And I'm back! A very belated happy new year to you!
Something I've been thinking about for a while (in between changing nappies and cleaning up baby puke) has been the answer to the question- what should the key focus points be for retailers in 2012- a year that has not got off to a particularly good start, with bad news from Peacocks, Past Times, Best Buy.. I could go on... And in brief I think these must be priority for retailers who recognise the need for a strategy that is proactive rather than reactive, in order to avoid a similar fate in the coming year... Let me know your thoughts as always...
1. Be 'Omni-Channel'
This term was recently introduced by the Aurora group in the form of a new role within the business- but I think this could be the new buzz word for retail (if it isn't, it should be) as I think this word encapsulates what we are now trying to do, and how we should be thinking about how and where we sell from. 'Multi-channel' no longer cuts it as a concept- for a properly joined up strategy we need to recognise that the various fulfilment channels can and should merge with each other (e-commerce/mobile commerce/tablets, or in-store/click & collect as examples).
Don't think about these as distinct channels- your customer certainly isn't. Your customer doesn't shop in 'channels'. They shop YOU, by whatever means they find most convenient at a given point in time, so stop thinking about channels and start thinking about how you provide them with a consistent, high quality, fully integrated experience, regardless of where their contact with you initiates from, with an 'Order anywhere, fulfil anywhere' mindset, with flexible options that make this a reality.
This is probably the most important thing you can start, or continue to implement, this year, and will go some way to future-proofing you for the short-medium term.
2. Store Estate
This year, retailers with a store estate- need to make their bricks and mortar sites work harder for them. Stores are a large operational cost for retailers, and there a number of things that need to be considered in order to realise their full value.
- Rationalisation. Times are tough, costs are as high as they've ever been, and as non-store based sales make up ever greater proportions of total turnover- retailers accordingly need to analyse their store estate and strip out their unprofitable stores, re-diverting spend accordingly to make their remaining stores...
- Destination Points. It's so easy for us to shop with you online, or on our phone, or with pure play e-tailers who are potentially cheaper or offer more... The high street continues to struggle, and our trips to shopping centres are more considered and cautious than in the past. So your branch needs to be a real destination point. I need a reason to go there, to stay in there, and most importantly to shop there. It needs WOW Factor- location, looks, product offering, services- ideally all of these. Additional services such as Click n Collect are a no brainer that delight the customer by providing them with the flexbility to shop how they want.
- Etail Showroom. Last year we saw a number of E-Tailers dip their toes into a high street presence- such as N Brown with Simply Be, and EBay at Christmas, and I think we need to see more of this in the coming year. As we've already pointed out, your offering to the customer needs to be channel agnostic, and focussed simply on providing a consistent, integrated service- pure play e-tailers risk being left behind in this brave new world without offering the added value that a store can provide.
I won't dwell on this point too much as its obvious and I won't teach my grandmother to suck eggs- but no list of retail reccomendations would be complete without pointing out that in today's challenging market, those retailers that are and will continue to suceed, are those which offer something over and above their competitors- something that compels us to shop with them, whether or not we had already decided to dust off our wallets. There are of course a number of points that you can compete on- Product Offering, Price, Customer Service, Innovation. The Goliaths of retail are excellent at a number of these- I'm thinking John Lewis of course, but also someone like Primark- they aren't just cheap, their product offering is also excellent and probably the best within the value sector.
It is worth noting that implementation of a sucessful social media strategy, being based on carefully defined objectives that are relevant to your business and your customer, can be a key way of forging ahead of the competition, in terms of both customer service and innovation. Customers want and increasingly expect responsiveness from the businesses they are dealing with (or considering dealing with)- a two way dialogue, where you engage with them on the platforms they most commonly use. It's a business area that is still being overlooked to a degree, but as social media use continues to grow, it will become increasingly significant so don't get left behind.
And there we have it. These are I think the 'Killer Apps' for retailers who want to make 2012 a year to remember, not one to forget.
And what do you think?