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When it comes to reading books, I am a hold-out of the past era. I have tried reading books on Kindle, iPad and a couple other formats – and have always reverted to reading the old-fashioned way…with a  book in my hand. I made it a point to go to Barnes & Noble today, and buy a book from the local store. This is my first purchase from the store in over 2 years. I have been a “member” with them in the past, and used to buy regularly, but in the last two years, I have been buying with the one-click convenience on Amazon. But today was different. I wanted to buy it from the store. 

Why? Because we would like them to survive. Our 18-month old goes there for toddler story-time a couple times a week. He looks forward to that play time with other kids and the stories that Rose reads for them. We appreciate the investment that Barnes & Noble is making in our community – and we want them to survive.

We all have our preferences and idiosyncrasies. Some of us want to buy local from neighborhood stores/ farmers markets, while others want to go organic (Trader Joes/ Whole Foods); while others believe in a flat world and the survival of the fittest (Walmart/ Target). Whether we realize this or not, a lot of us end up doing business with a bank, auto insurance, health insurance – who aligns with your values and provides a good value proposition.

This got me thinking.  I went to Barnes & Noble because I wanted to buy there. But what if Barnes & Noble wanted me to buy there? Here are the facts:

  • They knew a child from our family goes there twice a week (he is registered)
  • The family had a membership and purchased a reasonable number of products in the past
  • The family had dropped off the radar and are no longer shopping here

What if B&N had been able to piece this information together? What if they had sent out an email asking us to return? What if they had sent a coupon with the toddler with a welcome back note?

The paradigm would have shifted from being reactive to being proactive.  So what does this mean for consumer oriented businesses?

  1. How do you piece information that resides within your siloe’d organization to win customers? How do you move from a transactional oriented world to a relationship-oriented world? Wouldn’t it be great if an airline were able to look at a loyalty club member at check in and provide an upgrade because their bag went to a different destination last time round?
  2. We are all leaving digital footprints as we live our lives today. How do you piece together this information so that you can provide a unique value proposition that makes you an integral part of your customers’ lives?

These are new things – and to be sure, pretty difficult to accomplish. However, the ramifications can be winning and retaining customers…or losing them. Building this infrastructure will be a journey – one that will mean defining a strategy, and making investments.

I will write about consumer engagement maturity model in one of my upcoming blogs in the near future. I am hopeful that will provide some of the building blocks for having a discussion around charting this journey. Building a strategy and executing to it may very well mark the next set of winners. 

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