A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey. He engaged me in a fascinating discussion about the importance of diet in living well, drawing heavily from his new book with Drs. Pulde and Lederman, The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity.
What I gleamed from my conversation with Mackey about his retail success was the existence of a crucial element that was consciously integrated into the design of the Whole Foods experience – teaching consumers how to eat.
Unfortunately, I have not yet conjured the willpower nor the taste buds to limit my diet to only the good foods, but I have always been fascinated with Whole Foods as a retail experiment. The organic “whole” food goliath, now part of online goliath Amazon, is more than a grocery store. It is a creative approach to designing an exceptional consumer experience around something as mundane as buying a potato.
Think about it. Effective retailers do more than sell products—they teach. Whole Foods does not simply put food choices on the shelf—they curate options. Moreover, they ensure that their staff can provide useful information about food choices, healthy snacks and how to prepare full meals. Even the checkout aisle is a library of magazines on food and well-being.
Whole Foods is only one example of how successful companies engage clients through teaching about more than merely the products and services they sell. An early morning visit to nearly any Apple store prior to opening time will reveal a long line of customers outside the door. These consumers, often older, are not necessarily waiting to buy a new product. The product is a gateway to a larger experience. Instead they are there for an appointment to learn how to create photo albums, to edit videos, or to create a website. Employees engage customers with workshop sessions on how to get the most out of their products. When I questioned an Apple sales associate about the new store design that seemingly removed the iconic Genius Bar, he replied, “learning is throughout the store, not in just one place.”