I’m programmed to notice things when I go shopping; specifically, I’m in tune with what other stores, of all sizes, types and niches, are doing to create a better experience for customers.
   Recently, I was at one of my favorite mall clothing stores, Altar’d State. I’m quite familiar with its layout and offerings, and I noticed instantly a new addition positioned near the dressing rooms: a small farmhouse-style table, upon which sat a book and pen. A sign made it clear this was a prayer request book and asked customers in need of support to add their prayer requests so the store could “share our voices.”
   Now, a prayer-request book is definitely in alignment with Altar’d State’s brand. The Tennessee-based retailer isn’t shy about promoting the Christian faith, via spiritual messages and bible verses sprinkled throughout, as well as a dedication toward giving back.
   I understand fully that a prayer request book isn’t appropriate for all stores, nor am I suggesting such. But at Altar’d State it works, giving customers who shop there a way to feel further connected to and supported by that brand. I know I felt immediately better and more positive toward the brand after adding my own request, a prayer for all the homeless animals during the brutal bitter cold spell.
   One lesson: constantly be on the lookout for little things you can do to enhance the in-store experience in alignment with your brand. Some of the most meaningful might not cost much, and inspiration may strike in the most unexpected places.
   But there was another lesson within those pages. I spent a few minutes browsing through the prayer-request book and was immediately struck by the serious, heavy burdens some people were carrying (disease, threat of homelessness, life-altering secrets). I know it’s naïve, but when I walk into an aesthetically pleasing, well-merchandised store full of smiling faces, good energy and cute products, it gives the impression that everyone around me is carefree. You forget, quite quickly, that those smiling faces could be masking some serious burdens. These problems could easily impact the way someone acts and comes across as you are working with them.
   That book was a great reminder that, no matter how joyful the occasion or beautiful the environment, you never know what’s going on beneath the surface with someone. Give grace to your brides, your employees and the people you encounter in your daily life. They will appreciate and remember your brand for all the right reasons.