Hands free – it’s not just for driving

Sephora has shopping baskets nailed. Here’s how they do it: I approach the store, drift toward a display for a look – only looking today. Next I spy the hand cream I’d wanted and there’s a lip-gloss trio that would be a great gift. Suddenly I’m carrying my purse, my coat and two Sephora items.

This moment, after five minutes inside – not as I enter the store – is when I would like a shopping basket. This is when a Sephora staffer offers me one – and a nice easy-to-carry basket – not a bulky awkward thing with metal handles that dig into my wrist.

Baskets (along with the butt-brush that I wrote about in a previous post) are a topic Paco Underhill examines in Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. Though it was written 10 years ago the insights in this book are current and intriguing. I love this book.

“The issue of shopping baskets is a perfect example of …the complex matrix of anatomical traits and human behaviours that determine how we shop,” he says. Putting baskets just inside the entrance shows that retailers don’t get what shoppers do in stores – remarkable since they are shoppers themselves. If they watched their shoppers carefully – even for a few minutes, they’d understand.

The transition zone – as you enter the store – is no place for baskets or even signs Paco contends. As we approach an entrance, we are preoccupied with what we’ll do in the store, busy looking for the door handle, fretting about the time or any number of things that preclude sign-reading or basket-taking. and we often think we’re just getting one thing anyway.

Watch for it next time you enter a retail transition zone. Any thoughts on stores that get it right? Or don’t?

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Basket-placement, butt-brushing and other retail snafus

So I walked into a drug store yesterday and spied the plastic baskets with metal handles right beside the entrance. I thought aha, they haven’t read the book I’m reading.

Thanks to a reference in Daphne Gray-Grant’s wonderful weekly Power Writing newsletter (subscribe at www.publicationcoach.com) I came upon Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill – I’ve been transfixed.

Paco and his team of “retail anthropologists” spend hours simply observing shoppers – where do they turn as they enter a store, what catches their attention as they walk down an aisle, where do they go after passing the drive-through window, what happens at the check-out counter (aka the cash/wrap) and when do they look for shopping baskets.

As Daphne mentions in her newsletter, Paco came up with the phrase the “butt brush effect”. Film footage showed shoppers at a Bloomingdale’s looking at a rack of ties near the entrance. Once they’d been bumped once or twice they abandoned the rack. “We watched this over and over until it seemed clear that shoppers – women especially… don’t like being brushed or touched from behind. They’ll even move away from merchandise they’re interested in to avoid it.”

Ever experienced this? I sure have. For me, dollar stores at Christmas come to mind!

One of the things I love about this book is that there’s so much I can observe and muse on about retailing – while I shop for anything. I’ve become an amateur retail anthropologist.

And the whole thing with baskets – well, it’s fascinating. I’ll save that for a later post.

The Information wants to be – accurate?

I happened on a captivating talk on CBC radio the other evening – Sue Gardner, head of the Wikimedia Foundation, gave a Dalton Camp lecture in Journalism called The Changing Media Landscape.

Think we’re all being dragged down as news orgs struggle to find their way? Think the internet is full of inaccuracies and no one’s watching? Sue disagrees.

I hadn’t heard of Wikimedia – it’s a US-based nonprofit that encourages free wiki-based projects and runs the most famous wiki of them all, Wikipedia.

Sue, a former CBC-er, believes we’re all benefiting as journalism finds its way in this new media era. Ours, she says, is a “golden age of journalism”. We have access to more quality info than was ever imagined, it’s mostly free from censorship and it’s easy to get at.

When people decry the lack of quality control on the internet she outlined the steps a Wikipedia article goes through to be published. If it’s later criticized for being biased that will get investigated and fixed. If someone wants something to be made more flattering – here she pointed to nefarious PR people – that they won’t do.

Apparently it’s been said about Wikipedia “it doesn’t work in theory, only in practice.”

For years we believed in authority figures, she pointed out. We chose to suspend our disbelief and thought that because a news org said it, it was true. The difference now is websites (and maybe people) get the credibility they deserve. Trust, she believes, is being earned – and this is how it should be.

I felt more upbeat about the future of news after hearing this talk. And now more than ever I want to submit something to Wikipedia.

My most productive morning this week; fund raising through oats

Some Sundays I’m more effective than others. This past Sunday I helped raise $120,000 before noon.

For nine years I have been part of an unusual, inspiring little event called Porridge for Parkinson’s.  www.porridgeforparkinsons.com It began when my friend Marg Meikle found she had Parkinson’s disease. She and her husband wanted to do something other than watch things get worse.

Borrowing an idea from friends, they invited people to their home on a Sunday morning to have a bowl of unusually good oatmeal, a visit and to leave a cheque for Parkinson’s research.

Marg and her husband Noel and their son Mac have an amazing network or friends – the event was popular from the start and has grown steadily.

I established myself as the money gal in year one. I stand in their dining room in a tall hat so people can find me in the crowd. I provide pens, reading glasses and a name stamp for the cheques.

On Sunday morning we raised over $40,000. Through a program of matching funds set up by Marg and a friend, a network of supporting foundations turn every dollar donated into three. Our $40,000 became $120,000.

I feel so sad that we need to do this at all. Parkinson’s is a cruel disease and a progressive one. Marg, Noel and Mac are struggling. I so admire my friend’s spirit, Mac’s good humour and Noel’s tireless support.

Hey, I’m the money gal – you can still donate at www.porridgeforparkinsons.com

The beginning – when is it a bad place to start?

twilightminicover I just watched an interview with Stephenie (yes, that’s how she spells it) Meyer, the author of the wildly successful Twilight series. Okay, it was on Oprah.

I was particularly intrigued by one thing she said. Apparently the series was inspired by a dream she had about a vampire who was in love with a young girl . The following day she wrote about her dream. That became Chapter 13 . She built the book around that story and three months later her novel was complete.

I love the idea of starting with your point of inspiration, not necessarily at the beginning. How many times have you stared at a blank screen, trying for the right opening?

If Stephenie had sat down to write Twilight at Chapter One the series may never have happened. Then what would all those teenage girls read?

Balloon Boy + Berlin 1936 – media coverage through the years

This past week I’ve been considering (again) how media is changing and whether or not it’s working for us. One of my clients has just opening an exhibit – More Than just Games; Canada and the 1936 Olympics. (www.vhec.org) It is a fascinating look at Canada’s part in the Olympics held in Nazi Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. Of course in 1936 there were few media voices. So even when a reporter had a strong warning – as then Toronto Star’s Matthew Halton did about Hilter’s activities – this voice was not widely heard.

In striking contrast we have last week’s balloon boy brouhaha. Anyone who wanted to had a voice. And video. And 140 characters to update, pray, comment, update, worry and wonder. For hours we were subjected to minute-by-minute musings. Meantime new media pundits were doing high fives about how technology meant social media had streaked past traditional media in getting us the scoop.

All I’m saying is, like the silver balloon, maybe we need to come down softly somewhere in the middle. The paucity of voices at the 1936 Olympics limited debate but thousands of comments on YouTube videos and tweets zipping through the ether for hours don’t tell a story well either. Let’s blend the best of old with the best of new – and just get along.

Flu warnings gotcha down? A call to use surprize in our promos.

“Tired of apocalyptic health warnings? Is washing your hands 30 times a day damaging your skin? Are you feeling stigmatized any time you cough or sneeze? If you answer “yes” to any of the above, you need to be at the Boulevard Casino in Coquitlam Friday and Saturday night…”

That’s a post on Facebook for a gig by a local rock ‘n’ soul revue – the Fabulous DYNAM!CS.

I say we need more fun promotional blurbs these days. The unexpected, a little laugh at ourselves – why not?

After seeing that, we had to go. The DYNAM!CS were, well, fabulous.
http://the-dynamics.comFabulous DYNAM!CS live