Innovation and Co-Creation at Adidas

A friend send this link to a video about the new mi Adidas Innovation Center in Paris.  Adidas, which was one of the early brands in SecondLife, is demonstrating their innovation abilities in the real world with this new store.  The have blended Entertainment, Education, Co-Creation, and 3D-Virtual technologies into an exciting, interactive retail experience.

From CoolHunting:

With just a few steps walking and running on a catwalk-style scanner, foot and pressure sensors analyze shape, size and pressure points. Customers enter details like color and accents on a large touch screen. An interactive “virtual mirror” (recently on Gizmodo), allows the user to try on their personalized shoe (or any other shoe) without taking off their own. And last but not least, the new scan table picks up RFID technology embedded in the shoes to display specific product information.

The purpose of the store is two-fold.  Adidas has always been about innovation and they want to use this retail platform to showcase that.  They also want to attract a younger demographic and believe the highly interactive nature of the store will be appealing to younger customers who have “been brought up on video games”.

Is all this technology to sell sneakers just a gimmick?  I don’t think so.  Look across the sports world today and you will see that technology has been incorporated everywhere in an attempt to boost performance.  And it’s not just for the pros.  The biggest market for sports technology are the amateurs who want to excel in their particular sports passion.  Everything from real-time vital signs monitoring to the latest in golf club design is eagerly scooped up by the sports enthusiasts.  If you are in the sports shoe business, an interactive, technology-based experience store might be just the ticket to driving brand engagement.

Thoughts on Walt Disney World – Part 2

Disney’s parks and resorts have a well deserved reputation for delivering great experiences. In tonight’s installment, I’ll give you a few more examples from my recent trip and also examine some experiences that don’t measure up to the Disney standard.

Extend the Experience

wdw_magical_express.jpgI have written about Disney’s Magical Express before. This is the service that basically extends your Disney experience all the way back to your home airport. It’s absolutely great when it works, but on the inbound leg of this trip, it did not live up to the Disney standard. I think the problems can be traced back to the fact that Disney does not operate this service. It is outsourced to a local transportation company and therefore is not directly managed by Disney. It’s not unusual for companies to outsource parts of their operation, but they need to be very careful about ensuring that the service provider is consistently delivering an experience that lives up to your brand. My wife and I came in on different flights. English was apparently a second language for my driver and so he was silent for most of the trip. The buses have TV screens and on previous trips, there has been either a movie like Snow White or a video marketing the Disney Vacation Club. On this trip, there was nothing. It was just a bus ride.

My wife and daughter arrived around 3:00pm. While their trip seemed to measure up to the Disney Experience, trouble was just around the corner. Knowing that their luggage was tagged and would be delivered to the room, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the evening. When we returned to the room at 1:00am, we discovered that our daughter’s suitcase was missing. With her in tears, we called the Magical Express people who were able to locate the bag at the airport in about 5 minutes. They brought it to the room around 3:00am.

There are controls built into this system that should have prevented this from happening. The bag had the Magical Express tag on it indicating who it belonged to and what resort we were staying at. It should not have taken a phone call for them to recognize and resolve the problem. Disney needs to do a much better job of ensuring that their service providers are consistently delivering an experience worthy of the Disney brand. On the positive side, my return trip to the airport was wonderful. The driver was one of the better entertainers that I had seen all week. Oh, and about the lack of movies on the inbound trip, the driver explained that it was a brand new bus (styled for the Disney Cruise Line), and the video gear had not been installed yet. Setting expectations is a good thing!

Let Me Co-Create the Experience

monsters-inc-laugh-floor-co.jpgIn recent years, Disney has incorporated more and more interactivity into their attractions. EPCOT’s Mission Space, for example, assigns roles and tasks to each of the riders on “the mission”. The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Disneyland allows you to not only rack up the points when you’re riding it in person, but also to participate through an online component. The Turtle Talk with Crush attraction uses digital puppetry to create a verbally and visually interactive animated character. A new attraction in Orlando’s Tomorrowland is Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Like TurtleTalk but on a much larger scale, the Laugh Floor features interactive animated characters, but in this attraction, Disney has gone one step further by integrating the use of cell phone text messages into the attraction. While you wait in line for the next show, you are asked to send text messages from your cell phone to the monsters, offering your jokes for the monsters to tell. I saw lots of people, mostly kids, texting jokes while waiting for the show. We did it; they used our joke and gave credit to our daughter. What’s really different here is the use of an independent, guest-owned electronic input device to influence the content of an attraction.

I’ll post the rest of my observations tomorrow, but in the meantime, think about how these points might apply to your business. If you are in the business of delivering experiences (hint… you are!), what are you doing to extend the brand experience beyond the boundaries of your physical or digital space. If you are using partners to deliver some of you brand’s experience, are they executing consistently and at a level that your customers expect? Are you engaging your customers by allowing them to help you co-create the experience? You should be.

Part 3 of this series is here.

Thoughts on Walt Disney World – Part 1

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I’ve been computer-free for the last week spending time with the family at Walt Disney World, hence the absence of new posts. I was Twittering throughout the trip, much to the dismay of my wife and daughter, and even raised the ire of our waitress at the Prime Time Cafe (more on that later). You can go to my Twitter page (see link in the sidebar) if you want to relive my vacation tweet by tweet.

Disney is one of the world’s greatest marketers and their parks and resorts make great case studies in a number of areas including engagement and customer experience design, marketing and new media. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to discuss some of my recent experiences, both good and bad.

Surprise & Delight

Every year, Disney selects a theme and aligns all of their park and resort operations around it. This year, is”The Year of A Million Dreams” and to help “make your dreams come true”, Disney is having their cast members randomly give out over a million “dreams” including chances to spend the night in Cinderella’s castle, “Dream Fastpass” badges which gives you unlimited access to all major attractions bypassing the waiting line and a Grand Marshall Tour of Disney parks around the world.

There are no contests to enter, or disclosing of contact information. Someone just walks up to you and makes you a winner. You just need to be in the right place at the right time and even the cast members don’t know the when, where or what of the giveaway until just before it happens. I met several people who were given dream Fastpass badges and they were ecstatic about it. The really enjoyed telling their stories to anyone who would listen. And consider how much fun it is for the cast members to be able to execute the giveaways. That has to help with cast member engagement. Surprising & Delighting your customers is an important ingredient in the creating great experiences that your customers will tell others about.

Make Individuals Feel Special

Speaking of engagement, Disney cast members are almost universally programmed to react to badges that special guests wear, My daughter had her 13th birthday while we were there and so we went to the City hall in the Magic Kingdom to get a birthday badge. From that moment on, virtually every cast member that we encountered made it a point to wish her a happy birthday. Every table service restaurant that we went to, brought out a birthday cupcake without us having to ask. Of course, my daughter loved the attention so much that she continued to wear the badge long after her birthday. This is a great example of how to make a customer feel special without having to spend a lot of financial capital.

Reward Me For My Patronage

At Disney, different levels of commitment come with different perks. For example, purchasing an annual pass (which is roughly the cost of 8 days in the parks), gets you some serious discounts on Disney Resort hotels. Staying at Disney resort hotels comes with their own set of rewards, not the least of which is convenience. A couple of years ago, Disney started offering Extra Magic Hours at the parks for guests staying at Disney hotels. The program gets you into the parks an hour earlier and allows you to stay up to 2 hours after closing. Disney gets 3 additional hours of access to your wallet and you get a couple of extra rides on your favorite attraction. To the uninitiated, this is a pretty good reason to stay on Disney property. If you are a regular guest like I am, you know the real secret is to stay away from the park that has early entry because that’s where the crowds are going to be. With this program, Disney rewards their Resort guests with a tangible benefit.

Tomorrow, I’ll get into some other topics like how Disney is involving the customer in co-creating the experience. In the meantime, think about the experiences you create for your customers. Do you Surprise & Delight? Do you make your customers feel special? Do you reward them for their patronage? If you do, great. If you don’t, perhaps you should take a trip to Disney World and learn a few lessons from Walt and Mickey.

Part 2 of this series is here.

Ridemakerz: This is also cool!!!

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<via IG’s TrendCentral>

With funding from Build-A-Bear, this new store is hoping to do for toy cars what the aforementioned chain did for stuffed animals. Hoping to offer a bonding experience for fathers and sons, the store will enable customers to create custom toy cars by selecting the type of car, body style, paint and sound effects, and locomotion style. Additional accessories ranging from decals to tire treads will also be available. The first Ridemakerz store opens on Friday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a second store opening planned for July in the Mall of America.

I predict this will be hot!  Check out the website and see what I mean.

Entertainment Remixed

head-trauma.jpgEntertainment experiences are increasingly becoming multi-channel. If you are addicted (like me) to ABC’s Lost, know that there is much more to the show than the weekly episode.

From the show itself to its official website, fan message boards, fake commercials, mini-sites that detail the lives of the characters, text-message updates, podcasts, newsletters, print magazines and more, Lost is a useful example of engagement, fan involvement and how to leverage new media for an integrated campaign.

Recently, industrial rockers, Nine Inch Nails released “Year Zero”. An alternate reality game has emerged to promote the album’s concept. Clues hidden on tour merchandise have led fans to discover websites that continue the story started on the album. Year Zero songs were reportedly found on thumb drivesin the bathroom stalls of NIN concerts in Europe, which the band itself covertly distributed ahead of the music’s official release. Fan participation in this alternate reality game has garnered a high level of media attention and led to the creation of fan-sites & clubs, Forums, and Wikis as sources for new discoveries.

Yesterday, I read about Director Lance Weiler’s “remix” presentation of his cult indie horror flick Head Trauma.

First shown in Philadelphia, the show combines film with live music, theatre, and gaming, resulting in a cinematic ARG (alternate reality game). While the film is shown, a live soundtrack is performed (past performers have included Marshal Allen (Sun Ra), Espers, and Bardo Pond) on top of the film’s dialog and sound effects; meanwhile, props and sets from the movie are strewn throughout the theatre and characters from the movie emerge through the audience for live action shows throughout the film.

Extending the experience beyond the theatre, the film also projects a phone number intermittently through the film. Viewers are encouraged to call the number to start a game that last through the film’s duration and even follows them home. Participants receive clues to solve a set of riddles, and interact with Head Traumacharacters through phone calls and text messages that lead players to more clues online.

The competition for your entertainment dollars is fiercer than ever. To win your attention, entertainment marketers are finding ways to turn what used to be a TV show or an album or a movie into an interactive, multi-channel entertainment experience.

<via TrendCentral>

The Little Stuff Redux

Earlier this week, I wrote about the opportunities in addressing the sources of customer dissatisfaction. On Friday, APs Technology Writer, May Wong, published a report citing difference in the service levels between Circuit City and Best Buy. The report was insightful and absolutely reinforced the points I was making earlier in the week. I’m including some quotes and commentary below.

This customer’s past experiences have let him to solid opinions of the two retailers. Who do you think he recommends to his friends and family?

Ralph Devoe’s hunt for a new computer monitor didn’t include a stop at Circuit City, even though one of its stores was only a few doors down from the Best Buy where he went shopping this week. “They often don’t have what I want,” the retired physicist said. “And Best Buy just seems a little better. The salespeople actually know what they’re doing.”

Having a large inventory selection and “knowledgeable associates” are really important, but they are big and potentially costly things from an operational stand point. In my earlier post, I focused on the smaller sources of dissatisfaction, like how the customer is treated in the store. The following really drives that point home:

For sure, bargains and good rebates could be found at the stores of either chain — an important draw for the price-conscious American public.

But other times, it’s as basic as how a store feels, how the products and aisles are laid out, how the workers there treat you.

A friendly greeter is stationed just inside Best Buy’s front door.

“How’s it going? Welcome to Best Buy,” he repeats.

Within a minute of browsing in a section, a Best Buy associate swings by to offer assistance. The staffer casually dispenses product info or comparisons, and just as quickly lays back if you decline the help.

A visit to Palo Alto’s Best Buy and Circuit City to pick up a component-video cable illustrates the differences.

At the Circuit City, it took some effort to find a store employee to ask where to find the cables — and the red-shirted employee who was tracked down misdirected this shopper to cables for TVs.

At Best Buy, the greeter at the door quickly responded with a more specific question, “What kind of component video?” By asking, he learned the cable’s purpose was for a game console and pointed to the video game section.

The desired Sony-branded cables were sold out, but the Best Buy associate did double check the store inventory.

That kind of attention to detail goes a long way in a shopper’s experience.

I also talked about ensuring that your interactive displays are always functioning. Ms. Wong points out this difference between the two retailers:

At another Best Buy in Sunnyvale, for instance, the music MP3 players on display were in good working order, and a patron could test the controls and use headphones to listen to them. By contrast, the Palo Alto Circuit City’s portable players — with the exception of a separate display for Microsoft Corp.’s Zune player — were not powered and lacked headphones so a shopper couldn’t get a good test run of the devices. Product information placards were also missing from some models.

The bad news for Circuit City is that this “little stuff” is rampant throughout its stores and it all adds up to a pretty crappy experience for customers. Both companies recently reported results for the previous year and the differences were like night and day. I am not an analyst and I can’t tell you to what degree Circuit City’s continued lagging performance is attributable to the sources of dissatisfaction in their stores, but my gut tells me that it is a significant cause.

The good news is that these problems can be overcome and for the most part, the solution doesn’t involve a big capital investment. What it does require is much more valuable, and perhaps more scarce, than money. It requires people that care. Store associates that take the time to look for things that aren’t right with their store and fix them. Support associates that are not only responsive to the needs of the people in the store, but are proactively looking for ways to improve the operation so that the store associates can focus on the customer and not the infrastucture.

Remove the Sources of Dissatisfaction. That’s the fourth item in my Prescription for Building Loyalty but after Listening to your Customers, it’s the next most important thing that retailers must do.

Why Marketers Should Divert More of Their Budgets to CEM

The gang over at The Perfect Customer Experience have been on a roll this week with some really great posts.   Yesterday, Dale Wolf made the case for diverting some of your push marketing dollars into Customer Experience Management.  It’s such an obvious thing to me, yet so many organizations fail to see the opportunity.  Perhaps its an orthodoxy that keeps the money pouring into processes that have a low ROI.  In his post, Wolf provides a simple mathematical demonstration and a prescription:

“Let’s say the ad campaign had a cost of $10,000. It got 2% of the people into the store. That means 98% of the ad audience did not come to the store and 80% of the people that came to the store walked out of the store without buying. He spent $10,000 but only $1960 actually drove customers to a purchase. What a collosal waste!”  (note:  I’ve asked Wolf to explain how he got to $1960.  I calculated the figure to be $40, but what do I know).

“Now instead if he had spent more of his budget in learning what his customers actually wanted, he could build an experience that delivered on their needs, wants and aspirations. Then spend another part of his budget on building a customer database and use relatively inexpensive personalized email to tell them individually (or at least in small clusters) about the experience they will have in his store. He will begin pulling metrics that are in the +50% response rate.  Better yet, if he has invested in a truly differentiated, valued and consistently delivered experience that gets people talking, his investment will spread far and wide at virtually no cost.”

I think the biggest opportunity for organizations, and retailers in particular, to differentiate, is to focus significant resources on the delivering exceptional customer experiences.  That starts with asking customers what they want.  It also requires you to address those elements in the experience that are sources of dissatisfaction.  In fact, you will have limited success until you do this.  Word of mouth is a powerful thing and customers will tell others about great experiences.  They will also tell others about bad experiences and what’s worse, those friends will tell others.  For retailers who routinely misses customer expectations, spending money on push marketing is like trying fill a bucket that has a big whole in the bottom.  The best you can hope to do is keep some water in the bucket.  

Diverting that money to improving the experience of those who do come to your store will result in a higher close rate and higher loyalty and that’s where the real ROI is.