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A cohesive customer experience is necessary to encourage purchase




I happened to be in Atlanta over the weekend for a company function. We were staying downtown at the Omni at CNN Center, which is conveniently located next door to the College Football Hall of Fame. Being an alumna of the University of Michigan, and having missed only three live home games during the four years I was a student, I still watch the televised games regularly (I even expanded my cable package to include the Big Ten Network, aka BTN). It’s safe to say one could call me a rabid fan.

Since our meetings for the day were to end somewhat early in the afternoon, I decided to visit the Hall of Fame. I had heard about the interactive exhibits from clients who had visited recently, and I felt it would be beneficial, given the ever-increasing importance of digital in retail environments, to experience it firsthand.

But it was Saturday, and the scheduled Michigan-Rutgers game was to kick off at 3:30 p.m. So, during the meeting break, I downloaded the BTN2Go app onto my phone, logged in through my cable service provider and voila: live game feed. This infusion of entertainment while leading strategic planning discussions took multitasking to a new realm, even for me.  

My last meeting ended at halftime, so I scooted over to the Hall of Fame (mobile game feed in hand) to see what it had to offer. The ticket purchase process was a bit laborious as the attendant took my name and registered me with my personal “All-Access Fan Pass.” This could have been circumvented by purchasing the ticket online through my phone. The last time slot available didn’t fit my schedule, so I ended up calling during lunch to confirm a later entry. Although I only had one hour to explore before it closed, the recommended time was two hours – I suppose that would be required for the layman.

I donned my pass (complete with a matching lanyard) and headed through the entrance, flanked on one side by scrolling backlit imagery on a white translucent backdrop of shadowy football players taking the field through the vomitorium. I was instructed upon entering to head to the top floor and work my way down (the same way I shop). So off I went. There were interactive displays in the first room, which offered me the opportunity to share my story about the importance of college football in my life. I typed out my experience, and entered my information, along with a pithy quote. Within 20 seconds, I saw my “story” floating among others’ on the adjacent screen – pretty cool.

I proceeded to the next room, where I could stroll through football history by player, team or a few other categories, by interacting with a swiveling interactive screen – kind of like steering a ship, clockwise to go to the past, and counter clockwise to for to the present. So of course, I surfed Michigan Hall of Famers and came upon Tom Harmon: an all-around amazing player, but I digress.


Once I plugged in my school of choice, the interactives read the Fan Pass I was wearing and greeted me by name and pulled up my school. Nice of them to pre-edit, so as to not waste my time reading about other schools, like, say, Ohio State. As closing was rapidly approaching, I sped through the exhibits and headed toward the exit. And just as all fairytales have happy endings, and all Disney rides exit through a gift shop, I entered the Hall of Fame’s gift shop on my way out.

This is where it all broke down for me. The shop was utterly devoid of interactive features. Why did it stop here? My frustration was that, for all the customized experience in the Hall of Fame exhibits, all this shop had to offer was Hall of Fame apparel, whereas I wanted to purchase a souvenir related to Michigan, not the Hall of Fame itself. Now, I understand, since it’s the Hall of Fame’s store, but the whole exhibit was built on the back of the schools and their football programs.

Why was there no product customization? That could have killed two birds with one stone, and I would have been happy with that. Why was there no interactive interface to access my school’s licensed apparel? So many lost opportunities, and such a disappointing shopping experience. I so seldom leave anywhere without making a purchase, but I did here. It was the replaying of a cautionary tale: Don’t assume the horse will drink just because you lead him to water. The retail experience must match the overall experience – otherwise, disappointment ensues. However, Michigan beat Rutgers 49-16 that day, and last year’s loss was vindicated, so I wasn’t that disappointed.

Kathleen Jordan, AIA, CID, LEED AP, is a principal in Gensler’s New York office, and a leader of its retail practice with over 24 years of experience across the United States and internationally. Jordan has led a broad range of retail design projects as both an outside consultant and as an in-house designer. She has led projects from merchandising and design development all the way through construction documentation and administration, and many of her projects have earned national and international design awards. Contact her at





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