Not telling you how to suck eggs, but this should be your strategic focus

Not being a retailer (any more), has its advantages. Having better hours is one. The other is having an objective perspective on the important issues without being hampered by tradition, politics and momentum. Therefore I would like to propose and outsider’s take on what should be on the retailers’ perpetual agenda at the moment. (Some more obvious than others – but added for completeness anyway.)

Inside Retailing (the magazine) had a nice feature article that references some these topics below – you should subscribe if you don’t already.

1.     Supply Chain

Finding suppliers who are co-operative, cost-effective and innovative is a tough job. Many suppliers are not ideal retail partners and replacing them with ones who are would be a top concern. Understanding your suppliers’ agenda about the internet is top of the list.

Without product that is delivered at a price-point that consumers are willing to pay and that provides sufficient margins, staying in business is nearly impossible. Having a partnership mentality is crucial. If price was all that mattered, we’d all be dropshipping.

2.     Mobile

I can’t even quote the stats because I am certain that it increases by the week; but consumers are now connected to the world via their smartphones. It is already their primary means of communications, and in the near future that device will be come their wallet and their ID.

If you can’t deal with mobile customers, soon you won’t be in business at all. (Most categories.)

3.     Channel Integration

Consumers are increasingly seeking a seamless shopping experience. The current generation of shoppers see no reason (and there is no reason) why a store can’t be ‘shopped’ anywhere anytime in any format.

It is actually NOT about multi-channel or omni-channel; it is about having ONE channel, one experience and one price point.

This is frictionless retailing.

4.     Experience

eTailers are opening stores – and the one that surprised me most is www.shoesofprey.com –  and B&M retailers are opening websites to claw back some of their territory. The point is; this retail channel of the future will be defined and judged by how the customer experiences it. (And by experience I include the online- and offline experience.)

It is easier than ever to leave a store and shop elsewhere; and in fact, given (3) above, they will leave your store without leaving your store.

Note that customer experience is not customer service.

5.     Store Configuration

Stores are designed based on an ancient shopkeeper’s model. They are large inefficient on every level (from logistical to experiential) and do not reflect the new retail realities.

Contrary to popular belief, landlords won’t take a bath (maybe a dip) with rental reductions - they will evolve the store formats (along with innovative retailers) to better reflect shopping habits and new consumer behaviours.

6.     Community/ Localisation

Connecting with your community – the tribe – is crucial to future success. We are entering a few decades which will be dominated by “WE” (instead of ME) and retailers who cannot find that social connection with a viable community will struggle for sustainability.

Business may thrive briefly whilst there is a unique offer or a very special price, but as soon as that fades, connectedness will win out again.

7.  Culture

Finding, training and retaining the right staff is and must be an ongoing priority. Because of cost pressures, retail wages (at the ground floor) are at the lower end of the scale and it is an industry plagued by image problems make it a less attractive career choice for many.

I see too many businesses that give up and ‘settle’ for what they can get. There is more to creating an effective workforce that can truly ‘live’ your brand than paying more money.

HOW this is done should be a major concern of all retail executives on an ongoing basis.

8. Bonus Item: Trimming the agenda

What you leave off the agenda is just as important as what you put on. There will always be issues that clamour for attention. And top of the list is: Social Media.

This is no more or no less important than TV or PR or any other marketing activity. Learning how to be a ‘social’ business is important – as covered under #6 above. However to elevate Social Media to strategic agenda item (permanently) is a folly. By all means use the tool – it has great potential – but it is not a substitute for a marketing strategy.

Actually I lied about having better hours. It’s just as bad. But at least I am sitting down more often than not J

Have fun. (Really.)


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