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Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

One of the things we talk a lot about here on MNB is how critical it is for bricks-and-mortar stores - if they want to compete effectively with each other, and with e-commerce companies - to provide a compelling experience. They have to have experiences that used to be fairly mundane and inject them with energy and make them special.

I got another reminder of how important this is the other day when I was in Grand Rapids to speak at Western Michigan University’s annual Food Marketing Conference.

When I landed at the Grand Rapids airport, I did what I usually do in such circumstances - I went on the Lyft app and requested a car. When it came, I sat up front with the driver and we ended up having a great conversation. It so happened that he was a local independent food retailer who drives a Lyft car to make extra money, and we talked about the industry, the conference and his stores.

One of the things he bemoaned was how much trouble he has in hiring good people, and he said that there are times he has to hire six people just to get one good one. I respectfully suggested that maybe he needed to ask different questions. But it was a good conversation, and a lot better than taking a cab.

Even better was the Lyft I took from the hotel back to the airport a couple of days later. The young woman who drove the car was a delight - she told me about being born in South Korea, the daughter of an American serviceman and what she called “a lady of the night.” She was abandoned, living on the streets and stealing food as she got older, and then was arrested - which ended up being lucky, since a woman there took pity on her and decided to do her best to get her adopted rather than sending her back into a system that probably would have ended with her being in her mother’s profession. She ended up being adopted by an American couple, and has enjoyed a good life in Michigan.

It was an amazing story … and her feelings of gratitude about the life she’d been able to lead, and hoped to lead in the future, just made me feel good about the kind of country we can be - welcoming and offering possibilities to anyone who wants to come here.

And again, I was grateful to Lyft for making it happen.

It used to be that getting into a cab was nothing special, but the creation of services like Lyft has personalized it and elevated it to another level. The ride isn’t just a ride … it is a story.

That’s an important lesson for any retailer … or at least any retailer that wants to transcend the ordinary. Shopping can be just shopping, or it can be turned into a narrative that touches consumers hearts and minds. That’s a move worth making.

That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.


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