Borders Group Inc. is certainly a multichannel retailer, with 360 domestic and 22 international brick-and-mortar Borders locations; about 850 Waldenbooks retail stores; 36 Books Etc. locations in the U.K.; Borders.com, a joint venture with Amazon.com; BordersStores.com, devoted to Borders retail stores; and PreferredReader.com. They don’t try to customize the shopping experience for their customers. They provide the infrastructure to enable shoppers to customize their unique retail experience. Mary Campbell, senior manager of customer relationship marketing, says, “We don’t push one branch over the other. What I like to stress is the customer first. Our e-mails have a link to Borders.com and the BordersStores site, and we say, ‘you choose.’ It’s really up to the customers, and I think they appreciate that.”
Using the links Campbell describes, customers have the ability to check store inventory; to buy a Borders gift card that can be used at Borders.com or Borders retail stores; to sign up for the stores’ cobranded FirstUSA credit card; to request any of the special topic newsletters; and to read an online version of the company’s in-store magazine, Inside Borders, to check on store events.
Campbell explains how customers do the customizing: “If customers say go ahead and customize offers for me based on my purchase transactions and what you think I’ll like, we’ll do that. But we like to let people decide what they want to receive versus us just pulling it out of transaction history.”
Some years ago the Dillard’s department store chain found a way to empower customers and give them greater control of the shopping experience. In the chain’s three major catalogs one holiday season, customers received colorful, pressure-sensitive red Santa hat stickers. Customers were asked to “play Santa” to the 51,000 Dillard’s store associates and to reward exceptional service with the red hats to be worn on the employees’ name badges. The idea came from college football coaches’ adding stars to players’ helmets. At Dillard’s associates who earned the most stickers received valuable awards. I visited the stores at the time and talked with customers. They loved the power they felt as they withheld or awarded the stickers. Sometimes little things can lead to CMR.
Beth Negus Viveiros, “Novel Approach,” Direct, March 1, 2002, pp. 37–38.