Why the big brands could learn a thing or two from the independent retailers when it comes to customer experience

4 Apr

This last couple of weeks has got me thinking… There is something special about going to independent shops, restaurants and hotels that you just don’t get from the big brands. And it all comes down to the experience.

Making the ordinary ‘extraordinary’

When walking into an independent shop, restaurant or hotel, straight away you notice something – “this is like nothing I have seen before”. That’s because you haven’t. One of the things I love about them is that every time you visit you get a different experience.

When I walk into my local shop I know that I’m going to experience something new, whether that’s a different greeting when I arrive, a new product offering or a new layout. Sometimes this can be great, other times I wish they hadn’t changed, but regardless of whether it is good or bad I know their heart and intentions are in the right place. I feel empathy towards these places and want to return again and again.

The big brands don’t understand this; they create clones of their shops up and down the country. The same monotonous products, the same ‘scripted’ greetings and the feeling I have been there before – oh wait a minute I have – this is an exact replica of the same shop in London even though I’m in Stockholm.

It seems that the belief in ‘consistent brand values’ has took precedence over quality, one of a kind experiences that the customer wants. The problem is that consistency is boring! Every time I walk into to a restaurant I don’t want to be greeted in the same way, I don’t want the same food – I want to be surprised and made to feel special.

Take a walk in the customer’s shoes…

Brands need to start thinking about their own experiences and be different.

Why not make sure that every outlet, every one of your restaurants and each of your hotels make an impression with something unique, and I don’t just mean products and services (although that is a good place to start). Appeal to the individuals, not just the masses. As long as your brand values are still present then your customers will still love you and spend more.

So that’s my opinion but what about yours? Tell me about your own experiences; have you got a story to tell about the independent retailers or big brands?

Do you want some inspiration? Check out the Shop Awards 2012 that celebrates the best small shops in Britain.


4 Responses to “Why the big brands could learn a thing or two from the independent retailers when it comes to customer experience”

  1. chrisworth April 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Thanks for your blog – I’ve added a response at mine, http://chrisdoescontent.com/2012/04/04/retail-customer-experience-its-a-hard-sell/.

  2. Tatiana April 8, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    The small businesses have their unique spirit, very distinctive from the one of the big brands.
    Every time, sitting in a coffee place if I receive a very special, caring service I ask if the person serving is related to the business. Most often the answer is “yes”. And you can just feel it, by the way they smile, the way they talk. They treat the business as their own child, they create their own atmosphere. That is of incredible value!
    At the same time i may perfectly understand the big brands trying to “replicate” their business in different locations. It is their way of being recognisable and creating their brand style. Sometimes it is highly appreciated, especially when you are abroad. In these cases the brand is a quality mark- and if you are looking for a “safe” experience, they are the best option…

  3. kirstianderson April 11, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    Maybe the big brands are slowly catching on to the importance of individual experiences. MarketingWeek recently posted an article about debranding, showing that Starbucks have experimented with stores called ‘15th Ave Coffee & Tea’, to provide a more independent coffee shop feel.
    There is hope yet!


  1. Retail customer experience: it’s a hard sell « Chris does Content - April 4, 2012

    […] Yiannis Maos has a somewhat unique take on retail customer experience: every time he goes to his favourite shop he wants a different one. (Experience, that is. Not shop. […]

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