Blog post

My Lightbulb Moment

13 June 2017
My Lightbulb Moment
My Lightbulb Moment

Author - Ben Cole, Managing Director, Inspired.

At home, we recently decided to take the plunge and subscribe to Amazon Prime. Now, I know there will be many out there who decry the internet selling giant and all that it stands for, saying that we should all be buying locally instead. However, despite living in a well-served market town (voted one of the best high streets in the UK, so I’ve learned) the reality is that you just can’t buy everything you need.

An example – the lamp failed in our oven the other day. Knowing that our local electrical/hardware superstores are pretty poor at stocking the things you actually need, I simply got my phone out, found the relevant item and ordered it with a single click. Next morning it arrived – job done and another (admittedly small) task ticked off my “to do” list at home.

I admit, I could probably have tried a bit harder to find an independent store that had what I wanted – but it probably would have meant a trip elsewhere. On a recent trip to North Norfolk for a holiday, I couldn’t help but notice that the small towns up there were full of everything you could possibly ever need; a reminder of the proper hardware stores that started dying out a generation ago.

I guess it all comes down to what experience the consumer is looking for, and what their priorities are. For many, speed and convenience outweigh concerns about provenance, and in our busy lives it’s simply easier to choose the online route. Now, that’s fine if you know exactly what you need; but if you require something more specific, the choice is less clear cut. Reading customer reviews, visiting online forums and using search engines to ask for advice takes time and often yields a myriad of answers, some of them conflicting – leaving the consumer more baffled than before.

The fact is, there is little to rival human interaction when it comes to seeking advice. The experience of visiting a store and having a real conversation with a human being, who can not only help you locate what you’re looking for, but might also provide some related information along the way, will be as memorable as it is useful. And the very fact that it was a memorable experience, one that stood out, makes it far more likely for us to share it with others – creating advocacy and (potentially) more visitors to that store. (Try recalling the last time you shopped on Amazon – just how memorable was it?)

In the same way, all kinds of brands are realising the power of face to face interaction with their customers and prospects. By “owning” the environment in which they engage with their audience, and taking more time to listen and understand their customer’s needs, the experience becomes far more valuable for brand and consumer – simply put, it’s “time well spent”. Whether it’s a conference, product activation, launch or hospitality programme, the potential to create a memorable experience is huge; and it’s those memories which drive sustained engagement between brand and audience.

Online retailers have responded to the need to provide a richer and more useful experience by introducing sophisticated chat systems, staffed by experts. And yet for many, the faceless experience of communicating with a remote expert doesn’t provide the warmth and conviction that can only ever be exchanged in person. Some brands have gone further; in a strategy dubbed “clicks to bricks”, companies like Amazon are experimenting with physical store fronts, book stores and own-brand showrooms where consumers can purchase goods the traditional way.

However, the one notable difference with the store-front concept is that it holds no actual stock; it is merely a physical shop window, with fulfilment still being done remotely. Equally, with the number of stock lines that a retailer like Amazon holds, you could never expect to employ staff with an expert knowledge of all of them - they’re still reliant on the information contained within the online product descriptions – which is no different to accessing that data yourself.

In an age where truly great experiences are becoming more infrequent, in pursuit of speed and efficiency, my hope is that the local retailer continues to exploit their biggest assets: choice, knowledge and good old fashioned customer service. That way, we’ll see digital and physical retailing co-exist for a long time to come.

If you liked what you've read and want to know what else makes Ben and the rest of the Inspired team tick, email us at tellmemore@inspiredlive.co.uk.

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Other Projects

Uniting the Storage and Data Management Industry

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Creating a high impact event environment for the data and storage industry.

Showcasing a New Brand Experience

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Unveiling new showroom experiences for a leading Volkswagen retailer.

Celebrating 40 Years of Innovation

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Marking 40 years of leading edge thinking in the UK automotive industry.

A Five Star Environment

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Maintaining an exemplary guest experience during the rejuvenation of a luxury hotel.

The Power of Shared Experience

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Curating memorable content for a not-for-profit sector staff conference.


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