Monday, May 29, 2023

A consumer show in every town.

Few can travel to Consumer Electronics Show or New York Toy Fair, but the idea of a local consumer show is not far-fetched.

This venue is open every day. Registered attendees wave their credentials as they walk in. The bright lights symmetrically lining the ceiling make them lose track of time. Aisles after aisles of products are displayed seductively as in a consumer show, except attendees can put them in a shopping cart if they choose. Then there are the sounds and sights of goods being moved on forklifts one must dodge, endure the occasional announcement on the public address system, walk mesmerized by the high-resolution images on the giant television screens and the glistening electronics on display, the food court to rest and refuel, the sampling stations of products on sale that appear fleetingly. Lastly, there are the sore feet that attendees take home. All of these make it almost like a consumer show, yet it is not one because attendees line up at the checkout counter and cart away goods bought at the show.

Having spent time understanding trade shows, I can't unsee a convention center whenever I walk into a Costco. Perfectly positioned to be a captivating permanent consumer show, here are suggested changes to complement and enhance Costco’s current member-experience. 

  • The sensory experience in Costco is primed for a consumer show. Add a carnival-like playfulness and shopping is no longer a chore. 
  • Give indie bands a chance to perform in the parking lot and enter the music business.
  • Allow manufacturers into aisles to stand by to explain their products in person or via video conference while capturing consumer reactions in person.
  • Costco already holds live demos of products like cookware. Add a catwalk to the clothes section, running every few hours.
  • Allow manufacturers to buy the privilege of giving away tchotchkes and stickers.
  • Open up a section of the floor at a Costco for product launches, and live stream it on social media to compete with shopping TV channels, making shopping more inclusive for those who can’t leave home.
  • Grow an audience with themed book signing and book readings by authors.
  • Welcome teens to creating social media content while shopping, thus going beyond the traditional families who spend a good part of their weekend at a Costco.
  • Add a raffle at participating ‘stations’ to even out traffic, subject to gaming laws, of course.
  • Add a conference component with high quality programming to build a community that bonds over inspiring content versus fleeting conversations at a tasting station, or while waiting in the checkout line.

Costco, through experiential shopping, could prepare for its next generation of members, building not merely a mailing list but rather a community of brand evangelists, and get to escape velocity to shake off comparisons with discount retailers.