Is there anything more American than the parking lot? We invented it. We coined all its ramifications from Parking as in lover’s lane, to trying to find a place to leave our car. Parking lots facilitate our relationships with our cars. Yet they are inept places. Our driving skills are most challenged negotiating our way through them. Most of the scratches and wear and tear on our cars happens in parking lots. Body shops make more out of fender benders in parking lots than crashes on the highway.
There are parking lot specialists know the cost of construction, the building code on how much lighting, or foot-candles need to be installed per space. They have a formula from calculating how much parking a shopping mall needs, and what the cost of operating a valet parking facility is. For all that technical knowledge what puzzles me is how few merchants understand how much of the customer experience starts in the parking lot.
I like taking retail executives out into their lots and just watching the action for a while. Every parking lot has terrible weather 24-7. It is too hot, cold, windy. At crowded mall parking lots the process of finding a spot and landmarking so you can find it again and making your way is often the worst part of the shopping experience.
Research has showed that people landmark based on age and gender. Men like numbers and letters. Women like colors, and kids like physical objects like fruit or animals. For every time I’ve gone to a mall I’m familiar with and parked and land-marked with uncommon skills, there are the times, where I’ve gotten lost. My worst experience was after an hour of looking for my rental car at a mall outside Houston, when I’d begun to doubt my sanity, knowing that I’d missed my flight.
The paint treatments we use in parking lots have no regard to the real dimension of our cars – but to some engineers or building code prescription. Paint is so cheap – many stores could do seasonal treatments, just like lighting changes on the top of sky scrappers.
One retail channel I have only recently gotten to know are, Farm and Fleet Stores. These are large one hundred thousand square feet and bigger stores designed to serve farmers and rural businesses. Out on edges of no-where these large store sit in the middle of even larger parking lots. Land is cheap. The problem is the lots often look painfully empty. The regional chain we worked with had a policy of putting employee parking discretely at the back or side of the building. Our advise was to move the employee parking to the front of the store two thirds of the way from front door to the outer edge of the parking lot – a line of thirty or forty cars is powerful statement to passing customers that this store is open for business.
If you are looking for guerilla marketing opportunities, there is one right outside your door.
PostPan Factoid #8
The Dressing Room
For 30+ years have been asking for Dressing Room Reinvention. Pre-2000 often dirty, badly lit, with no staging. Post 2000 it got better -like this one from Texas. PostPan the average time in dressing rooms has increased by roughly 20% as customers use snap-chat and face-time to consult with friends and family. This is for brands and merchants a guerilla marketing opportunity – as dressing room pictures get parked on social media. Soon we have body scanners and personal shopping bots to add their curatorial judgment. As an aging market researcher am so happy I have a crew of 20 something shoppers that feed me their POV.
PostPan Factoid #7
Finally, some American Retail and Cultural institutions are recognizing that showcasing language skills translates into both sales and customer satisfaction, but also into employee loyalty and team building. London/Paris/Rome generally gets it. The Shopping Malls in the UAE get it. Was in the Fine Jewelry section at Bloomingdale’s in NYC and asked what languages were spoken in the section and got a puzzled look…
The Evolution of Money
Money has lost its peaches and creme complexion. Starting in the 1990s global wealth went from being dominated by old, to new money. In 2023, 19 out of 20 of the wealthiest families in the world earned their money in the course of their own lives. Yes Jeff Bezos, but also Mexico, China, India, UAE. Fashion, beauty, home design, resort development much less the basic rules of retail are changing. Go visit the K-11 Shopping Mall is Shanghai (where this picture was taken). Here in the USA, we have witnessed the continuing progression of immigrant groups as they have prospered. One of the most expensive and elegant restaurants close to my NYC West Village home is Indian. I walked the streets of Harlem last week. The array of high-end fashion stores, much less the Fresh Market on 125th Street was impressive. Peeps – the world is evolving…
PostPan Factoid #5
Global vs. Local
It isn’t just the question will Texas Hot Sauce sell in Portland, but a broader issue. A tech/telecom can sell the same services/products in Dubai and Albany NY, but the mindset, needs, family/business situations, much less digital literacy indexes are different. No, there is not an endless series of buckets – but some obvious ones exist. Across retail and on-line globally the ability to understand and respond to LOCAL is critical.
PostPan Factoid #4
We were born with an internal clock. Stand at a doorway and based on a person’s demeanor and walking speed we can make an # accurate judgement on how loud their internal clock is ticking. Using our Web-along tool we can make the same judgment on-line. The problem is that 20th century retail was designed to hold the customer for as long as they could – why is milk fixture in grocery, much less the sales rack in apparel in the back of the store? We can make similar observations about web design. In a Post Pan world multi-tasking and time considerations are increasingly governing our decision making. How do make it easy peeps?
PostPan Factoid #3
Generational differences in consuming behavior are trumping the historic gender divide. Money, time, living situations have affected the priorities of Gen-X, Gen-Y much less Boomers. How we as consumers relate to on-line and physical retail is shifting radically. The models that have driven 20th century marketing need to be re-calibrated…
Shore with Blue Sea
PostPan Factoid #2
“Female Friendly” Technology
Every transition from a technology to an appliance over the past 100 years has been driven by working women – telephones, desk top computing, ATMs, on-line shopping. That trend is morphing, as the number of households where the woman is the dominate bread earner grows. Being “female friendly” has never been more important.
Postpan Factoid #1
Thanks to screens our eye’s connection to our brains is changing. The line between the physical and cyber world is getting increasingly fuzzy. The irony is some of that change is governed by age. The way our eyes work at age 30 and how they work at 55 is different. What is the age of the designer at your cad-cam screen?