Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Business Strategies To Do Well: Simplicity & "Special"

One of the things I've done on this blog is post about business topics that I find of interest (which included touch-screen technology and was followed up by this post on Social Media) and that's been an entertaining exercise (you know, for myself), but I also keep thinking beyond business areas and about business strategies and tactics.

For the purpose of this post, I want to look at business to consumer interaction (as opposed to business to business) and highlight two strategic consumer interaction concepts... which, done well, go a long way in helping decide who I want to spend money with. In addition to the concept itself, I also list out some tactical examples of it executed well... or not so well.

Concept # 1 - Simplicity of interaction.

- Very impressed with the new Bank of America ATM machines. To give customers the ability to go from entering their ATM card to walking away with cash with the combination of a pin # and two touches ("fast cash" and "no receipt) is an excellent example of how to make an experience easy.

- Love the simple menu at Chipotle. I know what they offer and can plainly see what it costs. I suppose there's something to be said for a fast food restaurant offering a lot of options, but so many places require you to either go with one of the limited offerings on the board, have knowledge of what else is available or just sort of guess at the offering or cost. Again, options are nice, but me thinks it doesn't behoove a company to have a stressful purchasing experience.

- Will almost always pick a mobile-enabled website (like the CNNSI site over a standard one when surfing on my iPhone. Why there's still heavily visited sites (Yahoo! Sports as an example) which don't automatically send mobile users to a mobile-enabled site is beyond me.

- Not a fan of shopping at stores that don't have transparent and easy to find pricing. To this end, I'm a huge proponent of price scanners in stores, but even places that have them can still be annoying to shop at if there's not enough of them and prices aren't clearly marked. Bad example that comes to mind is Kohl's... yes, they've got scanners here and there, but it's still not always easy to know what stuff costs.

Concept # 2 - Making the customer "special" (or at least feel that way).

- Love the Starbucks Gold Card. They give a card and instantly you get a discount not available to all... fantastic way to make someone feel "special." With them doing away with the discount and moving to a "free drink with 15 purchases" format, I'm a bit sceptical of the same cache remaining.

- Really really not a fan of stores that want to check you upon your exit. I get that shoplifting is a major problem for retailers, but have avoided Fry's Electronics for years with their practice of checking receipts against items as people leave. My understanding is that (at least in California) shoppers are under no obligation to stop and be checked (different story entirely for stores like Costco that are membership based), but I view the request as intrusive.