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 NowPossible.com, 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.

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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.

 
 

Title

Price: $86.93

Sincerely,

  The Booksellers at Barnes & Noble
  Buckhead
  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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