Serving consumers is relationship building.

Are you an office worker?

Do you work for a company that produces or sells products?

If so, I recommend you arrange for a front-line experience in a store or on the production line – it’s amazing how it can change your entire perspective on things! I speak from experience as my colleagues and I recently took part in our “A day in a store” program. As PR experts we usually are in charge of ensuring advocacy for our brand through great storytelling, events and working with our key assets and clubs.

And while we deal with the hottest and freshest products when we work with media contacts – we never get to see how they are sold to our consumers.

So we decided to experience live what it means to convert our media work, product knowledge and messages into true consumer experiences – at our flagship HomeCourt store in Nuremberg.

Every detail matters – especially if it comes to product presentation.

The adidas Group owns over 2,900 retail stores worldwide, with the HomeCourt concept being the epitome of our aspiration to inspire and enable people to harness the power of sport.

So here I was, with my team members Kathi and Wendelin – ready and eager to conquer the world and speak to real consumers.

And yet, the first place we were sent to – quite unexpectedly – was the basement storeroom to unpack and hang up items from the new Rita Ora collection. Not an easy task when each of the 900 hangers needs to look immaculate …

After solving this challenge we were allowed to enter the shop floor. But not without a few guidelines to follow. One that stuck with us was: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”.

As office workers we were tempted to check our phones while waiting for customers. Making calls and sending mails are normally major parts of our job but of course an absolute no-go in a retail environment.

The most important rule was to greet people entering the store with a smile and to approach them openly to spark a conversation – about a product or a specific need they had.

Don’t ever approach someone with a closed question such as “May I help?” as there are only two answers the person can give you: yes or no. If the answer is “no”, that’s the end of your conversation right there. A clear learning for opening business meetings, isn’t it?

After an intensive day in the store, we looked back at our sell-through performance. Wendelin sold a pair of football boots and a pair of bright green running shoes. Kathi a complete Stella McCartney outfit and a pair of Superstars – one she had successfully placed in Grazia magazine through her PR work a few days earlier.

Well, unfortunately no sale for me. But I did manage to answer many questions at the entrance to point consumers towards what they were looking for.

Kathi selling products she had successfully placed in Grazia magazine through her PR work a few days earlier. Good job!

What did we learn?

A lot goes on behind the scenes to ensure a premium consumer experience in-store. It starts with very hands-on work such as preparing products for display in the basement to ensure they are presented in a visually attractive way.

This is work that goes unseen and unnoticed and yet is so important. We now have even more respect for our colleagues in the storage rooms who ensure that our products look great.

In our usual field of work, PR, pushing out messages is a major part of what we do. While we benefited from our communication skills on the shop floor, it soon became clear that listening to what consumers were looking for was much more important. They are not thinking in product categories, but simply wear what they like.

I recommend that every employee spends at least one day in retail. There’s nothing more educational and rewarding than understanding what truly resonates with our consumer.

That’s what everyone in a consumer-centric organization should do.

Have you worked at the front line of your business? What was it like and what were your learnings? Looking forward to hearing from you.

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by kevin artis 01.07.2015
I wish you guys and gals can bring back vintage Basketball shoes such as Optima, Stratus One, and so on. I have some drawings on how adidas can improve the Optima shoe. I guarantee they will sell big! Please contact me as soon as possible.
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by vj 03.07.2015
Loved the msg
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by Florian Zimmermann (moderator) 03.07.2015
Hello Kevin,

thank you a lot for the interest in our brand and the the vintage basketball shoes. Creativity is what drives us forward and never stands still. What is your design idea or interpretation of what the perfect basketball shoe looks like? By the way: Being creative and to think outside the box is also the credo of our Reebook design colleagues. Maybe you would like to have a read: http://bit.ly/1slIrXh. All the best from Herzogenaurach! Have a sporty weekend.
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by Scott Cook 05.07.2015
Being a corporate employee for The Home Depot, I was pleasantly surprised to see Adidas takes on a similar approach. Our "SSC" (store-support center AKA corporate) salary employees spend 7 days minimum working in the stores, a fantastic idea which came from CEO Craig Menear. Frankly, every company's corporate policy should be to follow these leads. You're right - eyes are opened to the complexity at the front line that's often forgotten in the office. Thanks for publishing this article!
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