This Is Why You Want The Competition To Do Well

The best insight I’ve read recently didn’t come from anyone in the retail industry.

It was from an enlightening interview with Haley Cooper, co-founder of Strange Bird Immersive, in Anne Helen Petersen’s fantastic Culture Study newsletter.

If you didn’t know, Strange Bird Immersive is a global leader in the escape room industry.

Now there’s plenty in the interview – and I’d love you to read it all – that applies to retail: space design, storytelling, customer interaction, the role of staff. But none of that is what caught my attention.

It was the part where Cooper talked about sharing Strange Bird Immersive’s ways of working via conferences and her blog Immersology.

Why would a highly successful company freely give away the secrets to that success – the structures they use, the processes they follow, the learnings they’ve made – to their competitors?

The answer is because Strange Bird Immersive doesn’t view other escape rooms as competition. What it wants is for the standard to improve across the sector so that more people want to play escape rooms because they’re all so good.

Cooper puts it best: “That’s what you want — for the industry to get better. You want the whole industry to implement the things that you found the most effective. We view each other as “co-peters.””

That’s a powerful idea. And one that also applies to retail.

Now I’m not ignoring the fact that competition works differently in retail. People don’t tend to replay the same escape room scenarios again because they’ve already solved the puzzles. Retail doesn’t have that problem – you can sell the same thing to the same person over and over.

But there is still something in the idea of benefitting from your competitors improving.

Every disappointing store experience a customer has affects the way they view the rest of the industry. If the majority of stores they visit are mediocre, then you can argue that one great space stands out. But how often will customers make the effort to visit a single great store?

If you’re investing in an incredible customer experience, you want those around you to also elevate their game so that customers have an overwhelmingly compelling reason to spend their time in your spaces.

A cluster of fantastic stores is a draw. It’s a focal point for customers, a destination. And every space benefits from the footfall generated by the others.

That doesn’t mean you have to give away all the details of your internal operations like Cooper. But sharing and learning from one another is a way to lift the entire industry.

Because that’s what we all really want – for retail to get better.

Your retail business can be better. We can help.