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Create a More Memorable In-Store Experience

by Kare Anderson
Author & Speaker

Every crumb on the floor, every off-kilter sign, every abrupt staff answer is magnified and more jarring in a store selling any kind of fine goods, than in that of many other retailers - those selling, say, construction materials or even fast food. These things are obvious to you, especially if you are the owner or manager. Other detracting details might be more subtle, or you might be so close to your business that you need to see it with "fresh eyes."

Just as the most successful personal image consultants know they face a higher standard in their grooming and clothing than most people, retailers know they must continually raise the bar when reviewing all aspects of their store's appearance and staff service. To do that effectively, you need the perspective of an outsider. Here's a way to get a group of outsiders to give you candid, valuable feedback for a negligible cost -- and make friends and have fun in the process.

See Your Store with "Fresh Eyes"

"Fresh eyes" can offer you insights about how your store and products appear to others. Invite colleagues and friends to be "anonymous customers" to see your store from their perspective. Ask them to pop into your store any time within the next 30 days. Ask them to visit when you are not there and experience the store as if they were customers. Ask them to include observations about the store and the staff.

As your "anonymous customers," pick people who

A) Have one or more of these traits:

  • picky
  • sensitive
  • artistic
  • detail-oriented
  • sensory conscious (easily pick up sounds, smells, and such)
  • status conscious and/or

B) Work in another kind of image-conscious or experience-oriented business (manager of a high-end boutique hotel or art gallery, community theatre set designer or lighting specialist, upscale jeweler).

Help Them Sound Off Soon

To get their immediate and multiple reactions, make it easy by providing each one with a tape recorder and tape so they can express their insights soon after leaving the store.

Ask them to consider all of their sensory reactions, from how the floor feels under foot to what they smell when and where, and what their eye goes to first, as they enter, and last, as they leave.

Tell them they do not have to be rational or careful but candid and full of detail in their observations and suggestions for improvement.

Emphasize that you appreciate their being very specific, both in their observations and their suggested comparisons and improvements, including kinds of products, services, or experts to implement their suggestions.

What is Your Store's Personality?

Ask your "customers" to describe your store as if it were a person and to describe that person's personality, appearance, other traits, and apparent values. Ask them to name celebrities from TV, movies, or public life who have some of the traits they see in your store's personality. Ask them what other outlets (stores, restaurants, entertainment centers, hotels, buildings in your area) have some of the "personality" traits of your store.

This offers a "sidelong glance" at how customers emotionally respond to the experience of being in your store. See if it matches the personality you want for your image. This feedback will help you hone a more specific, memorable brand identity. Consider how Starbucks, Nordstrom's, Ritz Carlton, Sees Candy Shops, Nike, The Gap, or Rainforest Cafe have established distinct site personalities.

Convivial Brainstorming Session

Invite the "anonymous customers" to meet as a group in a pleasant place to compare notes at a "right after work" meeting where you serve them appetizers as they sit around a table and compare suggestions on specific ways to improve your image. Begin by providing a collective summary of their audiotaped comments from their store visits. Ask their approval to tape the meeting.

As part of your welcome, honor these friends for the value of the input they have already given. Note your belief that they will gain insights from talking with each other that will also help them in their own work. Tell them you want the evening to be pleasurable, starting with the good nibbling food and beverages they are imbibing already.

Ask a person not related to your business to facilitate the meeting to keep it flowing and encourage everyone's participation. Promise that everyone can be done in 90 minutes. If they choose to tarry because they get so involved, you already have two significant, priceless achievements: a group that now feels a personal stake in making you more successful, and one that enjoys and learns from talking with each other.

Ask the facilitator to explain the format for the meeting, which will begin with each person suggesting her "best single piece" of advice to improve your store (speaking for no more than three minutes or so) and proceed by going around the room to hear from each person before they comment or question each other. This will build involvement and the caliber of the input you receive. Then have the facilitator open the meeting to wide-open brainstorming and discussion.

In the second part of the meeting, consider asking some of these questions:

  1. What is the most significant, positively memorable aspect of my store and of my product line? (Again, ask for specific, literal details or qualities.)

  2. What could I do to further improve my most valuable aspect (per question #1)?

  3. What kinds of customers (niche markets) would most desire my kind of products?

  4. Where new markets are concerned, you don't know what you don't know. There might be a hidden niche or a new approach to a niche that you can uncover through this group's "step-away" perspectives. Ask them to describe the prospective customers by any specific attribute in how they spend their time and money, what they love and hate. Consider age, sex, ethnicity, or other interests, lifestyle or buying patterns, values, events they'd attend, heroes or heroines, credible sources of information, and more.

When you ask these people to be "anonymous customers," reward them upfront and afterward with generous gift packages of your products, delivered to them. Also, promise to get back to them within 30 days after the group meeting to characterize the specific steps you are taking to respond to their comments. Include a list of the other participants - by now, many will have realized that they too might want to learn more from each other about improving their work and even launching an anonymous customer program of their own. For follow-up, invite the group to meet again in six months.

�1999 by Kare Anderson. All rights reserved.

Kare Anderson is a behavioral futurist who speaks and writes about "Say It Better" methods of thoughtful communication, conflict resolution, cross-promotion and outreach, and multisensory techniques to create more memorable on-site experiences. An Emmy-winning former TV commentator, Wall Street Journal reporter she�s a national columnist in 98 monthly magazines (from Gourmet Retailer to Broadcast Engineering), nine-time author ( Getting What You Want, Pocket Cross-Promotions, Make Yourself Memorable, Beauty Inside Out, Cutting Deals With Unlikely Allies, Resolving Conflict Sooner . . .) and publisher of the "Say It Better" online newsletter now read by over 17,000 people in 32 countries, which is available free when you sign the guest book at her web site at Anderson is the co-founder of The Compelling Communications Group

Learn how to reduce or avoid arguments for just $10.95. Kare's new book, Resolving Conflict Sooner, offers a powerfully simple four-step method, plus 100 specific persuasion techniques. Reserve a copy now at your bookstore. Or order one by sending a $12 check to "Kare Anderson" at our address below and we'll include the "Clarity Cards" pack of 40 tips + inspirational sayings for free.

See what others are already saying about Resolving Conflict Sooner. Go to and click on the cover of the book. And please sign the guestbook to let us know you were there.

Get a complete persuasion and conflict resolution course: Learn over 600 communication techniques in Kare's most comprehensive educational product, the 6-tape and book program called "The Resolution Response" -- an engrossing, easy-to-follow, idea-packed program for you and your organization for just $89.00.

The Compelling Communications Group
15 Sausalito Blvd., Sausalito, Ca 94965-2464
Telephone: (415) 331-6336
Fax: (415) 331-6661
Email: [email protected]

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