retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The journey toward building a better consumer experience can come in the strangest ways. For instance, try this:

Imagine you are at home and have to discipline a somewhat messy child. Over and over again you say the same phrase: GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM

Even if you aren’t a parent, you know that phrase is going to be ignored. For many kids, hearing that line endlessly repeated is reminiscent of the teacher’s voice in the old Charlie Brown cartoons: wah, wah, wah, wah…

Now take a different approach (and you can do this at your desk if no one is around.) Each time you say the phrase, change the inflection. GO clean your room. Go CLEAN your room. Go clean YOUR room. Go clean your ROOM. Sounds different, doesn’t it?

We often talk here about storytelling as critical to customer connections, but the reality is that most of us aren’t storytellers. So we need learn ways to do it better and that’s where the “go clean your room example” matters. We need to become engaging with our stories.

I was reminded of this by two recent incidents. The first was a music presentation I attended this weekend with members of the US Air Force Concert Band. One master sergeant used the “clean your room” example to teach the young musicians the importance of emphasis and creating a difference.

As he explained, changing emphasis and inflection keeps the audience engaged in the music and breathes life and excitement into the score.

There was a similar example in Chelsea Ware's "Millennial Mind" column yesterday on MNB, profiling two interesting businesses in Portland, Oregon. As she explained, one company seems to have greater success with repeat business by constantly mixing new flavors into its mix of ice creams. The other constantly draws newcomers with its mix of unusually flavored doughnuts, but doesn’t give those people a reason to come back again and again because the flavors are constant.

Now think about your business and your consumers. Surely no one is suggesting you wildly smash the routine of the shopping trip. Constantly shifting shelf positions or product assortment will produce chaos for you and lots of grumpy shoppers.

But that doesn’t mean you should be boring either. You need find ways to constantly spice up the ordinary whether with sampling, recipe programs, exciting displays and more. Grocery shopping may be a weekly chore for many shoppers, so the job of creating variety and innovating is even more critical.

The last thing you want in your store is: wah, wah, wah…

The challenge is to find a way to tell your story in a way that’s exciting, interesting and important to your shoppers. It doesn’t necessarily mean offering guacamole-flavored ice cream (as Chelsea described an innovation by Portland's Salt & Straw) or maybe it does. Maybe it involves displaying items shoppers see every week and showing them how to use or serve them in new and different ways.

That’s the reason my wife and I have been eating roasted vegetables for the past month. It took one sample station and suddenly we are hooked!

Tell your story and tell it well. Tell it with emphasis and excitement and who know what may come next. Maybe some added sales and repeat customers.

That's what you'd call a happy ending.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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