Shopping carts as user interfaces
I went to Target the other day, and to my surprise, they had new cool modern shopping carts. Now thinking about the cost for target to do this, we’re talking millions of dollars to design, develop and produce several thousand of these carts and distribute. Now I know the guys in charge over at Target are sharp people and know that they have reasons for the business decisions they make, so I started to think about the reasons why a business would spend that kind of money on a “superflous” item in a down economy. After thinking about it, I realized these guys were geniuses, and it makes perfect sense to develop a “high end cart.”
- The shopping cart is your interface with the store If you think about it, the main way that you physically interface with a store is by the cart. You touch it, you have it in your hands for most of your shopping experience. You may pick up items and put them in your cart, but that cart is a constant. It makes perfect sense then that the user experience of a store would be directly tied to how good your interface is.
- A easier to use cart=happier customers We’ve all been there. A broken cart that is hard to use, can make our shopping experience a little tougher. It’s hard to push, it won’t turn, it just makes your shopping experience a little tougher. Not enough to make you give up, but if you had 3 or 4 such instances, it could be the difference between going to one store and the other all things being equal. When using this cart, it truly made me “happier” to have a nicer cart. The guys from Target realized this I’m sure. It’s a very subtle way to influence good will towards a company. See my post on the patience meter for more data on this.
- Less noisy environment Noise has a tremendous effect on your mood. Jarring noises such as the clanging of wheels can make you feel more tense. The wheels on the new carts were quiet and smooth, and provided a more calm atmosphere in the store.
- New carts fit with the Target brand and sensibilities Target is a big box brand that emphasizes the value of design, unlike Walmart, and as a result have had an incredible resurgence in brand loyalty over the past 7 or so years. Modern design carts fits in perfectly with Target’s positioning, reinforcing the fact that Target does value design, and is doing something about design details to improve competitive advantage in an incredibly competitive marketplace.
- Reduce impact of current remodelTarget is currently doing a major expansion on all of its stores to include fresh fruits and veggies. This massively has been disrupting shopping. I overheard several people disgruntled trying to find things. What if releasing new carts in conjunction with this actually lessened the blow to consumer attitude at the store? If a consumer has a bad enough experience they may not do business with Target for the short term future. Make them happy with new carts and that might be enough of an edge to prevent this.So does it make sense for Target to justify this type of expense. I would say “yes!” I would love to see some of the data as to how this affects shopping experience, but my guess is that at a subliminal level it influences consumer decisions enough that it really is a competitive edge more so than a “nice thing to do” for their customers.