Throughout 2010, we spent some time looking at how our guests move through Prairietown
– which buildings they visit and in what order, and how long they spend there. While there were many interesting results from our analysis, one of the most intriguing findings involved Mr. Whitaker’s Store.
It turned out that the store was one of the most frequently visited places, but guests spent, on average, a much shorter amount of time at the store than at the other frequently visited locations. This implies that the store experience as it is currently designed does not fully meet guest expectations – somehow, guests are influenced to move more quickly through that space and, we assume, engage less deeply than they do at other locations in Prairietown.
Of course, this could be caused by many factors. For one thing, the Prairietown store is laid out as one long, dark, narrow corridor. This design means that if more than one group is in the store at once, it begins to feel crowded and can make people feel like they need to move through more quickly.
However, as we analyzed the situation, we began to realize that there is one big difference between the store and every other post in Prairietown: the store is the only place where you can’t really do what you would have done in that place in 1836.
By that I mean, at the school, you can pretend to be a student, or someone interested in sending their children to the school. At each of the homes, you can easily take on the role of someone just out visiting or passing through town. At each of the trades’ shops, you can pretend to be a potential customer or someone seeking advice. But at the store, we haven’t traditionally encouraged you to pretend to be a customer – when you enter the store, you know you don’t have the right kind of money and that you probably won’t be allowed to actually buy anything there.
So, what if we changed that? What if we designed things so that you could have some authentic money and could buy something in the Prairietown store?
We experimented with this idea on a couple of days during 2010 and plan to test it in more detail in 2011. And while there are many factors that we need to think through, we would LOVE to hear your thoughts on one of our biggest questions:
What would you want to be able to buy in Mr. Whitaker’s Store in Prairietown if you had the chance?