instructors interact with their students. Those that have a special touch, who understand how to teach and set a welcoming tone for students, go onto a short list of possible ambassadors.
Once they decide to invite someone to be an ambassador, the staff make it special. Think elaborate proposals. There are gifts, there’s a public popping of the question, and the invitee announces his or her new status as an ambassador to all their peers.
Lululemon also holds a photo shoot for each ambassador, who become the main imagery in each store.