THE CONSTANT QUEST FOR NEW
Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Since arriving back in Europe I have been very impressed with how McDonald's has constantly worked over recent years to keep its retail experience contemporary and in line with the tastes and expectations of new, younger consumers. This is easier said than done for a lot of retailers who land on a successful formula, and despite the tastes of their customers changing, find it hard to let go of things that have worked in the past.
Examples of this are all around us. Interestingly, despite its ongoing success, one of them is Starbucks. When Starbucks first hit the scene almost 50 years ago - hard to believe isn't it? - it represented the height of innovation in the coffee world. Suddenly there was a place to get an amazing array of different types of coffee based drinks, all with unique and delicious flavours in an environment that was modern and yet warm and welcoming. A trip to Starbucks was the ultimate daily treat. For many, it has remained that way, which is a testament to the brand's ongoing success. However, in a recent Campaign article, I saw it referred to as the '7Eleven of the sector'.https://bit.ly/2OVQBLi, and there is starting to feel like a lag between the formula upon which Starbucks shot to fame and the expectations of customers today. Certainly, when I recently spent a month in Cambridge, UK, I found myself preferring to go to Cafe Nero for my cappuccino rather than Starbucks which felt a bit dated and 'old news'.
In the States you can see many examples of this tendency to 'hang onto the old formula' in retailing. Retail giants such as Macy's and JCPenney don't feel that different when you walk in than they did 50-60 years ago, and there is definitely the sense that the merchandise hasn't changed much. At the same time, other retailers that you would expect to feel rather old fashioned, have done a better job of moving with the times, such as Walmart. The evidence of the 'evolve with the times' strategy is evident when you see how much more successful Walmart has continued to be vs. Macy's and JCPenney.
One of the tricky parts of evolving the brand experience is knowing what to keep and what to let go of, and there is no better person to help you do that than the customer. You also have to be willing to delve beneath the surface of what customers tell you is relevant about the brand to understand the emotional experience that it delivers. It is often the feeling of the brand or the emotional experience of stepping into the retail environment which is a better guide to ongoing relevance and success.