Little Bobcars

Big New Preemptor

Don’t Stop. Don’t Pass “Go.” Go Directly to the Consumer

Kiosks, pop-ups, food carts, in-flight shopping, m-commerce, door-to-door, living room selling parties, tractor-trailer tour trucks and neighborhood small store formats are all fast-growing distribution models designed to literally get to consumers  first, faster and more often than competitors, and are all forms of preemptive distribution.

And, now I give you BobCar, launched in 2007, and one of the coolest and funkiest new distribution models I’ve ever seen.

What in the world is a BobCar? Well, it is a first. You can see in the accompanying photos that it’s a combination mobile sales boutique, showroom, and travelling billboard. You can also tell that it promises a highly engaging experience. And, most importantly, of course, is that it can travel to, even chase after, one’s consumers. It can chase after them anywhere – on the beach, in the mall, on golf courses, at sporting events and parades, in resorts; right in front of a store to urge them into the store, in parking lots, in their home (if it’s big enough), at commuter train stations, and, any other place you might think of (please email me with your ideas). And, by the way, it’s eco-friendly zero-emission electric, which, along with its flexibility, is a key advantage over “tractor-trailer tour” trucks.

The BobCar was developed by Benjamin Cohen, a New York retailer who, after watching thousands of people pass his store window, became obsessed with finding a way to get them to stop in.

The Robin Reports - BobCarThe Brand Experience and Control Ambassadors

In addition to customizing the BobCar design for each client brand, the BobCar folks also tailor the experience, using what are called Brand Ambassadors. For example, the newest concept, the BobCar Mobile Beauty Boutique, will have trained Brand Ambassadors with knowledge of everything “beauty” to provide personal demonstrations and samplings. If Sephora were a client, a BobCar Sephora Beauty Boutique might be stationed in front of a Sephora store with Ambassadors, suitably outfitted in Sephora-logoed apparel, beckoning consumers passing by to sample product and/or gain beauty tips. During this fun and educational experience, the Ambassador might provide a coupon offering to be redeemed in the Sephora store itself.

The Ambassadors, according to a T-Mobile client are the “…key to the experience. They are professional, knowledgeable and aggressive (yet consumer friendly). Controlling the last 3 feet (as in retail parlance) is an understatement; they control the block.”

T-Mobile visited over 100 retail and other locations in metropolitan New York, with each BobCar containing sixteen demo handsets, product information, LCD TV, T-Mobile rate plans, and Internet enabled laptops. Two trained Ambassadors per BobCar educated consumers about T-Mobile handsets and rate plans. Participants were given a $50 redemption card and referred to the T-Mobile retail shop, and redemption card could be redeemed online via the BobCar.

Over 6,700 phones were sold at T-Mobile Retail. Overall, they reported an average of a 200% sales increase per day when theT-Mobile BobCars were parked in front of their stores or chains like Best Buy.

And, depending on the client’s preference, the products and/or services can be purchased on the spot. Of course, the traffic building benefit for the retailer is typically the primary goal.

Other clients include Olympus (OCPNF.PK), Samsung (005930.KS), Pentax, Wendy’s (WEN), Snickers, Target (TGT); Dunkin’ Donuts, Sara Lee (SLE), and others.

Preemptive Distribution, Great Experience and Turf Control

Well, here I am again, with a unique new business example modeled on the three strategic operating principles for success as defined in my co-authored book: The New Rules of Retail: a mind-connecting experience, preemptive distribution, and total control, without which the first two would not be possible.

Oh, go ahead and buy the book!

Robin Lewis About Robin Lewis

Robin Lewis has over forty years of strategic operating and consulting experience in the retail and related consumer products industries. He has held executive positions at DuPont, VF Corporation, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), and Goldman Sachs, among others, and has consulted for dozens of retail, consumer products and other companies. In addition to his role as CEO and Editorial Director of The Robin Report, he is a professor at the Graduate School of Professional Studies at The Fashion Institute of Technology.