The requirements for retail have changed considerably. The convenience of online shopping and drastic shifts in the way we discover products have long threatened the existing retail model, and it feels almost trite to say that retailers now recognize the need to seriously update the blueprint. On top of this, the recent global lockdown has further altered the way we interact with stores. It’s taught us that having a slick online operation is paramount and will be for the foreseeable future, but it has also taught us that little compares to the thrill of connecting with a brand in real life. Investing in a retail experience that engages customers at every touchpoint is more important than ever as we emerge into a new normal.
Creating a retail experience that will effectively help your brand not only survive in a rapidly changing climate but also grow and reach new customers, goes far beyond plonking an experiential offer into your shop for the sake of it – not every ground floor needs a cafe and not every beauty department needs a nail salon.
We believe that the route to developing an experience that is right for your brand and benefits the business lies in asking yourself “what ‘job’ is my customer hiring me to do and how will my retail space help get the job done?”
Explaining the jobs to be done framework
You may already be familiar with the ‘jobs to be done’ (JTBD) framework in relation to creating better products and services. The framework challenges the idea that in order to get to the heart of what your customer ultimately needs you must understand their characteristics – age group, interests, economic status, etc. Instead, the JTBD framework asks not who the customer is, but why they are shopping in the first place – what job the customer needs to get done. Brands can then make themselves better placed to help the customer complete the job at hand, in turn making it more likely that they will be ‘hired’.
What applying the framework means
Too many retailers are focused on the service or products they are already developing, rather than on how they can answer a customer’s wider needs. The JBTD framework can enable retailers to diversify and grow. Apple is a great case in point. When it was introduced, the iPod was a groundbreaking way to listen to music, but the company was smart enough to realize that the iPod was simply doing a job i.e. enabling the customer to listen to music on the go. Apple continued to develop new technology and products to help do this job for its customers, enter the iPhone, exit the iPod and continues to be dominant in the marketplace for portable devices when people have long since moved on from mp3 players.
Much as Apple applied the framework to redefine the personal devices sector ten years ago, we believe it can be equally powerful when applied to retail today. Rather than simply being a channel, a place to shift goods, the JTBD framework allows companies to think innovatively about how the retail environment can play a much bigger role in growing the business by attracting new customer groups or creating completely new revenue streams.
When considering how to create an experience that gets the job done for your customers, ask yourself the following questions.
Who has the buying power?
Think about the customers that will come through your doors, the person with the buying power may not necessarily be the person the product is aimed at. For instance, a men’s tailoring store may need to cater to the customer’s partner almost as much as it does for him, and a toy shop is perhaps less about selling to children as it is about making their parents feel comfortable.
A strong example of this comes from Neobio in China. Less of a toy store, more of an adventure playground/ family leisure space, Neibo’s family park provides a safe environment for children to play in whilst their parents go off to shop, grab a coffee or visit the hairdresser. A visual feast for the eyes, and with none of the sticky grossness associated with a usual creche, it’s truly a space that parents will feel comfortable to dwell in themselves. Ultimately Neibo is being hired to help parents relax.
How can my staff elevate the experience?
In the age of ultra-convenient shopping, a real differentiator in retail is the staff. The un-automated, human-to-human interaction they provide is vital to increasing brand affinity and creating memorable experiences. Staff should therefore not be limited to behind-the-counter roles but empowered to deliver a high-value experience that in itself is a reason to visit the store. The Financial Times puts it well, “Brands need to create a culture where everyone is responsible for the success of the business. By empowering employees to deliver above and beyond, brands can create a truly powerful brand ethos and service-oriented culture.”
Sports apparel brand Lululemon has effectively done this with its Regent Street flagship where the staff is also fitness ambassadors that lead in-store classes, such as yoga and pilates, and take customers on runs through the city – all for free. Customers are hiring Lululemon to get them fitter and healthier, therefore the staff has an important and active role in getting this job done. In-store, a counter-free iPad pay system means they are free to walk around the store and engage with customers in a barrier-less setting.
How to harness the power of new digital technologies?
The coronavirus pandemic has forced all companies to reassess what role digital plays in their business. Technology has never served a more vital role in keeping businesses afloat and ensuring we can stay connected as humans. It, therefore, feels more necessary than ever to ensure that digital is not simply an in-store add-on or gimmick, but serves a real function and is engrained in the retail strategy. Furthermore, when used correctly, the digital tech should not be something cumbersome that creates more work for sales staff, it should enable human-to-human interaction by freeing up their time so that they can provide a higher level of service.
Leading beauty retailer, Sephora, has created a succinct retail experience by combining (the often siloed) online and physical retail teams. This has enabled the brand to create comprehensive customer profiles that track the whole customer journey from online browsing, to using in-store digital interactions and to purchasing with sales representatives. This digital-first approach ensures the in-store digital interactions, such as virtual mirrors and AI sales assistants, are not an afterthought but truly useful for the customer as they offer a personalized service, helping them get the job done more efficiently.
How should I measure success? ROI and profitability
Does your retail space need to sell products to be successful? Rather than focus on the rather restrictive assessment of ‘money in V money out’ why not think about profitability in terms of return on experience (ROX). This more flexible measurement captures a holistic view of the influence and effects that your retail experience may have on the overall growth of the business.
This measurement better helps businesses understand the value they are getting on investments, both for themselves and for their customers. By freeing specific retail experiences of the need to turn a profit, you may be better able to implement the JTBD framework.
Casper mattress’s ‘Dreameries’ are not showrooms full of mattresses but spaces where people can book in for a nap in a cozy sleep pod and try out the brand’s products with zero pressure to buy anything. In a market where Casper’s direct-to-consumer, mattress-in-a-box USP is no longer unique, this move into physical experiences makes complete sense. Casper has aligned itself with the ever-growing wellness sector and gone from being a single-product brand to a company that you can hire for a better night’s sleep. As Founder Neil Parikh said to the New York Times, he wants Casper to become the ‘Nike of Sleep’. Parikh goes on to say that they have, “assembled a sleep advisory board of notable sleep experts that will advise Casper’s 500 employees on how to sleep better so that they, in turn, can better advise customers at the company’s stores.”
Ultimately surviving in retail today requires you to think differently about the role of the store; it’s not about ‘how can I sell?’ But rather; ‘what role do I play in my customers’ lives? The jobs to be done framework should free you to think about your footprint as a flexible asset. What else might you do when you have a physical presence on the high street? When, why, and how might customers choose to visit it?