Back To Basics

I realize this is an incredibly rough patch for retailers and apologize, in advance, for sounding too critical. I need to remind myself that it’s easy to find faults.  Had I been a retailer I too would be crying myself to sleep.  But, I’m not a retailer.

Why is this such a bad stretch? We all realize consumer spending is at an all time low but is this really why your sales are down 60%? You’ve always prided yourself on being a niche retailer so why are you looking at consumer confidence index these days?

See I believe this correction was needed.  Too many retailers simply carry products manufactured by other people, who in turn, simply produce those goods in third world countries.  Any retailer in this category should be happy to have survived this long.  According to Porter you should have gone extinct a long time ago.

Not everyone is hemorrhaging though, and we have success stories along the entire retail continuum.  Companies like J. Crew and Vermont Teddy Bear Company.

Retailers should model after Google.  The job of a retailer is to filter millions of prospective products and create a neat list of 50-100 for their customer-base.  Like Google, they need to police bad products and remove them from the results mix.  Like Google, they need to hone listening skills and know customers better than they know themselves.

Customers leave a ton of data but to capture real insight one needs to look beyond sales data, understanding why prospective shoppers walked into to your store, looked at products but ultimately decided to not buy is just as important.

If you don’t have a deep data warehouse and sophisticated mining tool then simply pick up the phone and talk to customers.  If you don’t have customers’ telephone numbers invite your husbands/wives/girlfriends/boyfriends and ask them what they think about the ‘cool’ stuff you carry.  If your typical customer persona visits the store and then leaves without a purchase chase them down and ask what they were looking for, ask what they thought about your store and products.  Now I am not suggesting you to do these things literally, you know your product and customer better than I could ever.  Take this information and convert it into something that would work on your customer.

This is an incredibly good time to acquire customers who are frustrated by the retailers they currently do business with.

2 thoughts on “Back To Basics

  1. I agree with your comments. I have consulted with over 150 independent retailers and it is the small minority that really look to understand what their customers want, far too many just sell what they like and they think everyone will like it too. It is essential retailers understand what they really deliver to a customer, and it includes 1. a leisure experience, 2. inspirational ideas 3. convenience and 4. solution to their need (to buy a certain product). Deliver to this mix in the right way and more retaler can win.

  2. Hi David. I can forgive small retailers because their customer base is too small and product-lines too narrow to reveal purchase trends. It is the big retail chains that have every advantage to align product and customer expectations and yet, often fail to do so.

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