23 September 2009

Experience by Design

Ask a successful retailer, or any successful business owner, and they will tell you that experience matters. But don't just assume that only means the experience of the sort you or your employees bring to the job or running of your business. Another type of experience matters just as much and it is part science, part art and all by design.

The experience of which I am speaking is what your customers, or even the casual passerby, encounter as they walk past your store or establishment. What's in the windows? Does it capture their attention? Does it beckon them to peak inside, or does it send them scurrying a little quicker down the walk?

Once someone walks in, what greats their senses? How are they treated? Are they drawn to act, maybe to sample a fine chocolate and inquire "what makes you unique?" Hotel Chocolat (pictured right) provided me such an inspiration this evening. Somewhat new to the area (Newbury Street), a bicycle and basket brimming their product is perched in the window with a bright interior adding a pop to the display, which is actually still under construction. As I walked in I was instantly greeted by a staffer who warmly welcomed me to try a sample of their chocolates. As I sampled and asked "what makes you different, better?" she smiled and offered an informed and genuinely enthusiastic pitch that truly became a conversation as we spoke of the best ways to use certain chocolates for baking.

After perusing the store further I decided to try one of the recommended chocolates to bake with and another treat, Kirsch (Brandy) soaked cherries covered in dark chocolate. As I was ringing out I complemented the staffers on their new store and the displays. They were most gracious, and noting my interest they shared their idea for putting the bicycle outside as a prop to offer samples to the passerby. They inquired if I was local to the area, and upon discovering that I was, encouraged me to drop back by to share with them my opinion on the Kirsch Cherries and to perhaps enjoy a tasting of other treats they have. (UPDATE - After getting home, the significant other and I are both agreed...the Kirsch Cherries are fantastic!)
You don't have to be a boutique chocolate retailer on a trendy shopping street to provide an amazing retail experience by design...
That is what I would call experience by design. Of course, you don't have to be a boutique on a trendy shopping street such as Newbury to get this right. Oop! in downtown Providence and nearby Craftland, are also great examples by design, both physically and in their business model. Take a look at the photos below. Any guesses why?


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