A pressing question has been on the minds of our team these past few months: How can Orchard involve you, our neighbors, as partners from the beginning as we think through the products we offer and the experience of shopping our stores?
“We want our customers involved in co-creating our experience and our assortment together as we move forward,” said Diane McKnight, Orchard’s VP and Head of Merchandising. “We feel it’s really important to show up with our customers on the front end rather than make important decisions without their crucial input.”
That spirit of “co-creation” inspired a weeklong experience recently at our Store Support Center in San Jose. As we started preparing for the range of new tools we’re bringing into our stores later this year, including new assortments as part of the relaunch of Craftsman, we wanted to really think through what it’s like for you to shop for tools at Orchard.
Driven by that idea, a small group from across our company came together to spend a week thinking about shopping for tools at Orchard. That team designed a shopping experience based on that thinking in our merchandising lab. (Yes, we have a merchandising lab. And we get really excited about it.) And then, at the end of the week, we brought in a few of you to go through that shopping experience and talk to us about it.
This exploration of the tool shopping experience with some of our neighbors had immediate benefits.
“We learned a lot about how our customers shop, what they’re looking for, and what graphics to educate would be helpful to the customer,” said Annette Boynton, Orchard’s Director of Merchandising for Tools and Hardware.
Orchard Divisional Merchandising Manager Eamonn Murtagh said those customers have already impacted how his team is thinking about the tools section moving forward, and making sure our energy is devoted to what you actually care about.
“For instance, we had people talking about the color of the tools, which I didn’t even think about,” Eamonn said. “And we also had customers who felt strongly that they wanted the tools sorted by brand rather than type.”
Creating the Orchard Experience with You
This was the latest of an ongoing series of projects focused on involving our neighbors in thinking about new products coming to our stores at the start of the process. For instance, earlier this year, as our teams started thinking about the 2018 holiday season, we reached out to some of our Club Orchard members with a customer survey to gain insight into the types of holiday decor they like.
And, in February, we hosted a Smart Home Show at our Princeton Plaza San Jose store. The event brought a wide array of smart home products that Orchard doesn’t currently carry into the store to see what mattered to our neighbors there.
“We had the big guys in the category here,” Diane said. “First Alert. 3M. Ring. Nest. We were able to bring these big, powerful brands to our customers in a very human-to-human way.”
While those companies got to hear from some of you about what products mattered most, Orchard learned a lot from you, too. For instance, we noticed our neighbors who came to the store that day were more interested in where and how Orchard’s smart home assortment might enhance the safety and security of their homes, more than purely convenience features.
Diane said that, at the Smart Home Show, “We wanted to know what was important and what wasn’t important. What should our smart home assortment look like, based on what our customers need from us?”
As a result, our merchandising team made several new decisions about what to carry from a smart home standpoint, what the in-store display of smart home products should look like, and how it should provide information to you, based on what we heard in the store.
Pushing Ourselves to Stay Centered on What Our Neighbors Need
These projects are just the beginning of an ongoing process to challenge the way we think and to ensure our approach is always centered on what matters most to us: what our neighbors need and want when they shop our stores.
“What we turned around in a week around the tool shopping experience was pretty fantastic,” said Stacy Sutter, Orchard’s In-Store Promotional Marketing Manager. “Some of our hypotheses were validated, but on some of them we are now taking a totally different path. Now, we’re thinking about how we apply this approach to lighting, and other sections of our stores.”
“This is changing the way we are thinking about how we bring products to market,” she said. “These approaches have been the first-of-their kind for us, but they aren’t just flashy one-offs. We want to take what we’ve learned from each of these experiences and apply it to an ongoing customer-first way of thinking moving forward. This is the essence of Orchard.”