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The building blocks of Lego’s physical and digital retail experiences

Lego may be designed for children, but even adults can’t resist playing with the yellow figures. How does a company achieve such irresistible engagement though? The toy brand’s senior omnichannel manager, Leif Bode Nielsen, discussed the building blocks of Lego’s physical and digital retail elements.
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The Lego executive made the revelation at the Internet Retailing Conference, where Real Business was present. At the event, we also heard how Airbnb and Urban Outfitters are blurring the lines between the real world and online.

At Lego though, Bode Nielsen claimed the company doesn’t have all the answers, though it certainly has a solid foundation in place, which comprises three key approaches:

(1) Know your shoppers

(2) You can take a shortcut or detour

(3) Don’t over-engineer and overthink problems and solutions

Providing a brief history on the brand, Bode Nielsen highlighted Lego’s long roots into history – it was founded in 1949 – and said the company’s belief is that only the best is good enough as it enters the age of digital.

He said that with digital embraced from the get-go, some efforts worked and others didn’t. “Omnichannel is an important aspect to the brand in the way we like shoppers and retailers equally. Between us and retailers, we want shoppers to have great, sustainable value and brand experience, no matter what touchpoint.”

To that end, the company’s motto is: “Deliver a consistently awesome Lego experience on every shopping mission.”

According to Bode Nielsen, the idea is that each of the experiences are “special, not run-of-the-mill retail executions, but quirky, fun and on brand.”

So when it comes to knowing shoppers, it’s important to recognise that, while some technical solutions can be great for some companies, not every firm will require them.

“The first thing to ask is ‘do we know our shoppers well enough?’ In omnichannel it’s easy to forget. Vendors are talking about wonderful solutions they have, which is fantastic, but think ‘is this what we need to do? Is this the problem we’re trying to solve?’”

Of course, you then have the conundrum of realising each customer is different. In a unique survey of shoppers, Lego showed an image of a kitchen and asked them where in the picture would they store a spoon. It yielded an array of results, which just goes to show the depths you need to reach to truly serve your customer.

“When you talk about omnichannel, you’re led to accommodate more than one journey at a time. They’re not all on the same journey,” said Bode Nielsen.

Then, making a really good point, he added that although children are who the toys are designed for, they are not the ones making the purchases – it’s the adults. And those adults span everything from parents to aunts and uncles to grandparents, which means you have various shopping styles to consider.

“Support shoppers in more than one way and make sure you know yourself when looking at solutions,” he said. That’s as true as when Lego introduces solutions to retailers as well – a French retailer stocking Lego declined the brand’s digital kiosk, insisting that its USP is the staff. “Understand the needs,” he continued.

On the shortcut side of things, Bode Nielsen explained: “It’s very hard to do omnichannel without tech on your side. When tasked from an omnichannel perspective, I hit a brick wall early as we didn’t have the APIs etc.”

Joking that he could have taken a leave of absence while the IT department developed the necessary software and servers, Bode Nielsen instead led the creation of a sandbox to innovate in – operating and innovating outside of the IT perimeters, but with the same end goal.

He noted that this was achieved with “many fantastic, sophisticated cloud-based tools” available on the market. “We created a digital retail lab with barcode scanners, beacons and NFC chips. Behind that we built a mock ecosystem – boards with products on and a mock point of sale system, used for workshops, training and hackathons,” Bode Nielsen said.

“It might have felt like a lot of work and money, but it wasn’t. And the cost saved with the mock resulted in savings.”

Supporting that shortcut mentality, he said that it’s important not to over-engineer. Showing a omnichannel ranking level covering everything from “meh” to “marketing stunt” to “creepy”, Bode Nielsen said the level you really want to achieve is “useful”, before perhaps enhancing services to introduce an “OMG” proposition.

“You can do so much with beacons, but do you really want to be that interactive and disrupting people’s flow when they’re going shopping?” he said. “We’ve built a system that could grow with our aspiration – something we could scale to a lot of our stores and not just third parties.”

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About Author

Zen Terrelonge

Zen Terrelonge is the deputy editor of Real Business, specialising in media, innovation, technology and the digital sector. A media professional with eight years worth of experience he has worked for both startup and established publications.

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