Retail Podcast 702: Soon Yu The Value of Friction in Retail
Bob Phibbs interviewed international speaker and award-winning author of Iconic Advantage Soon Yu on innovation and branding in retail - and more - on this episode of Tell Me Something Good About Retail.
Tell me something good about retail
Soon Yu The Value of Friction in Retail
Bob: Today, I'm talking with Soon Yu, an expert on innovation and branding. He most recently served as the global VP of Innovation and Officer at VF Corporation, home to over 30 global apparel companies. This is the branding guy. Welcome.
Soon: Thanks, Bob. Thanks for having me on. It's nice to be with the retail guy.
Bob: Oh, what a good guy. I appreciate that. Well, you have a new book coming out called, "Friction: Adding Value By Making People Work for It." So, what was the impetus for writing this?
Soon: Well, a lot of it had to do with my previous book called, "Iconic Advantage," where we just reverse-engineered the strategies people use to create these ideas of lasting brands, brands that stood the test of time, brands that actually stood for something you cared about. And they were able to make it relevant to you, not only today or yesterday but in the future. And by the process of having that time and that longevity, they became known as the standard-bearers for whatever distinction they had, and thereby became iconic for that distinction.
Well, in writing that book, one of the key elements in creating distinction, or actually to reinforce the idea of distinction, is having signature elements that remind you about why a business, a retail store, the internet, whatever it is, is unique or different. And I'll give you a couple of examples. Nike has the Air Max, and every time you see an Air Max, you see a little bubble in the sole and you say, "Oh, yes, that's Air Max." And it reminds you about what's so cool about that shoe and that most trainers lose 40% of their support in their lifetime, but a pocket of air never loses its balance. And so it's an idea that has buoyancy and support.
One other example would be Corona. You basically think a Corona without lime in the neck is kind of naked, right? So you always have to have that little lime in the neck to remind you that it's the vacation beer. You could be where you are in New York. Actually, it's probably decent weather, but let's say it was a February and it was cold and rainy, you'd be on a rooftop party. And it doesn't matter, you've got a line in the neck of a Corona and you're brought back to being in Cabo over the summer. Right? And that's what's so cool about it.
And one of the ideas of signature elements is really the idea of creating signature experiences, having something that's experiential, whether we're going to talk about retail, right, that people remember you for. If you're going to go to Ikea, you know that you're going to meander. You know that when you go in there, it's going to be this zig-zag process. You're going to go through every department. You and I may just want some flatware, but boy, in the process of trying to buy that flatware, we know the experiences, we're going to look at mattresses, we're going to look at sofas, we're going to look at cutlery, and we're going to have potentially, our wife and our kids with us, and they experience different things, and it's going to be at at least a 30-minutes to two-hour process, and mentally we know that.
Anyway, so I was thinking about this idea of signature experiences, and the whole world is aimed at becoming seamless and frictionless and easy. And when I looked at great signature experiences, especially in retail, I realized, hey, you know what? These companies are doing something different. They're actually making you spend more time with them. They're making you sweat. They're making you cry. They're making you fall in love with them. They're making you go through this hero's journey sometimes and storytelling with you as part of the story. And I'm like, "Man, they're actually taking a..." It's taxing to be part of that.
But what I realized is that great signature experiences require good friction, require these companies to actually make you work a little harder to stay engaged with them and to actually consider them. So that was the big aha moment. Like, hey, not all friction is created equal. There might be something called good friction along with all that bad friction. So that's a long way of describing how that idea of friction came about.
Bob: You have so much to unpack there, dude. I want to go back to like every line you said it was like, what about this? What about this? It's like, yes, that whole idea of iconic brands, I will keep going about friction, but if you think of iconic brands from 20 years ago, what is it, Seattle? Whereas isn't it Smith Corona has the typewriter still on the building in Seattle? You think of Sears and you think of these, they weren't known for experiences though. Were they? They were probably just, what was that? Was it that Sears was a trusted baby boomer aspirational brand? And then once that generation moves on, it wasn't able to stay with it. Same thing with Smith's Corona. It's like, oh my gosh, they built a whole building of typewriters, but that was technology. So any thoughts about that?
Soon: Yes. Okay, so what were those brands known for and why weren't they able to translate that into subsequent generations, and basically, why the hell did they die? So let's take Sears. I think Sears is a really interesting case study, but this is off the cuff, I haven't done any research on it, but when I think back when I was a kid at Sears, and then when I read back about some of the history of Sears, a lot of Sears was about the catalog. Remember the catalog? Montgomery Ward was kinda like...
Bob: Wishbook. That's what it was, wishbook...
Soon: It was this big book. Right? And I even think back about that, okay, this is really going to date you and I, Bob, but do you remember the movie "Music Man?"
Bob: Of course, a Wells Fargo wagon's coming on. Karaoke.
Soon: A Wells Fargo wagon's coming down the street. Remember that? And it was all about the idea that you ordered something on a catalog and then the Wells Fargo wagon was going to bring it and is all the anticipation and this idea of dopamine, right? It really was this idea of... Sure, I think eventually Sears had the big box, but they got away from the idea that you know what? Part of what Sears, when I was growing up was all about, was the idea of hopes, aspirations, dreaming, and anticipation, and seeing something in the catalog, thinking about it, researching it, probably spending a week or two or three, thinking about, do I get this one or that one? And somehow the big box, they lost that.
They translated that catalog into the big box. And honestly, over time, it became something where there was less excitement, there was less energy, and it was all about, hey, how fast can I get whatever I want? My craftsmen what, blah, blah, blah. And so I think that's part of the reason now, how would they maintain the idea of anticipation and dopamine. That would be an interesting case study. I don't have the exact answers off the top of my head, but I'll say this. What I loved about Sears when I was growing up was very different than what translated to Sears later, which is just big box and lots of availability. And honestly, not the best quality selection.
Bob: Yes. I've always thought Sears should have been Amazon. They had the supply chain, they had the last file. They knew it all. They knew what we bought. They knew where we lived. I mean, you just have to think of strategically, so many people just had to miss things that were right underneath them. And that brings me back to you and this book on friction. So, there's good friction and bad friction. Right? And in the book you talk about like, well, we can walk forward. That's good friction. So, what is the difference between good and bad, and how do you know the difference?
Soon: Yes. I mean, friction, whether it's good or bad is defined similarly. It's anything that requires you to extend effort, consideration, time, and investment, right? Bad friction, the only difference between bad and good friction is the outcome. Bad friction is a negative outcome. Good friction is a positive outcome. Let me give you an example. And this also speaks to the idea of a signature experience. One brand, I'm not going to say who yet, basically understood that their product was treasure. It was this idea that you know what? If you're going to get to a product it's like opening a treasure chest and experience should be like opening a treasure chest.
Contrast to what every other person was doing. Let's say you and I wanted to buy, I don't know, flash drive, right? A simple little flash drive that's basically in the size of our thumb. Okay. And in order to do that, we'd have to... Maybe we'd go to Best Buy and we'd pick up something that was in a plastic clamshell that was the size of, I don't know, you can't see this, but my notebook here, which is five by eight, right? And it would be this heavy plastic clamshell, you'd have to take scissors, cut it open. And even then, you'd have to use your fingers and actually put it in between the crease and try to pry open to get to this little, I don't know, the little thumbnail. Right.
And part of the reason they did that is because they wanted to make this thumbnail that originally was rather expensive, seemed more weighty. Like, oh, justify the idea that you're going to pay $10 for something that's the size of your finger. Well, that's to me, bad friction. Right? Okay. The effort, time, in general...
Bob: I'm going to interrupt you for one second. Don't forget those were also behind locked cabinets often. You had to find someone with their little scrunchy of the sacred keys to see if you're worthy enough, right? So, yes.
Soon: Oh yes. So that's all that. And then of course, they had their little sticker that was basically magnetic, whatever, readers and all that. So, anyway, okay. So to me, that's a lot of bad friction. Well, here's a company that says, "Look, instead of taking five minutes to open your package, which seemed bad, we're going to make you spend on average 15 to 20 minutes to open and unveil your package." And you're like, "What? Five minutes is already enough. I'm already stressed out. It is already painful. It's like, I'm traumatized, and you want me to spend four times the amount of time to open your package?"
Well, buy golly, yes. Think about Apple, right? You think about like this last Christmas, and I finally succumb to my son saying, "Yes, everybody in my class has an Apple watch." Well, not everybody, but okay, over half. That was fair. Okay. So, I finally got him his Apple watch. The middle schooler's right., I guess I don't know. But anyway, but he gets it home and he's so excited about it and he opens it up and literally, he's in his room for like 35 minutes, first just playing around with just the watch itself and the charger. And then there's this little booklet he had to read. And then, at each step, he actually had to go back online and register, and personalize, and adjust, and load apps. And we didn't see him for over half an hour.
And that was probably the most exciting part of Christmas for him was that half an hour he spent unveiling his Apple watch. And I do a lot of keynotes and I ask people, "How many of you bought an Apple?" And 90% of the room raises their hand. I said, "How many have actually kept a package from Apple?" 90% keep their hand up. Right? And then I keep asking, okay, two packages, three packages. I've gone up to like 18 packages somebody's kept. And I go, "What are you doing with all of them? He goes, "I can't throw them away. Each one has a memory, and it's a beautiful work of art." And to them, that was great friction, the unveiling of a product. So, there's good friction and there's bad friction.
Bob: That's amazing. So many pundits now say the hallmark of great product or service is making things easy, but easy pretends that it's a click and buy. And I think that's where you're saying that the more you're like that, the more forgettable you become. You've worked with innovation, and how do I keep somebody's attention? So, what's the secret to generating this adrenaline and dopamine and more engagement in a company or a brand? And you have five minutes to say that all that's in your book.
Soon: Fantastic. Great. Well, look, you nailed it. I think you're touching on this idea that everyone right now is preaching the idea of becoming seamless. And everyone's saying that is the path to get customers, making it as easy as possible. Here's the thing, and a word that maybe you and I in the prerecording we were talking about, but that becomes forgettable, right? Because if something's so easy, you don't think about it. There's no consideration. And there's this old adage in marketing in retail, which is how you acquire your customers is how you keep them.
So if you acquire a customer by being the easiest and frictionless experience, whether it be online or at the store or wherever, guess what? That's how you have to keep them. And if you think about it, something that's about to happen to you is the idea that... The biggest risk for you is this idea that they're going to probably swap you out for somebody else that's even more seamless. It's a easy, easy... The switching cost for swapping out is near zero. Now, your question about what does it take? Well, we in the book talk about seven virtues of really good friction, okay? Friction that creates dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and adrenaline. We talk about the idea that you need to embrace a dose of really good friction.
And so the first thing we talk about is engagement. What are you doing to make sure that people are spending more time with you in a way that's fun, in a way that actually brings out all these happy chemicals, in a way where they're actually involved in the conversation or in the storytelling. So, 'll give you a quick example of engagement. The North Face in Korea created a store, where basically what happens is you get in-store and they wait until there's only one customer in the store. And then the store staff boat out of the store, they turn on a switch, and literally, the floor starts coming out from under you. It starts splitting in half...
Bob: Dude. I've seen this video, I've used it in speeches. I think it is amazing. I thought it was a popup. It's a real store.
Soon: It's a real store. So the floor comes out from under you. And the way it comes out is that basically if you're standing on, let's say the far end of the store, the middle of the floor starts coming apart, and then basically, it pushes you towards the wall that you're near. And the wall that you're near just happens to be a climbing wall. And so you are basically, forced to grab those knobs that you see on one of those rock climbing walls. And then as the floor disappears, what you see underneath you, is literally a 10-foot drop - onto some cushiony stuff - but it's a 10-foot drop, which is freaking you out. Right?
And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the roof opens up or the ceiling opens up and the most expensive North Face jacket in your size comes down. And it says on a screen, "You have 30 seconds to grab this and it's yours." And then the timer goes off and what it forces you to do, you actually have to climb that rock wall to get to the very top so that you can actually have a chance to leap and grab and get the jacket. And not everyone does it, but talk about dopamine, talk about interaction, talk about gamification. So that is one huge way, this idea of creating engagement.
Another is meaning. When you think about the idea that meaning requires consideration, it requires this idea of investment, but it also requires the idea of storytelling and customization. So, over in Timberland, we actually had a store in Japan where you could bring...you could either do this with new shoes or your old Timberland shoes, and you can bring them in, and customize. You can put different stickers on it. You could have it embroidered, you could have your name heat-stamped on it. And they often do this, not only with the new ones but oftentimes with the old ones, because in Japan, there's this idea that old is new, right?
And that created great meaning, but obviously, it required you to bring your shoes in and think about it and have a station where you were planning out how you wanted to customize it. But it was incredible, incredible, and good friction. I was talking to... So I'm in San Francisco and I know you guys are baseball fans there out in New York, but we are too in San Francisco, and we have the Giants. And it's funny, I was visiting the Giants store and I asked them, "Oh God, you know, during the off-season must be pretty bad? There's no one coming to the stadium, so you're probably not selling and you probably..." They go, "No, people come here on a regular basis to meet other fans and talk about the off-season moves, what's going to happen next season, to reminisce about the previous season."
And for them, it's become a social connection where they feel a sense of belonging. And retail is actually helping to facilitate the idea of belonging in the off-season, not just during the regular season. And another key type of good friction is actually building rapport with somebody. I actually think one of the best ways to build rapport is obviously to have that familiarity and that's what I love most about my local mom and shop pops, is because they've been around for a while, there's this sense of, when I go there, I kind of know who the proprietors are, and the better ones obviously start to get to know their clientele. And that's irreplaceable. Right?
And so what if it costs me, I don't know, 10% or 20% more than if I bought it on Amazon? I don't care. For me, it's a sense of, that beyond my family is my extended family, and restaurants and shops that do it right become part of the community and part of that second family. And yes, maybe it requires good friction to have that type of relationship, but that's the type of relationship we crave. And that's why barbershop, people sometimes just hang out there for hours, right? It's not that, oh, I need the fastest, great clips, $5 cut or $10. Now, it's probably, $20, whatever but it is really this idea I want to connect with other people.
And so retail... By the way, retail, in general, has so many opportunities to provide good friction, right? Physical retail versus being online. And I think the folks listening to this podcast, think about it this way, to me, if you're trying... If you believe in the idea of good friction, physical retail is unlocked for so many types of good friction. And so I just described a few of them, but yes. And then, oh, I'll give you one last example. I already told you about IKEA, right. IKEA has a lot of good friction, right? You have to spend hours meandering, but there's also another one that helps build the idea of competence.
Competence requires good friction from the customer to provide effort and to become good at something. Well, retail can encourage that. We have a retail store here. I'm a golfer, and it's called Golf Mart, and you're basically encouraged to come in there and try out all these different things. And they have all this analysis and they have people who are great fitters and they're people that are just let's call them golf nerds, and they can talk to hours about mirroring your specific skillset with the equipment they have with what you're trying to accomplish. And to me, that's great friction, that's entertainment friction, that's friction that will help build my competence, but at the same time, it just makes me want to keep coming back. So, again, I think retail is one of the best forms of good friction out there.
Bob: What a guy. Well, I always believe there is a... I'm passionate about that. So I couldn't agree more with you, but also, there's always a story around why I purchased something, which is what you're talking about with people wanting to hold onto the Apple, the boxes and packages, and then there's the actual product. And so many times people forget, that it's not just about the product because I go online to buy, I go into a store to discover. And if you do that right, then life gets easier. So you have a popular course on LinkedIn and in the promo, you said, "The business that has the stinkiest cheese gets the business." What do you mean by that, my friend?
Soon: Yes. So I work with, especially a lot of startups, and a lot of startups think they need to be the fastest out there, right, or they need to be the biggest in terms of scale, or they need to have the best bells and whistles in terms of technologies or features. They need something like that in order to win their game. And I'm like, huh. It's not always the biggest, the baddest, or the fastest mouse track that gets the mice, it's the one with the stinkiest cheese. So, I think your goal is to create stinky cheese. And what I mean by that is have a story. Have something that transcends the idea that maybe you are the biggest or transcends the idea that maybe you have the best technology.
And so I think the idea storytelling, and what you were talking about, there's what? A few cuts of what I would call a relationship. Some of it is the what. What are you getting out of it? And to me, that's a little transactional, but I think there are other elements and you were speaking about it earlier. One of them is the why, the other is the how, and then the third one is the who. And so I think it's just important to talk about the why, how, and who, and you do that through storytelling. Okay. And so, it's just about the what, which is the end result, and that's fine. And you want to buy the flash drive, you want to buy the flash drive, great. But if you could talk about the, how, the why, and the who, and especially as it relates to retail, that's such an incredible feeder to talk about. You obviously see and interact with the who, right?
And then you're able to talk about the why of the product, the why of the company that the product was made by, the why of the retail environment, retail store, and the retail store owner, you're able to share that. And then the, how the process of, hey, trying on a new pair of shoes, and is that a good process for you? And do you feel more assured? And sure, granted, maybe the easy thing is to buy 10 different sizes and have them shipped to you and then let's face it, we're creating incredible bad carbon footprint by having all these boxes shipped back and forth, truthfully, when you could actually sit down with somebody and not only have the best set from a field perspective but learn about the product while you're getting fitted.
And you might realize based on what I really need, this is not actually the right product. I need to be thinking about something else with this other feature. And then, how does it fit in with your journey and how you're going to use a product? So retail provides that, whereas shipping 10 boxes and shipping nine back, doesn't.
Bob: Well, I was going to ask you about... Since you brought it up, my friend, let's talk about Shein, the fast-forward, online giant with 6,000 SKUs dropping a week and 5 billion views on TikTok. They seem to be the exact opposite of what we hear Gen Z wants, which is it's got to be sustainable and it's got to be all of this. And where's the innovation going on here? It's like, we're being told one thing, but clearly, I mean, Shein is bigger than Zara and H&M. So there's a market that's saying one thing and doing another, is that hard to innovate with?
Soon: Well, let's face it, as humans we are oftentimes inconsistent, we are conflicted, and a lot of times we do the monkey thing where sometimes we don't want to see something, sometimes we don't want to hear something, sometimes we don't want to know something, sometimes we just don't want to reconcile something. Right? And I think, you have competing values, and I think this idea of Gen Z, there is this connection to instantaneous gratification. They've gotten a good dose of it for most of their life. And even when I think about parenting, sometimes it's this option of geez, we could just make it really easy, and I could provide a shortcut here, instead of watching my son stumble or fumble or mumble, especially the mumbling part.
You know the mumbling part's coming when they're going to stumble and fumble. It's sometimes the stumbling is fine, it's the complaining, it's the, "I don't like this." And you have to sit there and go, "Oh, do I want to stick to my guns and basically say, yes, no, you're going to have to redo that." and put up with that. But yes, I mean, that's part of the process of learning, how do I say this - living your values? And I think what Gen Z has is the convenience of having stated values, but never having to pay for them. I know that's a pretty broad statement, but values aren't values until they cost you something. Right?
And I do think at some point there will be a reckoning where people realize, Huh. And you can tell people too there till you're blue in your face, till they're blue in their ears, it doesn't matter, until they actually live an ethical dilemma, where they're faced with two conflicting options that actually potentially speak to different values that they have, right, until they've had to struggle with that, until they've had to live with the consequences. And part of what happens with something like Shein, it's kind of consequence-free, at least in the consumer's universe. Right? It's not really in their face yet.
I think until people do that, they will honestly probably take the path of least resistance. And I'm challenging that whole idea. I'm challenging the whole idea that you know what? You can't make it so that there aren't consequences. Part of good friction is this idea that there are consequences and that you can't just avoid them your whole life. That, at some point, as you grow as a human being, it's good to actually live both good and bad consequences.
Bob: Yes. It's interesting we're seeing that in New York City, the whole conundrum of last-mile delivery and all the delivery services coming up with 15-minute delivery, and you're like, "Who's paying for this?" This is the most expensive way to deliver something to get your toothbrush, but you can do it. It's just that now they want to open up all these dark stores that are going to fulfill it. And now you've changed the entire character of your neighborhood because you have just nobody walking the streets, which makes them less safe, which makes them more prone to things going bad and not being kept up. And it's not looking pretty. So there's a lot to that. So we could go on, I'm sure a long time with that. You've been generous with your time...
Soon: It's beyond retail, buddy.
Bob: I know. I know. So I love that innovating is, you said in your book, that innovating where customers already know and love you and you have momentum is the key. So if you were to say, here's three things that owners of companies and C level execs could do right now to bring on innovation, knowing that, because what I hear from you is don't go over the shiny object, look what's working already, is what I take from that. So what would be three things you might recommend to somebody besides reading your new book, "Friction?"
Soon: Yes. Please read my new book. That was my one little mini-plug there. Okay. No, to your question, I think it's an important one. Yes, I do talk about this idea in the first book, "Iconic Advantage" that it's actually, don't chase the new, innovate the old, right? You have something that people already love you for that you're known for. And assuming you're that lucky, that you've been around in that long enough time and you actually have a signature element that people already know you for, then, by all means, invest against that versus trying to create something else you're known for because then quite frankly if you're known for too many things, you're not known for anything. Okay. It confuses people.
So I always say, look, I'm not saying don't do new stuff and don't have shiny new objects. It's where you put your shiny new ideas against that's really critical. It's not against anything, it's against what you're already loved for, it's what you're already known for now. What I would suggest, first and foremost, people may not know what they're known for, especially in a retail environment. One of the things that I work with a lot of clients on, is helping them create signature experiences. Some they already have, and they didn't know, which is great. And others, they kind of have what I call the beginning stages of.
And so here's a very practical way to either develop or figure out your signature experiences. Bring in two or three customers and just sit 'em down and it doesn't have to be perfect, but you can just do a quick sequential journey map for the customer, for them to experience your retail environment. Like, okay, when did you find out about the store? It was a try from a friend, blah, blah, blah, blah. Okay. Then the first time you visited, what was that experience like? And then the checkout, blah, blah, blah. And then after using the product, right? So you sort of map that out and you get two or three customers to do that. And then you just coalesce those three and that's the 80 for the 20 of your customer journey map.
Now look, everyone talks about the customer journey now. I haven't added anything right now. Okay. So that's something people already talk about, and all I'm saying is don't make it too complicated. Just do it easy. The next step is, to have those three customers look at the consolidated journey map that you created, and do three things. Put in a happy face where they had moments of elation or joy. Put in sad or crying faces when they had the opposite. And then put in sweaty faces for where they had moments of either tension or anxiety or frustration, put those on.
And guess what? Even with three customers, you're going to figure out where the highest concentration of faces is. And it just so happens that where there's a high concentration of faces probably means there's a high degree of emotional flow in that one sequence, or that one moment in your customer journey. I consider those pivotal moments, moments that matter the most to your customers. They either translate the great brand love or brand hate, brand disenfranchisement, but also potentially, opportunities for you to actually reverse the situation, and either not only just neutralize all the bad but think about, hey, let's over-index here because it's a point of such high emotion. It's like love and hate, it's a fine line, right?
Those are areas for you to consider for ideation, for development of... And we do a couple of things. We look at the entire journey and we look at, okay, there's probably... BMW did theirs, and they identified 20 moments that were actually really critical in the purchasing in their customer journey's process. And what we do is we pick one or two or three maybe, and we would then develop an ideation session on, one, how could we eliminate all the frowning and frustration faces, right? What could we do about that? And then how can we either take the happy faces that are there and either make them more happy or branded in a certain way that is ours, right? Maybe you already have a bunch of happy faces there. Well, let's call it the ABC moment of our retail store.
And then we're going to create a lot of fanfare on it. We're going to rename it and we're going to claim it. Okay. Because it's already there. It may be this hidden treasure you don't even know about. Right? And it's just by renaming it and by calling it out and by making the customers aware that we care about that, that might be all you need to do. So...
Bob: I have to interrupt here for a second though, but it's not like you brought somebody in and says, "We're now going to have the silver rose. Yes, we're going to be known for the silver rose policy." Like what the hell's the silver rose? "Oh, it's a whole new thing." And you're like, "Don't do that." You have no traction. You're shooting the arrow into the air and hoping some to dear God, instead, you're saying, well, if it already is here and you call it the silver rose moment, great. But that's a huge learning for a lot of brands. Right?
Soon: Right. Seriously, work with what you have. Right? And so there's two elements in here. One is figure out where there's moments of high emotion in this journey. Those moments matter more than other moments. You may be wasting all this effort on, quite frankly, I don't know, maybe the checkout area. In fact, the checkout area is not high emotion. Its people aren't thinking a great deal about it. And you say, "Oh, well, I'm going to spend 2 million on a new register system. And it's going to be two milliseconds faster than the other one." Is that really worth your attention? I don't know. Maybe not, right?
What you have right now is fine. Apple Pay, good. Okay, dude, done that. What is maybe much more important is the 30 seconds they're waiting to get their coffee. Okay. What's happening in those 30 seconds. Right? Is there a way to make that kind of fun or interesting or whatever? So that might be... So it's where you apply your effort. And then what you're also talking about is there's stuff they're already doing so well that they're not taking credit. Take a bow for it. Right? And own it.
Bob: That's so true. And I thought of two experiences. I'm not going to have time for both, but one was a well-known Brooklyn restaurant. And the son comes to the owner and he is like, "I'm coming back and I've learned all this stuff and we're going to systematize this whole operation," like, oh, great. We're going to do more with our marketing. He's like, "Oh, great, great, great." And one of the things I think we could do is just cut out the bread. We've been bringing the bread to the table every time. And as soon as you hear that, you're like, they didn't really do it. Yes, they cut out the bread.
Soon: Oh, no.
Bob: And I think just listening to you, no one realized that was the thing they went for. Yes, you had great, I don't know, rigatoni and pizza and all, that's not it. That was a highly valued moment. You removed the essential, you really removed the heart of why I love your brand. Right? And ultimately, closed less than two years later. And this is before the pandemic. But I always think about that. And in that moment, like, did you not realize it, but what you're teaching us today, I appreciate that, Soon, is you aren't really looking at that journey and saying, "This is a real happy moment." The waiter comes and like, "Here's your fresh bread." And it's like, wow...
Soon: Ding, ding, ding, ding. That's gold, man. There's this one...a place that my wife and I love in San Francisco called Jackson Philmore. And they have the best bruschetta in the freaking world. And we'll keep coming back just for that. If they ever cut that out ... You're right. 80% of our joy in being there, it'd be gone. And they give that for free.
Bob: Exactly. Everybody who's listening to this could learn that. And likewise, I'll never forget, I walked into two Walgreens. One was great. And as I walked in and the person actually stepped out and greeted me. And I was like, "Wow, that's unusual. This is amazing." But how many times have we been to Walgreens or somewhere, and someone's stuck at the counter, "Do you want to join our loyalty program?" And you're like, "Dear God, no, no, no, no." Well, how does it work? "Oh dear God, please stop. Is there a self-check?"
And now, you have just bundled this whole experience into friction as I'm walking out the door, and that's all I remember. Right? And so just knowing that this is a real sad moment... And I really love the idea of, you know, it's not just a sad moment. It's a highly valued, sad moment or it's a really highly valued, great moment. And to your point on both the bruschetta and on the bread, they didn't even cost anything.
Soon: No, they didn't. And yes, I think sometimes people... The key thing about pivotal moments is that emotions matter and what you don't necessarily see on the surface is those emotions, is that's why that pivotal moment exercise is so valuable when we work with our clients.
Bob: I love it. I love it. Well, we're coming to the end of our time here, my friend. Two last questions for you. One, how has the way you thought about retail changed in the past five or 10 years?
Soon: It's funny. I think if you would've talked to people 10 or 20 years if they would say big-box retail was in and mom-and-pop was out. Then if you were to talk to people, I don't know, maybe five years after that, they would've said physical retail's out and it's all going digital. Well, I personally think two things. I think physical retail is here to stay because the pandemic showed us why it was so important for us to have the chemistry and candor that can only happen when you're face to face with somebody, whether it be in a retail environment or in a meeting or at work. So I think physical retail is here to stay. It may change, I give you that.
And the third thing I will say is that more than ever for me, at least what makes a community really special and the place I want to live is the local retail. And I do think at some point when people start doing an analysis of why neighborhoods are successful and why people love living there and why the property values go up, it'll go a lot... They'll think a lot harder than just, oh, the school scores, right? The whatever, I forget what they call it, the great school scores, whatever they are. Right? They'll really think about the idea of the health and wellness of the local mom-and-pop community as I think as a litmus for what makes a great place to live.
Bob: Yes. I agree. Well, you know, the title of the show is, "Tell Me Something Good About Retail." You've already kind of answered that over the last several minutes, but any further thoughts, Soon?
Soon: Yes. Just say this guys, you know, think about the idea that you have the best tool or vehicle to make your customers love you more through good friction. Meaning that you're...yes. Make them work a little harder, make them sweat a little harder, make them laugh a little harder, and make them be engaged a little longer. That investment they're making in you is going to pay out in dividends, not just for you, but also for them. They will love you for it. And they'll love the experience and they will love themselves more because you're doing it.
Bob: The best way I could think to end it. Thank you so much for joining us today, Soon Yu. Don't forget his new book, "Friction: Adding Value By Making People Work for It" is now out. So go take a look.
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