Earlier this week, my family and I took a day off and spent some time at Minnesota’s famous Mall of America. My girls had received some passes to the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park and we decided to break the doldrums of late winter and put them to use. We had a blast riding roller coasters, the merry-go-round, the log chute, and of course the swings.
I’ve been to the mega-mall many times, but this was the first time we’ve ever gone with our kids. It made for an entirely new experience. We didn’t go into many stores, but the ones we did visit were not those that I’d normally browse. Case in point: The American Girl store.
Maybe most of you have been in one of these stores, but I haven’t. My six year-old daughter received an American Girl doll for Christmas this year, so suddenly this store became relevant. Yes, they have dolls in these stores, but they have so much more.
Each doll has a name and personality. My daughter has “Molly.” There are books about Molly, DVDs about Molly, new clothes for Molly, clothes for YOU that match outfits for Molly…it’s almost too much.
But it keeps going.
They actually have a salon with doll-sized chairs where you can spend money to get Molly’s hair done in various braids and other styles. You can even give Molly a spa experience. The upstairs of the store features a bistro where you and Molly can have lunch or dinner together – they even have a seat ready for Molly.
It’s insane. But in a way it’s brilliant. American Girl has found a niche and created new ways to generate sales within that niche. Here are a few things I took away from my American Girl experience.
Choice is a powerful thing
Not only does the store offer an abundance of accessories specifically for American Girl dolls, but they offer a ton of selection in the dolls themselves. There are hip dolls. There are historical dolls. They have a selection of baby dolls. Girls can even choose a custom doll based on eye color, hair, etc. Shoppers have many choices that all fall within the American Girl niche.
Offer things nobody would even think of
Spa treatments for dolls? Really? I couldn’t believe it but I guarantee that someone is buying this. I’m not saying that this is a good use of money, but I’ll give credit to American Girl for getting creative. And a fine-dining bistro experience in a doll store is definitely an example of thinking outside the box.
I’ll say this: Nothing in the store was “cheap.” An outfit for a doll cost more than most outfits we buy for our kids. With such an abundance of choice, you’d think quality would be lost, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. All of the products appeared to be high quality and the prices reflected this.
Take a niche product or service to an even deeper level
Yes, you can have your doll’s hair styled. And not just basic braids or ponytails, but many different styles. They’ve deepened their niche of selling dolls by doing things like opening a doll salon and expanding to over fifty hairstyle options. I kid you not, you can get your doll’s ears pierced. That’s deep.
Finely craft an overall experience
In a way, my visit to the American Girl store felt like the Apple Store of dolls. The packaging is simple, square, and all the boxes are organized and stacked neatly. Staff were helpful and professional. The store was full of glass displays containing dolls and accessories. Again, the dolls are not cheap but the experience helps create an environment of quality.
Applying lessons from American Girl to different markets
There are two primary ways to generate more revenue: 1) Expand your target market thus increasing overall sales, or 2) increase sales from your existing market. As I look to apply some of the lessons from American Girl to my own business, I’m wondering if there are ways to “accessorize” within my niche of offering front-end WordPress development. Maybe there are custom products I can develop for my clients to help them have a better experience using the WordPress dashboard. How can I craft the experience?
Think hard about some ways you can deepen the experience for your target market. Are there add-on products or services that you could offer? What’s your version of an in-store bistro – a seemingly unrelated offering that might be attractive to your customers? Get creative!
A personal opinion
To be honest, here is something about the whole American Girl thing that bugs me just a little bit. I’m guessing that it’s the personification of an inanimate doll as well as the overly-consumeristic feel to the whole concept. However, I applaud the creativity of the company and that’s the positive that I am taking away from the whole experience.
Also, one of the dolls has a dog named “Yank” (my nickname) – so that’s pretty cool.
[lead image by terren in Virginia]