This blog is the first in a series I've devised where I've asked a few millennials (some on my team, some in my family, and others) to look at their shopping experiences across the multichannel field and report back. Those reports will be featured here, in my blog over the next few months.
Why am I doing this? Well as Sucharita Mulpuru writes in her terrific report, The Future of Shopping, Digital natives are now sought-after shoppers with disposable income and retailers are nervous that these consumers are capricious and demanding, with unique expectations for products, customer service, and payments. Most large firms are looking for data and insights on millenials, even if they are not in their core customer segement. So here is the first in my series by Luke Evans:
Old School Satisfaction in New School Brooklyn
1:46 Watch Repair & Designer Collective is a hole in the wall on N7th St. Located in the heart of Williamsburg, NY, 1:46 is one of the few locally owned businesses left in a rapidly changing neighborhood. Only three blocks from where Brooklyn’s first Apple Store is slated to open in Spring 2015, 1:46 is decidedly a-technological. The one employee on duty, sitting behind an elevated counter and most likely tinkering with the innards of a hipster’s malfunctioning timepiece, has a handheld credit card processor as their only electronic tool. Their cash register looks older than the clerk using it, and there isn’t a touch-screen in site. Even their website (brooklyn146.com) seems like an afterthought, and claims operating hours that, according to multiple yelp reviews, are more of a suggestion than a guarantee.
Nonetheless, shopping at 1:46 is a delight in all the ways that it should be at a locally owned small business. There are no glass cases and no pushy salespeople asking you to fill out online surveys. If you go there more than once they’re likely to remember you, and may reward repeat customers with a small discount.
At one point I visited them hoping to find a replacement for a bracelet that I had bought for my girlfriend and had since lost. I had not been to the store in months, but the clerk not only recognized me, but also remembered the designer whose jewelry I had been most interested in. A feat that is particularly impressive without the help of any kind of digital POS system. They didn’t have the particular bracelet I was looking to replace in stock, but they were able to provide me with the designer’s business card so I could contact her directly. After exchanging a couple emails with the designer she directed me to her website where I was able to buy a replacement.
Despite now having this direct line to the jeweler, I still return to 1:46 to peruse and purchase in person. While it is worth noting that this very old school business ended up referring me to an online transaction, I still preferred the in-store experience. I like being able to pick up and look at the merchandise. And there’s something satisfying about leaving with your purchase in hand.
If 1:46 were to grow into a larger business they may need to integrate more 21st century technology into their business, but they seem pretty content with their current state. And so am I. So much of the way brands interact technologically with customers today is about promoting their brand in exchange for some minor perk: like us on Facebook for 5% off, tweet our hashtag and we’ll send you sales alerts. I can’t say whether 1:46’s lack of a digital component is a result of ignorance or ideology, but I enjoy the experience of being treated as a customer, not a potential Facebook ‘friend’. The next time I have gifts to buy I am sure I will be stopping at 1:46 Watch Repair & Designer Collective.