Michael R. Solomon
Jul 17, 2018, 12:00pm
Source from Forbes
Activity stores like Build-A-Bear Workshop (despite its recent PR fiasco) hint at the potential for retailing co-creation to build shopper engagement — for adults as well. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images for Build-A-Bear)
Marketers these days hear so much about ROI that this simple acronym probably haunts them in their sleep. Sure, short-term return on investment is important, but perhaps also a bit shortsighted. In the long-term, there’s another kind of ROI marketers should dream about: Return on Involvement. The biggest marketing challenge today is how to engage the jaded or distracted (or both) shopper.
The Holy Grail is to create brand resonance where the product, service or store becomes part and parcel of the customer’s “life project,” i.e. it plays a key role that helps him or her to define some aspect of social identity. Sneakerheads who covet the latest Air Jordans understand this; as do iPhone aficionados, wine connoisseurs, MAC Cosmetics fanatics, Corvette collectors, loyal members of Beyoncé’s Beyhive, or hard-core Red Sox fans.
That’s all well and good for manufacturers. How can retailers maximize Return on Involvement as well? Can we also think about creating shopping resonance in addition to brand resonance?
There are several paths to resonance that I will cover in other columns, but let’s focus on one now: retailing co-creation. Sometimes this path goes by another name: The IKEA Effect. Researchers know that when we build something ourselves, the value we attach to it increases because our own labor is involved. Of course, there may also be that unsettling feeling when you finish assembling a bookcase and there’s still one part left over, but the pride of accomplishment lingers on…
We usually think about co-creation in the context of product design, where companies enlist their customers to suggest ideas for new items. For example, DeWALT supports an insight community of over 10,000 tool users who submit ideas.The co-creation model really made its mark in fashion following the success of the Threadless platform, where aspiring designers submit ideas that the community votes on.
The idea of crowdsourcing product design is an exciting new model that I’ve written about elsewhere. But we tend to forget that our co-creators (i.e. customers) don’t just want to brainstorm about cool new ideas with the companies they follow. They also want to get their hands dirty by participating in the literal creation of what they buy. And that bring us to co-creation at the point of purchase (aka the retailer). After all, in today’s “always on – click here” digital retail environment, what value-added does the physical store bring to the table? Hint: A lot, if you think about your store as more than a place to display and sell inventory.
As my Forbes colleague Nikki Baird pointed out last year, a few retailers such as the Samsung 837 concept store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District get the idea that shoppers want to actively engage when they browse. We can also point to a few other examples, but other than perhaps REI and a few other outdoor products retailers, most focus on keeping kids engaged rather than grownups (I’m looking at you, American Girl and Build a Bear).
Hey, adults want to do more than push a cart down the aisles also! As Carol Tice, another Forbes colleague noted, in the franchising world “paint ‘n sip” concepts are doing quite well. We also see a lot of “make your own pottery” places popping up around the country. Crafts retailers like Michaels Stores offer classes as well (again, mostly for kids).
Clearly, consumers like the idea of doing arts and crafts – and they’re willing to pay for the privilege. But painting while under the influence is only the potential tip of the iceberg. As many bricks-and-mortar retailers teeter near life support, why don’t more embrace the idea that the store is really an educational institution with a lot of “learning supplies” lurking about for “students” to buy?
These merchants might take a page from the rapidly growing DIY (do it yourself) trend. Analysts project that this market will grow by about 6% per year over the next several years. Lowe’s cleverly offers Upskill Workshops to teach people how to use all the tools they sell – but these take place in the stores’ parking lots and only at limited times. A great concept, but signing up for a scheduled class may eliminate many potential shoppers who aren’t quite motivated enough to build such activities into their calendars. Perhaps more spontaneous in-store – and hands-on – demonstrations will entice the more casual Harry (or Harriet) Homeowner to ramp up engagement with shopping for pliers and drywall.
The DIY craze is related to the Maker’s Movement consumer trend. A makerspace is a collaborative workspace inside a school, library or separate public/private facility to create, learn, explore and share. As part of this movement amateurs learn about electronics, 3D modeling and printing, 3D modeling, coding, and robotics, in addition to low-tech skills like woodworking.
Retailer can take a page from the flood of makerspaces that are opening to engage consumers. (Photo by Joerg Koch/Getty Images)
Typically a healthy dose of entrepreneurship gets thrown in as well, as makerspaces double as incubators for business startups. Some spaces such as TechShop are themselves turning into businesses, as they expand the number of locations where DIYers can access their sophisticated tools for a modest membership fee. Makerspaces already are pouring out success stories, such as DODO case that uses a space in San Francisco to build its popular line of covers for phones and laptops.
The notion of offering in-store activities is not new. But perhaps this approach needs to be taken to the next level to engage today’s jaded shopper. It’s great for a store like Williams-Sonoma to offer the occasional food sample or cooking demonstration – but what about a dedicated teaching kitchen and perhaps even a pseudo-game show like a version of Chopped that challenges contestants to best one another?
To be sure, there are some great early movers out there – several of them in Manhattan:
The Adidas store on New York’s Fifth Avenue provides a set of bleachers for customers to watch games on, a print shop where guests can customize clothing, and a miniature track where shoppers can field test their new kicks.
Casper on Broadway allows customers to check out mattresses the real way – they can actually close a door and take a nap on one.
Lululemon’s concept store offers a meditation studio and “Zen pods.”
Maybe more retailers can get inspired by these innovators and bring the experiential model to the heartland as well. When home furnishings customers can attend an in-store seminar on the history of design, collaborate on ideas for furniture designs, and perhaps watch a lucky shopper win a home makeover, we’ll know we are witnessing a real IKEA Effect.