Thursday, March 10, 2011


One of the great indulgence of shopping is a visit to "Lush". You may have heard about them, since they now have stores in every major North American city. "Lush" bills themselves as a store peddling "fresh hand made cosmetics". But, they are far more than that. Walk into any of their stores, and you are pleasantly assaulted with an aroma of soaps, bubble baths and body washes.

The stores themselves stick to a rough hewn natural aesthetic. Plank wooden flooring and wooden fixtures balance giant wheels of hand made soaps. Want only a bit? the staff will cheerfully chop off a piece from the giant soap wheel and wrap it up for you. An experience like visiting a cheese shop in France - without the attitude.

What makes "Lush" such an indulgence is not the charming soap wheels, but rather the "Bath Bombs". Baseball sized scented delights. Drop one in your bath one evening, watch as they fizzle, spit, and froth. Suddenly, the day melts away. An effective tool to stop the urge to tell off your boss, or spouse, or partner, or friend.

This back to basics, home grown product distillation is nothing new. In fact, it's all the rage. "Lush", like many of the companies, espouses their green business, their ethical practices and above all, their commitment to produce high quality hand made products. All of this works, especially in the customer's mind. While you pay a bit more for the product (In relation to say Bath and BodyWorks), the experience, and feeling of engagement more than makes up for it.

What I say recently at their stores brings customer engagement and connection to a new level. On many of their products, "Lush" has added a sticker, with a cartoon caricature of the actual person that made the product. By their own hands! So now when you pick up a jar of Karma hand cream. you can find out that Reggie, or Chainsaw, or Lisa, actually created these products at the "Lush"factory.

I'm a bit cynical, so asked the manager of my local "Lush" store is this was for real or some clever marketing ploy. She enthused to me, in Justin Bieber fan excitement that yes! they exist! She met em on a trip to the factory and was thrilled to meet Reggie in person. The other staff member jumped in, gushing about how excited she got whenever stock from "Chainsaw" arrived.

So, OK. They have been sniffing  the soap wheel  aromas too long. But isn't this a great way for a company to build customer loyalty? It creates a higher level of customer engagement and connectivity with the product you sell. Now you as the consumer can buy a product and know exactly who created it. Smart. Effective.

You can see the creators bios HERE. Not sure how this can be applied to other businesses. I'll let you know as I mull it over, soaking in a butter bath bomb.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More 2011 Retail Trends (and what you can do about em!)

We gave you the first five retail trends for 2011, and, as we promised, get ready for trends 6 through 11:

#6 Group Coupons
We have written in the past about Groupon and the many imitators. The group coupon phenomenon  has marketing and advertising agencies in a frenzy to promote brands and products through this relatively inexpensive promotional channel. Groupon is the clear "it girl" of this marketing ploy, so look for more retailers to join up in 2011.

What Can You Do?
We still see Groupon as a great way to partner with other groups on your campus community. With the relatively captive market on campus, combined with your database of student emails, trying a Groupon like marketing idea would not only speak through the noise of all the twitter and facebook marketing, but also creates some interest from students, who like to save as a group!

#7 Value of Social Media?
Seems like every company in the world has a Facebook page, or Twitters, or has a presence on every social networking site in the atmosphere. But is any of it of any value? Are users engaging? Most of it is just noise and more promotional harping. Advertising agencies are starting to pull back a bit from this channel, carefully selecting what promotions should be pushed out through networking sites. The key to success seems to be campaigns that engage (on line games for example), have some humour, and add value to the customer (coupons to portable devices).

What Can you do?
Stop twittering every sale! Make sure your twitter posts are something special and interesting and make customers stop and think. We like the stores that twitter some interesting campus news (authors on campus, faculty awards etc) that have a store tie in. As for Facebook, make sure you are updating information on a regular basis, and add relevant content (remember value?) to your page.

#8 Gift Wrapping Your Way to Success.
Out Christmas shopping in the bygone age of 2010, we noticed that retailers have eliminated boxes for gift giving and gift wrapping services. It is all part of retailers cutting costs and snipping every expense possible to help the bottom line.

What Can You Do?
Like many small independent retailers, offering free boxes and wrapping services can really help to distinguish yourself from all the other big chains. It is very low cost, and is a value added service for the campus customer. Yet another service you can offer, buying some goodwill on campus.

#9 The Customer Roars
2010 was the year that customers found success in sharing their bad service stories on line. Airlines with lost luggage, cell phone bills, product malfunctions, customer service horror stories. Now the customer is not sharing with 10 people, but millions. National retailers are investing large sums of cash and resources  to monitor and respond quickly to negative press.

What Can You Do?
Respond quickly to negative comments. Post them, along with your (thoughtful) response on your webpage/facebook! Assign someone on staff to watch wall posts on campus sites about the store, and listen to the tweeting of the campus crowd. You might also want to check with your college marketing or IT department about automated systems that track comments for you. No, you won't stop complaints. However, quickly reacting to customer feedback means that you are responsive and interested in their opinions.

#10 Free Wi-Fi
More and more national chains are adding free Wi-Fi for customer's mobile devices. The old world idea was to offer this service so customers would browse and stay in your store longer. The new world thought is to offer free Wi-Fi so customers can check competitors prices. It sounds counter intuitive, but it seems to be paying dividends to retailers that are encouraging this type of price comparison in their stores.

What Can You Do?
This "Wi-Fi-mobile-device-in-store-price-comparison" works best with large ticket items such as appliances or electronics. Yet, we got to thinking that this could be great for campus stores and textbook prices. Offering (and promoting) this offering to your student customers shows that you are confident in your pricing, you have the item in stock, and that you are convenient and trusted. Sure the customer can browse your competitors, but since they are standing in the store, and the book is right there, we think they will choose your offering more times than they will a competitor.

#11 Finally.....PINK!
No, not Pink the singer, or PINK, the store. We mean PINK the colour. Pink is showing up everywhere this year, from home design to fashion. We guess retailers and brand developers started to notice how sales increased with pink products for Breast Cancer Awareness, and decided to carry this colour scheme into the whole of 2011. So pink is everywhere.

What Can You Do?
Embrace the pink? Look for items to sell in this colour scheme during your buying trips. You can consider it for many of you store product categories. And, don't forget, Pink is not just for women anymore!

That's our predictions for the year. We might be wrong, or barking up the wrong tree, or sending you on a wild goose chase. But, our pink hued crystal ball that we gaze in can only show us so much.