Running a successful retail business is a balancing act and to be successful you need to be able to juggle multiple demands with surprising twists and turns at any minute. From balancing financial accounts to identifying in-store merchandising strategies and more, it’s fair to say a retailers’ work is never done. It goes without saying that this can get often be overwhelming… yet when you allow yourself time to slow down, evaluate your business and welcome expert insight, things suddenly do not have to feel so overwhelming.
To help keep your store relevant in an increasingly competitive retail industry, consider the below 6 tips on how to excel in commerce from leading business experts.
#1.Think of Your Business as Providing a Service Instead of Just Selling Products"Being in tune with your shoppers' needs and preferences will help inform every business decision you make including choosing what products to stock, where to advertise, and what type of above-and-beyond extras would mean the most to your specific customers.”
“For example, Saltwater, an independent mommy & me boutique will gift wrap purchases for busy mom customers and deliver the packages to shoppers' doorsteps after closing for the day. Groove, a children’s boutique, has a service where kids can set up a gift registry before their birthday party ensuring correct clothing sizes while preventing duplicate gifts and returns. Any retailer can sell the latest trends, but shoppers most appreciate the thoughtfulness and great experience.”
Meaghan Brophy, Editorial Director, Independent Retailer
#2. Understand Your Customer and Focus on Their Unmet NeedsFirst of all, “Take a deep breath. There is no retail apocalypse. Retail numbers in the U.S. are really strong, with the best Q1 numbers in four years, and Canada's retail industry continues to post year-over-year growth month after month. Consumers continue to shop. Just not always the way they used to.”
Then, “Get your team together in a room with a whiteboard. On the vertical axis write ‘Relevant to our Customer,’ on the horizontal axis write ‘Differentiation.’ Stop working on anything in the bottom right quadrants, get wildly effective at the elements in the top left, and promote/create/enhance what falls into top right - that is your retail Zen point.”
Finally, “Focus on what's happening in your store. No matter how skilled, creative & relentless your marketing team is at driving store traffic, flat to declining footfall in your stores is not a short-term trend. That doesn't mean in any way they won't die trying… but turn more of your time and treasure to optimizing the selling experience and get those in-store conversions up. Simply stated, make more happen with the folks already in your store. Organically retailers are already reporting higher conversions, as omni-consumers research online and arrive at your store with elevated levels of intent. Now take that intent and invest on enhanced tools and training for your associates, leverage state-of-the-art traffic and movement analysis, make your product displays ‘Instagrammable’ and lastly remove any barriers (real or perceived) to an awesome omnichannel shopping experience.”
Michael LeBlanc, Senior Retail Advisor, Retail Council of Canada
#3. Your Store Has to Be Different to Stand Out and Attract Customers“We hear the words ‘in-store experience’ bandied around a lot, but in many stores that just means good customer service. A true in-store experience is much more than friendly associates selling stuff – it’s all the cool and wonderful things that happen while you are there that you can’t wait to tell your friends about. Great in-store experiences thrive on word of mouth.”
“One of the things retailers need to do is consistently run in-store events and promotions. And by events and promotions, we don’t mean running a weekly sale – that’s a given. We’re talking about events that get shoppers excited to come to your store, maybe even for the first time. Holiday Open Houses, Kids Store Tours, Santa Paws, Girls Night Out, and Create Your Own Coupon Sales are just a few of the in-store events we have personally tested and encourage our retailer clients to run.”
“We always say that you need to run one MAJOR and one to two MINOR events in your store each and every month. Major events are door spinners that build traffic. And sales. Minor events attract a smaller crowd – think trunk shows, demos, and classes – but are still important in building store sales and visibility. Too many retailers leave the in-store event option on the table or worse, run them only sporadically. Retailing is like an election and shoppers vote with their wallets - store events and promotions keep your store on their radar.”
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender, Keynote Speakers and Consultants, Kizer & Bender
#4. Keep Connecting with Your Most Valuable Customers“Use your customer lists to stay in contact with them regularly with something other than a coupon. These should be a list of people who have paid you money and they are the most likely to want to give you more provided you provided an exceptional experience. Send out helpful how-to articles that don't all require a purchase from your store. Serve others first, then collect the reward.”
Bob Phibbs, Keynote Speaker and Retail Sales Training Expert, The Retail Doctor
#5. Create Social Media Goals and Stick to Them“My advice for retailers looking to gain more success in their commerce efforts is to have a social media strategy and to stay up-to-date with social. Social media is one of the best tools to drive web traffic and online sales, but most retailers don’t have a strategy. They just post randomly or occasional run ads without tying each effort back to a business goal. Start with your business goals, then reverse engineer your goals to create a strategy that consistently keeps you in front of your perfect customer groups and drives business growth. Retailers need to continuously stay on top of and often modify their strategy since social media changes so frequently. It’s critical to your success to stay on top of changes and trends so you don’t get left behind.”
Crystal Vilkaitis, Retail Social Media Expert and Speaker, Social Edge
#6.Track and Analyze Your Company’s Shipping Expenses“Retailers can strengthen selling opportunities by having smart shipping strategies in place. Analyzing shipping data and parcel spend, then taking action on those results is vital. Proper logistics management will reduce overall organizational costs while providing faster and cheaper shipping options for your customers.”
Brian Gibbs, President, Refund Retriever LLC.
A final piece of advice from yours truly?
In order to excel in commerce as a retailer, it’s important to stay up on the latest news and advice from leading voices within the retail industry. Follow the above tips and check in regularly to see what is new on ASD Insider, which shares all the important topics and trend insight facing retailers today. For 100+ free retail seminars attend ASD Market Week - sign up today.
By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, RetailMinded.com