How to be Successful in a New Shopping Landscape
The mantra has to be: Always do what is right for the customer, not what is easy for the business. Dr Alan Treadgold
New technology and changing consumer behaviours have re-shaped the UK retailing landscape for generations to come. No longer a purely store-based activity, we are in a world of so-called ‘omni-channel’ retailing where shoppers want to shop 24/7 using smartphones and tablets as well as – or even instead of – visiting physical stores.
The transformation of retailing is certain to accelerate as the next generation of shoppers come into their high spending years.
What will it take to be successful in this new shopping landscape?
Here, retail expert Dr Alan Treadgold outlines the six characteristics crucial for smaller retailers:
1. Be truly customer centric
Of course, all retailers want to be believe that they have the customer at the centre of their thoughts and their business. But do they really? Are you really stocking what the customer wants and are you really organising your business around how the customer wants to engage with you? If they want to shop online as well as in-store, are you making it easy for them to do so?
The mantra has to be: Always do what is right for the customer, not what is easy for the business.
2. Understand the new digital world
The world of technology can seem very scary and alien, not least because it moves so quickly. But it is critically important for small retailers just as much as it is for larger ones to have an understanding of the new digital worlds that their shoppers are living in. Do you have a website that’s fit for purpose? Are you able to take orders online if that’s how shoppers want to engage with you? Do you know what shoppers are saying on social media about the experiences they have with you?
3. Develop and maintain a strong brand
Branding is very definitely not just for “the big end of town”. All businesses have a brand – usually it’s the name above the door and / or the name of the business owner. Brands need to be built; not with expensive advertising campaigns, but by asking and addressing the right questions:
What business are we in? What do we want to be famous for? What experience do we want our shoppers to have? How do we want them to feel about us and to talk about us?
4. Invest time in your personal and business brand
Shoppers are far more loyal to strong brands that know exactly what they stand for and that deliver on what they have led the shopper to expect of them. This isn’t about having a big marketing budget. It’s about committing the time and brainpower to be very clear about who you are and what you stand for and then organising the business to deliver on the position you want to occupy.
5. Promote innovation
Retailing is changing and the way that shoppers want to shop is also changing. In environments of change, the biggest risk of all for a business is to continue doing the same thing. It’s called the risk paradox: by playing safe, what you in fact are doing is introducing more risk of failure by not recognising and addressing both the new challenges you face and the new opportunities that your business has. So promote innovation. Be prepared to test new ideas – merchandise lines, promotions, opening hours and so on. But importantly, be prepared also to accept that not all innovations will be successful. When they’re not, end the trial, learn the lessons and move on.
6. Prioritise effectively
In a world where everything can seem urgent, important and immediate, it is more critical than ever for retail business leaders to be able to prioritise effectively.
Small independent retailers truly are the lifeblood of the UK retail industry. They bring much-need diversity and interest to high streets and shopping centres. The best retailers will be successful in the new era of retailing – not the largest, the best. And the best retailers might just turn out to be the smaller independents, not the largest corporations.