Sandra Rossi

Lifestyle Brand, Product, & Marketing Consultant, Business Coach & Life Enthusiast

A Point Of View All Depends On Who You Ask.

How Crafting A Point Of View Helps To Cultivates Empathy

“When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and you reflect back to them that emotional understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen” – Stephen Covey

Early in my career we did a workshop where we were broken up into teams and were given the opportunity to role play various customer types.  We were given personas and descriptions of their problems and needs. There were a few a-typical personas that proved to be the most powerful in terms of empathic insights.

According to the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford  great points of view can fit “onto a bumper sticker”.

The sticker: User + Need = Point of View

According to the Hasso Plattner Design Institute the state a point of view will:

  • Provide focus.
  • Allow you to determine relevancy of competing ideas.
  •  Inspire your team.
  •  Empower colleagues to make decisions independently in parallel. • Fuel brainstorms.
  • Capture the hearts and minds of people you meet.
  • Save you from the impossible task of developing concepts that are all things to all people.
  • Be something you revisit and reformulate as you evolve.

 

While designers always bring an angle to their work, it’s just as important for business owners and merchants to also think like a designer when solving problems for their business and or customer.

Beyond understanding need,  it asks that we understand the user, and to understand them well.  By digging deep we begin to cultivate empathy by not just listening, but resonating with their troubles. It is in understanding the user emotionally that we become more clear on the various hierarchies of needs that inform decisions. design needs and the various things they consider in the decision funnel.

“When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and you reflect back to them that emotional understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen” – Stephen Covey

Campaigns can also be empathic and address needs emotionally.  REI’s #OptOut compaign proved to be of major success in terms of resonating with their customer. The “tone” they took mirrored the exact feelings of their user group. This in turn created a wave and viral push across social media. The campaign elevated awareness and served as a catapult of their brand and business in a time when Sporting Goods/Outdoor Retail has seen its share of slash and burn.

By getting real clear on the people you seek to engage with via. products or experiences, the more clear you will be about the problems you need to solve and the better you will be at providing this “emotional oxygen” referenced by Stephen Covey. While the work is a little clunky at first I have found that it can serve as the grease in the wheels of a business that needs a “push” in the right direction.

Photo Cred: Tower View Jonas Nilsson Lee – www.stocksnap.io

 

 

The Shrinking Waistline of Retail, The Experience Economy & The Future

Macy's

Photo Courtesy of: “Scott Beale / Laughing Squid” laughingsquid.com.

On January 7, 2016 CNN reported that Macy’s would close 40 doors with thousands of layoff’s associated with it.

On January 21, CNBC released an article and video that Sports Authority will be closing nearly 200 of it’s 450 doors.

Online shopping is challenging the “core”/volume/replenishment business of retailers and shifting what in-store assortments will look like.

An entire generation of consumers are in debt, and transforming the concept of consumption, with another large generation about to retire (or not) with a bulk of disposable income.

None of this happened overnight. Economic shifts after 9/11 and the recession of 2008 were seismic.  Add in the the new faces of retail, a disappearing middle class and technology, and we see massive shifts in how we live, consume and engage in our communities and world.

The Shrinking Waistline of The Middle Class & Moderate Retail 

According to Erik Sherman, we are the richest country but the most unequal with a shrinking middle class.

Macy’s & The Sports Authority both represent “moderate price point/value channels”. Both targeting the middle class and who don’t have a lot of clout with a younger generation.

Think of the competition here: Target, Kohls, TJX/Marshalls/Home Goods, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Zappos, Amazon, Outlet Stores, Nordstrom Rack, etc.  The list goes on depending on where you live in the country.

Let’s also throw in the fast fashion merchants who’ve disrupted the low/value chains, moderate chains and drawing from their customer base.

The ever abundant and overstuffed moderate retail landscape, in my mind, is righting itself.

Less Time & Less Attention

Time crunched and low attention span consumers are laser focused especially if it involves driving and parking.  If they find what they are looking for, at the right price, that fits their needs, at the right time, they buy (or not).

For example:  Mrs Jones, a value/family shopper, is at Target buying a some clothes for the kids, toilet paper, dog food, cleaning supplies, and underwear for her husband. She spots a top, in a seasonal “it” color and silhouette. She looks it over, it’s “nice enough”, the price is right and she puts it in the cart. She’s probably thrilled that she didn’t have to make an “extra trip”.

There’s one way a customer who’s time and attention was captured.

The other way, is that she might determine she doesn’t like the top that much, and that she doesn’t really feel like going to the Mall Macy’s and why should she? She, like me,  can “find it online”.

Seth Godin says products are a non-scarcity, and that attention is the new scarcity. I agree.

Sales are 24/7 in our online world. We consumers can find what we want, when we want it, at a price we are willing to pay.  So much so that we have the ability to choose who get’s our attention now.

The rise of the “Experience Economy”

“The concept of shopping has shifted from owning stuff to buying into new ideas.” – Josh Dykstra

The Experience Economy is a product of our zeitgeist.

Girls taking selfies at “Coachella” Courtesy Of The Bull Pen.

In an article in Fast Company by Josh Allan Dykstra , he states that “The concept of shopping has shifted from owning stuff to buying into new ideas.”

According to the article, “Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to “own” something.”

In order for brands and businesses to stay relevant their ideas and behaviors have to be worthy of buying into (beyond physical product), otherwise it’s just more of “stuff” in a sea of “stuff”. It has to create the notion of being able “to do something with it” to engage and connect with others/us in some way.

While this article is intended to speak about Millennials, I personally believe that this “mind-set” is not partial to a younger demographic. It is cultivating movements such as solopreneurship and minimalism. New tribes are redefining what success looks like from more free time, jobs with more meaning, less stuff, and getting out and staying out of debt.

Trends and Opportunities

As a futurist I see huge opportunity for those willing to take it and key trends and game-changers already leading the way.

“If we’re going to shop, then, there’s an imperative to make it engaging, thrilling and worth the resources we put into it. – Seth Godin

Get creative in figuring out how to get your sales per square foot. Retail is about real-estate, so it’s important think like a property developer.  There are creative ways to skin the cat of earning dollars per square foot beyond stuffing a store with product and then figuring out how to move it all.

My latest intrigue, The Stores At The Soho House, Berlin. – a model that to me epitomizes the future of “mash-up” collaborative merchandising and business concepts.

Specialize & Get Portable. Go to where your customer is, don’t wait for them to come to you. Pop Up Shops that feature your best sellers or key items and spread your message are effective if done intelligently.  You don’t have to limit yourself to your landing page, or your 4 walls anymore.

Warby Parker

(Photo Credit: The Blonde Mule, Flickr. Warby Parker Class Trip, Nashville)

Collaborate and converge with a complimentary partner. Partner with local restaurants, artists, a vendor partner.  Rent out space to a vendor or another business that compliments your business and aligns with your customer.  1) You’ll have a marketing partner 2) You capture new customers 3) You pull off each others strengths.

Hybridize &  Create A Space To Hang Out. Create a draw into your store beyond “buying” and encourage folks to “hang around”. When people are hanging out in your store, it naturally creates a pull, as others want in (it’s how we are wired).

Cultivate your tribe beyond digital engagement through human centered experiences. While a younger generation is highly digital, they are also highly social. Our need to connect and socialize face to face is how we are wired and creates much more meaning than a story we read online.

 Services, classes, gatherings, VIP events, movie nights, talks, FOOD TRUCKS, etc.

The shrinking moderate/middle, while challenging for those in the business, is stuffed.  As we continue to see shifts it will be interesting to see what transpires.

I think this is one of the most exciting times in retail; there’s opportunities to think different, to try iterations of old models, and even perhaps get back to novel analog concepts that are human centered and a bit slower.

I look forward to its evolution.

5 Lifestyle & Beauty Products I Swear By To Help Me Deal With Winter

(Just a prologue –  I was not asked to make these reviews – my intention is to simply share why I love what I love.)

Winter finally made it’s debut. It hit 8 degrees farenheit this week with a windchill in some areas double digit below 0.

It just gets bloody cold here.

I swear like a sailor on those days.  Well, I just use the F word a lot until I warm up.

And since we are on the subject of swearing, there are a couple of things I am swearing by this winter.

Staying hydrated. I don’t drink enough water.  I get headaches and fuzzy brain, and it’s always been hard for me to hold myself accountable to managing something I can’t measure.  So Santa brought be this 72 ounce water bottle for Christmas – costs less than $10.00. If I drink it’s entirety in one day, I’ve done my duty and then some.

(You’re supposed to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces daily).

Protecting my skin from cold and raw conditions. I discovered Weleda Everon Cold Cream after the birth of my daughter because I needed something gentle for the both of us on cold winter days. I’ve always been an outdoor lover and guilty of putting waxy salve on my skin while snowboarding to prevent the chaffing. My skin is sensitive and dry and my daughter’s gets red and chaffed easily in the cold months.  This great smelling potion provides the perfect barrier and keeps skin protected.

Weleda Cold Cream photo credit: Babilagges

Getting warm and staying warm  is a constant battle for me. Once I get cold, I find it hard to warm up. I wear socks to bed (to be kicked off middle of the night ), a knit hat, and I wear my Patagonia down vest around the house most days . It keeps my core and key organs warm to push warm blood around the body allowing me to keep the thermostat at a moderate temperature.

I layer it under coats and over layers as needed.

(Love versatile and multi-use products.)

Photo Credit: Michelle Edmonds – with the same Patagonia Down Vest I have!  Love it.

Drinking hot fluids are key to cultivating warmth.  My mother-in-law hooked me up with a Stelton Insulated Carafe  for Christmas, and I am in love with it. Not only do I love it’s design and function – it keeps my water hot throughout the day so I don’t have to reheat water continuously. I just grab and pour.

Stelton Vaccuum Jugs holds hot liquid for 10 hours!

Keeping feet warm in an old New England home was a challenge til I got LL Beans Wicked Warm Slippers. They are my one pair of winter slippers and help keep the F words at bay.   They are also guaranteed for life.

Gotta love any company that makes it easy to do business with.

LL Bean Wicked Good Slippers. I’ve had mine for nearly 7 years and they are still going strong!

And last, but not least (and this makes 6 things), Smartwool socks. I have all heights, but I favor the knee high lengths as as they serve as leg-warmers under denim or under my running pants (and they stay put).

Worth every damn dollar.

Merry, merry to everyone. Hope today was amazing. #happyholidays #gofarfeelgood

A photo posted by SmartWool (@smartwool) on

I don’t need a lot of things. Just the right things.

(I think that’s true for most of us.)

Bring on the longer days, pray for some snow so we can play in it, and let’s see what  (usually ) the 2 coldest months of winter serve up.

I’m fuckin’ ready.

Featured Image Photo Credit:  www.unsplash.com / Natalie Gouzee

 

 

What An Independent Retailer Can Learn From The Grizzly Bear

The Retailer:  Independent On Main Street

It was 7 days before Christmas with the last shopping weekend before the big day just around the corner. The new store owner called me in to refresh her store as it had been rampaged since our complete floor overhaul 2 weeks prior.

She owns a bustling independent store with high foot traffic, in an excellent “main street” location adjacent to a busy restaurant next door and a Starbucks across the street.  Key wins for any retailer wanting natural traffic.

The owner had acquired the store nearly 6 months ago and was new to the business.

“Do you want to still carry this line of product into next year?”  I asked, pointing to a product line of soaps, lotions, and potions that in dire need of visual merchandising in order to convert the “browser to buyer”.

“No.” She said. “I inherited it from the previous owners, but I’ll wait until after Christmas to put the inventory I no longer want on sale.”

I looked around.  Lines at the register, people talking, laughing, enjoying what they were finding. The store was busy!

“Don’t wait.  Put it on sale now and take advantage of natural foot traffic while you have it.” I told her.

She agreed.

I re-merchandised the product, pulled stock out of boxes so people could touch and smell it – pulled all inventory that was invisible out in order to fill the fixture with intention and we put it all on sale 20% off.

I checked back in 5 days later and she was 90% sold through.

By Christmas it was gone.

Lessons From the Grizzly

Fish where the fishes are. Photo credit: Paul Sauders www.worldfoto.com

The Grizzly lives independently near grassy plains most of the time and makes the journey towards the river during certain times of the year to capitalize on Salmon during their spawning runs. This natural harmony is necessary for survival.  The caloric intake and fat storage helps beef them up during sparse times and of course during their hibernation.

As an independent retailer you work smarter not harder by capitalizing on natural traffic ebbs and flows intelligently. It costs time and money to raise awareness and run events to drive traffic in order to create conversion, and you’re a one man band!  This is a great opportunity to ramp up on best sellers and promote/clear seasonal items or items you don’t want in the upcoming quarters.

Like the grizzly, you’re in tune with the natural flows of traffic and know when to capitalize on it. Not only is there traffic, there are people who have SPENDING ON THEIR MIND and lower inhibitions.  If you wait until after the season or when traffic dies to clear old/seasonal goods, your efforts will be thwarted by natural downturns in traffic, a consumer with little money left in their wallets,  and their attention shifting on to what’s next.

Don’t become the fish monger with a rotten fish problem.

Be the bear. Get synchronized with your fish and capitalize on traffic intelligently to keep your inventory turning and fresh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This summer I took a stand up comedy class at the Boston Improv with intentions to hone story-telling, public speaking, and to “do one thing that scares me”.  Our teacher was the master Dana Jay Bein.

We met once a week for 11 weeks and it required me to develop material, learn comedic elements, and do a 5 minute public “bit” for a paying audience.

I got more than I bargained for, made new friends, and realized that many of us have some hilarious stories in the closet that reveal how incredible funny being human is.  All of which provide fertile soil for joke material and lessons in resilience.

I found many learnings transcended into other areas of life and work and here are the takeaways.

1. Assumptions are made immediately, and they can be used in your favor if you are wise.  The first exercise we had to do was stand up in front of our crew and have people blurt out assumptions about us. “You like to shop at J.Crew”, “You wish you were more athletic”, “You like the beach”, “You hate country music”, “You sit in board meetings”.

I was wearing tan pants, I had gone to the beach and was tan, and I was wearing a men’s watch. These were many of the assumptions about me. Some right. Some way off.

In constructing stories and engaging we were informed to know those assumptions, use them to our advantage, and most importantly, shatter them.

2. Record your ideas/observations.  “If you think you’ll remember your idea later, your crazy.” Dana told us. Ideas fly through our brains like birds, in, out, and gone. Getting into the habit of capturing them is important. Eventually ideas connect and have “idea sex” according to James Altucher , who claims that writing 10 ideas a day is part of creating personal mind magic.

I’m putting his theory to practice and try to write 10 ideas a day.

Mind Map or Idea Chain

 3. Authenticity demands us to embrace our whole self (including the good, bad, and ugly). I did an authenticity exercise where we have to draw an oval, like a boardroom table, and write all the voices that sit at the table. Some of my voices included, “Funny, mean, jealous, happy, angry, frustrated, scared, excited, depressed, loud, quiet”.

The lesson it taught me? You can’t be your whole self if you’re only embracing one part, you gotta embrace it all.  Trust me, the exercise was a quick jolt of realizing that one voice can not exist without the other, I need them all to thrive.

4. Failures and setbacks are your creative steroids, learn to use them to your advantage. At first, I was struggling with what stories to tell, we were advised to find some pivotal moments in our lives where we were emotionally charged based on an experience like: love, betrayal, anger, embarrassment, losing a job, disappointment, etc. Emotions are the juice to fuel stories that connect via empathy, identification, admiration, and validation.

Here’s Louis CK coming clean on vices.

Note: Language and drug references (and if you don’t like bad words, then don’t keep reading this blog, because I swear like a sailor, and that’s me embracing my “wholeness”).

5. Feedback Loops.  After we started getting our ideas down we had to “workshop” them. Workshopping asks that the presenter presents their bit to his/her comedic colleagues for feedback and is all part of a development phase before going live. I found workshopping to be one of the most constructive and effective ways of finding areas to clarify, edit, focus, and expand.

6. Edit & Create Focus. Great crafters know the power of “taking away”. Insanely Simple is a great book of this art-form used in the culture of Apple, one of the most iconic brands in our culture today.

At Nike, part of the company vernacular is “Edit & Amplify”, it permeates the culture in multiple constituencies from Innovation to Merchandising.  In this article from Fast Company, Nike’s CEO Mark Parker, states they had 350 ideas presented by R & D teams to explore, he had to work with them on developing criteria to evaluate the ideas to reduce them to 50.

In comedy, you only have a certain amount of time to speak, and the science is in laughs per minute. You can’t succeed in reaching those metrics if you’re putting too much back story into your story.

It requires vision, detachment, and getting clear on key themes/values so you can focus energy and efforts on those.

7.  Tame The Inner Critic.  My inner critic is a monster. Without recognizing it for what it is and learning to squelch it, I would not be writing this blog. From my years in yoga, self-study, working with coaches, and therapists (yes, I am a human who see’s a therapist from time to time), I’ve learned the inner critic is a protection mechanism of our ego or who we “think” we are or “should be”.

It shows up in the form of doubt and judgment. It’s not from a single part of us, it’s from many different sub-parts of our whole being (based on our own history) and can often be debilitating.

Recently, I spent 12 weeks in a positive psychology course, and here’s the thing, it doesn’t really go away. We just need to learn how to recognize it and confront it. The more we do this, the mind muscle needed to shut it down gets stronger, meaning the inner critic may have less of a chance of showing up as frequently. And, we like that.

The 3 tools I’ve worked with in dealing with my inner critics (7 have been identified) are:

  1. Awareness/Mindfulness. Our mind is pretty amazing, it keep us safe from harm, helps us solve problems, learn, create, etc. Being aware of one’s thoughts, understanding the nuances of the mind, and discerning what is rational vs. irrational, real or not real, can help with non-identification and disengagement.  This is a daily practice for me.
  2. Turn it Into An Ally. This requires some compassion (yes, I used that gooey word). Tapping into the root of the fear is not comfortable because it requires us to actually get to a still place, and calmly greet it.   When I’ve taken the time to do this, most of my fears are generalized and I can determine actions I need to take to diffuse it.  Action, being the critical word here.
  3. Shut it down or squelch it (immediately). Basically telling it “NO”.   If I can stop it in its tracks, I can move on and I don’t find myself stuck in that lonely sea of doubt for too long.

8. Find the tools & practice methods that work for you. One size does not fit all.  To assume that Dick Jones’ tools for writing, idea capturing, organizing, and practicing will work for you is a misconception.  I went through a phase of being all about Getting Things Done (still love David Allen), but I learned tools don’t mean shit if you never use them.  Experiment, find what works for you, and roll with it (it has to be easy). Who cares what Dick Jones uses.

9. Create a positive rituals before public speaking. Rituals turn into habits over time. Ever see what Tony Robbins does before speaking? Read what Steve Jobs did? It’s interesting to learn.

Some positive rituals I use that help release energy from adrenaline and anxiety:

  1. Going for a walk/exercise/movement before speaking to move excess energy created by adrenaline out. I did 2 laps around the block before the show.
  2. Speech exercises such as motor boat with the lips, big A, E, I, O, U’s, tongue twisters like Peter Piper.
  3. Simple Breathing Techniques to calm the nervous system. I am not going to show you a crazy yoga breathing video – but rather this one that I find pretty straight forward.   My add on’s: relax your face and body before breath work and begin with a few (3 or 4) cleansing breaths (deep inhales through the nose and long deep sigh exhales), allow the space between your brows to soften as well as your jaw.  

10. Have fun.  People who are fun are infectious. When you have fun, you engage, things become easy, you “let go”.  In turn, it creates a magnetic attraction.

I once was consulting on a project and advised the client that they shouldn’t continue in what they were doing because they were going to lose more money. Pretty much letting myself go from a job.

If what you’re doing isn’t fun, you’re not going to deliver the magic, and it’s hard to get people to buy into it.

11. We are in this together.  This class gave me permission to tap into the power of vulnerability, to expose parts of myself to complete strangers, and realize “we are all in this together”.

I coached a 22-year-old who was scared to tell his story on going to rehab. Guess what? He was hilarious! And, he was all the better for it because people empathized, admired, and validated him.

We are humans who make mistakes and fuck up. When we expose ourselves and share our shit, we rise out of it, we expand, AND we can inspire others.  In Positive Psychology vernacular that’s Post Traumatic Growth. We actually don’t go back to a baseline of normal, we are on higher ground than before.

I succeeded in doing my bit alive.  Won’t lie folks, I realized how fast my heart could actually race before speaking, experienced the worst case of dry mouth, drank 2 bottles of water in 2 minutes, sweat half the water out my arm pits, and almost peed my pants, but I had a hell of a time doing it and made some new cool friends.

Big thanks to Boston Improv and teacher extraordinaire Dana Jay Bein – for getting me out of my comfort zone.

P.S. My husband has one video copy of my performance, but as Juba in “Gladiator” said to Maximus ,”Not yet. Not yet.” (Cue the Lisa Gerard song now).

One Lesson From A Great Manager

In college I worked at one of the hottest restaurants in the country to help keep me out of trouble while making great money.  One busy night I was in the weeds. We were one staff member down and I had absorbed 2 additional  tables until support arrived.

I had checked all my hot tickets against tables that were almost done with salads and noticed that I was one hot ticket down.  It was gone. I looked everywhere – in my apron pocket, under the soda station, under serving areas.

Gone.

Then, I found it in my apron. Their salad plates were removed and they were already waiting for their dinner to arrive.

“Oh my God, I’m so fired!” I thought.  My head was hot and my body was shaking.

I got sense of calm and went to the table.

I told a lie.  I told them, “…the hot ticket fell and was missed by the line cooks.”

I approached the Proprietor/GM of the restaurant. “Larry, table 6, their hot food is not coming out and the line cooks don’t have the ticket. I need a hustle on the food.”

“What did you tell them?” He asked me.

I was scared.

He grabbed both my shoulders and looked me square in the eye. “Sandra, what did you tell them?”

I was quiet.

“Sandra, I need to know what you told them, so that when I go out to speak with them you and I say the same thing. Doesn’t matter what happened.”

A sense of relief washed over me.  He wasn’t judging me, angry at me, or scolding me.  He was asking me to work with him and that required me to be honest.  He had my back and in turn we became a unit, a team.

I told him what I told them.  He went to the table and did his manager talk.

He returned with a wave of his hand and said, “They’re all set Sandra. I got them cocktails and a free dessert. It’s an exceptionally busy night and mistakes are bound to happen, work with me and I can help you where possible.”

That was it. It wasn’t discussed again.

I pressed on the whole night lightly and with ease.  I was happy.  I was able to focus, sell, and serve.

Can you imagine what would of happened if he would of done otherwise?

I would of flailed, cried, shut-down, and also not help drive sales and service.

Then, I really would of been fired.

He elevated the team over him.

I never made the mistake again, but it wasn’t the first lesson in being a good manager that I learned from Larry.

Note: This post was inspired by my latest read, Multipliers by Liz Wisemen.

The Transitional Kaleidoscope

Transition is like a Kaleidoscope.

We find that the existing view needs to shift – and we set some things in motion and these bits, pieces, colors, reflections bounce around and are moving through space.  This process can be cumbersome especially as we explore and decide to land on any options that get created.

Eventually, we find the next settlement of pieces that appeals to our liking. A place we can truly explore and observe.

I have to remind myself that finding the next perfect arrangement could take a while.

This is okay.

To have the opportunity to explore is a blessing…settling for what doesn’t feel right or is ‘safe’, is self robbery.

Enjoy the view.

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