It’s The Experience, Stupid

I have heard on several occasions now that the old fashioned sweet shop (candy store) is making a comeback. I’m not surprised. Globalization may have brought many advantages, but it has also wreaked havoc on the customer experience.  Marketers are great at super-segmenting the product, but as soon as it is on the shelves, well, it’s just another standard product….bland, super-xxl, and with a “buy-one, get one free” tag.

I remember those old-fashioned candy stores well, and so my rather large O’Hara ears have become homing beacons these days….surely word of mouth would point me in the right direction. But no such luck on this occasion. Just silence.

And then, yesterday, as I was dropping my brother off at a major London airport for his return trip to Ireland, I had my Eureka moment. There they were, on the horizon, the familiar sight of those old-fashioned candy jars, stocked 4 shelves high, and 20 jars across, each jar jam-packed to the brim with color… For a second, I didn’t really care whether my brother missed his flight – I knew I was in for a perilous moment, as I succumbed to the temptation of the enchanting call.  I changed my course, and headed for the song of the sirens, not caring whether my sweet tooth would be my fate and have me crashing on the rocks of momentary decadence.

And when my crash came, it came hard! What was that profound instinct that made me break so suddenly and give way to the voice in my head, shouting: “On second thoughts”. It was an easy revelation, as excitement turned quickly to anger and sheer frustration. I was thoroughly and utterly dejected, and this was the reason why:

For me, the whole point of purchasing anything is the sheer sense of anticipation leading up to the purchase, the ease of the purchase itself, and the memory of the purchase experience that counts. In other words, it’s the EXPERIENCE.  It’s the packaging, it’s the customer service, it’s the way the goods are laid out, it’s the opportunity to taste something, maybe a freebie, and a call to action to come back.

On this occasion, this experience was entirely lacking.  As I entered the store and got up close and personal, there was no such experience. Bland, dusty shelves, impatient and impolite staff, jars that were full of, it so transpired, candy that already exists in any supermarket today and had just been pushed into a different plastic container, and packaging that was really nothing special at all. I felt cheated. Here was a brilliant example of how a perfect business idea can quickly turn into “average” very quickly.
Oh well, at least my dentist will be happy.