No Hassle Zones: Increasing engagement by leaving your customers alone.
I know. That headline totally looks like a typo, right? But it’s not. It’s an amazingly counterintuitive insight that’s gaining clout in the trade show world. In fact, it’s not limited to busy trade show floors. It’s showing up in the retail world as well. One of the most extreme examples is provided by Clinique®, the largest makeup and skincare brand in the U.S.Clinique built its business using a traditional one-on-one selling model. Consultants outfitted in white lab coats spend 30 minutes with a customer explaining products and upselling them into additional ones. But Clinique realized it had a problem. Not everyone wants to spend 30 minutes talking to a consultant. Especially if they only have 10 minutes on their lunch break, and all they want to do is buy more of something they’re already using. It was too much of a hassle, and it meant Clinique was losing customers who were ready to buy and didn’t want to be sold.
According to Anthony Battaglia, vice president of global store design and visual merchandising for Clinique, the move signals “the end of Do Not Touch. We had to remind the customer [that] our product is here to play with.”Clinique won’t say how widespread their “no hassle” makeover will be, but they noted that self service locations utilizing iPads® for product information are posting sales 3% higher than average. In addition, the company says its new strategy has led to double-digit growth in dollar sales at many stores.

Creating an oasis in the middle of the chaos.
The basic assumption at the center of the “no hassle” theory is the idea that no interaction might actually equate to positive interaction for certain prospects or customers. Trade shows are chaotic, and many attendees become overwhelmed and fatigued from the constant barrage of salespeople and information. Within that context, providing attendees with a spot to sit or charge their phones for a bit might be one of the best ways to get them to spend some time in your booth.

“When you provide a service or convenience, you provide an oasis in a sea of madness—and that can be more valuable than a brochure,” says David Varady, chief marketing officer of EEI Global, a Rochester Hills, Michigan-based marketing firm that creates trade show displays for companies like BMW® and Mini Cooper®. “People have a tendency to put up barriers if it looks like sharks are hovering, waiting for [the] next prospect. Instead, create an intriguing, welcoming environment that includes elements of self-discovery such as informational kiosks. Customers will discover more about you on their own.”

Is it time to give your trade show booth a makeover?
As counterintuitive as “no hassle zones” might seem, it’s worth considering. Here are some tips to help you create a no hassle oasis for your customers:

  • No hassle doesn’t mean no information. The point of a no hassle zone is to let your customers learn about your company and its offerings at their own pace and in their own way. Outfit your no hassle area with sources of information appropriate to your audience. For example, provide hands-on demos of products or interactive iPad®-based kiosks that allow your customers to explore what they’re most interested in. You could also provide takeaways that keep your company top of mind when customers return home from the trade show. Things like a customized slide card micro USB drive with new product information preloaded on it. Or, a customized tote bag they could use while they’re on the show floor to carry the information they collect during the day.
  • Make the call. Don’t forget that you can still load your no hassle zone with plenty of relevant calls-to-action. Interactive kiosks could be used to register customers for contests or for more information on a specific product. You could make it easy for customers to connect to your social media accounts and subscribe to an email list. All of these actions build engagement and generate leads. Put your social media information on a customized water bottle that customers can use at their desks. Or remind them of their hassle-free experience with a scalp massager or a stress ball with your website address printed on them.
  • Hold the line. No matter how tempting it might be to walk across the imaginary line separating the no hassle zone from the rest of the booth, don’t do it. Not only will it irritate your customer, it will negatively impact the trustworthiness of your brand. Remember that you’re offering customers a service, and an alternative way to interact with your brand and its offerings. Let the tools in the no hassle zone do the selling. Customers will seek you out for additional help if they need it. Send them on their way feeling glad they did with a bonus like customized cookies or chocolate-covered pretzels to snack on while they walk the floor.

No hassle zones are a relatively new idea, but the theory behind them is based on larger trends that extend beyond trade shows. As consumers become more tech savvy, many of them would rather investigate companies and products on their own, connecting when they’re ready to BUY versus when they want to be SOLD. No hassle zones provide a way to service that customer and ultimately increase overall engagement.

Holmes, Elizabeth. “Leave Me Alone, I’m Shopping.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 28 June 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2013..

Vozza, Stephanie. “Lessons in Customer Engagement from the Detroit Auto Show.”Entrepreneur. Entrepreneur Media, Inc., 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2013.

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