How to Succeed Like Lou Reed in Digital Retail
As both founder of legendary 1960s rock group The Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, recently departed singer/songwriter Lou Reed was noted as a visionary and a curmudgeon. While his gruff approach to critics and fans may not be the best customer engagement template, Reed’s innovations as a musical artist offer lessons for retailers seeking success in the digital arena.
Avoiding all That Jazz
Reed wrote deceptively simple songs. He is famously quoted as saying, “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz."
Reed’s brilliance as a songwriter was knowing how to arrange chords and the spaces between them to form radically new compositions that intrigued listeners. Your digital retailing efforts should similarly be simple, yet innovative enough to attract consumers. Digital commerce sites and pages should feature straightforward, obvious navigation and allow customers to quickly find the products they want.
Gratuitous extra features that simply look cool should be avoided. However, leading-edge capabilities that enhance the customer experience, such as touch-enabled links to product data on mobile sites, are the equivalent of Reed using alternate versions of a single chord to spice up the listening experience.
Don’t be Afraid to Lead
A popular phrase among retail IT practitioners is “pioneers get the arrows,” but Reed clearly did not subscribe to that theory. The Velvet Underground sold few albums and received little airplay during their initial run, but wound up being one of the most influential rock bands ever. Punk, glam and grunge are just three popular music movements that never would have happened without The Velvet Underground paving the way. The band went on to gain widespread recognition and Reed had a commercially successful solo career in no small part due to the credibility it gave him.
Retailers need to take the same fearless approach to their digital commerce initiatives. A perfect example of a digital retailer that was not afraid to be the e-commerce version of Velvet Underground is Amazon.com. Launching the first widely available e-commerce site in 1995 when the average person still was not online, Amazon.com weathered years of monetary losses as it essentially created the online retailing model most companies still follow. Amazon is still reporting quarterly losses even as revenues soar, but remains a model for the industry and also continues to receive a steady flow of investment dollars due to its hard-earned “street cred” as a retail IT innovator.
Stay True to Yourself, and Your Core Customers
Reed often set trends but rarely followed them. When he followed a new direction, it was something that interested him and was usually also of interest to his established fan base, who generally were not people buying the latest top 40 albums. While he sacrificed some short-term profits by not being more accessible to mainstream listeners, this let Reed create a brand as a performer that lasted more than 40 years.
Digital retail efforts also need to reflect who you are as a retailer and what your core customer base will respond to. For example, gamification is a hot new trend with a lot of upside, but probably is not a good fit for a retailer whose audience skews older and mostly uses digital commerce tools to research in-store purchases. If you’re in doubt about whether a new digital retail trend is a good fit, just ask yourself, “What would Lou do?”
Focus on Controls
California leads the nation in efforts to conserve energy, and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Changes to the state’s mandatory Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency standards — changes that will make commercial buildings 30% more efficient than the previous 2008 standards — are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
The updated standards will have a direct impact on retailers whose portfolio includes stores in California. And for those that don’t operate in the Golden State, keep in mind that California is often a bellwether for the rest of the nation.
The new standards introduce requirements for photosensors, occupancy sensors and multi-level lighting controls, both indoors and out. Indeed, according to the California Lighting Technology Center, new requirements for lighting controls account for one of the biggest changes to Title 24 standards.
The latest version of the standards also includes more stringent requirements for the testing and certification of controls commissioning.
Another key change is that more retrofit projects will be required to meet new-construction standards for both lighting power density and controls than under the 2008 code. The only exceptions: buildings with fewer than 40 ballasts being replaced and spaces where less than 10% of the lighting is affected.
Here is a brief overview of some of the key changes in the 2013 code:
CONTROLS: Under the new standards, all interior luminaires must have manual on/off controls, and each area must be independently controlled. Dimmer switches must allow manual on/off functionality, with some exceptions, including public restrooms with two or more stalls.
The 2013 standards also include new requirements for automatic daylighting controls, requiring that floor plans in buildings over 5,000 sq. ft. have 75% of their total area in daylight zones. Controls requirements have become more stringent in the daylighting zones. Multi-level automatic daylighting controls are required in all sky-lit or side-lit zones where the installed general lighting power is greater than or equal to 120W.
The new code also mandates greater use of occupant-sensing lighting controls in offices, conference rooms and the like. Retailers should take note that, for the first time, occupancy sensors and controls will be required in aisles and open areas in warehouses. Controls must automatically reduce lighting power by 50% in these areas when they are unoccupied.
For the first time, lighting in parking garages must be controlled by occupant-sensing controls, with at least one step between 20% and 50% of full power. The garages will be allowed a maximum of 500W per occupancy sensor.
DEMAND RESPONSE: Another key change involves demand response capability. The 2008 code only required DR capability in retail stores with sales floor areas greater than or equal to 50,000 sq. ft.
But the new standards expands this significantly, requiring that all non-residential buildings, starting at 10,000 sq. ft., be capable of automatically responding to a DR signal. The end goal is that, when the utility issues the DR signal, the building must be capable of automatically reducing its lighting energy use to a level that is at least 15% below the building’s maximum total lighting power.
COMMISSIONING: Title 24 now requires that a commissioning report be completed and provided to each building owner. Projects that are issued a building permit on or after Jan. 1, 2014, must undergo acceptance testing for automatic daylighting controls, automatic time switch controls, occupancy sensors, outdoor lighting shut-off controls, outdoor motion sensors and demand response controls.
EXTERIOR LIGHTING: All outdoor luminaires up to 150W will have to comply with the IESNA’s BUG system for assessing and limiting backlight, uplight and glare.
Under the 2008 version of Title 24, photocontrols were required for all outdoor lighting. In addition to photocontrols, the 2013 standards also require automatic scheduling controls. And for all lighting mounted 24 ft. above the ground or lower, motion sensor controls will also be required. The controls must be able to automatically reduce lighting power of each luminaire by at least 40% (but not more than 80%) when the lights are not in use.
In addition, there are new requirements for controls with regard to outdoor sales lighting, facades and outdoor dining areas.
California Energy Commission
California Lighting Technology Center
Includes information about Title 24 plus technology updates and lighting design guides for retail and office spaces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Contains answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the Building Energy Efficiency standards.
Wawa Takes on Florida with New Prototype
Convenience store operator Wawa is expanding through Florida with a fresh, new prototype whose palette, materials and textures complement the look and feel of the Sunshine state. The use of warm colors and abundant natural light enhance the store’s inviting, upmarket vibe.
The prototype reflects the language and style associated with Floridian architecture. Exterior elements include pastel colors, clapboard siding, pitched roofs and front porches that reference historic south and central Florida building types.
At the same time, travelers from the East and the Mid-Atlantic will recognize the Pennsylvania-based Wawa’s signature Canada Goose logo and “winged” gas canopy.
“While the design is uniquely Floridian, every other visual reference is recognizably Wawa,” said Joseph Bona, retail division president, CBX, which designed the prototype (with the help of Orlando, Fla.-based Cuhaci & Peterson).
The prototype has an open, uncluttered look, made all the more so by high ceilings and streamlined modular fixtures and shelving. The materials, which include natural stone, several types of tile and maple laminates were chosen to add to the store’s warm and welcoming aura, Bona said, and complement the Florida look.
Expansive windows provide a clear view to the interior, where fresh food takes center stage. A red-tiled wall placed front and center highlights a center island kitchen area where fresh rolls are baked off daily. The area serves as a focal point and incorporates a full-service specialty beverage section. Customers can order drinks and sandwiches exactly to their liking using Wawa’s touchscreen system. A series of screens are positioned at the area’s counters.
Adjacent to the counter area are the coffee and fountain beverage departments, which feature a warm taupe tile wall as a backdrop.
“Red drum shades that are used over the coffee area and at the beverage coolers help create a sense of place,” Bona said.
Digital signage calls attention to the food and beverage offerings in a fun way while allowing for better time of day communications of various items.
Based in Wawa, Pa., Wawa operates more than 600 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. To date, the company has rolled out 25 stores in Florida, all featuring the new design.