Next weekend I will go for dinner with two friends to the new restaurant in town. People talk about it a lot, especially about the charm of its open kitchen. That is quite a thing I realized. For a restaurant to have an open kitchen is like showing ones guts. There is no place to hide, no way to fake, no way to cheat, no way to pretend. You are 100% You. That made me wonder:
What is the role of openness in Commerce?
Is there an equivalent for this in E-Commerce?
Rational behind Openness
I ran across two articles that shed a light on the rational behind open kitchen restaurants. One is a study from Harvard University. The other one an article in TIME BUSINESS. I will summarize the arguments they bring forward for you in one list. I think these arguments not only apply to restaurants. You can easily apply them to other branches as well.
Transparency about Safety / Hygiene An important reason for diners to prefer an open kitchen is the transparency about how the food is being prepared. The open kitchen is a guarantee to safe food.
Appetite The smell of food, the activity of the cooks, the sound of pots and pans raises the appetite. You are tempted to pick a little piece from the countertop. And a customer with a raised appetite will order less economical.
Entertainment Going out for dinner is not only about food. It’s an evening out, an event. The open kitchen is a form of entertainment. The cooks become artists. Their movements become a dance. Domino’s “Pizza Theater,” is a nice example how this can be implemented even in the lower levels of the market.
Professionality / Craftmanship Tossing the pizza dough is more than a performance. It’s professional production. No, it’s even more. It’s a demonstration of craftsmanship, displaying love for the action, the product and it’s value. We’ll go into the role of craftsmanship in more detail in the next chapter.
Interior design and Reduced energy cost These arguments might be very specific to restaurants, but they might trigger you to reconsider some of your interior design decisions. Production no longer needs to be hidden. People go on tours to visit factories, harbors, etc, because they are interested in how things are produced. Instruments and machines have an element of beauty. Why not show that?
Interaction proofs to be more than sociable. It has an effect on consumers and producers. Consumers value the food more when they see it being cooked. More surprisingly, interaction makes the chefs perform better. The sight of enjoying diners raises their performance.
The Harvard study compared three situation. In the situation of mutual visibility consumers attributed a +17.3% higher preference to the food. The effect of one-sided vision was tested in both directions. In situations in which the chefs could see the public, but not vice versa, the public’s appreciation of the food was also raised, with no less than 10%. In situations where the public could see the cooks, but not visa versa, the appreciation of the food was no different than in a closed kitchen.
What could these values mean to E=Commerce? Before we draw the parallel to E-Commerce, I first want to explore the element of craftsmanship to a deeper level.
Economics of Craftsmanship
What defines craftsmanship? To me, the differentiation is not in the ability to create a product in great detail. Also the professional is very capable of doing that. The craftsman, however, delivers more. He is devoted to the value of his product. This is based on a strong outside-in perspective, working from the quality the customer wants. The professional works from inside-out perspective, focused to deliver with high efficiency.
The impact of craftsmanship goes beyond the production itself. When consumers look for quality they consider three elements: Appearance, Functionality and Trust. This model is however incomplete. The model is insufficient to explain for example the global market leadership of some brands.
Next to the visible rational, we need to consider the non-visible rational, the experience. In his book Strategic Pokes: The Business Jalabi, a book you should certainly read, Shombit Sengupta calls this non-visible rational the “sparkling qualities”. Non-visual quality is the assurance of the product’s functionality during its life cycle.
This intangible value is created by the craftsman who adds passion and a multi-angle approach that exceeds the obvious. To customers, these intangibles have an unlimited value. It’s non-intellectual and the value is different from person to person. When customers appreciate the intangible first, they are willing to pay a premium price and return for a repeat purchase.
Open Kitchen E-Commerce
We started off with the question whether there is something like Open Kitchen E-Commerce. Some will answer this question with Yes. They will argue that Social Media have created openness. Twitter and Facebook are podia where companies can be blamed and shamed. Some of these messages go viral, causing great negative impact on company value.
This type of openness, however, only triggers a very limited part of the values that were attributed to openness in restaurants. You could maybe argue that this is equivalent to the hygiene transparency. Question is: “do you know of a E-Commerce company that really demonstrates the joy of serving customers “? Do you know about an E-Commerce site that delivers the entertainment and craftsmanship of creation?
Another question is: “are our service teams stimulated enough to give their best, like the cooks that can see the diners”? I think the current social media bring that at best partially. This reminds me of the presentation Mark Schaefer did for E-Consultancy about the expectations of the Social Era Customer (SEC). He draws the parallel with the medieval markets. Social Era Customers want :
|Social Era Customer||Analogy||Open Kitchen Restaurant|
|To know the person behind the company||Seeing who serves you, see his style||Entertainment|
|Transparency||Openness about the process of service||Transparency about Safety / Hygiene|
|Immediate impact of communication||Good service raises appetite, bad service is devastating||Appetite|
|Openly shared Word of Mouth||
The love for the product and value will make people talk about the product and service
|To feel connected.||
The interaction between cook and customer creates the connection people appreciate.
These expectations of Social Media Customers match closely with the values of the open kitchen restaurants. My view is that there is still a lot to gain in E-Commerce. Conversion ratios are dramatically low compared to retail. Regardless the continuous growth, E-Commerce today still only accounts for 7,4 % of the total consumption (US data). An open kitchen policy in E-Commerce could boost the customer experience to really make the next step.
Thanks for reading my blog and I very much appreciate your feedback.
Ger van den Buijs
Ger is cofounder of FiveDolphins.com, the platform to facilitate customer flow within your site. You can follow me on gervandenbuijs.com, LinkedIn and Twitter (@BuijsGer)
With courtesy to Pixabay for the images.