Worth Reading?



It’s been years since I’ve read the original. This book is a must read if you have anything to do with marketing products of any sort to just about anyone. Does that seem a bit strong of an endorsement? Perhaps.

Underhill may have written this book primarily to offer up insights into the retail marketplace and the mind and behavior of retail shoppers, (as well as promote his own business), but the insights are useful beyond these goals. One basic tenet for just about anyone marketing or selling anything is to “Know Your Customer.” Underhill’s depth of experience in this area is amazing. From simple day-to-day observations to the insights he draws from them, you can get a real feel for what’s going on inside a consumer’s decision making process.

Most of what you’ll learn are the kinds of things that will just have you nodding and thinking, “Well, of course.” Nonetheless, there’s a difference between having a vague implicit feeling about something vs. having an explicit learning you can take and use for strategy and tactical marketing programs.

If the book is lacking at all, it’s in a relatively scant coverage of the online experience and the still new ‘bricks and clicks’ aspects of operating both online and offline. Though the book has been updated for the Internet age, the Internet content is more of a gloss than the kind of in depth coverage a deep usability study of eCommerce or eComm coupled with retail would offer. No one can be overly faulted for this as neither strategies nor tactics in this area are yet clear as best practices. Though as of this writing, (in Winter, 2012), we know in excess of 60% of consumers use mobile devices to do research while in retail, we still don’t know exactly how various tools and techniques influence them. Just how useful are Quick Response, (QR), codes? Or regular bar codes leading to web sites? Etc. Etc. Even so, the overall feel for the consumer one has after going through this content should help light up some ideas as to what might be good things to test both offline and online. And at the intersection of the two.

It’s been said that as online becomes wholly ubiquitous and always on, the distinction between online and offline will blur. This seems already to be true in some areas, (especially for content), but where actual physical goods, services or processes are involved, there will always be some grey areas. So the inflection points where such overlap occurs and the rate of change at which it occurs is still very much in question. With little historical data to provide guidance, going back to ‘knowing the customer’ seems like a good place to start considering how to craft such engagement points.