1000 true fans

According to Kevin Kelly, every organisation has 1000 true fans. We have approximately 1,000,000 museum visitors per year. Some come for the gardens, to research, to play, to use the WiFi, to duck the rain, to feel safe, to pique their curiosity and many more reasons.

We tend to lump them together as a whole, as “1,000,000+” which also happens to be our only core required KPI measure. Get a million and get a small pat on the back.

We then group these visitors into segments – cohorts that as a group have meaning to staff for our own ends. Within this large number hiding in plain sight are 1000 true fans or 0.1% of our 1,000,000. These 1000 fans are the backbone to our service. They REALLY use one or more of our services. The daily coffee buyers who we know by name, the frequent Archive researchers or young parent support group who come together every single week.

These fans can’t be put into our “average user” boxes. They will tell us how great we are or how disappointed they are if we make a change they don’t like. We should listen as failing to heed their warning will only end badly. A slow death.

It’s far easier to think of our visitors as a whole and offer everybody the same industrial interactions, time after time. Instead, let’s delight each of these 1000 true fans. The impact of meeting their needs is far greater than a generic cohort who could take it or leave it. Let’s not look at the averages which feels like “chasing ghosts” but instead ask ”who are my 1000 true fans?”.

2018 Shopify POS wish list

Since 2015 when we launched Shopify POS for our shops we’ve put over £1.75m through the app (about £800K this year alone). So yes I trust it. We’e just signed up for another three years in fact to take advantage of the multi year discount. I was recently testing a new feature which reminded me to jot down a few wish list features i’m hoping Shopify will make on the POS app or admin:

  1. Provide Cost of Goods (COGS) feature by default
  2. The ability to have more granular account types so I can restrict the majority of the team to only edit a product’s quantity. At the moment in order to allow staff to alter quantities when products get delivered you must be an admin which is overkill and leads to tinkering of product information
  3. Allow admin to  force all accounts to use two-step authentication to provide better security for web facing accounts
  4. STOP forcing POS app updates to occur at 11am GMT…. right in the middle of our trading. Consider a European update time window or alternative from US to Europe so you can see how it feels!
  5. Allow the mobile app to read the barcode of a product and show its quantity to enable quick stock counting
  6.  Allow a toggle to switch off online shop features if you are POS only
  7. Give me an easy way to connect to Google Sheets so I can play with the data as your reports are ok but I Google Sheets is way more powerful

Google yourself

Transformation starts with Googling yourself. No not You. I mean your organisation. What do you see first, second and third ? Wikipedia, TripAdvisor and the like ? Good. Now read what they have to say. Don’t flatter yourself. Read the 1-2 star reviews. Ouch. Fix those things. Can’t find the lift? Fix the way-finding. Messy floors? Pick up the rubbish. Terrible website lacking basic information? Sort it out. Chip away at those problems. Go back in 3-6 months and repeat.

Pssst people still can’t find our lift despite the huge signs and our toilets are like marmite.

Tip: Google personalises your search results so you’ll need to clear your cache and log out of your Google account to see what the average person sees. Otherwise you’ll see what Google thinks you want to see based on your search history. Confused? just use somebody else’s computer or phone basically.

Embrace constraints

There is always more work than the time you’ll ever be able to commit to making that perfect outcome/project/painting. Thus you find all the reasons you can’t ship/finish your workload. ‘I don’t have enough time’ is a common cry in the workplace. But instead of procrastinating use constraints to your advantage.

Pssst “constraints are essential for being somebody who wants to ship their project”.

If you know the edges, limitations of resource and/or time [constraints] you can ensure your project doesn’t become a never-ending saga. Too many projects seek perfection. Nothing good comes from chasing perfect. I used to push lines of code around trying to “improve” the code base and make it “perfect”. Or that’s what I was kidding myself thinking. I was wasting time. I didn’t know about constraints. You should be embracing the constraints as these prevent you from chasing perfect and will help you ship. If you needed 100 days for that perfect project execution but only have 20? great that will focus the mind and deliver “good enough”.

We all wish we had more time but the people who ship work have accepted that their work will never be perfect enough no matter how long they are given. So they ship. They get known for delivering and they ship some more. Embrace the constraints.

How to be considered for stocking your products in our shops

Dear XXX

Thank you for your interest in wanting to sell your product(s) in one or more of our shops (including online). We run a successful profitable commercial business. We have over 1000 individual products but we’re always looking for new products to add to our range and the best way to get considered is outlined below. Please note that due to the high volume of enquiries we receive we will only respond if we wish to take the offer to the next stage of consideration. We aim to get in touch within 10 working days for suppliers we wish to consider further.

Please note that the decision for taking new products sits with the Retail Manager and any decision is final.

  1. Send a brief introductory email to museumretail@bristol.gov.uk with product photos and descriptions including SKUs, cost prices, RRP, timescales for delivery and if these are firm sale or ‘Sale or Return’
  2. We will take an initial look and see if the margins, business terms and products meet any of our requirements.
  3. If we think the product(s) have potential we’ll be in touch within 10 working days. We read every email but if we don’t reply within 10 days unfortunately we don’t think your product(s) will be right for our retail operation and wish you all the best.
  4. Please don’t just turn up to a shop and do a sales pitch. We’re all very busy and need to set appointments. We only book appointments following steps 1-3. If you just turn up then the answer no matter how great the product will be a “no thanks”.

How do we choose products?

We review the following in our consideration:

  • We’re a £500,000+ operation so every product should be able to sell in the dozens/hundreds and have an individual value of £400+ in annual sales to be considered
  • Do the products have relevance to our collection and values?
  • Do we have an existing product that is very similar ? – for example we only use 3-4 card suppliers for all our range. Whilst we’d love to have more unique cards the admin effort makes this not viable for us
  • IS the product suitable all year around or is it seasonal, exhibition  or event specific e.g. Valentine’s day or “Christmas”
  • What’s the product story? for example one of our local suppliers, Emmeline Simpson, has a great story “Contemporary gifts celebrating British cities
  • Do any of our nearby competitors already stock the range? – we avoid selling identical products to competitors in 99% cases unless we were first!
  • Is the profit margin within expectations – whilst this can vary we aim that across our range we have a 50% or greater margin. We will never stock a product with less than 45% margin sorry
  • Can we get a very similar product from an existing suppler?
  • Can the supplier demonstrate strong sales in a related shop ?
  • Do all the products have barcodes as this is a requirement from 2018 unless there is a very good reason
  • Can we store the product(s) effectively?
  • Will the supplier regularly come into the shop, check the visual merchandising and ensuring the products work effectively?
  • Will the supplier exchange slow sellers ?
  • If the product sells quickly, how fast can the stock be replenished ?
  • Is the product local or Made in the UK?
  • Can we have square photos [100kb max file size) and product descriptions to sell online?
  • Do you offer dropshipping?

Bulk pricing for museum retail?

I was waiting at the nearby DIY shop (i think I made the problem worse but I digress) and noticed that all the price labels offer a discount if you buy in bulk, 3 or more. They offered four or so tiers of discount the more you buy. an Interesting approach that I wonder could port well to museum shops. We already buy in bulk. We know what products sell well. Buy 3+ prints at a reduced rate for instance. I’ll see if we can experiment with this approach online. I’ll Let you know if we get anywhere.

UPDATE: Started with bulk discount on our Guide to the Art Collection

Building a better museum shop 2018

What’s the project?

An exciting project i’ll ship this year is to extend the size of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery shop (by removing the stockroom to gain 20%), introducing new fittings (better flexible bays) and align the ‘feel’  to our brand. The constraints are that it must happen in-between exhibitions, cost no more than £30,000 (thanks BMDT for the funding) and address the issues that removing 20% of stockroom entails! Here are a bunch of photos of the current shop for reference.

When does it ship?

We’re currently reviewing tender submissions but it MUST happen before the summer holidays. Once we’ve awarded the contract I’ll be more loose-lipped I promise. I can promise the team that we’ll be burning the candle at both ends to get all the stock back into the shop and get it looking sweet.

Who is responsible for shipping it?

I take responsibility for the delivery of this project. It won’t be possible however without the support of the retail team – Sue, Julie, Helen, Jane and the great extended “casual pool”, Retail Thinking consultancy, Darren, James, Rowan and David. I’ll be roping in more people  throughout the project so apologises if I haven’t named you here.

What are you afraid of?

  • Unforeseen delays to the schedule. The period in-between exhibitions is fleeting and a delay can result in the project being kicked into touch by up to 16 weeks at a time YIKES!
  • Removing the stockroom is bold but also scary. The new design must ensure that the stockroom lose isn’t negative to the team workflow
  • How will we fill the new space as our existing product range isn’t enough
  • What if the new shop is Meh?
  • What if the contractor doesn’t treat this project like its life and death?
  • I lead lots of areas so what happens if I’m pulled from pillar to post on those other priorities? I take my eye off a critical detail on this project?

What else (the truth this time)?

We predict that we’ll make an additional £30,000 in sales per year…what if I botched my calculations and we don’t boost sales significantly?

Why are you afraid?

Failing potentially means losing staff in the future. I need to find more and more money to maintain our resourcing at the level it is at now… £30,000 is the equivalent of ‘whole’ member of staff.

Pick some edges

If I need to compromise then I guess its best to determine what fittings and fixtures will give me the best return for 2018. For example I want to remove the ceiling to reveal the architecture but I can’t afford it and its a ‘nice to have’. I’d rather have fewer but durable components that will least ten years or more. I need to ensure I have storage. I can add less expensive components at a later date but it’s best to ensure the core of the new design is complete. I’m happy to use cutting edge techniques that aren’t yet proven. It should be done as fast as possible but no faster.

Who is your customer?

I am trying to please members of the public who may come once in their lifetime or who visit 5+ a year.  If you walk into the shop we should have something for you and the occasion you need to buy for.

Who are the key influencers, gatekeepers and authorities?

The public, the wider retail team, Operations and the retail community through the Association of Cultural Enterprises.

Does anyone else matter?

[Redacted]. Nope.

Questions and ideas for the devil’s advocate (things to say to slow things down, average things out or create panic or malaise):

  • It’s too soon
  • It’s too late
  • It’s technically risky
  • It’s boring
  • It will offend retailers
  • There are significant legal issues
  • The plant is too backed up to produce this
  • It will take too much training to support
  • The Media won’t get it
  • Our industry is too regulated
  • The home office won’t approve
  • There’s no room in this year’s budget, let’s review in a few months
  • It might fail
  • Our big competitor will steal it
  • It’s been done before
  • It’s never been done before
  • People will laugh at us

If you hear any of these, underline them. If you find yourself saying them, stop yourself.

Who can stop this project?

Nobody. Well maybe [redacted].

Who else can stop this project?

Really, nobody.

Who is essential to our success?

  • Association for Cultural Enterprises
  • Becky Peters
  • BMDT
  • Collections team
  • David M
  • Helen and Co
  • Mark and Steve
  • Peter Holloway from Retail Thinking
  • Simon Fenn

What does perfect look like?

All boundary walls fitted with bays that are flexible. Well lit. Solution for all storage needs. Two till points that ease congestion. New ceiling or no ceiling. Additional floor units for merchandising that are movable and encourage pick-up lust. Removal of 1990s wood effect look. Movable till area.

What does good enough look like?

All boundary walls fitted with bays that are flexible. Well lit. Solution for all storage needs. Two till points that ease congestion. Removal of most of the 1990s wood effect look. Scope to add components at a later date.

List every task and event that needs to happen, by whom, and by when.

  1. Review and moderate tender submissions – ZM and DM by 31st Jan
  2. Seek CPG approval to award – ZM by 8th Feb
  3. Award tender – ZM by 8th Feb
  4. Standstill period – PS by 19th Feb
  5. Engage contractor – ZM from 20th Feb
  6. Agree approach – ZM/Contractor
  7. Finalise design  – ZM/Contractor
  8. Build off-site – Contractor
  9. Agree VM plan – HL/PH/ZM
  10. Agree post install merchandising team – HL
  11. Installation – Contractor
  12. Restock – everybody!
  13. Open

Who becomes your competition?

Nearby high street retailers. Bring it on.

What does failure look like?

  • Due to unforeseen issues with the structure the project has to grind to a halt due to lack of reserve funding.
  • Sales decrease
  • New fittings confuse our VM plan
  • The sector don’t like the resulting shop extension and pan it

Plus it!

List up to ten things you could add that would radically or subtly improve your project:

  1. Ensure we have a full range plan ahead of the build with all locations for new stock
  2. Ensure feedback from the retail team is integrated into the finer detail of the till area
  3. Somebody gives me an extra £20,000 to really finish the project – remove the ceiling, introduce exhibition retail unit area, building proper pop-up shop units, fit out the remaining original bays
  4. Understand what types of product will make customers talk about the shop to their friends
  5. Build a prototype of each new component to test assumptions
  6. Enlist Jane le Bon at design and stocking stage to turn the visual merchandising from good to brilliant.
  7. Reduce install time
  8. Promotion at launch in all the Bristol media
  9. Contractor already uses Basecamp for managing projects
  10. Launch with a killer product that everybody thinks they need but can’t put down

Minus it!

List up to ten things you could subtract that would radically or subtly improve your project or get it out the door.

  1. Remove boring services that are on two perimeter boundary walls and impede the design
  2. Not have any evening events that week which hinder having a pop-up shop
  3. Meetings with people who aren’t domain experts

Thrash

List every element of the project that needs to be settled, designed or approved before you can ship.

  • A solid project plan
  • Contractor to advise, design and build the extension – moderation 30th Jan
  • CPG approval to award
  • Lock in dates that don’t mess with the exhibition space next door
  • Conceive a new product range plan for the launch
  • Enlist a team to decamp all the shop contents ahead of the works and then put it all back at the end of the build phase
  • Design a suitable till area that works for the team and the new workflow which includes being paperless for all BUYING tasks
  • Agree what can be swapped out if the budget hits the max limiter e.g. wall bays are a bigger priority than floor units
  • Agree with Operations what approach we can take to hiding all the services but ensuring they are accessible when required
  • Need to settle how big the kids range should be
  • Regarding the initial eye view from outside the shop – agree what type of product will entice passersby

Gated Thrashing

Take the items on the list above and force them into one of four categories, with as many as possible in the first two.

First: before you start design and production

  • A solid project plan
  • Contractor to advise, design and build the extension – moderation 30th Jan
  • CPG approval to award
  • Lock in dates that don’t mess with the exhibition space next door
  • Conceive a new product range plan for the launch
  • Enlist a team to decamp all the shop contents ahead of the works and then put it all back at the end of the build phase
  • Design a suitable till area that works for the team and the new workflow which includes being paperless for all BUYING tasks
  • Agree what can be swapped out if the budget hits the max limiter e.g. wall bays are a bigger priority than floor units
  • Agree with Operations what approach we can take to hiding all the services but ensuring they are accessible when required
  • Need to settle how big the kids range should be

During: while you’re working

  • Regarding the initial eye view from outside the shop – agree what type of product will entice passersby

Testing

  • Design a suitable till area that works for the team and the new workflow which includes being paperless for all BUYING tasks

Final

  • Need to settle how big the kids range should be

 

Don’t worry if you don’t think what you ship is good enough. It is. The scarce part is the shipping.

This post uses the SHIPIT project checklist which is a handy PDF.

Being at the edge

When I was learning my advanced motorcycle skills my instructor said the only way to know when you are on the the limit is to pass it. It’s why in practice in all sports you see them seemingly make mistakes, miss, wobble or crash. The fact is they simply need to find the very edge as that’s where the fear lies and the opportunity. If you won’t go to the edge someone else will. I’d prefer to wobble rather than crash but if the edge is the place to be then so be it.

PS I thought about this as I was riding my motorcycle last week and tried a new line through a roundabout and lost the front for a microsecond before regaining control.