Where’s That Disembodied Voice That Comforts Me So?

Olay for You, an online product- recommendation program that’s attracted more than a million visitors since January, is getting some play in Ad Age. I’ll give it some more here because I like to see online initiatives with offline legs.

Wal-Mart Stores has begun testing an in-store version of Olay for You via kiosks in stores, marking the latest of several efforts in which offline retailers are looking to tap the convenience and functionality of online tools, such as search and recommendation engines, to improve the often-annoying offline shopping experience.
Because of expectations created by web shopping, consumers increasingly expect offline stores to have the goods they want and make them easy to find, Carter Cast, a former CEO of Walmart.com said. “So the ante is raised in the physical world.”
While P&G has tried in-store kiosks before with Clairol and Millstone coffee, Olay For You’s combination of a highly graphic, iterative interview process and a soothing female voice may come closest to actually simulating a customer-service rep.

While I like to see online initiatives with offline legs, I don’t know about these kiosks at retail. They don’t seem to offer the kind of brand experience that truly comes to life in this space (inhabited by real humans). If I haul my ass all the way to the store, I don’t want to get on a computer, I want a real, knowledgeable person to work with me and guide me to a purchase.
If the ante is raised in the physical world, as Cast suggests, then raise the customer service bar at retail and find other ways to allow customers to experience the brand. For Oil of Olay that might mean in-store celebrity appearances, in-store seminars or a promotion that ties to the online presence in some way.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.