Field Tripping: What We Learned About Retail Reinvention During Our Customer Immersion Outing

Our retail clients are keenly aware that reinvention is critical to their continued success, so many of them are making smart changes to their business models.  At Notion Consulting, we often find ourselves helping our clients drive these changes from the inside. So we thought it would make sense to experience reinvention from the outside - as consumers.

We recently went on a team field trip to the new Atelier Beauté Chanel in SoHo (NYC), where Chanel is experimenting with a new type of consumer experience that blends in-person service with social and digital experiences. Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the business of one retailer’s reinvention so we could understand the change experience from a consumer perspective.

After the visit, we sat down with our own Senior Consultant, Kate DiChristopher-Yuen, who works with clients on talent strategy and organizational design, to get her perspective on the rapidly changing needs of the consumer and how businesses need to reinvent themselves quickly in order to meet (and anticipate!) those needs.

Q: What did you learn about how retail is changing to better serve customers?

The Atelier model is a prime example of how retailers are shifting their focus from selling products to providing engaging, immersive and transformative experiences. We saw first hand how it is possible to win hearts and minds through a personalized, memorable experience.

The lessons learned from this field trip can apply to any organization undergoing change. Whether the customer is a retail consumer, a patient, an educator, a credit card holder, or a team of direct reports, placing these individuals at the center of all you do, and personalizing the experience to make it meaningful and fun, are essential elements for success.

Q: How does this experiential business model help retailers?

The Atelier model is a way for Chanel to experiment with a fresh client experience, and expose them to products that they might not otherwise have had the chance to explore. When we arrived, we discovered a warm and beautiful space, with friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable staff who encouraged us to explore the workshop and who could answer questions about the products. Notably, unlike many other brands, there was no pressure to purchase a product. While some luxury brands might intimidate shoppers,  this fun and no-pressure approach put us at ease, and more importantly, it helped establish a baseline level of trust between us and the brand. It was clear that the Chanel team was taking the long view, and building relationships that could become valuable assets in the future.

Q: What is your advice for leaders to help their companies continuously “reinvent” themselves to adapt and address customer needs?

●      Use consumer insights to drive your vision - build a team that knows how to collect rich data, generate valuable insights, and use those insights to drive rapid business change.

●      Think big and act fearlessly - once you have insights and ideas for how you might create meaningful experiences, encourage - and expect - your teams to innovate. Operationalize big ideas, test them, and learn what works and what doesn’t.

●      Empower your people - make sure you have your talent on board to really bring things to life. The passion, excitement and energy of the Atelier team was clear to us and part of what made our consumer experience such a positive one.

●      Create/adjust your infrastructure - once you have tested a new approach and you know what works, adjust your infrastructure so that you can scale up. Evaluate and revise your business structures, talent needs, metrics and rewards, and other levers as needed to ensure long-term success.

Q: Why is it important for us at Notion to immerse ourselves in the business of our clients? How does it help us understand the voices of our customers?

In order to partner with our clients, we first need to understand their strategic priorities, vision and goals. Then, we help them develop a plan to execute on those priorities. We work with leaders at all levels to help define their vision and lead people to it. But we have to remember that the customer is the ultimate stakeholder. Immersing ourselves in the business of our clients allows us to better understand the day-to-day customer experience. It gives us a close-up view, so we can sharpen our perspective on our clients’ end game, help define exactly what makes each experience meaningful, and ultimately, help them bridge the gap between their current and desired state.

Michelle Maksim