I came across a great illustration of what happens when something is designed without considering the context in which it will be used.
In the Macy’s department store in New York City, stationed throughout the store are these little stations where you can either scan a gift card to see the remaning balance, or scan the bar code on an item to see how much it costs (most department stores probably have something similar).
Great idea. It’s always nice to be able to scan an item to see what the final price is; with so many overlapping sales going on, it’s impossible to predict what the final price of an item would be.
I didn’t actually use the scanner, so I can’t comment on the usability of the device itself. But I found it quite humorous that, taking a couple steps back and looking at the area around the price check scanner, there was a mountain of discarded clothes!
Retrospectively, it actually makes a lot of sense, and is indeed not at all surprising. You grab an item off the shelf, bring it over to the price scanner to see how much it costs. When the price registers as a couple orders of magnitude more than you were willing to spend, crestfallen, you resignedly throw it on a pile. Surely you’re not in any mood to put that overprices piece of crap back on the shelf from where you found it!
The presence of a simple clothing rack located next to the price scanner would have been a sufficient hint hint to customers, and helped to avoid the clothespile shown above.
But I think that you could get even more creative with it. From a retailers perspective, one of the great things about online shopping is that clickstreams are an excellent indicator of how people arrive at a certain purchase (sometimes, the ‘why’ can also be extracted). To Macy’s, this discarded pile of clothes should actually represent a feedback loop that communicates these clothes are too expensive. Granted, there are quite a lot of factors that go into pricing of clothes, but if certain items are consistently scanned and then discarded, then this should be interpreted as a sign that a hot item is priced too high.
Taking this even further, and actually integrating some of the ’social’ aspect of online shopping, wouldn’t it be neat if the clothing rack had sections on it like “Almost There,” “A Little Pricey,” and “You’re Joking, Right?!?” This not only would give useful feedback to the store, but is also a way for customers in a brick & mortar store to communicate with one another about what is reasonably priced and what is way out of line. Additionally, the clothes that make it all the way to the price scanner can be considered to be ‘vetted’ ; while veryone has different tastes, and everyone has a different notion of pricey, this rack can present another opportunity for a customer to grab something off the rack which they otherwise might not have!
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