It was early in the morning when I, along with 15 Belgian Gen Y’s, got on the Eurostar, heading for London, the coolest city in Europa. My colleague Philip took off with 15 British youngsters, direction Brussels. The mission: understand what makes brands HUMAN and authentic to Gen Y’ers. The ambition: collect visual data (as, you can guess, a picture is worth a thousand words). Armed with Smartphones, a map, subway tickets and a bag of curiosity, the Gen Y’ers discovered, explored and turned the cities London & Brussels inside out. The result of this voyage, more than 500 pictures about what youth perceives as ‘real’ or as ‘fake’. The key elements and translation of these results are bundled in Joeri’s Van den Bergh‘ s great story Humanifesto: how marketers can reconnect with consumers by adding realness.
Looking at the Real and Fake pictures taken, I saw a lot of shops. Small shops, big shops, well known stores, interesting discoveries… Sufficient material to reflect on the data from a pure shop perspective and to take a closer look to what Gen Y is paying attention to. (note: almost all pictures in this document are originals, taken by the participants.)
But before you continue reading it is important to state that offline shops still have a ‘raison d’être’ to Gen Y. Online and offline shops not necessarily are competitive or cannibalizing each other. A natural even intuitive link is possible. A good example is Brantano (English site version), a footwear and accessory retailer having shops in several countries, amongst others in Belgium, the UK and Luxemburg …. Brantano succeeds in building a logic link between site and shop. One of the main facilitators here is Facebook. To the customers (with whom we’ve discussed during a 3 months research community) this multichannel approach is a very logic ecosystem in which they can meet and interact with the brand in the best possible way.
Back to the pictures. I detected the following specs which help to make a shop Real and attractive to Gen Y; the context in which the shop is situated, the windows, the sign boards, the organization of the interior and last but not least the experience: it takes 5 to create the ideal shop.
The order in which I’ve showed the specs has nothing to do with the importance. Of course some of them are more important than others. But take the walk with me from the outside to the inside. And know; it’s all in the mix. None of the specs can survive as stand-alone.
The question we can ask ourselves, are those specs only applicable for food, textile, teleco,…shops. I don’t think so. At the end of this article I’ll add some remarkable finance examples.
We are in The Context
Imagine we’re on the street. The easy cool pedestrians. You and me, we are now in The Context. Gen Y seems very sensitive to the shop context, in a detailed and in a more conceptual way. Garbagein front of the store, a small urine river next door, … not done. impact = negative. The environment in which your shop is embedded determines partly the way youngsters look at you. Just in parentheses: To deal with the garbage issue I found a cool initiative, dated summer 2008, place NY city. Trash: anycolour youlike. Maybe good to pick it up again ;-).
Context also has a positive side. For instance The Converse store in London Carnaby street. A small shop as statement between big windows. Surprisingly small for such a big brand.
But context is larger than just the direct physical square meters around the shop. The context is also about the street ambiance, the city, the country… ‘Home made Australian Ice cream in Brussels’, ‘Real fresh New York Pizza’ in London… a casino in a shopping street …
Fitting into the context is for the Gen Y the proof that you are connected, that you are part of their universe. When the shop does not fit, it can be perceived as being unworldly, not understanding what’s going on…. Little Sign boards in my picture collection. In London almost none. Remarkable for Brussels was that most of the appealing sign boards were very traditional looking, expressing values of quality and authenticity.
Looking to the implicit meaning of the sign board, a good sign boards succeeds in summarizing the quality and credibility of the brand. Pity most of those pictures were too vague to include.
Stop stop. Watch that window, the eye in which reflects the soul. One of the most remarkable windows spotted in London was All Saints (Camden Town). Typical about these kind of windows; they are creative, a bit mysterious, looking authentic, and are communicating the core business the shop is standing for (the All Saints window for example is from basement to ceiling filled with sewing machines).
Another example is Van’s (Carnaby street, London), Apple or Orange. What you see is what you get. Do not overshoot. Open, transparent and clear. Keep it simple and univocal. And take a look at the Orange window (at the right). No phones, no technical hardware at all. Just some chairs, a bit of popcorn. Orange focuses upon what it’s finally all about: enjoy a movie, listen to music … Simplicity is inviting.
One small note Gen Y asks me to make. Take care of your window message. Make sure expectations will be met. When you say ‘I am the biggest travel book shop in town’. Be it. Nothing is more disappointing for Gen Y than to be deceived. They won’t come back.
Immediately linked to the window is the interior, the inside of the store. One message, please do not be overenthusiastic, do not try to overwhelm your audience. ‘Overwhelming’ equals ‘drowning’ (cf skechers) . It is that simple.
Gen Y does not like chaos, does not want to waste time on looking and guessing what your offer might be. This is a click-browse-screen-choose generation. They look at you offline the way they do online. Also in your offline store, the real offer only can be a few clicks away. Be easy to catch… (A nice one to structure the offer I spotted in All Saints. A computer in the middle of the showroom. A consumer guide to personalize and to find the best fitting clothes.)
Structure, overview, comprehensible logic,.. The way to go. But stay away from rigid boredom. “These two examples would definitely chase GenY away”.
Last but not least, let’s dive into the Experience. A Crucial and critical spec. A few good store examples are the Hamleys, M&M and Apple.
Key in this kind of shop is; one can feel, touch, test, try… everything. And that is what Gen Y is really looking for. What makes this spec so important? It is simple. (1)The experience values the Youngster as expert and competent individual. It is the individual who decides about good or bad. (2) Experience makes one feel alive and (3) in the pre-purchase phase, experience makes brands more concrete, more tangible, more close to the consumer. Or: Experience as bridge between the proposition and the sale.
The broader perspective
Getting back at my question ‘are those specs only applicable for food, textile, teleco,…shops?’. NO, I don’t think so. Also the finance sector needs to be challenged to become more accessible, more inviting to Gen Y. Because, although the internet, mobile apps… are of a huge importance, the bricks still have a role to play. As promised also some finance examples. Not generated during the London/Brussels trip, but hopefully inspiring. ING Direct cafe is a nice one. Pictures from Toronto:
A bit edgy maybe, but take a look at the Barwa bank concept store…
I hope you enjoyed reading and you’re inspired. I’d like to leave you with this thought. Building new stores, thinking about new store concepts… ask Gen Y (or other customers). They are more than willing to co-create and the help in Human Shaping of your idea! The InSites research community can be the means you’re looking for.