Thursday, February 7, 2013

Clueless in Chicago: Crate and Barrel ignores the entire Android user community

C&B to the entire Android world: we don't want your business
This is such a facepalm moment.  Crate and Barrel is the Chicago-based asprirational home lifestyle retailer and web merchant. They seem to understand some parts of modern marketing very well, while remaining utterly clueless about missed opportunities and wrong signals to customers.

The good: they're on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Last month I praised them for including the story of a gay couple in their catalog.  They do bricks and clicks really well.  And their products are great. My own home has C&B scattered everywhere, from a stockpot I bought there in 1975 to my everyday melamine dishes from their hipster spinoff, CB2. I'm writing this partly to highlight a huge social business fail, but also as a longtime friend of the company who would like to see them do better.

Crate and Barrel meets you on your phone or tablet, with a variety of apps to plan things, have fun, envision their products in your home, even a measuring tool app.  And cool music downloads to accompany the great life you'll have while using their products.  That is, if you use iOS devices and Apple iTunes.

The bad: Android users, you're out of luck.  In the entire C&B marketing universe, there is one Android offering, a bridal registry app.  So I wrote customer service:  "Hey, Crate and Barrel, why do you ignore me and everyone else who is not an iOS user?" I got this reply:

"Dear Donald Ham,
Thank you for your email.

We appreciate your comments about Android users and thank you for taking the time to write us. We are constantly striving to make improvements and value your opinion. We have forwarded your comments to our corporate office.

We understand your disappointment and regret we were not able to provide you with the positive purchasing experience we wish for all of our customers.

We hope to serve you better in the future.

Should you require further assistance, please reply to this email or contact us at 800-967-6696."

Translation: "I took 15 seconds to pull boilerplate answer #3b/Android, now go away."

That in itself has an important takeaway:  One of the effects of social business is that the inquiry you get from the web site--the person you just blew off--just might be someone who's going to blog about your company, and share it with a large audience.  The failure to grasp that the customer/frontline service relationship has profoundly changed is endemic.  Of course, United Breaks Guitars is the classic example, which triggered a $180M drop in United's stock valuation.

So what is going on in Chicago?  I am guessing that a) folks in Crate and Barrel's marketing and art department are squarely in the universe of those to whom there is no tech beyond Apple.  And b) none of Crate and Barrel's senior management is aware of these two research studies by IDC:

One last point: my twin 11-year-old stepdaughters just disposed of their iPhones in favor of Android.  We really thought that coolness factor and peer pressure would make that a no-go.  We were wrong.  The vote from 11 years old: iOS has lost its edge as a statement that you are cool.  

If only Crate and Barrel had heard the news.

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