Couches, Climbing & Coffee...Oh My!

I promised we'd celebrate companies that are successfully investing in delivering cross-channel customer experiences that deliver beyond customer expectations. I'm touching on the activities of three very different companies, below, to provide a brief glimpse into how they're innovating to create customer experiences that are more engaging, memorable and satisfying:

Best Buy utilizes state-of-the-art technology to integrate direct marketing, web and retail experiences. In addition, stores have begun to utilize detailed profiling to adjust each store's product mix, merchandising and treatment of customers -- an approach that drove sales up in the company's San Jose store by 30% in the first year. There was a great article about this in last week's Washington Post. In addition to making the retail environments more experiential, the company is also investing in new products and services related to the entertainment and electronics field: They recently purchased "Geek Squad," a Minneapolis-based company which manages product warranties and offers door-to-door technical support from qualified "geeks" who drive branded VW Bugs, carry badges and a sense of humor. In addition, the store's new "Magnolia" service offers high end audio and video systems and installation. Specially trained Magnolia agents help consumers sample and purchase multi-component systems in plush, specially designed viewing rooms within Best Buy stores. The results? The competition is scrambling to catch up, and Best Buy is successfully grabbing customer affinity and market share.

REI is well recognized, both for its incredible array of outdoor and recreational products and its fully integrated online and offline experience. The retailer offers more than 94,000 individual items (7000 products) on a robust commerce platform that is fully integrated with REI's web, retail stores, call center and direct mail operations. The fully integrated platform allows REI to capture a single view of customer interaction across channels, as well as programs that reward repeat purchasing and customer loyalty. The system also hosts a knowledge base, replete with more than 5,000 pages of product information accessible by curious online customers as well as REI's staff of passionate outdoor enthusiasts. The brick and mortar retail environments are crafted to reflect an outdoor vibe, and even offer climbing walls for customers to try out. REI retail sales associates are happy to help store patrons locate - try on, try out and even rent - gear to suit their their needs. When customers are ready to venture out, REI offers maps, books, message boards and web-based directories that help patrons plug in to the local scene with local excursions and an array of hiking, biking, skiing (etc.) clubs. When customers are ready to go farther, "REI Adventures" offer special excursions that can take customers to almost any corner of the world.

ING Financial Services recently opened, and are now expanding innovative ING Direct cafes in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. These funky, hip locations offer a great cup Peet's coffee along with comfortable seating, free high speed internet access and flat screen televisions broadcasting the latest financial news. They also offer banking and ATM access, in addition to free financial seminars and events. ING Direct cafes are a comfortable place to work remotely, conduct an informal meeting or meet up with a friend -- and as ING has discovered, a great way to build brand affinity and pick up new clients. It's a new spin on banking - and your morning cup of coffee.

Delivering old products in innovative, new, and integrated ways is working for these companies, and it can work for you, too. Long term success, however, also requires these innovators to master "old school" delivery as well. One thing these companies have in common is that they are also skilled in the delivery of what I call "the fundamentals of experience." I'll write more about this in my next post.


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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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