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What retailers can learn from a microwave oven

May 15, 2011 - 1 Comment


In Jon Stine’s blog recently In Between the Numbers: Less than a Third, and Less than Half.”  He wrote that complexity is an issue with technology and Bob Anderson, former CTO at Best Buy, points us to the “popcorn” button on the microwave as a perfect guide for consumer-facing technology.  No questions.  Immediate understanding of value.  One push and sixty seconds equals hot buttery-salted goodness..

That got me thinking that we can extend the analogy of the microwave oven toretailers.  The fact is successful retailers can learn a lot from a microwave oven 🙂

There are five areas that successful retailers operates like a microwave oven. Speed, Convenience, Security, Cost Effectiveness and Set/Meeting Expectations.

1.      Speed

Microwave ovens became popular because you can heat up food faster than in an oven or stovetop.  Successful retailers operate with speed in mind, from speed of checkout, speed of its supply chain to get merchandise from supply chain to the store shelf and speed of getting information from store to headquarters to facilitate an efficient operation.

2.       Convenience

Microwave ovens is about convenience, you don’t  need a lot of instructions with a microwave oven to heat up a cup of water or lunch.  It is easy to operate and it is generally ubiquitous in most  homes and office break rooms.  Retailers who are successful are convenient for shoppers.  Accessible locations allows shoppers to finish their shopping with minimum travel time.  Proper assortment and availability of products drives customer loyalty and more sales for retailers.

3.      Security

Inside each microwave is a magnetron that generates the energy to heat up the content.  There is a series of shielding and security features designed to protect the operator and is quite an engineering accomplishment.  Most people don’t realize the level of security that is involved.  For a retailer security is very important since it involves consumer and the retailers brand.  From Payment Card Industry compliance to protect credit card data to physical security of the store premise and loss prevention, retailers need to provide  secure experience without the consumers being excessively inconvenienced in their shopping experience

4.      Cost Effectiveness

Microwave ovens became popular to the point of  being a standard appliance in almost every apartment and dorm room in United States.  Next to the bed, students heading to college now almost always include a small microwave oven.  Successful retailers are cost effective for their customers who are looking for value, and operate cost effectively in terms of managing labor and cost of goods sold.

5.      Set and Meet Expectations

Microwave ovens operate with a few buttons and a countdown timer that tells you how much time you are expected to wait.  Successful retailers sets and meets (and aim to exceed) customer expectations in terms of service, price and merchandise .  You expect properly popped popcorn when you use the Popcorn button, retailers need to meet their brand expectations when connecting with shoppers across any channels.

I hope you found this blog education and entertaining J  Let me know what you think of my analogy with a comment.

Thank you,

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  1. This Concept can be applied in any industry. Customers want solutions that carry these qualities.