I <3 Pet Store Signage

An impromptu stop at my local Pet Supply Plus reminded me of how much I love simple graphics. And pet stores, with their categorization by pet type is a no-brainer for fun icon driven way finding graphics. Other chains such as Petsmart and PetCo are just as adept at this. It makes shopping for pet supplies, and pets for that matter, more fun in my opinion.

In PSP they use simple one color (plus white) graphics with pet icons and simple copy such as “CAT”. In a world with overwrought design direction it’s refreshing to see something so simple make it to retail, creating a pool of calm in what would otherwise be a visually clamorous environment.

Breathe.

Ahh…

The store also had a cool community themed endcap, which presumably is customized based on each store location. DO THIS IN YOUR STORE!!! Our research shows that people want a better sense of community in their lives. This endcap is just an example. Do what is right for your store and your community…a coffee desk, amp’d up bulletin board, in-line display…inside…outside…but do something to break away from the big-box photocopy mode.

Lastly I’ll pick on all retailers for a minute. There was a neat Kurgo display that obviously someone spent a lot of great effort and money on, only to be marred by a bunch of repetitive paper call outs on the scanner plates. I don’t know what the answer is but please why do we have to do this. Maybe an extruded price strip across all the hooks and alternate between price and a “new” callout. Maybe don’t use white on the callouts, maybe black or chocolate to match in store, or blue or orange to match the brand. This is 100% just me though and my need for organization and simplicity. So don’t get too worked up over it.

The Kurgo display was pretty rad though with its subtle topographical easter egg on its shroud that keen eyes will delight in discovering. I’d love to find out how they did that (both made it and got it past the bean counters).

I love chain pet stores as a source of inspiration, especially for graphic design and way finding. Think about including them in your pool of resources for inspiration on your next brand or retail project.

And you can always pick up some food for your furry friend while you’re at it.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is a retail experience expert, lover of simple design solutions, and a cat person. His views are his own and he receives no compensation for give products, brands and retailers a shout out. Where he and his firm do get compensation is from bring awesome retail solutions to you. Contact Chris today to discuss your needs – store interior, store within a store, pop up, displays, fixtures….he and his team can help your brand create delightfully awesome retail experiences. 330-858-8926 or chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

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Retail Resolutions for 2015

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

RF Image from Corbis © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis

Ten Retail New Year’s Resolutions You Can Make in 2015

It’s that fun time of year when we enjoy making lists for the new year. All the stuff we’re going to do, not do, or do better now that we’ve got a clean slate. I’m not immune from list making, so I thought I’d share ten retail related things I think are worth doing in 2015, to help make your retail experience the best it can be. They may not be monumental, or even new, but they are worth considering in the new year (every year really).

1) Create A Website For Your Business

I don’t care if you’re a name brand, a local shop or a plumber: you need an online presence. There are plenty of DIY website providers that have simple to use templates. Often they can host your site, provide you with a domain name, and an email address. For less than a couple hundred dollars a year, everyone will be able to find you, learn about your business, and know how to get in contact with you. Get at least one page up on the internet with your information. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. If you still don’t want to be bothered, sites like Facebook allow you to set up an online presence basically for free.

2) Start A Store 

Are you selling online? Take a stab with a physical retail space. Pop-up stores are becoming ubiquitous. These little temporary shops can be rented for short periods of time, sometimes for the day, and are usually found in high traffic areas that are favored by hip young shoppers. Often all you’ll need is your product, some in store marketing (i.e. signs) and your sales hat. Check out websites such as The Store Front to get started.

Do you have a physical store? Add a shop to your website, or get a free or  low-cost shop online on sites like Etsy (for art, antiques and crafts) where you can sell your goods.

3) Define Your Brand

Whether you’re new or you’ve been selling for a while now, try to take a look (or hire someone to take an unbiased look) at your business and your brand. Why do you exist? Answer that and then let that guide every decision you make about your retail business. And throw out anything that doesn’t add value to your answer; everything that does not contribute to your purpose. Understand your strengths compared to your competition and leverage those. Don’t be something you’re not. Customers want products from brands who have a clear vision of who they are. Insert obligatory Apple or Nike example here.

4) Omni-channel Sync

You’ve got a brand, your store and an online presence. That’s a good omni-channel retail experience. Now sync them all. Make sure your message is consistent, consistent, consistent…at every touch point consumers have with you. And constantly examine and rework any areas that are falling short. If you don’t have the time, then hire an expert in retail design, search engine optimization, graphic or web design to help you out. Subconsciously consumers can tell when you’re sending mixed signals, which can translate to lost sales.

5) Understand Your Customer

Consumers change whether you like it or not. Even if you have a highly specialized customer base that you think is impervious to the changing world, it is still important to make sure you understand their wants and needs. Advances in technology now allow customers to shop from any store in the world. Even die-hard loyal customers will peek around every once in a while just to make sure they’re getting what they want. Leave nothing to chance. Identify customer needs and provide top-notch customer service and goods. If you need help researching customers, market and trends, there are a plethora of professional resources out there that specialize in retail research. And don’t be afraid to go in a new direction if that is what your retail business demands.

6) De-clutter 

Yes, everyone loves the charm of hunting and pecking through an antique store. But unless you’re an antique store take a look at your retail environment and try to straighten things up a bit. Last year I was in a clothing shop and I could barely move between fixtures places a foot apart. It drove me crazy just being in the store. Yes some customers don’t mind, but then why even bother with all the fancy displays and fixtures; why not just put out cardboard boxes for them to rummage through? That would save you a lot of money.

Using your brand mission as a guide look at every element: fixtures, signage, props, product, way finding. Make sure everything speaks to your overarching message, but also make sure guests can navigate and shop in a clear, fun, rewarding manner. For example, if you’re stuck with an eclectic collection of metal fixtures, paint them all the same color to create some consistency. Create aisles that can be navigated at the very least. The retail experience is why you’re selling your items in a store instead of from a shoebox on the sidewalk. Good design, a good retail experience, does not cost any more than a dismal experience, and it will make you more money in the long run. Know when to bring in outside help if necessary. It’s not always a DIY type of project.

7) Get Flexible

You need tools that work for you in your retail space. While it’s fun to peruse catalogs, or buy props, simplify your display and fixture offering by utilizing flexible merchandising systems. Typically they share parts, are easy to tailor to your changing retail landscape (once you figure out how they go together) and they help give some consistency to your visual merchandising. Even if you’re using all found objects, use items that can be used in a variety of ways. A crate that can be a table, box or seat maybe. And if you can swing for new fixtures, make sure they all use the same accessories so you can mix up your merchandising as the year progresses. Modular display systems should be “updatable” as well, so as styles change you can switch wood tones, graphics or color accents.

8) Amp Up Visual Impact

Graphics (i.e. signage) is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to amp up your retail experience. Large format graphics attract from far away. Good way finding helps guests find departments and products. A consistent signage package is an extension of your brand message. You can now direct print onto virtually any substrate including wood and glass. And printing has become very environmentally sustainable. As a subset of visual impact, if you don’t want a ton of signs in your store, utilize awesome store window displays, and props to get your message across. Lastly, let your product and it’s packaging sing. No need for the display to fight the product or retail experience.

9) Store Within A Store

Creating a boutique retail experience has always been a great way to generate interest and help guests navigate. A large percentages of our projects are these types of projects. Pick a brand in your store, such as a purse manufacturer if you’re running an apparel store, and allocate a specific area for that product. Amp it up with special displays, flooring, lighting, and signage. And feel free to change these areas out seasonally or tailer areas for different brands. Go to any big box or department store (such as JC Penny with their in house Sephora shop) and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Regardless of your store size, and even if you’re only on-line, you can set up an enriching store within a store experience.

10) Have Fun

Ultimately figure out why you’re in retail and pursue the things that make you and your customers happy. Try different things. Challenge conventional thinking. And have fun.

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a full service retail design agency that specializes in designing interiors, displays, fixtures, packaging and graphics for retail stores. They also provide expert retail market research and environmental sustainability consultation services. Chris has designed retail solutions for retailers such as Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, and product companies including American Greetings, Valspar, Step2, Flambeau Products, and Energizer.

No project is too large or small. We add value to your business through design expertise, and provided you with the expertise you need, allowing you to focus on your business. Contact us today at (330) 858-8926 or visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information

We do not endorse any companies or products mentioned on our design blog. They are for reference purposes only. Utilized goods and services from these companies at your own risk. Happy new year.

Customer Service Is More Important Than Anything

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

Photo from Corbis.com © Corbis 2014

 

A recent customer service experience reinforced in my mind, how important customer service is to your business. It doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, product maker, service provider – understand your customers and how to take care of them. That should be the number one rule for your business.

A Bad Buying Experience

In my example I was simply a customer looking to use a dealer parts coupon to get $80 off of a $1,000 set of run flat tires. Not a big deal, and I had cleared it with a service representative when I made the appointment. Turns out they wouldn’t honor our agreement when I went to drop my car off. They explained the price was already discounted (it wasn’t, I had checked pricing and got several other quotes which were in line with the dealer’s price quote) and I was getting a good deal (I wasn’t – install was $25 / tire and they were going to make me get an alignment).

So despite the fact my family woke up early and drove across town to help me drop the car off, I walked out, taking my business, and future business elsewhere.

Now whether you think I over reacted or not (I didn’t), it was so refreshing as a consumer to feel empowered. I don’t have enough time, money or desire to play games as a consumer. I had another tire dealer on the phone before I was out of the parking lot and they took care of me. The dealer lost a long time customer (we’ve bought three cars there) over an $80 discount.

Focus On Customer Service

Successful businesses build mutually beneficial relationships that encourage people to part with their money, goods or services in exchange for money, goods, or services. To me this is what customer service is: building, managing and maintaining those relationships.

Business is not just “business” if you want to be in business for long.

There are so many options for spending one’s time and money in this omni-channel world. Customer service is the most important aspect of business. Guests are more informed and have less perceived time more now than ever. Yes, they will linger or buy on a whim, but more often they do their homework and have the value of something in mind before they buy. They know what they want, how much they are willing to pay, and can likely rattle off a handful of places where they can get it besides you or your business.

The economy in this country is humming along at a steady pace. So there are people out there spending money, and they are empowered more so now than ever. Yes, it’s a two-way street. Customers should reward businesses that do a good job. But you can’t control that. What you can control is how your business operates and approaches customer service.

We work in the retail design business. The displays, fixtures and interiors we design enhance the experience of shopping for your guests and potential customers. I see our work as a subset of, or secondary to, customer service. We can design things that make guests go “wow”, making it easy and enjoyable to buy things from you.

But nothing we can design will compensate for bad customer service.

If you want them to come to you to buy what you are selling, then you need to make customer service the priority in your business. It’s where the rubber meets the road (pun intended).

-Chris

Chris Weigand is the president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC, a retail design agency that services customers by providing world class retail research, display, fixture, space planning, and interior design services. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call them at (330) 858-8926 to learn more.

Retail Design: Behind The Scenes

The average consumer likely doesn’t think about it too much, but a lot goes into all the displays and fixtures we see at retail everyday. Today I would like to provide some “behind the scenes” real world insight into the effort that goes into designing for retail.

Where Retail Design Comes From

There are a variety of resources creating the designs that go into every retail space, including in-house designers, architects, consultants, freelance designers and manufacturers. Often times two or more of these resources will team together to provide the final retail design solutions for a brand or retailer. In many cases in-house design teams have shrunk, or need additional capacity, so they will work with outside creative resources, building a highly capable creative team to work on a specific project. The brand or retailer client may not even know this is the case because the team will work seamlessly behind the scenes. Some design providers have no problem letting clients know they are leveraging the best and the brightest professional creative talent for their projects. As a professional designers we adapt our approach specific to every situation and client to assure the end result is the best it can be, whether anyone knows we worked on a project or not.

You Always Pay For Design, Even If You Don’t Think You Do

Like they say, you get what you pay for. For most of my career design was “free”. Clients would pit several design providers, often manufacturers, against each other. Then they would select the design they liked and give it to the cheapest manufacturer. Fortunately as we emerge from the economic downturn, and everyone has slashed creative staffs, brands and retailers are realizing that design isn’t free anymore. Or at least good design isn’t free. Projects are more curated, and carry a lot of weight in the success or decline at retail. Good design takes specific skills, creativity and knowledge. Why leave your business to chance just to save a few dollars? Invest in good design and it will pay you back ten fold throughout the process. The decisions your design team makes early on in the process impacts every aspect of your retail business.

As such, good clients now understand the true value of a comprehensive design approach, and are willing to engage, and pay for, design separately from manufacturing. Sure house accounts typically have a certain amount of design services built into their budgets, and a prospective client may get a round of free design consultation, but no longer should they expect that to be the case, indefinitely. The retail business can no longer support that model. So you can either pay sooner for design or pay later to fix problems. We prefer you pay for design.

We’re Constantly Working

Designers never shut off. We’re constantly thinking, designing, researching…looking for inspiration….looking for improvement.  We work in fits and flashes. Creativity can’t just be turned on, but often times that’s what we have to do to meet a dizzying array of due dates. For every billable hour I would bet there is at least one hour spent building the creative foundation that is applied to any given project. There’s a good chance your next retail design solution was born whilst a designer was driving somewhere or taking a shower.

We Love Retail

Speaking for myself, I actually love shopping. I love being in stores. The people, the products, the displays, for me it is a one stop shop to see all kinds of materials, designs, ideas in practice. Plus, despite being an advocate for the environment, I actually love buying stuff (just in moderation). When I  go “retailing” for a project I keep thinking to myself “This is the best job in the world.” So while most of us aren’t technically merchants or marketers, we love and understand retail. As designers we understand all the things that influence success or failure at retail: products, environments, consumers, manufacturing, marketing, merchandising and business.  We take a holistic approach and know how to work directly with everyone throughout the process. Often times the designer may be the only advocate for an interested party that isn’t in the meeting room.

We’re Judging You

If you have a store then we’re judging you every time we visit. But it’s a constructive judging. Really.

We know all of your dirty little secrets that consumers may not consciously pick up on. We can see when something was not executed according to plan. On the other hand we also celebrate really awesome retail designs and problem solving. And we straighten things up because deep inside we want the store to look as great in person as it did in the renderings. We’re also looking at everything from the parking lot to the entrance, and beyond to each department and display. We evaluate how well your brand communicates through your store. We get ideas and inspiration.

We don’t mean to judge, but we have to in order to make sure what we’re designing for you or other merchants is the best, relevant and effective solution possible.

Covert Operations

Last but not least this is the funnest part of the retail design job: covert operations. If we’re designing a display or fixture for a retailer, then we need to get into the stores and measure the existing environment and often times take photographs. It’s easy if you’re working directly for the retailer. You just call and get permission from your contact. More often than not my client is not that retailer. I’ve designed displays for virtually every major retailer in North America over the last twenty years and I know for a fact none of them would know me, but they know my work.

The reality is we have to go under cover. With tight deadlines looming, and tight-lipped clients not wanting to let their customers know they’ve outsourced design, we need to put our James Bond hats on. Like an overseas CIA undercover agent we’re alone and no one knows who we are. There’s no one to call.

We make every effort to speak with on-site store representatives to let them know we need to measure a fixture or take a photo for reference. This is often met with middling results, and depends on who you talk to. We spend a lot of time explaining that we’re retail designers to glazed eyes.

Assuming I’m not escorted off the premises, I will discretely walk the store and measure any necessary fixtures that my display will need to attach to or work with. I’ll  take photographs to use as reference in designing the new display. The advent of good cameras on cell phones is a life saver. Clients love seeing displays in actual store environments so I’ll snap some photos for that purpose as well. I avoid photos with people in them.

If you are a merchant, please  let responsible retail designers discretely measure and photograph in your stores. We earn our living making your store environment the best it can be for your store and the brands you carry.

There you have it, some insight into our world. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. Here are some examples of what we look for and output when we’re designing for retail. These are all older images so no retail environments were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Have any design “secrets” you’d like to share?

Have you ever been thrown out of a store? (I have by the way)

Share in the comments section below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC a full service retail design consultancy. He is a professional industrial designer who’s innovative, consumer focused retail designs can be seen in virtually every major retailer in North America. Whether you have one store or 5,000 stores Chris Weigand Design would love to work with you on your next retail design project. Visit http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information or contact Chris at 330-858-8926.

3D Printing Part Deux

Here’s the follow-up to my 3D printing rant from last week (click here to see last week’s post).

This video demonstrates all the misleading hype about 3D printers the tech industry permeates into our social media.

A few things the 3D printing revolution will be good for:

Product Development – No surprise here since this is what it’s intended purpose is. The only reason the tech industry is putting out this propaganda is to sell 3D printers. Just like everyone needs a Thneed, we’re sold on the fact we’ll all need a 3D printer. The reality is lower cost printers are a boon to small businesses and institutions who are developing new products. The technology speeds the process to get unique products to market. But like any tool they are not and should not be the only means for making prototypes.

Replacement Parts – This is a primary (only?) area where 3D printers will revolutionize how we live. If you’re so inclined to have a printer at home you can have product companies send you a file to print your replacement part. This assumes that the company has the foresight to set up this service, and you know what how to install the part. The company can profit by selling you the print file (can be a one time use file). You win as a consumer because you have every part available to you. One major caveat: the products need to be designed for disassembly and repair. Can’t afford or don’t want a printer?….

Hardware Stores – Off the top of my head this is the main type of retailer that better get on the 3D printer bandwagon. They could, and should, still sell all the usual stuff but wouldn’t it be awesome if they had a 3D printer to print out that gear for my washing machine, or a replacement for the cracked housing on my stapler. It could be a whole new avenue for profit and service. We’ll be more than happy to design an in store printer environment by the way, if everyone promises to stop printing yoda heads to demonstrate the power of 3D printing.

User Interface Design – One of the only ways they’ll get 3D printers in the homes of the masses is if the user interface (U/I) is vastly improved. Currently most of our CAD software is designed by U/I techs and engineers with seemingly little regard for making things usable or intuitive. If we’re all going to design our own products from now on, and apparently we are, then we sure as heck better understand how to use the software and hardware. I’ve been using CAD for 20 years and still don’t fully understand how all the tools work, and I certainly couldn’t model something as complex as a woman’s shoe in CAD (I’d have to use a pen and paper like some sort of Neanderthal). The point is user interface design has a long way to go – putting more technology in the hands of the masses will necessitate better design.

Art & Biomimicry – This is kind of the catch-all but coupling 3D printing with 3D scanning technology opens whole new vistas for turning what man can conjure into new realities. Artists willing to take a plunge into the steep learning curve can churn out really awesome sculptures and artwork. Also we can learn from nature and create structures that aren’t easily resolved by current manufacturing methods. For example taking the strength of a skeleton and manufacturing it as a framework in a building or product. Yeah, 3D printers are really freaking good at doing that.

Space -Yes! This is where we need 3D printers. Load up our Mars spacecraft with at least three printers – one plastic, one metal and one with goo that makes human cells or tomatoes. Because space is one place where you need to build parts on site, on demand. I don’t live in space, so I’ll just goto Wal-Mart.

Some question marks I have:

On-Demand Manufacturing – I get it, you store bytes instead of products on shelves. But I need someone to start showing me parts and products that really can be used. Show me the true costs involved. I abhor tooling, but I also understand the advantages injection molding, metal fabrication and other manufacturing processes have based on quantities. On-demand manufacturing may not be right for your product or business.

Community – One of the selling points is that we’ll make all our stuff by 3D printing. We won’t need designers, factories, shipping companies…you name it, anymore. Um, if no one works in mass production anymore, what are they going to do? What happens to the communities that depend on manufacturing to be able to flourish? Okay, this is an extreme example but just because we can self provide doesn’t mean we should. On the surface every new technology looks like it will save us. What we need to do is focus on community instead of the latest social media darling.

Role Of Designers – What will making everyone a designer do for design? Why should I hire a designer when I can just do it myself? I not sure where things will land but I know design is tougher than most people think it is. Maybe the advent of manufacturing democracy will mean more people will need design services. Maybe 3D printers will force my hand and nix my value as a designer. I don’t know.

More Stuff – The advent of 3D printing for the masses doesn’t solve the social problems associated with consumerism. It says we still need stuff, we just don’t need the system to produce it for us. Well I think that’s a pretty narrow viewpoint of stuff and the system that produces stuff. We should value material and human craftsmanship. The ease of self manufacturing also makes it easier to make and consume products that may not be entirely thought out, in an unregulated environment. 3D printing for the masses, as it is sold in the articles and videos disconnects us from the earth and society as a whole.

With mass production if we needed 10,000 cups we had one machine making them. Now with the 3D printer revolution we need 10,000 cups we need 10,000 machines plugged into every house making them singularly.

I don’t see how that is progress.

 

What we need to do

Start valuing ecology, humanity and economy. Understand the impact design has on all three. Read ‘Cradle-to-Cradle‘ when you get a chance. It talks about fundamentally designing systems and products to be nurturing to what we really need as a planet.

3D printing challenges the status quo, so for that fact alone I applaud it. But we need to temper all of the media glamor with a dose of logic and understanding of the pros and cons of the tool.

And know that it’s you and I that will change the world. 3D printers will just help make our job a little easier.

 

Here’s a good Newsweek article on the topic.

Thoughts?

Where am I off base?

What do you agree with?

What can you expound upon?

Share in comments below.

-Chris

Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC – a full service retail design firm. Visit us at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com for more information. And no we don’t have a 3D printer yet but would really like one someday.

 

 

Speed Wars May Trump Price Wars

“How Quickly I Can Get” May Be The New “Low Price”

I'm fine with it if they can get me headphones by 4pm today. image borrowed from amazon.com (we aren't affiliated with amazon, in case you were wondering.)

I’m fine with it if they can get me headphones by 4pm today.
image borrowed from amazon.com
(we aren’t affiliated with amazon, in case you were wondering.)

I read this article on the supply challenges of omnichannel retailing today.

While I’m no supply chain expert, I am a well-educated consumer, and have been known to dabble in retail design here and there. I find it a really exciting time for retailing as old models of doing business are being challenged and consumers are finally being empowered. Retailers and big companies are on the ropes, landed there by extremely fickle and budget conscious consumers, who require instantaneous gratification. (This is my theory at least).

This is my initial response (below) to the article, when posted on an online social media site. And I just wanted to follow-up with an example and a couple other comments, thoughts.

 

“I wonder if the day will come when the speed at which I can have something in hand will trump price as a consumer. It may even be here already.

Omnichannel offerings have basically leveled the playing field for consumers – if there is a product out there then I can most certainly find it in-store or online. So that lever is set. Next everyone is price matching – that lever is set. Oh look, here is the accessibility lever – when can I have it?

Amazon is working towards same day delivery. Retail stores since the dawn of time have provided same day delivery (i.e. I drive to the store and take it home) of in stock items.

The challenge for brick and mortar is to get me (consumer) what I want if they sell it, but don’t have it in stock on site…if they don’t sell it in the first place it’s a moot point.

So let’s say I’m Target, Wal-Mart or your store of choice and I offer 10 million products online, and a relative handful in stores. As a consumer, in your store, I need to know #1) what you can sell me both here and online and #2) how quickly I can get it. I’m just going to assume the price is right because the retailer is constantly battling to provide the best price – price is almost irrelevant in 2014, at least as far as our brave new world of retailing is concerned.

Right now physical retailers struggle with: communicating the entire breadth of their offering, making it easier for consumers to “showroom” in their own store and order online, and let consumers know how quickly they can get something delivered if they can’t take it home right there and then.

We will see all kinds of retailers leap frogging each other as they solve for this complex, yet pretty simple problem of speed to consumer. It will require them to rethink their supply chain and business philosophy a fair bit. Those who are willing and able will flourish. Those who won’t or can’t will mercifully be saved from having to service consumers ever again.

Very exciting.”

 

As you read further into the article, one thought I have is, maybe companies like Wal-Mart or any other large consumer product company have gotten too big – they may not be able to adjust quickly enough or at all. I don’t know. But the thought has crossed my mind. From the article:

“Durable goods retailers’ biggest concern is that marketing promotions bring about unintended consequences to their supply chain…Instead, durable goods retailers are increasingly becoming entrenched in a race to the bottom–pumping out promotions and price changes far more frequently than they should. Their model was never built to support a heavy promotional cycle, and as a result, even their supply chain is being affected by this hyper-promotional behavior.”

 

“Inventory accuracy is a prerequisite to any of these tasks, and retailers just don’t yet have the confidence in that inventory data to be effective.”

 

Maybe smaller enterprises that are more agile will be able to better serve their customers. Though their narrow product offering is their biggest challenge.

The key is for retailers to understand the playing field and understand what they can and can’t do.

Small retailers need to know their customers and attract them to their physical and online store from around the world. They must deliver exemplary customer service, story, brand and product that customers can not or will not get anywhere else. every aspect of their brand must sing at every consumer touch point.

Large retailers need to re-write their play book and stop being distracted by promotions and pricing. They need to outwit online retailers and take new innovative risks whilst shoring up their brand. Simplifying the process, every process, won’t hurt either.

Low prices are ubiquitous. And not all consumers care solely about price. It’s just not as much a selling point as the economy picks up, people buy less stuff (because they don’t want it or can’t afford it), and people start to challenge the push-pull model of consumerism.

Already speed, quality and brand are passing price in importance in my opinion.

Ultimately as a retailer it’s always about selling stuff. Don’t over think it, ditch the old school way of doing business and stop running scared. Work smarter, not harder, like the cliché says.

Headphone Shopping Example

We’ll keep an eye on things and expound upon things with additional thoughts in the future hopefully. Meanwhile here’s my one example from shopping earlier today.

My son needs headphones for Kindergarten next week. Apparently they need them to listen to the computer during class time. Cool. Sounds good to me. Only guidelines are no ear buds, and no need to buy $400 headphones. So what we need is something inexpensive but not cheap. I’m thinking something like the headphones all of us who are of a certain age got with our Walkman’s in the 80’s. Well we went to the local big box store. The only thing they had were one set of headphones that weren’t buds or $400 fancy headphones. That’s fine, but they were slightly bulky looking; the headphones get dumped in a bin at school so the smaller the better. And the price as $22 so that didn’t sway the decision either way.

Most people would have bought them and been fine. Well we now are going to cross shop two other stores. What could have been a 5 minute trip has turned into a two-day affair.

The point is the shopping experience wasn’t tailored to today’s realities and this opened up the opportunity for an anal retentive consumer like me to go shop elsewhere – I know perfection exists and I will find it. Let’s say most consumers aren’t insane like me; still how many did the retailer potentially lose because of a middling retail experience.

I looked online: they list 143 headphones available in store. We saw one set that came close (and we’ll probably buy eventually). If there were 142 other headphones sets I wouldn’t know because they were scattered in four different areas. The store lists 453 headphones available online. Wow. I guarantee even I could find a suitable pair from that retailer.

But the in-store experience did the retailer no favors.

We need to be able to showroom in stores.

Here’s a pretty good example. I’m sure there are more.

Retailers do this:

  1. make it easy for consumers to find the items they’re looking for in store and online
  2. communicate online and in store selection, especially communicate it in store – leave nothing to chance or customers will walk out and check next door
  3. streamline your supply chain to win the battle of speed to consumer and take care of your customers

Lastly, keep in mind, shopping situations vary. As a retailer understand all of your customers. If your supply chain is got its stuff together and is speedy you products may even be able to beat your customer’s home.

What do you think, on to something here or delusional?

How important do you think speed to consumer is?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below

-Chris Weigand

Chris Weigand Design, LLC is a full service retail and brand consultation firm. We love to shop, love to buy and love to design. Contact us today to talk about how we can bring creativity, simplicity and a new perspective to your retail stores. http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or 330-858-8926

 

Stop Hyping 3D Printing

Seriously guys and gals, enough with all the articles on 3D printing. The jaded side of me has been wanting to write this post for some time now. But I wanted to do a little research first (very little as it turns out….in fact I’m researching as I write). During my first cup of coffee I came up with this article about a cool, hip new start-up.

Cool headphone store.

“One thing you can’t do at [this] retail location — at least at first — is actually try on a pair of its headphones. “

But at least they have a 3D printer.

“I’m still waiting for my pair of earbuds to get printed”

Oh….

Well, no matter. It seems everyone knows about and is getting a 3D printer these days. They are going to revolutionize retail, shipping, manufacturing….every aspect of our lives. The internet says so!

Well, wade through all the hype (with your 3D printed oar of course) and the reality is quite different in my opinion. I don’t think 3D printing is as revolutionary as everyone thinks it is, or at least not in the ways they’re thinking.

Here are my thoughts. Take a read while I pour another cup of coffee (in my Paleolithic-era ceramic mug).

3D Printing Isn’t New

The media makes it out like 3D printing is some new wonderful silver bullet. The reality is prototyping technology has been around for as long as people have been designing and making “stuff”. A really long time ago I was in college, and they had SLA’s and other means of creating parts from big vats of goo and lasers. Then a few years later they started laying down acrylic in rough beads inside a box (hello 3D printing) to make prototype parts. Now they can even make a human ear. This is all well and good, if you’re an industrial designer, engineer or doctor. But for the average marketplace based consumer, retailer, or brand 3D printing is basically irrelevant, and will be for quite some time.

In fairness though, the newfound accessibility of inexpensive 3D printing is pretty cool. Especially for design start-ups and those looking for novelty in store.

If you want to buy us one though, we won't complain. A Objet500 Connex by Stratasys. http://www.stratasys.com/3d-printers/design-series/precision/objet-connex500

If you want to buy us one though, we won’t complain. A Objet500 Connex by Stratasys.
http://www.stratasys.com/3d-printers/design-series/precision/objet-connex500

Home Based 3D Printing Is Nonsensical

Okay, so you shell out a few hundred, or few thousand, dollars and bring home a shiny new 3D printer, plop it down in the basement and you’re ready to never have to go to the store again.

Now what?

You can download some files, from someone who may or may not know anything about design. And print anything you want, as long as it’s most likely plastic and a tchotchke smaller than a loaf of bread.

If you prefer to design your own “stuff” go for it. In all your free time you can learn how to operate the CAD program, and allocate a few days or weeks to actually design something from scratch…

…Or if you value the time you have left on this earth kick it old school by simply going online, click a button to buy and have conventionally-made, anything you want products show up next day on your doorstep (same day with drone delivery). Or you can goto a real store and take real products home instantaneously (pay for them first).

Everyone thinks 3D printers mean we’ll no longer goto stores and manufactures won’t have to ever make anything again. That’s like saying because you can grow a tomato plant, you’ll never have to buy food again and grocery stores will be obsolete.

Even in 5-10 years I don’t think 3D printers will impact the way most of us buy or sell. Not until we can print eyeglasses AND real lenses, or print shoes we’d actually want to wear. Even then people have to be willing to give up their time and money to do it all themselves. Sociologically I don’t believe we as a marketplace are headed to that extreme, but we’ll delve into that another time.

Retail Based 3D Printing Is Just As Silly

The only reason you’d need a 3D printer at the store is for 1) custom fit items or 2)….okay I can’t think of another reason.

Commodity items?

Me: “Hey, I need a fuchsia color light switch cover.”

Random Store Associate: “Okay, there are only twenty-seven people waiting in front of you for their products to print….hold on I need to reboot the system…wait I have to clean the part up. Do you want a sand and coat for $12 more?”

78 minutes later….

Random Store Associate: “Here you go”

Hands over matte pink, rough rectangle of despair, with a little slot in the middle.

Me: “Wait, I forgot to tell you, it was supposed to have two slots”

3D Printed Products Kinda Suck

For all its hype, the reality is that parts made from 3D printers make awful consumer products. The printer spews out a thin line of acrylic or other material, most often plastic though, building up layer by layer whatever it is you want. What you’re left with (assuming you don’t have to “clean up” any supporting material), is a marginal product that is rough. The colors are basic and blocky. Likely it is made of one type of material (plastic), with no electronics, hinges, or other functional features. You basically have a high-tech version of the ashtray your kid could have made you at summer camp.

But without the touching memories.

The fact is modern manufacturing has perfected the art of making useful and desirable products, made from a concert of materials, for the masses. 3D printing will never replace the practice of skilled professionals, craftsmen and equipment manufacturing finished goods. Yes, 3D printing will help those people do their job, but don’t expect a 3D printer to spit out a comprehensive consumer product in your living room anytime soon.

They make parts, not products.

Awe, this is exactly what I wanted. An Xbox One is so overrated. Thanks honey. Image from gizmag.com http://www.gizmag.com/go/2578/

Awe, this is exactly what I wanted. An Xbox One is so overrated. Thanks honey.
Image from gizmag.com
http://www.gizmag.com/go/2578/

3D Printing Can’t Print The Things You Really Need

The only thing I would need a 3D printer for would be for replacement parts.

Once when I was a kid I assembled a foreign made RC car. It was awesome. And on the first test drive I ran it into a tree, breaking a critical nylon front suspension piece, that ultimately was the demise of my RC car. Back then it was impossible to find a replacement part.

That was one time in forty years having a 3D printer would have been life changing.

The truth is, even I don’t want to design my own toys or whatever they want me to design or download and print.  What I want to do is get my work done and then spend time with my family, read, play video games, pet my cat or go drink a beer.

Here’s a list (click link) of 20 keys to happiness. No where does it say “print all of your own stuff with a 3D printer”.

If I need something I will buy it online, or in the store and have it be complete, shiny, new and functional. I will let professionals worry about the design, material selection, testing and manufacturing of the products I buy. Just as I let farmers worry about raising cows and growing soybeans.

And no, I’m not printing myself a new ear.

Unless you’re an artist, and other than super special custom items, or hard to find replacement parts, I see no viable reason why consumers, retailers, or manufacturers would need marketplace based 3D printers. Also remember, we’ve developed a variety of ways to customize things before, so it’s not like we’re suddenly democratized with the advent of 3D printers for the masses.

A human ear being 3D printed. Image from Cornell University Photography, borrowed from CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/03/tech/innovation/3-d-printing-human-organs/)

A human ear being 3D printed. Image from Cornell University Photography, borrowed from CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/03/tech/innovation/3-d-printing-human-organs/)

Conclusion

So please, tone down the 3D printer hype. Let’s go back to living our lives and drinking our coffee from ceramic mugs that we buy from other people.

3D printers make the design and manufacturing process so much easier and quicker it is true. And I love the implications when it comes to tooling avoidance. But stop touting them as revolutionary and empowering for day-in day-out use in store or at home.

The technology isn’t there yet and may never be. Plus even so, will we want to make all this crap ourselves?

At least not until a 3D printer can print a pizza.

Wait…what?

-Chris Weigand

 

P.S. Check out this link for some cool 3D printed items.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the topic in the comments below.

How will the technology affect your business?

How will it affect your home life?

Is it hype or the real deal? 

Chris Weigand is an artist, industrial designer and President of Chris Weigand Design, LLC – a full service retail design consultancy. He doesn’t always bemoan technology, but he does take a logical and calculated look at the world around him. When he’s not challenging the status quo he spends his free time using nature’s 3D printers to make tomatoes, herbs and honey in his yard.

Visit our website at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com or call Chris at 330.858.8926 to find out how we can help you with your branding and retail design needs.