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Don’t Forget the Fun When Designing Customer Experience

BY Dan Berthiaume

A carefully designed customer experience is the cornerstone of modern omni-channel customer relationship marketing. Retailers painstakingly craft marketing messages and engagement strategies that a customer will encounter at a specific time, in a specific place, via a specific channel. The experience often has some flexibility built in so it can adapt to individual customer behavior, wants and needs.

Generally speaking, every aspect of this carefully crafted and curated experience is geared toward directly convincing the customer to make a purchase. Naturally, all the investment retailers are making in omni-channel technology fails to make a whole lot of sense if it doesn’t result in higher conversion rates and purchase totals. But when designing their omni-channel customer experiences retailers are too often forgetting one crucial aspect: fun. As in mindless fun that is not directly tied to any sort of marketing campaign or effort to separate customers from their cash.

The lessons of ‘Penguinball’
Some years ago, I worked at a small company where late on Friday afternoons the senior executives would usually have already left for the weekend. The remaining employees would often take the opportunity to engage in a homemade game called “Penguinball” that tested a player’s strength and agility using small rubber balls thrown at foam penguins that had been given out as promotional toys at trade shows.

Penguinball had no real tie to anyone’s job, but offered a valuable stress valve at the end of a tough week and also brought together employees from different departments in a highly siloed and politicized company in a friendly atmosphere. The 30 minutes or so spent playing Penguinball resulted in improved morale and enhanced interdepartmental communication and cooperation that no official work activity could have ever produced.

That’s nice, you’re probably thinking, but what does it have to do with how I design my omni-channel customer experience? Quite a bit, actually.

Avoiding marketing saturation
Your customers are literally exposed to thousands of marketing messages every day, through every channel in which they live their private lives (i.e., all the same channels you are trying to sell them stuff through). These may be blatant advertisements or more subtle messages, like product placements in a TV show or sponsored sections of a website. But in any event, customers are bombarded with efforts to get them to spend money the way employees are bombarded with assignments from their supervisors and like a worker late on a Friday afternoon, they reach a point of saturation.

Many omni-channel retailers are engaging in gamification to liven up the customer experience they offer. This is by no means a bad idea, but the typical retail gamification offering is still a fairly obvious sales pitch. Common omni-channel gamification gimmicks include rewards and status for customers who spend a certain amount of money or buy a certain number of products, scavenger hunts where customers find free products or discount coupons in the “real world” using online clues, photo contests where customers submit online photos of themselves using a retailer’s products, or online games where prizes include special discounts and other bounties that directly lead consumers to purchases.

Again, there is nothing wrong with these type of gamification offerings, but retailers should also consider gamification offerings that do not serve as direct (or even indirect) entreaties to buy something. An athletic goods retailer could offer sports-themed video games on its site, or an entertainment retailer could let mobile customers play music and movie trivia on their devices. A basic tie-in to the retailer’s core business is OK, but the key point is not to perform any advertising or send any marketing messages or promotions.

The serious business of fun
Like Penguinball, retailers will build morale and solidarity among their customers as a result. They will start to associate certain brands with sheer fun and wind up visiting the various channel offerings of “fun” retailers more frequently. Almost inevitably, this will lead to customers turning to their favorite “fun” brands when it’s time to make a purchase.

In addition, there is nothing to prevent retailers from building customer communities by providing fun games, contests and activities where customers can compete and/or cooperate with each other. Bringing customers together organically, rather than through more formal means such as online forums or social media pages, can result in the development of more natural communities of like-minded shoppers. Similarly, Penguinball brought together members of different departments more naturally than formal company meetings and retreats.

Of course no company could survive long if its employees played Penguinball all day and no retailer will survive long if its omni-channel CRM strategy consists of fun and games with no marketing or promotion. But sometimes easing up a little on chasing every last nickel can result in a business earning a few extra dollars.


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Snapple’s latest contest is a whole lot of Nothing

BY CSA STAFF

PLANO, Texas — Snapple has taken a page from Seinfeld, the often self-described “show about nothing,” in its latest marketing gambit.

The beverage brand issued a press release titled, “Snapple issues press release about nothing,” which opens with, “Snapple has Nothing to say. Why? Because Nothing is important. Nothing is universal. Nothing is great.” The release also alludes to still popular sitcom, “Some celebrities are famous for it. Some TV shows last a decade talking about it. And now, Snapple wants America to celebrate it.”

Snapple has not snapped, nor is it experiencing an existential crisis. Rather, it is launching a contest wherein it encourages consumers to check under caps of 16 oz. Snapple bottles marked “Win Nothing Instantly.” Winning caps are labeled with a variety of prizes that include: “No Bills,” “No Airfare” and “Better Than Nothing: Free Snapple.”

The contest runs from now through 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30. Participants who find caps marked “No Bills” will win up to $500 in gift cards, “No Airfare” will each win a $400 gift card, “No Thirst” will each win a coupon booklet containing 48 Snapple coupons, “No Grocery Bill” will each win a $100 gift card, “No Paying at the Pump” will each win a $50 gift card and “Better Than Nothing: Free Snapple” will each win a 6-pack coupon.

“What’s more extraordinary than Snapple? Nothing comes to mind,” said Dave Fleming, director of marketing for Snapple. “Over the years, we’ve heard from thousands of Snapple fans about what makes them stand out from the crowd. This summer, we want our fans to celebrate what brings us all together: Nothing.”

“I have Nothing to add,” added Fleming.

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Lorna Jane, Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, Calif.

BY CSA STAFF

The mantra of “move, nourish, believe” occupies a prominent spot on the blue walls of Lorna Jane, Santa Monica, Calif. With its bright colors, fashionable accents, and welcoming atmosphere, the store has an upbeat, sporty-girl vibe that is very much in keeping with the Australian active wear brand’s positioning. Motivational expressions can be found throughout the space.

Lorna Jane, which is known for the eye-popping colors and innovative designs of its threads, operates 142 stores. The company entered the U.S. market in 2012, in Malibu, Calif. To date, it has opened some 17 stores here, primarily in Southern California. Most recently, it has started expanding into the Bay Area. Upcoming locations include Berkeley, Stonestown Galleria (San Francisco), Corte Madera and Santa Barbara.


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