Three companies focused on providing an excellent customer experience and now have an edge in the market place.

Ponder on a sports apparel brand that from its App, creates a store in which each customer has a unique tailored made experience; or on a brand that sets out to innovate, although it sells a product that is as common as a mattress and innovates on ways of establishing strong bonds with its customers, providing an offer that they cannot reject; or on a supermarket chain that launches a new concept that goes against current trends and decides to add value to products creating two-way relationships with vendors, customers and employees.

These are three examples of ways in which today’s businesses face the ever-changing market environment and maintain their competitiveness, always endeavouring to make their customers happy, who are becoming increasingly demanding with the brands they use. Three companies that show that even when it seems risky, focusing on delivering an exceptional customer experience will always result in a safe bet.

Nike Live, the physical hub of a virtual space.

Nike has always been at the forefront and is eager to create a universe and life style, which is in tune with their products. Nike was also amongst the first brands to understand that developing their own retail system would enable them to have full control over the way in which their value proposition is delivered to its customers. In this quest, they sought to experience with “concept” stores, where in addition to offering clothes and accessories for sports they also delivered a multi-layer experience to customers and provided them with the possibility of plunging into the brand itself.

The most recent and original experiment relates to the live concept store, Nike by Melrose, which opened its doors early in July 2018 in LA: this store consists of approximately 4,500 sq ft designed and built for Angelenos who are obsessed with jogging and style, and value their time by using digital tools. The digital world merges with the physical world to bring to life a pilot store that seems more like a pop-up store, evidencing in every moment and in each squared foot that its only purpose is making life easier for its users.

How did Nike become so knowledgeable and with such certainty on the obsessions and preferences of its LA customers? By analyzing the data gathered in their NikePlus app., which means that Nike does not only gather data to define where to open its stores and to know which products to supply, but also to personalize the purchase experience with supplementary services designed to satisfy the specific needs of each customer. Nike by Melrose is thought out as a “hub” for app users and as a place that aims at maintaining and pampering existing customers that already know and love the brand, instead of attracting new ones.

In this hub, NikePlus app users may access intelligent lockers where they find their orders reserved via the app or through texting, buy clothes, tennis shoes and accessories from other Nike stores, scan bar codes to learn more about any product, win prizes and redeem them in vending machines, have personalized assistance to select products in the Dynamic Fit Zone, program returns and exchanges through texting with the store’s Curb Service (if customers are in a hurry they can text the store and stop in front of it to have their products directly delivered to their cars).

This Curb Service is among the new services that Cathy Sparks, VP and General Manager of Global Nike Direct Stores wishes to implement very soon in other stores worldwide. And this may be implemented with other type of services; and in the long run with any well-grounded idea put to the test in pilot stores. As it does not relate to a stationary store, this live concept store provides Nike with an exponential learning curve about what their customers expectations, preferences and rewards are with respect to the brand. As time goes by, they have more data from the app to analyze and compare with information on the behavior of customers visiting the store and it is easier for the brand to swiftly and assertively adjust to customers’ needs.

Casper and its innovative way of selling mattresses

The matttress business in the US has a history of more or less 130 years, but until four years ago it had hardly evolved and innovated in terms of product and its go to market strategies. Sales channels were the same for years as mattresses are too big and bulky to be easily delivered, hence local producers supplying local and traditional large home goods stores with large enough showrooms to display their products, had enjoyed a price advantage.

However, this trend began to change back in 2014, when new producers launched mattresses with cutting-edge foam technology that enables rolling them so they can fit in a box, and at the same time, making it easier to transport and unpack, allowing any one to buy and “install” their mattress without any help. With this technology and distribution system, the Casper brand is getting a chunk of the market, over which new digital players are fighting for.

Just like any other young brand, Casper is still small when compared to traditional mattresses producers and merchants who still have 80% to 90% market share, but the above does not undiminished the strength of the impact they have had. They have not only revolutionized the industry market with their product, but also the way in which they sell the product: Casper customers buying on line are promised 100 days trial period and if not completely satisfied they may return it and would be reimbursed 100% of the price paid, without any explanation. With these two bold promises that make life easier for customers, Casper has become a brand that is perceived as everything traditional mattress manufacturers can never be: fun, aware, accessible, friendly and cheap.

Also, a mattress that can be sold on line and be delivered in a box to any place in the USA, allows its manufacturers to significantly reduce costs related to the sale (sales force on the ground, square feet of store space, commissions for all links of the chain, and so on). If we consider that the sale of mattresses may have earnings close to 900%, we will be able to understand how Casper, with its strategy, has managed to storm in the market giving meaning to an experience as common as buying a mattress.

Now, if this wasn’t enough, on line sales have enabled Casper to learn more about each customer and know more about what they value when buying a mattress. Hence they have been able to expand their reach well beyond digital channels, placing their product in physical spaces to be sold. In 2018 they began to sell in department stores such as Nordstrom and have their own retail showroom, now opened in a number of cities in the USA. They are also innovating with a new concept store in New York, where they intend to sell “snooze time” as needed.

Casper is a great example of a business that is always looking for ways to improve their customers experience without compromising their bottom-line or their success in the market. They have achieved this through innovation, being mindful of who their buyers are and where their needs are and in having the flexibility to open to new possibilities (such as selling in physical spaces where the customer can have a feel for the experience of the mattress and even going as far as opening a “snooze bar” where every potential buyer can live the brand and breathe its values).

Carulla Freshmarket and a new grocery shopping experience

Last but not least, we have the Colombian supermarket Carulla that recently re-inaugurated two pilot “Carulla Freshmarket” stores, a new store concept that we will soon begin to see in Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena.

Carulla realized that as competition grows increasingly fierce and is trapped in an aggressive war to catch the Colombian consumer with a low-price strategy, there is a niche of consumers that is not being served. People who are willing to pay more to have better buying experiences and to access local organic, and fresh products that positively impact the country’s social fabric, did not have one store where they could find a good assortment of such products. For them, the only option was visiting specialty stores, market squares and “gourmet” supermarkets. That knowledge gave rise to the new idea, with which Carulla intends to develop consumers and vendors alike and become a new display for natural products produced in a sustainable manner.

To provide their customers with a unique buying experience, Carulla implemented a series of strategies. The first strategy is to approach vendors to jointly create experiences, asking them to develop exclusive product for Carulla Freshmarket customers. They will have innovative offers due to new alliances such as Lök (natural chocolates produced locally) Colcafé and Bogotá Beer Company, which has created an exclusive beer for them. They also offer export-quality flowers and organic fruits (which are seldom sold locally) produced by local vendors with the support of Carulla.

The buying experience will be even better thanks to the thorough selection of personnel, aimed at hiring the best employees to work in this new format. People assisting the Freshmarket, know their story and the supermarket’s story and with pride they talk about how they came to work in the Freshmarket, what is their specific function, in order for the format to work seamlessly. When you visit the store, you can sense that Carulla understands the importance of having the best possible team, when they strive to impact their customers’ buying experience, as they have the responsibility of delivering the value proposition of this new format.

When all other supermarkets are waging the price war, everyone welcomes being able to enter a place that talks about the origin and quality of products, to walk through a store where exhibitions have been carefully designed, interact with people that know what they are doing and why, and become and active part of the storytelling and the buying experience.

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Nike, Casper and Carulla decided to face this new competitive environment by significantly impacting their customers’ experience. Nike and Carulla pilot stores are still quite new to measure their results, but it seems that they are a sure bet. Customer and market intelligence processes preceding their creation, foresee that what lies ahead is a positive impact on brand value that already has a good reputation. Casper, on the other hand, is growing steadily from its creation four years ago, making audacious moves with good results, evidencing that they are well thought out and they are also exploring ways to include a greater chunk of the market pie, which is today at the hands of traditional mattress manufacturers, while at the same time they develop their on-line market.

What is becoming obvious, is that businesses are increasingly focusing on creating an exceptional buying experience (in virtual and physical spaces) for today’s customers that make informed decisions on what to buy and how to buy it and customers love these new proposals that clearly understand their needs.

Even if we don’t have a magic formula to continue being competitive in a changing environment and increase costumers’ loyalty as they become more demanding to their brands, at least we can state that whoever invests in knowing more about its customers to provide them with innovative and unique experiences, is surely on the right track.

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