Worthy of imitation

How to create a retail experience that allows us to compete against Amazon

As Amazon expands into the grocery business, we can learn great lessons from the companies which are competing effectively, especially Walmart and Trader Joe's. Walmart's success is mostly about distribution power, but Trader Joe's uses techniques which any retailer can copy. 

The Trader Joe's approach to retail:

  1. Make it personal
  2. Make it enjoyable
  3. Make it easy to manage transactions
  4. Make us feel like we are supporting the community.

Harvard Business Review: What the Grocery Stores Holding their Own Against Amazon are doing Right, 2019-Apr-12 by Amit Sharma

The nature of customer loyalty is changing as shoppers get more comfortable buying groceries online — prioritizing convenience, choice, and ease over physical proximity to a store. As consumers become more sophisticated, retailers need to inspire lasting loyalty across their customer base. To do it, they should offer flexibility, proactively communicate about order status and other details, and build emotional connections with shoppers.... 

And people are emotionally connected to grocers, as utilitarian as grocery shopping may seem. For example, Trader Joe’s, which ranked highly in the C Space study, inspires loyalty by creating an enjoyable shopping atmosphere. A 2018 Forrester survey of 287 brands rated Trader Joe’s first in positive customer experiences, and the company regularly outranks other grocery chains in sales per square foot. Trader Joe’s fans closely follow new product releases, request stores in their towns, and have even created their own community on Reddit.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer grocery delivery, but it has created such a personal and enjoyable shopping experience that customers actually want to visit its stores. Everything at Trader Joe’s is designed to make grocery shopping feel more friendly, personal, and laid-back, including its flexible return policies, free samples, quirky product labels, fast check-out, and helpful employees.... 

Grocers need to offer their customers more than points-based customer loyalty programs, which are no longer a competitive differentiator. Most grocery chains offer similar benefits and do little to foster an emotional connection between a shopper and a brand. A study by Accenture found that 78% of shoppers abandon loyalty programs after signing up.

By investing in the factors that build long-lasting loyalty instead of transactional programs that most people ignore, grocers can attract repeat buyers and brand advocates.

Qv190414aj


The new function of hierarchy

Be careful that your 'self-starters' don't start off in different directions. If we have competent, empathetic leaders, we don't need too many of them, but we do need a few. 

diginomica: Flat hierarchies--progressive organizational thinking or digital's 'flat earth' theory? 2019-Feb-22 by Cath Everett

Robert Ordever, Managing Director of culture consultancy OC Tanner Europe, is not convinced that an apparent desire to remove hierarchies from the business is actually about people wanting to eradicate leaders at all. Instead he believes it is more about a certain tiredness of what they have become. He explains:

Much about leadership has evolved to where it’s unhealthy, so control-and-command, lack of respect and transparency etc. Leadership has got itself a bad name and what people crave is a better form of it – and if they’re not happy with what they’ve got, it’s human nature to go to the extreme when thinking about alternatives.

For him, in both the workplace and the animal kingdom, there will always be natural leaders and followers. But a key aim across businesses of all stripes at the moment is to find expressions of leadership that are not based on title and privilege or on traditional characteristics, such as being ‘strong’, all-knowing and having to take tough decisions. Ordever explains:

The new style of leadership is about building a great team by bringing talent together, empowering them, enabling them, helping them grow and then getting out of the way. So it’s about involving people in decision-making, respecting the individual, enabling innovation and constantly learning. But even in a hierarchy-free organisation, there will always be strong leaders that come to the surface because without leaders, it’s difficult to keep people moving in the same direction. 

Qv190228fl


Publishing content to customer needs, not a calendar

At PatSnap, the Head of Content is Timi Olotu, and he has established an incredibly effective practice. He and his staff develop blog posts, research, and interviews which are prized by PatSnap customers. The process of interacting with customers, performing research, then tracking statistics is so well ingrained, that having a "content calendar" is irrelevant. 

Managing Editor: A Different Kettle of Fish: How Timi Olotu Has Built a Successful B2B Content Marketing Program, 2018-Oct-16 by Lee Price

For one, research is key. I try to instill a research sensibility with my team. One of the first things I invested in at PatSnap was a Blue Yeti microphone. We regularly interview people and we need the audio quality to be good. Then we have a framework to document all the key insights, and behavioral and attitudinal trends that we learn from those calls and from talking to salespeople.

But I would say the thing that really gives us an edge is that we spend a lot of time really trying to figure out what we should be talking about. When I joined I tried to stamp out the mentality of having any kind of weekly or monthly publishing quota. We try to stay responsible and do end up publishing pretty much weekly. However, what was important was to shift the mentality away from "we need to be talking" to "we need to be saying something compelling."

Qv181030cm


Why good board members are hard to find

I'm all for having a very small board of people who actually want to contribute.  

Twitter: The Great Non-executive Director (NED), 2018-Oct-13 by Fred Destin

2/ what we normally get - a bunch of high level comments at board meetings only and vague moral support for the founders.

3/ what we’d really like - firstly someone who cares as deeply about the success of the business as the others around the table, and anticipates issues and dynamically maps out opportunities... 

6/ here is my list of wants from a great NED : (a) consigliere to the founders (b) independent voice on strategy (c) help align the board when issues arise (d) hold both investors and founders to account - be the institutional “memory bank” of the board

7/ (e) help the company anticipate major issues - in particular when it comes to financing (f) provide strong moral and ethical compass to everyone at difficult times (such as say a recap) (g) reframe the debate when it gets stuck

(h) speak the hard truths no one wants to hear in a non-partisan way (I) get to know everyone in the team and be a cheerleader for morale (j) help recruit (k) help with execution in areas of expertise. 

Qv181026nd


Customer empathy games proposed by IDEO

IDEO has developed a very good program to help companies get their employees to empathize with customers. If employees are not users of the product, customer empathy is always an ongoing challenge.  

Harvard Business Review: To Get Employees to Empathize with Customers, Make Them Think Like Customers, 2018-Sep-28 by Erin Henkel and Adam Grant

What’s the best way to cultivate empathy? The standard answer is to spend more time with customers. For example, leaders at IBM, Medtronic, and Microsoft have sent their people out to meet customers and see their products in use. But recently at IDEO, we’ve been encouraging companies to go a step further. Instead of just getting to know the customer, we want employees to become the customer.

The idea is to create an embodied experience for employees, rather than just a conversation. People learn much more when they are physically engaged in an activity, not just talking about it. But you can’t just take employees through the actual customer experience. They already know it like the back of their hands; it’s too easy for them to get defensive and justify the way they already do things.

Instead, we bring people into different contexts — removed from typical day-to-day company operations — that can serve as a metaphor for what customers experience and therefore jolt employees into a more empathetic stance.

Qv181004eg


Work a little harder when using bald words to communicate. Use Bill Jensen's CLEAR model.

Texting, emailing, slacking (a communication thing now--right?)... all these channels rely on typed words with no vocal nuance. This lean messaging can also lead to being confused and getting ignored. 

Behaviorally-focused messages can be patterned for success. Okay, let's C.L.E.A.R. a message, as designed by Bill Jensen, author of Simplicity and many other books and tools.

The message could be an email, or a multi-part text, or even some meeting notes after the face-to-face. 

  1. For the first sentence or phrase, communicate how the message is CONNECTED to what the recipient does, or wants to be doing, or to accomplish: "Since I know you're working on the ____ project..." When we start this way, we are making the message more relevant, and the recipient more attentive. We are answering the "why do I care?" question. 

  2. The second part is to provide a LIST of actions... It can be a one-item list. Here are the things the recipient could do to realize their goals in Point 1 (see above). It's a very good idea to make this 'list' either a set of steps or a single boldface command. 

  3. Set the EXPECTATIONS. Share what results they can expect from taking action. What does the recipient's success look like? Paint a picture. Say, "if you follow my suggestion, you'll see progress in...." As David Allen would say "what does success feel like?"

  4. Point out the ABILITY of the recipient(s) to achieve their goals. The LIST of actions you provided in step 2 must be things that the recipient is empowered or capable of doing. Remind the recipient they have the power, whether it's formal authority, talent or even just persistence. (If during this step you realize the recipient does not have the capability to execute the list you provided in Point 2, stop and reconsider your message.) 

  5. Close the message by clarifying the RETURN (or ROI: return on investment). Spell out "what's in it for me, as the recipient of this message." Show your faith in their capabilities and how you will rejoice in their success. They need to know they can get what they want. This point is often referred to as the WIIFM: the "What's in it for me?" point.

    In many cases, you should let them know that success is not the only good outcome. If they can explain all the causes and issues that obstructed success, and they know that sharing this information will benefit them, then their shared knowledge may benefit many, many more people. 

This communication model has been invaluable to me over the years. It doesn't always make things happen, but when it doesn't work, I usually end up with clear feedback. And I'm always sure that I'm not wasting my time or someone else's energy. 

Qv180419sv


Have you heard of the 'amplification' tactic for promoting women's ideas?

Recently, I was in a morning round table meeting where new people were trickling in but not chiming in. After watching for awhile, I interrupted a speaker who'd had the floor for several minutes to ask one of the newcomers to introduce herself. The speaker didn't appear to be annoyed. We need to help people speak up and get credit. This amplification idea is so powerful. 

Adam Grant: Wondering (Excerpt from June 2017, Question 1)

We all need to promote our work. I’ve learned in my research that successful givers are ambitious for others and ambitious for themselves. When you produce something you think is interesting or important, share it with people who might benefit from it. If that’s the only thing you share, it looks like self-promotion. But if you regularly distribute and recognize other people’s work too, there’s no backlash. You’re known as someone who has useful knowledge and is generous in sharing it.

That leads me to my favorite advice on this dilemma, which is to gather a group of supportive colleagues who will work together to make sure you each get the credit you deserve. A group of women did this brilliantly in the Obama administration: they called it amplification. Let’s amplify that.

Washington Post: White House women want to be in the room where it happens 2016-Sep-13 by Juliet Eilperin 

When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.

“We just started doing it, and made a purpose of doing it. It was an everyday thing,” said one former Obama aide who requested anonymity to speak frankly. Obama noticed, she and others said, and began calling more often on women and junior aides.

  Qv170725mp