I don’t have a lot of spare time, so I decided to combine this assignment with some errands I had to do anyway. Hence, the six shops I’ve been at are: a supermarket, an automatic laundromat, a decorations shop, a “1 euro shop”, a bookstore and a sport bets shop. First I went to drop my laundry, the first thing I noticed is that the place seemed very unassuming, a bit desolate, quite clean but somehow sad.ù Inside, besides a change machine and a broken digital photo sprinter, there was nothing more than 7 washing machines, 2 dryers and 4 wooden chairs. This first made me think that they don’t expect many persons to be sitting contemporaneously, either because not all washing machines are to be used at the same time, or because most people don’t wait while their laundry is done, but they take the chance to do other errands in the meantime.
This however has a disadvantage in rush hours (many laundromats have very low affluence in most hours and a sudden raise in the evening, at the times when students or single young workers get out of school/work) when people fail to be back by the time their laundry is ready to be picked up. The rotation of clothes per washing machine is therefore inefficient right when it matters the most. Moreover, the place wasn’t very appealing, “warm” or welcoming, from the closed door to the lack of personnel or any “human touch”. Behind the washing machines it was also very dirty
The issue of efficiency could be solved and combined with an increase in the number of clients (and higher sales) if the place were to be perceived as a place where spending time is nice, rather than a place to get out of as soon as possible. This could be done in a similar way to that adopted by Starbucks to change the way cafeterias were perceived. Better lighting, a personal touch, coffee machines more and more comfortable chairs, perhaps even a gas fireplace, could make it a place to hang out nicely while the laundry is done. On the one hand it would send a positive message to passers-‐by, on the other it would make sure clothes’ owners are nearby when their session is over, increasing the efficiency in turnover. Additionally, I also noticed how a pleasing smell is taken advantage of in other shops (e.g. bakeries, where sometimes a small fan is used to diffuse the scent outside), while the same is not done in laundry shops, but we all know how many people love the smell of freshly washed & dried clothes! At the sport bets shop I noticed the principle had been applied wonderfully, the door was always open, for people outside to hear the screams of delight or disappointment whenever a goal is scored, comfortable chairs are set right in front of TVs (they obviously want people to spend as much time as possible in that shop), colors inside and on the shop windows remind Casinos and a playful atmosphere, as if betting money was a perfectly normal way to spend time, just
as good as any other game. I have been strongly discouraged to take pictures in that place, so I don’t have any. Unlike all the other shops I visited during the day, the supermarket had a sign perpendicular to the facade, so that people didn’t necessarily have to pass in front of it to see the logo Inside, human psicology was clearly taken into account, and mixed with other non-‐marketing-‐related choices. Unlike the sport betting shop, people here were not encouraged to spend as much time as possible, but rather as few as possible given the maximum amount of purchased items. Hence, it is not possible to walk in and go straight to the isle and product you want, but it is necessary to walk through a mandatory passage in the fruits and vegetables section. That’s not something I notice for the first time; what I never noticed before, despite having visited this supermarket for 5 years, is that some products defy the “category-‐related” rule that seems to be at the basis of any supermarket stock exposition. For example, in the breakfast cereals’ section there were crayons. At first I was really surprised and couldn’t make the connection, but as soon as I realized kids love cereals and they also play with crayons it seemed so obvious that I was almost ashamed of not having made the connection immediately. It must be that it’s been a long while since I might have played with crayons at breakfast, if any. The same applies to other products, such as ice cream scoops in front of the eggs section.
After the supermarket I went to the 1 euro shop, i.e. a place where really cheap items are sold, ideally all costing 1 euro but actually being as “expensive” as 5-‐6. Here I noticed customers’ psychology was far from being taken into account, products were randomly displayed (thermometers together with air pumps, keys, carabiners, curtains’ accessories etc.
Unlike the supermarket, customers of this shop mostly didn’t have a specific product in mind when they entered the shop, they rather browsed across isles and products to see if there was anything they might want, kind of like a shop-‐sized huge impulse purchases section. It is therefore interesting that a place where psychology has such a relevant role did not capitalize on this aspect at all. I noticed that those that spent the most in the shop more often ended up buying something, rather than feeling to have wasted 10 minutes, they preferred to spend 1 euro on an item they didn’t really need. Hence, the shop might lend some supermarket technique and “lead” customers with product disposition to walk a pattern that makes them see as many products as possible, putting the highest selling items at the end, for all those that arrived at that point without having made up their minds yet. Yet a very different approach was used at the decorations shop. It had a carefully designed sign, with a sticker on the entrance door reporting that it was among the old shops of Milan.
A lot of attention (and probably time) had also been put in the way things were displayed inside the shop. Unfortunately, small details were not coherent with the general atmosphere transmitted by the shop, such as for example the shelves holding rolls of fancy paper seemed straight out of a warehouse, metallic and not decorative at all. On the one hand it had a carefully built cozy home vibe, on the other behind the counter one could see a very modern office, with computers and glass/metal windows. If they could match all aspects of the shop their message would not be diluted and the shop would have a more fitting characterization. Finally, I went to a bookstore and I immediately noticed a difference from the other shops. The personnel was helpful and soon approached me to see whether they could be of help. Eveything, from colors to signs to product disposition seemed to have been pondered. The creative/artsy section had artistically painted walls and the overall feeling was of a pleasing place to spend time, not only enter-‐purchase-‐exit.
This feeling was strengthened by the presence of a small bench to rest on. Unfortunately, the bench was in an uncomfortable position, right in front of the cashier, making it unsuitable for some reading. I think more could be done to involve clients into spending time in their shop. I often saw in Germany bookstore where people can sit in living room-‐like areas and read as long as they want, confident that people will sooner or later buy the book if they like it.