Innovating Context


“Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives.”  –  Saul Alinsky

 

At Camp Pull-a-Shot East, during one of the group discussions, a point was made that has resonated with me. That point was this; we have gotten very, very good at innovating our products. From superior sourcing and buying methods, to Grainpro, to data-logging roasts, to ever-new espresso machines and protocols to use them. Coffee today is better than it has ever been. What we are not good at is innovating the context in which we sell our new, improved products. To start thinking about innovating context, I’m going to dedicate some posts to just that topic – I don’t know how many, but hopefully more than one!

As humans, we have developed a remarkable ability to recognize patterns. We are able to intake data, interpret it, create correlations, and project those correlations onto the future, letting us create predictions from our past experience. It is easy to see how this kind of mental processing is evolutionarily advantageous. The more we experience a pattern, the stronger our association of that pattern and its correlations become. Every time you see lightning, you expect thunder to follow – it would be strange if it didn’t! By and large, these patterns are useful and informative and don’t really present many problems.

What the problem is, is that we as coffee retailers, are working against human psychology in the way that we sell our products. We are, most of us, trying to sell a unique, lovely, different product within the same context as folks selling lower-quality, less passionate, brew. It is totally reasonable for our customers to be surprised when their cup takes four minutes for a Chemex – their experience up to that moment with that pattern of experience is simple; wait in line, look at overhead menu, order coffee, immediately receive coffee. It is easy to see how this same pattern of experience extends across the spectrum; when a customer is in a grocery store, perusing the coffee offerings, what do they have to justify the higher price point of your whole bean? Their grocery store pattern (as mine, as yours) involves mostly low-cost-hunting, and a hope that you can get home before 7.

I think that the most important thing we can do is to start finding ways to break these patterns. Watch this space!

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4 thoughts on “Innovating Context

  1. […] (This post is a part of a series on creating new contexts to retail coffee. See the first post here.) […]

  2. […] (This post is a part of a series on innovating retail spaces for progressive coffee shops. The original post can be found HERE) […]

  3. […] part of an ongoing series of posts regarding how we retail progressive coffee. The first post is HERE) Wireless Internet: an ongoing debate within our industry. The cause of countless lost Yelp stars, […]

  4. […] (This post is part of an ongoing series on the need to innovate the context in which we sell coffee. The first post is HERE) […]

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