Sunday, June 14, 2009

Boutique Banter

Bombay is boutique haven. From imported clothes to designer Indian clothing boutiques, one can find quite an array of shops to choose from. Some we like, some we don't.

What's interesting to note is how these boutiques communicate.

SMS texting on your mobile phone, done with permission of course (after you fill in your name and number in the guest book) -is where it's at these days. Here's a text message I received recently:

Karma Kola presents 'Summer Fest' – a new collection of cool summer tops, dresses, jumpsuits, and shorts. Check it out today!

While that might be impossible to ignore and great if you're already out shopping, I wonder about other more engaging methods of communication. What about email? A newsletter? A facebook group or fan page? And, what about the ultimate in word-of-mouth- some great service?

Most of the stores with their SMS campaigns attract a crowd, but unfortunately, don't invest in great service.

There's one boutique that I went to lately that had exceptional service. Lace, on the way to Pali Hill, Bandra is a lingerie store that has well-trained staff. From assisting you with sizes, informing you about discounts, to helping you understand your bill and signing you up for the loyalty programme, the assistants have it down pat. And, it is service with a smile.

Lesson Learned: Be innovative and communicate well. But, if you can't deliver, don't send that SMS.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Email Experience

So, every week or so I receive the Sephora Beauty Insider email.And every week, I am excited to open it! Can you believe that? Yes, it's true that the company belongs to a category that I am interested in, but there are very few companies that can create excitement around an email blast, don't you think?

So let's dedicate this post to what Sephora does right and wrong. For your reference, here's the latest email as an example. It has been split into 3 parts. Click on each image if you'd like to take a closer look.

  1. An Irresistible Offer: The Sephora Beauty Insider program is basically free registration to receive offers, points and freebies. So this is absolutely in sync with the purpose of the email and the Beauty Insider concept.
  2. Makes you feel special: Sephora calls you by your name and goes one step ahead to say "Try it before it launches!" reminding you that it's a special for Beauty Insiders only. What a great way to make you feel special and encourage online shopping by way of a call to action (note the free shipping over $50)
  3. Uh-oh!: One mistake they make is showing you where to sign up for Beauty Insider if you are not one already. Huh? I thought this email only went out to BI's!
  4. New and varied: Multi-brand outlet Sephora covers all bases- providing options for fragrance, lips, eyes and skin. I know that this isn't based on my past purchases, but I wonder if ladies out there see changes in their email offering based on shopping behaviour. Wouldn't you love to know what's new with YOUR favourite brands besides the plethora out there? I think so.
  5. Localized and informative: So, this is a new email, but when I signed up for the program I was based in NYC. The two events they've described are engaging and relevant, and in NYC! Not only that, there are phone numbers provided, just in case I need more info.
  6. Social media and tech-savvy: The next section you notice is the Facebook, Twitter, Blog and Free stuff buttons. Notice how obvious they are made, so that you can click away and sign up! Engaging and Interactive!
Wrapping up: The Sephora Beauty Insider email provides tons of information, and opportunities to engage with the brand. It is well-designed, non-cluttered and fits in with the brand. Good job, Sephora!
The Bliss Factor for the Sephora Email Experience is 4/5! (The Bliss Factor is our new rating of experiences based on how they make a customer feel, 5 being the highest a brand can get)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

(Un) Branded!

A certain newspaper review mentioned that Red Ninja (in Bandra, Bombay) would serve up some delish asian grub and pack it in cute little chinese takeout containers.
These containers were described as being red with a ninja printed on them. Interesting, I thought! What a great way to reinforce one's brand name!

However, when the moment (and the food) arrived- I chose to differ. The food we ordered was just average, and came in white paper and foil containers. No red. No ninja.
What happened to basic brand consistency?

Some brands that come to mind when we think brand consistency are- Tiffany & Co. with its signature blue box; Abercrombie & Fitch with its great-looking-models-in-beachy-locales.

Closer to home (India) - I cannot think of a brand that displays such brand consistency.
Even cafes such as Basilico and Saltwater Cafe tend to use different packaging for different items including plain white non-branded plastic bags!

Can you think of a local Indian retail/lifestyle/travel/hospitality brand that is branded well and branded consistently? Let me know which ones and why!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

10 steps to a store's success!

So I've been visiting several stores off late. And,I have been thinking- what makes a store exceptional?

Although site of the store is important,it's not always location,location,location that cuts it.
Here are a few thoughts to take into consideration (in no particular order) while you design your store:

1.A store that knows its target audience. For example: The MoMa store (in NYC) does not target a certain demographic, but rather goes one step beyond to cater to a certain lifestyle (those who are interested in design)
2.Consistent brand identity. For example:consistent colours, logos, and look and feel of interiors etc.
3.Helpful information. For example: a visual on how to put pieces together, or what the latest trends are.
4.Great customer service without being pushy. For example: The Genius Bar at the Apple Stores or Nordstrom's personal service, both very helpful but not pushy.
5.Uniquely designed store, that fits with the brand experience. For example: The minimalist Prada store in Soho, NYC or the exclusive club-like Abercrombie store on 5th ave in the same city.
6.Great visual merchandising and promotions that fit with the look of the brand
7.And, of course, a strong, differentiated selection of merchandise to back up the brand promise
8.A customer care number, and a web address listed on packaging which makes for easy follow-up
9.Personalized follow-up communications once you have signed up For example: Crate and Barrel sends personalized emails once you sign up for their registry
10. And a trademark, something that's uniquely yours: For example: Aveda serves white tea at all its boutiques.

What do you think? Is there something else that could contribute to a store's success?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Foot Massage Magic!

If there was ever a special, blissful, treat you'd like to gift someone, let this be it.

Located at several areas in the city of Bombay, AromaThai- the foot spa, is a treat for the senses. Their one hour long "Sawadee" foot massage priced at about INR 700, is a relief for those hard at work in this stressful city.

To divulge all would take away from the experience, but let's just say it includes a gentle foot wash and scrub, about 40 minutes of foot rub and accupressure with your choice of aromatic oil, about 20 minutes of head and shoulder massage and some warm, mild thai tea to top it all off.

For first-timers and returning customers alike, the experience is a delight and can be a case in point for Bombay services looking to learn a few lessons in great branded customer experience.

Why, you ask? The welcome you receive is in soft thai. You have no doubt that the shoes/slippers you leave in their custody will be well taken care of. The ambience is soothing with beautifully designed walls and artfully done foot tubs. The expertise that they display in handling your feet, is above average, and done with a smile. And, the thai theme extends to the flowers that the masseuses wear in their hair. For the most part, you feel like you are in some exotic village in Thailand.

The one drawback is that the hostess (in the Bandra spa) is located as you enter (rightfully so) but that the hum of her voice and buzz of the telephone distract you, even as you try and make this journey through Thailand. So, a tip: Seat yourselves upstairs, since the constant buzz of the telephone might prevent you from dozing off during your spa hour!

Just in case, you'd like to check them out, they're at where they also give you some important points to remember, as you decide to take a trip to Thailand, from just down your street!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Busy but Blissful!

So we're extremely busy working on a launch of a residential property project in a city just outside of Bombay. Work includes designing the sales experience, the event, the marketing and the PR. Yes, it's a lot and we're swamped. But, we're staying blissful!

Till later!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Retail Reality

So, after a hiatus, I decided to take in some shopping at one of the more popular malls in Bombay, which happens to be one of the larger shopping and entertainment destinations in India.

'High Street Phoenix', whose slogan is aptly- 'a day well spent' because of the various activities it offers, was the destination.

There were a number of stores we visited:Patschouli and Mogra for Indian ethnic wear, Puma, United Colors of Benetton, Marks and Spencer, Pepe Jeans, Lifestyle (a department store owned by the Landmark Group) Lush Cosmetics etc. I was keeping a sharp vigil on something, anything, that could be considered blissful, exciting, or just something beyond the ordinary.

Lush had some great assistants- helpful and knowledgeable. The other stores? Passable service, not-so-interested sales staff, and far from what we call a great brand experience.It was a hot day too. And even though the mall is mostly air-conditioned, people were definitely listless. Come on! There's got to be something exciting here, I thought to myself.

Maybe UCOB could have served up some chilled lemonade, cranked up the music a notch, and had certain hours where it would rain snow from the ceilings- with a 'In here, it feels like winter' theme?
Maybe The Body Shop could have offered some cooling fruity lip balm samples to combat the dry-lip syndrome?
Maybe Mogra could have conducted a workshop on how-to-dress-cool-in-ethnic-Indian?

In this day and age, Information, Communication and Entertainment are important and could even be deal-breakers for consumers, as they decide where to take their business.

On the other side of the world, Topshop in NYC has launched with a bang!

Their idea to hire personal fashion consultants, allows the young and trendy a chance for some high-end pampering.It gives customers more time in the store, with someone who is both aware of the inventory and attuned to people's styles. I wouldn't be surprised if the business brought in by these consultants is well over the average amount spent by a self-shopper.
Pure business genius? I think so.