Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is your brand accessible?

I read a great blog by Fiona Walsh this week talking about Sending your Business to Your Competition. She makes a great point… “There is no point in spending a ton of money on marketing unless you make sure you deliver on what you promise. If you don’t meet customer expectations, they will tell others and they will move over to the competition.”

I believe in 360 degree marketing and that at every touch point you can disappoint a customer’s expectations of your brand. And everyday I see a problem that goes deeper than just meeting minimum customer expectations. After 2 years of navigating a stroller through all sorts of stores I wonder how so many businesses miss it. Can your customers actually get into and around your business?

It seems an easy question to me. Unfortunately for a lot of Vancouver area business’ the answer is no. So many are worried about cramming as much merchandise and displays into their business that they forget about the actual customers. They forget that not all their customers walk into their stores. They forget the customer experience isn’t just whether the store looks pretty and the staff is friendly. If I can’t easily navigate around your store chances are I WON’T shop there anymore.

This issue applies to a wide range of the Canadian population including: families with strollers; people with disabilities who use wheelchairs or need guide dogs; and the elderly population who may need a cane or walker. And in some cases I wonder how able bodied people walk through some of these stores.

Some questions to ask yourself?

  • Are your aisles big enough for 2 of your store carts to pass each other without incident?
  • So you have an automatic door button that allows people with disabilities to enter your store. But can they navigate a walker or a wheelchair around your ‘wonderful’ aisle displays?
  • Do you have stock sitting in your aisles waiting to go onto your shelves? \
  • Your business is focused on appealing to families. Can a stroller fit through your aisles? In fact, can it get past the stairs entering your business.
  • Do your staff look annoyed when someone is trying to navigate a stroller around your aisles?
  • Does your store need an elevator? Where is it? And does is big enough for a stroller and a parent? Better yet does it fit a double stroller AND a parent?

This isn’t just a small business problem. It applies to the big and small guys. London Drugs is notorious for those great in-aisle displays. My local dollar store aisle’s barely fit one of their own carts and then they leave boxes of merchandise in the aisles – I only go there as a last resort. Superstore has one way only traffic in their chips/soda aisle because of the large pop displays. And a local kid’s store has a step up to its front door. Sure I can lift my single stroller up that one step – but should I have to?? Or the Bay who puts some of their clothing racks so close together not even a child can walk between them.

There are those that get it right. A small local kid’s consignment store has the aisles organized to fit a side by side double stroller. A busy Granville Island store full of funky art, jewelry and household items approached me as I entered with my stroller and said to let her know if I had any problems navigating the crowds. She’d be happy to help. And a neighbourhood café has a spot set aside for strollers and lots of room to navigate it between the tables. There are always families at their café. And we walk the extra block to get visit them – right past their competition.

If you are wondering why customers in your store always seem grumpy and your traffic numbers are down. Take a closer look at your aisles and ask yourself a few questions.


  1. Tracey: This is a great post! After reading it, I realized there are a couple of local stores I avoid because they are too crowded and shopping there feels like a jungle safari. Too much stuff crammed into a store makes it overwhelming to find what you want.

  2. I absolutely agree. One discount store in my town always has huge flats of stuff in the aisles, sometimes right in front of the section where I want to shop. Once I asked when is a good time to come in, because I could never shop that section. The response was snotty and irritable, and so I never went back.

    If shopping is a pain, I don't shop there.

  3. Scattered Mom - they probably spend a lot of marketing dollars. And ignore their actual customer experience. Wasted money!

  4. Great post! Totally agree - I always look for an auto assist door for the stroller and appreciate when aisles are wide. What's with the Safeway's that can't fit strollers through the checkout?? Now I am thinking how this concept transfers to website accessibility for moms who need to get things done quickly in that two minutes they get online!!