November 23, 2017

Shopper experience Uniqlo

Uniqlo Osaka. Unique Clothes… or just “a lot for less”?

How one of the world’s most successful specialty store retailers truly charmed me.

As published on MarketingOnline on November 27, 2017.

When on holiday it is always nice to hit the shops, and where better to do this than in Japan, where – if the boss allows it – people are dressed tasteful and elegant. So, let’s make a stop at one of the big ones: Uniqlo. Their flagship store is located in Osaka. A few facts: they started in 1984 with one brick. Nowadays, they have 834 bricks with gradually more bricks and clicks in Europe. So, they must be doing something right!

I could write this blog about the, for us Westerners, over the top chivalry or the Gillette-razor-like-drive to search for ways to improve their clothes. On the latter: during my visit they were heavily investing in heattech. You simply can’t miss it: displays, price tags, taglines everywhere. This all makes you realize they take this veeery serious. Make no mistake, this heat-technology is not a game to them. Anyway, I come from a country where the last Elfstedentocht was held when the world was still social media-free, so this storyselling on heattech doesn’t translate into a purchase.

Uniqlo Osaka. Unique Clothes… or just “a lot for less”?

Competitive pricing

Where most clothing in Japan is also pricey for Westerners, Uniqlo is surprisingly affordable. While all clothing – including the basics – still looks really tasteful and refined. It’d get your blood pumping hot (would that be the purpose of their heattech?). In any case, it ensures that you pick something, because for that price it would be crazy to leave it lying there… #sale. But you don’t get that euphoric feeling of finding that one special item. It’s more like: “nice to have”.

However, we are not quite there yet. It is a 4 storey-high outlet and I have only arrived at the third floor. So onto the fourth, according to the signage, the ‘special floor’. Once again, we take the escalator, which gives us a sneak preview of the next level through glass windows and rotating 3D models in glass rectangles.

Uniqlo Osaka. Unique Clothes… or just “a lot for less”?

Save the best for last!

And oh yes, they’ve got me; I am sold! From the moment I came rolling in on the fourth flour, to be precise. There is a whole wall covered with t-shirts displayed in glass vaults in a museum-kind of way. It evokes a feeling of “do not touch, please”, which is obviously the best behavioural cue, because it makes you want to do just that: touch it. You become greedy…

The T-shirts all have a pop-(m)art-design. Not odd, considering most of them are expressions of collaborations. What do I mean? UTGP, i.e. Uniqlo T-shirt Grand Prix. As an amateur designer you can take part in this competition and if you win, your creation will be sold in their stores.

Uniqlo Osaka. Unique Clothes… or just “a lot for less”?

Why T-shirts?

Uniqlo really understands that a T-shirt is a universal ‘badge symbol’. You wear it as an expression of who you are. Last year’s inspiration source for the UTGP collection: Nintendo. In a country where Anime and Gaming are put on a pedestal this ensured the highest participation rate ever (and content creation, word-of-mouth, reach, penetration,…) and as a nice bonus strengthened the association network with nodes on ‘Japan’ and ‘playful’.

A nice detail is that Shigeru Miyamoto was part of the jury last year. And yes, you guessed it, he is the inventor of the world’s most famous plumber: Mario! In the store, the point-of-sale marketing is already hinting at 2018; next year the UTGP will be with Disney. They are going for ‘complete world domination’, that is clear. Disney is less appealing to me personally. So, I fill my shopping Kart (Mario Kart, pun intended) with a few unique Nintendo pieces. So, we can check the box on uniqueness. Unique: Check!


P.S. Please take a look on the website especially made for the winners of the UTGP 2017. It won’t disappoint. Sound volume on max ! 🙂


Want to know more about how you can create the ultimate shopper experience? Haystack is specialized in helping retailers and brands to score at the store or on trade. We can help you in understanding each step in the path to purchase: from understanding the shopper needs to the actual purchase. How is he or she oriented? Which touchpoints are of importance? How do shoppers inform themselves and how are triggered to buy in store (online or offline)? Get in touch with our shopper expert Wim to find out exactly how we can help you!