Continue the Experience with a Matching Website

Page 139 of the book Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences used the store Home Depot as an example. Home Depot does something quite cool – their physical store and their website match. Have you ever noticed this? I hadn’t until I read about it, but it’s true! The physical store has wide aisles, helpful people everywhere, frequent sales posted around the store, lots of products, information about those products, and how-to-do-it classes. The website does the same thing: part of the website header includes a smiling employee (plus “Customer Support” is easy to find); the site uses lots of white space, thus mimicking those big aisles at the actual store; you quickly see a clearance ad for sales, you can shop, and they offer a huge “Know-How” section that teaches the same stuff as their in-store classes.

Libraries can do this, too. Think about things like your collection development policy, for starters. Do you emphasize one type of collection over another, like business resources or romance novels? Then feature those online as well – and provide more than just a list of those books. Write articles about how to start a small business (using your books, databases, etc. as resources). Do a “if you like Danielle Steele, you’ll like…” type of book list, and provide direct links to those books in your library catalog. If your library has a logo and stylized signage around the building, use those same themes on your website.

Get the idea? Figure out what experiences people are having at your library, and find a way to continue those experiences online.

Build-A-Bear and Continuing the Experience

Page 74 of the book Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences:Build-A-Bear (my kids love this place!):

…”checking out isn’t usually an experience people look forward to.” But at Build-A-Bear, you’re not just paying for a product… you’re continuing an experience.”

Checkout is where you receive the new toy’s birth certificate, and the bear condo – its cardboard carrying box. (I have three of these in my house!). It’s also where you part with your money. Build-A-Bear has built a “looking forward to” type of experience into the checkout time for the customer, so the experience of paying is seen as a positive one.

Build-A-Bear continues this experience online, too – they have created a “virtual dress up game” where you can dress your “new friend” in different clothing to see how the stuffed animal looks. So the theme of “building a bear” is continued from the physical store to the online website (and it also provides kids with a Christmas/birthday wish list to give to the grandparents :-)

Do my kids want to go again? You bet!

Can a library make “finishing a transaction” part of the online experience? I think so – here’s two ideas:

  1. My library has an online library card application form. After the form is filled out, something like a “thank you” page appears. That page could be transformed into more of a “now that you have a library card, you can do this” type of page that emphasizes resources like the catalog, remote access to databases, etc. This way, the experience of getting a library card isn’t finished by clicking Submit; instead, the new customer’s library experience can be continued by providing pointers to things the customer can do with his/her new library card.
  2. How about the Summer Reading Program most public libraries do? The usual practice is to provide lots of physical games, activities and giveaways in the actual library buildings, but online not much is offered – maybe nothing more than a paragraph or two about the program. Instead of quickly ending the online summer reading program experience with a paragraph of text, how about providing some online games and activities, too? This can be as complicated as Flash-based games, or as simple as an online quiz that kids turn in for more goodies. But either way, instead of ending the experience online, you’re continuing the experience by providing something to do.

Library Catalog Experiences

Page 57 of the book Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences: – a customer went to a store to buy a can opener, but it was on a shelf 12 feet high, so she picked another product. Bad product placement, and bad experience!

What do you think – do libraries do this? With high shelving, sure – but also by making our information hard to find. For example… A new book can be:

  • on a new books shelf
  • a genre shelf
  • a themed display
  • in the kids or adults section
  • on the normal shelf
  • Or checked out

And the library catalog doesn’t always provide this type of detail to our customers. The catalog entry might say nothing more than “new books” – but our customer is left scratching his head, wondering “where is ‘New Books’?” Another good one – a library catalog entry might say “browsing collection” – huh?

We need to provide clear direction so customers can quickly and painlessly find our stuff – thus providing a positive experience. And, simple as this might seem… customers want to repeat positive experiences.

Providing an Experience rather than a Product

Pg 50 of the book Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences: – a discussion on Apple and iMacs. When the iMac was marketed, Apple targeted young people who wanted to be online, but were afraid of technology. Apple’s ads clearly demonstrated how easy it was to get online using, of all things, an iMac.

What did Apple do? They targeted a niche audience (young people wanting to connect to the Internet), and offered a solution to that niche audience’s problem (difficulty in getting online). Did you read that? Apple didn’t offer a product – instead, they basically offered an EXPERIENCE that their target group wanted. The product was merely a means to an end (that of easily connecting to the web).

How can libraries mimic that type of “experience offering?” Here’s some ideas:

  • We can target a niche audience with focused information – information they want. This way, we’re providing the experience of finding answers.
  • Does a certain audience have problems? I’m thinking seniors = healthcare issues, young singles = careers, etc. Libraries can offer information-based solutions to these needs and problems, and provide many positive experiences.
  • In general, we can offer a positive experience when customers visit our website by providing good, clear information, easy and clear ways of navigating our website, and create a pleasant-looking page.

The Shifted Librarian: Finding Stephen: He’s at MLS!

I was reading through Jenny’s post of the highlights of Stephen Abram’s presentation, and saw this:

“losing “viewing their eyes” in the virtual world (can’t see facial expressions)
— have to figure out how to deliver experience/interaction online
— where community is the goal”

I find this extremely cool, since I’ve been interested in online experience planning… more later.