# 1. Pause and reflect, monitor and analyse
Reflecting, monitoring and analysis. All extremely important, but for many retailers; completely forgotten.
Naturally it’s easier to carry on doing what you’re doing. It’s safe, comfortable and requires less and less thought each time you carry out your usual duties. But by cocooning yourself in autonomy, you’re formulaing a barrier between your business and future developments at macro level.
Who knew that the ecomony would turn so quickly in 2008? Could we have predicted the unprecidented growth of technology in operations and communications over the last five years? While your answers may be ‘yes, no’, the reality is that a business should be flexible enough to respond in a timely mannor to macro-level changes.
By monitoring activity, customer perception and buyer habits, by training in new forms of business such as social media, mobile and online selling, by assessing the uptake (and profitability) of these channels, a retailer can confidently use the facts to make decisions for the future.
It’s up to management to decide the strategic direction of the business and use internal and external advisers to pinpoint where ‘soft points’ are. If you’re HMV and Amazon are steamrolling all your hard-earned customers, then understand why and use that knowledge to start leveling the playing field.
What do your customers want – lower prices, online access for purchases, innovative products, trending products, a refreshing brand that listens to them?
# 2. Educate and up-skill
I remember my first job in Fashion and the moment when I realized that my dream of being a Fashion Designer wasn’t going to happen. I won’t bore you with the details, but I was scared. I was scared because my skills up until that point were focused on Fashion design, and little else.
The savior for me was to consider what role was sustainable, a growth area and of course, one that would yield a decent salary. It was at that point that I learnt about websites, digital media, databases, marketing and began to feel the value of my new skills. After one year I had a new job as Marketing Co-ordinator for a digital marketing consultancy and after 9 years+ in the field, I now know the power of that choice.
Up-skilling and re-educating yourself is vital. I can’t stress that enough. Never stop learning. Make sure that you (shop/store owner) are aware of new advancements and skill gaps. That’s yours AND those of your staff members.
If stock control and ordering is inefficient, move to a seamless system and let the technology manage the process for you. The benefits will outweigh the initial costs. If your TV advertising is falling short and costing too much, then look at high-value cost reduction methods. Social media has proved itself to be an exceptional marketing tool for B2C (business to consumer) marketing.
# 3. Evolve to innovate
The wheel was invented in 3500 BC and began as a wooden kind-of circle. Now look at the wheels of today – tyres of various sizes, materials and treads. Over time we have taken the wheel and improved it. Naturally it has evolved as we have.
Your business needs to do the same, otherwise it will be an ancient wooden wheel next to an elegant rubber tyre.
It’s still a wheel, and it’s purpose hasn’t changed. All that transpired is new research, ideas and technology, that have prompted us to ask the questions
- ‘Can we make this better?’
- ‘Is there another way?’
- ‘Considering how people ‘drive’, do they need something else/more?’
In pursuit of being better, finding another way or considering differing needs means being willing to explore the possibility that what we have needs to change. That’s a powerful thought (and not always an easy one).
Innovation has been hailed recently as Ireland’s way out of the ‘R’ phase. If we’re honest, innovation was always the smart way of beckoning in a new normal. Innovation caused people to take notice – both staff members and the public. So how can a retailer use innovation to stay in business?
It’s one of my favorites and crops up on numerous occasions, but Tescos virtual stores was an innovation that really paid off. First in Korea and then onto Gatwick, UK, virtual stores are made for the people of today. Why? Today’s people are time-conscious, are increasingly using smartphones for longer periods and for more than calls. They are drawn to technology and virtual stores are located at points where the majority commute or convene.
These are just a few ways that retailers can consider thinking about in order to stay stable in the marketplace. If you are a retailer, comment with some of the recent changes you’ve made to your business or the struggles you’re experiencing.