IKEA Virgin

Have you been to an IKEA store recently?

Back in 2006, we opened season on sending our last son to college. We went to IKEA. I had heard stories, the sagas of the seasons passing during an IKEA visit, but I thought these people must have been exaggerating. They were not. IKEA makes Costco look like a backyard excursion in comparison to the global circumnavigation posed by an IKEA store visit.

 We were in the store for 5 ½ hours.

It was an experience I did not soon reprise: I haven’t been back in nine years. The store was well organized, well lit, fairly well staffed, and clean. It is also cheap and, the 5½ hours notwithstanding, it saves time, which is a particularly important commodity in a working person’s life. For instance, my husband is a lot of things, but he is not a shopper. IKEA is a store for the shoppers of us, but in reality, it’s a store for non-shoppers as well. Why? Because it gets the entire shopping thing done in one, long, grueling, gut-wrenching, foot-searing, back-aching, self-helping, mind-numbing session. In short, you’re your own decorator, designer, shopper, warehouseman, and delivery boy. DON’T FORGET: Bring room dimensions, or you’ll probably end up back there again!

Also, come to your visit with an empty, large vehicle, room on your credit card, and a couple of able bodied, but skinny people that can heft the furniture pieces, but also squeeze into the leftover crevices in your “personal moving van” to get the stuff home.

It’s 2015 today and as I said, I haven’t been back there. I do remember being impressed by the organization and the high-tech environment nine years ago. Everything had a place. Touch screens dotted the pickup area to help you find your items in their vast find-it-yourself warehouse. Thank goodness for numbers! (Who invented those anyway?) Bin numbers, SKUs and part numbers managed the inventory; employees in yellow shirts managed the flow of parts and people.

The food offering (IKEA knew that they should feed customers who would be spending the better part of 24 hours in their clutches) counter-balanced the vastness of the store’s inventory by its marked sparseness: they were out of three food items. There were, however, piles of suspicious looking signature Swedish meatballs, which they promoted with massive colorful signage, take-home offers, and daily specials. I wonder if they’re always on special just to get rid of them.

The store we visited was 28,500 square meters, or about 306,711 square feet. A typical American football field is 57,600 square feet, so we’re talking about five football fields here. We slogged through the stupid thing at least twice, going back to look at different things so our son could mix and match and create his very own college room décor. I found myself biting my lip at some of his choices, but he was spreading his wings and I was grinning maniacally as the grateful almost empty nester.

So while I used to be an IKEA virgin, I am now knowledgeable in the ways of what was then a brave new retail world wonder. As with that other rite of passage, I feel somewhat sullied, but no longer afraid of the unknown. In this case I have sore feet to prove my passage…

Meanwhile, we did right by our college-bound child. He needed stuff, and stuff they had. Lots. Everywhere.

Curated Brands

Curated Brands

Image
The Getty

When is a post not a post? Hah. This post popped up on Twitter, but has yet to drop here.  It’s a mystery. Here it is today in my blog, and I hope it’s not a repeat for my followers.

Until now,  I did not tend to think of “brands” as being curated.  I think of museum pieces being curated. I think of a curator as in the Wikipedia sense:   “…from Latin, curare meaning “take care”). A curator is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g. gallery, museum, library) is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. The object of a traditional curator’s concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.”

More things are being curated these days:  I see in the business world the brand manager as curator, in that he or she is responsible for how that brand enters the marketplace and where it is placed relative to other brands. In the same way a museum only shows a selection of its collection, the brand manager strives to show the finest assets of the brand. Or they may choose to carefully and thoughtfully promote their brand to certain demographics, focused on a narrowly defined customer experience.

The curated brands in a recent USA Today article included Gilt, Target, and Apple. The piece was about AC Hotels by Marriott, and the journalist described the AC Hotel target audience as younger travelers, that the experience would essentially be more “tech-y” and hip. [my words]

Another place to look for curated material is at TED.com.  Nowadays, you can find someone you respect/love/would like to know/never heard of/ and see which TED talks they have in their curated collection.  It tells you a lot about that person by seeing how they would curate the thousands of TED talks.

My goal: to curate my own brand. Not there yet, but it is food for thought. Besides, it sounds so cool.

User Experience UX/Customer Experience CX

Some people argue that UX and CX are different. I don’t think so really. Whichever you call it, CX and UX may be the latest rage, but they are not new. It was called customer-centered business back in the 50s(!) as “invented” by Peter Drucker.  They called it TQM (Total Quality Management) or Six Sigma from the 80s and 90s. Maybe you could call it Steve Jobs from the 00s.

If CX/UX has been in the business lore for over fifty years, why is it renamed, rehashed, recycled and revisited every decade or so? By renaming it does the business community hope it will stick this time? Hah. It’s not the concept that is broken. It is the execution of the theory that is difficult.

Here’s what we know from The Customer Experience Revolution by Jeofrey Bean. Every muscle, brain cell, organ, and liquid part of every person who works for a company must have the same vision and energy. That is: to maximize their customers’ experience with their product or service, yielding one totally delighted customer.  Anything less undermines and weakens the role the company plays in the marketplace, leaving that company at the mercy of their competitors.

So while it sounds easy, the difficulty lies in the fact that everyone in the company from the CEO to the file clerk needs to be on board or CX will not work. In other words, everyone must drink the Kool-Aid.

It’s particularly hard because everyone doesn’t agree, and things change. But you must be strong.  If there are people or departments that do not follow your lead, it’s like lowering the drawbridge over your castle’s moat, allowing easy entry to your company’s unprotected bastion.

Windsor CastleAs CEO (or small business owner), you may be standing alone along the parapet, with your brave knights falling down around your heels, arrows through their hearts, piercing the armor they put on after their shower earlier in the month. Their shields were not strong enough. They did not defend the brand, the vision, the culture, because they did not believe it would work. But you must be tough because if you let the bridge down, even a little, your competition will know it. They will charge in and all is lost.  Don’t let the drawbridge down. Protect your brand with all your heart, and a re-commitment to CX.

UX/CX Part 2

Windsor CastleYour defenders ring the ramparts. You’re ready. Cannons are manned. Piles of extra arrows in the form of solid commitments to UX lay at the feet of your sales team. Customer service team leaders have plenty of ammunition. They are loaded down with careful, happy scripts and working headphones. Their computer monitors hold reactive inventory lists – selected from the best user-experience company roundtables in your industry.  We want this; we need that. Your company listened and acted.

Your competitors surround you astride headstrong horses, their breath visible in the cool morning air. These marauders are ready to tear down your hard-won market share. You have done your homework, though. Your customers are deliriously happy. The walls hold. Good job.