It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Don’t forget the conclusion! Data-driven decision-making for everyday choices by Nheeda Enriquez
March 23, 2010, 2:22 am
Filed under: consumer behavior, delighters, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

photo via easybloom (click for larger)

At work, I’ve been thinking a lot about how consumers consume data and use it to make everyday decisions.  Now that we live in always-connected, info-lusting world, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that there are examples of it everywhere after I leave the office.  I’ve been using a calorie-counting app on my iPhone to balance food with exercise over the last two weeks.  I’ve played around with Mint.com and TurboTax to make decisions that deal with money.

Over the weekend, I used a sensor-based device called EasyBloom to decide what seeds to plant in my backyard, based on the chemistry of the soil and the amount of sun it gets (clearly, my plants get no sun at night, as the picture will above confirms.)  And while the chart is nice to have for reference, what’s far more important about the data is what I should do about it.  Since I’m no gardener, the insight and the expert recommendations that companies make for me is where the value lives.

I’ve written about data visualization before, and there’s many many beautiful examples of it everywhere.  Then what’s the lesson here?  Sometimes as designers and businessfolks, we forget to finish drawing the conclusion and offer the viewer a point of view by which to process those great charts, graphs, and lines.  Be that an insight, a recommendation, or a call to action, remember to give consumers the ending!



Local reporter traces that text donation to Haiti by Nheeda Enriquez

At this point, everyone’s heard about the new text-message way to support disaster relief in Haiti.  By making donations so quick and easy (literally 8 taps on my phone “Haiti” and “Yes”  It’s 10, if you count hitting “send”) wireless providers have raised record amounts for the Red Cross at unprecedented speed.

Local grocer Harris Teeter has also been using its lower-tech way to raise money at the register for the cause.

What these both have in common is that donations occur at the point of thought, removing the consumer’s barriers of inconvenience.  No need to sit down to write (and mail) a check or enter in a bunch of credit card information.

And today, local WFAE reporter Julie Rose told us how those donations actually make it to relief teams on the ground, disputing the myth that the money is taking 90 days to be useful.



Charlotte Restaurant Week, revisited by Nheeda Enriquez

logo via Queen's Feast

For some reason, my mindmap over the summer about Charlotte Restaurant Week got lots of hits, so I thought I’d revisit the topic.

The winter version of the event is here once again, and like many Charlotteans, I will put my New Year resolutions on hold to participate.  Why is it so successful?  It’s great for restaurants because it fills empty tables during a slow period.   The scarcity of a $30 deal at a fancy restaurant will sucker any diner into trying something new.

Personally, I like it because it’s another reason to bring people together.  But it also cuts down the number of decisions I have to make when ordering off of a menu.  This reminds me of a little publicity blitz by Menu Engineer (that’s right, an engineer) Gregg Rapp went on last fall.  His interviews with Time and the Today Show reveal all the tricks he teaches restaurants as they redesign their menus to get you to spend more on your meal, including using center justification and taking out dollar $igns.  He also uses fanciful descriptions that make their popular dishes hard to resist.

You don’t often get to read a person’s mind as he/she processes a menu to see if these tactics work.  This Charlotte Loafing blogger shares her mental gymnastics on one of Restaurant Week’s participants, Liberty Gastropub, and it looks like the tasty descriptions work on her.



Grocery store delighter: McCormick’s Pre-measured Spices by Nheeda Enriquez

I was at Harris Teeter the other day and caught this little delighter – pre-measured spice packs combined with recipes.  I wished this was around when I was in college, I would have saved myself tons of bland meals because I was too cheap to buy all the spices I needed.  Aside from actually solving for a problem that exists, what I love about it is that it probably didn’t cost a fortune to develop.  It simply re-proportions existing products.  It reminds me of a marketing trend of packaging smaller portions of goods to bring down the price so that consumers in developing countries can afford them.

click for larger

I realize that this is technically not a “delighter” per se, but the solution itself sure delighted me anyway!



Charities partner with retailers and help us deal with spending guilt by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo cred: nixter

I was walking down Tryon the other day and I noticed that a Wachovia branch was promoting their holiday gift cards and its program with Toys for Tots.  So, for every card you buy, Wachovia donates $1 to the charity. (Full disclosure: I used to work for the bank, but I didn’t know anything about this program, so I’m speaking purely as a consumer here.)

I’ve seen (and participated in) lots of local events tied with toy donations within the last week (here, here, and here.)  It made me stop to think about why these toy donation tie-ins are so appealing to everyone (aside from the assumption that the Marines do a bang-up job of getting their mission out.)  Here’s a few reasons:

  • The concept is dead-simple.  Bring a toy, get in for free or at a discount.  Make a purchase, a portion goes to charity.
  • Joy is involved.  Taking 30 minutes to run out and pick up a toy for a child sure beats doing laundry.  Not to mention the joy in store for the recipient.
  • Your dollars get more valueThis NPR Marketplace story captures this concept well.  In tight economic times, it’s hard to justify making a purchase that seems unnecessary or making a straight donation at a register.  By doing it this way, then the money does double duty.

A lil’ something for the tots, and a lil’ something for me.  And good karma for the sponsoring brand.  Everyone wins.

(Given that this is a seasonal post, no promises that the event links will work forever.)



Black Friday Delighter by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo credit: highstrungloner

My love affair with Apple is no secret, and this probably doesn’t qualify as a delighter so much as an enabling process innovation, but while I was at home last week in NYC, I made a pit stop at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.

Unfortunately, it was also Black Friday, and given that the product I needed was for myself and not a gift, I gasped when I saw the hundreds of shoppers as I walked down the grand spiral staircase.  The thought of waiting in an enormous line to pay for a little FM transmitter made me want to do without it for one more road trip.

But then I discovered that every store associate was a walking point of sale.  Each one was armed with what seemed like an iPhone on steroids, complete with bar code scanner and credit card slot.  They emailed a receipt to an address already tied to the credit card from a previous purchase and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.

What a game-changer!  Apple banks a lot more sales per hour, they save their customers gobs of time, and they have a system that can be licensed to other retailers on a platform of products they already sell.  Genius.



Searching for the familiar: A parking lot delighter! by Nheeda Enriquez

IMG_0210

I saw this lovely sign over in the Green Parking lot in Uptown Charlotte the other day and I couldn’t help but smile.  It was an unexpected yet ever-so-helpful delighter designed to help me remember where I parked.

Sometimes I’ll type a quick note in my phone to remind me where the car is. Or, in especially confusing lots like the Long Term lots at the airport, I’ll even GPS-tag the location.  But when you’re in a hurry, nothing beats a simple picture with a caption, “It takes two to tango” to burn the image in my head.

Besides helping me find my car, this sign also reminded me of two NY Times articles I had seen recently:

  • I find myself thinking often about how to make it easier for people to try a new product or service, and sometimes it’s appropriate to bring in something familiar to help transition folks from an older mental model into a new one.
  • Of course, in the spirit of planning for unintended consequences, an article about the sad possibility of losing your navigational prowess when of adapting a common technology like GPS into one’s everyday life.