Here is a solid example / case study of an organization (Barnes & Noble) that is disconnected from the consumer’s view of the world.  Although they’ve integrated a nifty use of technology in my example below, they neglect to see the misaligned expectations in their efforts.  There is also a clear under-development and empowerment of the store managers.

Backstory – my daughter loves to read and has been asking about Harry Potter books for some time.  I found a paperback boxed set in a retail store at an airport a few weeks ago for $90.  As I’ve begun to do with most items, I scanned it using my iPhone and RedLaser – an iPhone app which scans the bar code and gives you comparable prices both physically nearby at other retailers, as well as via online sources.

The Experience Teaser – As I scanned the options (B&N – NEWS FLASH: social commerce has given consumer LOTS and LOTS of options) last weekend, I found B&N as one of the possible vendors who carry this item.  Having some affinity to the brand, I followed the links to their site and found a really clever feature: "Pick Me Up" – it simply said to order this item and it will be available in a store near you within an hour.  How cool, right? 

The Rest of the Story – More disappointing than cool really.  You see, I went through several steps, filled out a form or two, change our Saturday plans to swing by a local B&N – near our home, where we visit and shop frequently, only to be surprised at the register with the $90 retail price – it’s less than $50 on their website!  The exact same item.  The clerk gives me some standard corporate policy ("I can’t" is the magic word when I stop listening and ask for a supervisor), and get this – the supervisor tells me that the reasons it’s cheaper on their website are:

  • It’s a separate division (of the same company mind you), and
  • They have a bigger payroll!?!

Here’s the Problem – consumers don’t care about your corporate structure or how many copiers you own!  What I’m after is how to get the item I want, when and where I want, at a competitive price (notice I didn’t say the cheapest!)  My former CEO, Bruce Kasanoff of, has captured what refers to as the "1toEverything: A Customer’s View of the Connected World," which B&N clearly needs to study up on and implement throughout their organization.


The Outcome – not only did I leave incredibly disappointed with a diluted brand perception of B&N – which I would correlate to many consumers with a reduced loyalty / propensity to return as frequently, but I went online and purchased it from another vendor. 

What You Should Take Away:

1. When consumer have a bad experience, they won’t tell 10 friends, they’ll tell 10,000 as evident by the readers of this blog
2. It takes years to develop a reputation and a handful of instances to destroy it!
3. B&N has an incredible leadership opportunity – because of its brick & mortar footprint to provide an unparalleled experience with an integrated convenience factor – not price OR convenience, but a competitive price AND local relationships, and they’re missing out.  Just like Blockbuster did.

How can your business integrate a stronger convenience / higher perceived experience each and every time it engages its most valuable customer relationships?

Date: December 11, 2010 11:08:13 AM EST
To: David Nour
Subject: Pick Me Up Confirmation: Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-7)

Dear David Nour,

Good news. Your search is over. The distance between you and Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-7) is only as far as Buckhead. Our booksellers have reserved 1 copy in your name, and they’re holding it until 12/14/2010. (After that, we have to give other customers their turn.) If you have any questions, please give the store a call at 404-261-7747.

Thanks for participating in our "Pick Me Up" program. Our mission in life is to get you the item you want as quickly as possible. We’ll see you soon.



Price: $86.93


  The Booksellers at Barnes & Noble
  2900 Peachtree Road NE Suite 310
  Atlanta, GA 30305 < br />  404-261-7747
  Sun 9-9, Mon-Thu 9-10, Fri & Sat 9-11

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