The New Year is upon us and it is a time for many retailers to take stock of their business and begin to put the pieces in place for a successful 2016. Smaller specialty retailers often bemoan their behemoth counterparts for their discounting strategy but there are ways they can combat the large format competition.
Simply stated, go where they go and then, go where they can’t.
The big boys, such as Macy’s, REI, Target and Best Buy are leading the way on omnichannel retailing. Omni channel retailing allows customers to shop across multiple platforms and devices. This trend will gather steam in 2016 and will likely be the expected norm in the near future. Smaller retailers don’t need a mammoth sized budget to compete here but they do need the right POS (point of sale) and inventory management system to be able to implement a more seamless shopping experience and gather customer data. This expense will pay dividends when coupled with clear and measurable goals focused on improving your customer’s shopping experience.
Think about all of the ways people want to shop today and build your store’s strategy accordingly. You can easily blur the lines between online and offline shopping by bringing technology into your store. Consider arming your sales associates with tablets to control the online presentation of your products, order on the spot and have items shipped directly to their home.
Conversely, by allowing your customers to shop on the web and pick up their purchase in the store you add layers and flexibility to the shopping experience. Data does not lie and by creating more sophisticated customer profiles you can do many things from creating more personal marketing messages to allowing customers to track purchase history regardless of whether they purchased on the web or in the store. Each of these concepts is being practiced by large retailers and will become the expected norm for all retailers in short order.
While capitalizing on technology to create a more cohesive shopping experience mimics what the big boxes are doing, smaller retailers will also want to cement the cornerstone of what truly makes them special (and an area that large format stores struggle with), building local community.
Take your store’s brand promise and make it come alive through local events and locally focused social responsibility programs. For example, a running shop might host a guest speaker to talk about the biomechanics of running as a way to avoid injury and run longer with less stress to the body. A clothing boutique could host a fundraiser for a local charity focused on empowering women and girls. Neither of these examples necessarily has a sales promotion linked directly to them but instead bring together and speak directly to their target audience. Creating community solidifies your store’s place in the local market, creates brand ambassadors and allows you to soften the “Always low prices … Always” mentality that many consumers live by.
While customers do look for the lowest price as the number one trigger for a purchase, there are individual strategies that incorporate technology, data, events and social responsibility that, when combined with proper planning and execution, can vault your retail brand beyond the big box competition. Make a list of strategies you will implement in the coming year, set your priorities and begin to knock them down. A year from now, you will be glad you did.
Jim Miller owns Retail Revision which uses a unique approach to help business identify their goals, create a strategy and execute key initiatives. Retail Revision works with both manufacturers and retailers to implement change and help create growth. A unique consumer-centric retail perspective and a passion for delivering results to their clients’ bottom line set them apart.
(Photo above | Cascade Business News)