retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Jon Collins:

Let me start with a thank you for a great read every morning. I had your site recommended to me by a contact offering insight into my hopeful transition from a not-for-profit marketing role to the private sector and I’ve found the daily read to be a true education.

I thought you’d find my coincidental encounter with what I see as a (modest, admittedly) customer experience misstep by the folks at Amazon to be of interest.

As a Canadian I read stories on Amazon's innovation with great interest but don't always have the chance to engage with the brand experience.

Last week, I was visiting Nashville, and had the chance to take in some outstanding country music and live my first Amazon brand activation experience. The "Treasure Truck" was parked across the street from our hotel. It was a simple set up - sign up for text alerts and be notified when the truck is on the road. Each time it parks at a new location and offers a unique product deal. Ours was the Alexa dot for $49.99.

The truck itself was on brand, and playing loud tunes through a speaker fit the bill for the product that they were selling. The sign that read "Alexa, play party music" was inviting, particularly for a friend who was sufficiently into party mode to follow its instruction. "Alexa, play Guy Clark" he shouted. No acknowledgement. After two or three tries, the sheepish staffer admitted - that won't work today, we're playing it on a Sony speaker.

Long story short, it was a bit of an eye opener. Even the best brands with a methodically designed activation can miss. I know that the Echo Dot is not a portable speaker, but surely a replacement product could be provided to activation staff to avoid the embarrassing admission that Alexa can't play Guy Clark. Paul Pace, who plays the opening show on Thursday’s at Rippy's on Broadway, sure did.

Thanks for the opportunity to share and again for providing great insights for both seasoned and aspiring retailers.

On a different subject, MNB reader Tom Jackson wrote:

I enjoyed your FaceTime piece  on outsourcing hiring for Front End Employees. What great companies  should do  is “ramp up”  their efforts for selecting front end  people. They should devote more time and attention to  this process.  Using  better recruiting, selection and especially onboarding  techniques would produce long term benefits to their company. I’m talking about more than one interview, more then one interviewer and certainly more than one day of “orientation.” Onboarding  is a commitment to  excellence and this is a critical step in building a “brand “. But, it all starts with a quality and comprehensive  selection process---“HIRE FOR ATTITUDE…TRAIN FOR SKILL”   You can’t outsource this, when you are creating and building a sustainable BRAND for your business!

Along the same lines, MNB reader Jim Huey wrote:

Kevin, I agree with you about outsourcing the last mile. Where I work one of my big frustrations is working with vendors (chips and soda) who do not have the same level of customer service dedication we have at the store. We do not have our own warehouse and have similar issues. Thankfully as we develop our last mile delivery (starting with curbside pickup) we are looking to do it ourselves.

Hopefully retailers are hearing your warnings, not just about delivery, but every aspect of their operations (unless of course they are in our markets).

Someone pointed out to me recently that on the subject of Instacart and the dangers of outsourcing customer-facing functions, I was beginning to sound like John the Baptist … and then I was reminded of how John the Baptist ended up.

Someone else asked me why I keep beating a dead horse. My response: “The horse ain’t dead yet.”

Metaphorically speaking, of course.
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