March 2, 2015 Michael Bickerton
Are customers changing? They sure are, and they are doing so daily. So much is going on and it’s hard for us as retailors to keep adapting. Yet, adapt we must and when we do so customers will welcome us with open arms.
Just to give you a sense of things, this is not the consumer of yesterday. Here are just a few examples. A big majority – 73% – say they have increasingly been using the Internet to research and buy products and services in the past three years. Additionally, their use of social media is disrupting patterns of loyalty, creating new forms of commercial communities and recreating the purchasing process. Just over half of consumers globally tell us they increasingly consider the environmental impact of the product or manufacturer before purchasing.
Now when you factor in the coupon and savings sites like savings.com, retailmenot.com, poachit, FatWallet, Cartwheel and many many more, the consumer has more choices and more value opportunities. As you think about these sites, think about how you use your computer, your iPad and your smartphone, suddenly you begin to see a pattern of opportunity for consumers that was never before available.
The main take away here is that what you know about retail is changing and the longer you’ve been retailing the more change. It’s imperative today to continue learning to embrace the change. The consumer is a moving target and it’s our goal and your goal to ensure that you are part of the consideration process.
Here are few ways you and your brand can take change and turn it into a profit for your business.
1. Keep up with current trends
Consider that if consumer tastes never changed we would probably still be stuck wearing bell-bottom jeans, outrageous prints and tie-dye shirts. Retailors need to acknowledge that change is ever present and consumers like “new”. Trends shift and consumers shift with them.
2. Communicate with your customers
As much as we love email and social media (they are both great tools), we need to communicate with our customers. Want proof? Look at how Walmart uses the greeter at the door. Want to know more about your customers and their needs? Simply ask them and you’ll find they are quite willing to share. You’ll learn all you need to know about your store, your staff and your products. Good retailers will do this through the use of an open house, closed-door sale or party. Lots of information to be provided for the cost of a cup of coffee.
3. Involve your customers in product development
This isn’t a tactic for everyone, but when releasing or considering carrying a new product you might want to engage your customer. Show them picture and ask questions, consumers are insightful and they may think of something that you wouldn’t have originally thought of. Or, they may even tell you if your product is worth manufacturing. Actively seeking out information on a new product that you are planning to launch ensures success.
4. Stay at pace with buying habits
Today consumers are more surely to research, browse and purchase items online just because it is more convenient for those of us who don’t have time to physically go to a store. For modern shoppers we should be catering to their needs as consumers by setting up online (ecommerce), offline and mobile portals to allow them to buy. As an example, have you considered online ordering and pickup and or delivery? Retailers need to participate in every aspect of the buying experience across all purchasing funnels.
5. Personalized shopping experience
In a recent poll conducted by AgilOne, a predictive marketing company, 79% of US customers and 70% of UK consumers would love a more personalized experience while shopping for their favorite brands.
We can create a more personalized experience for our consumers by gathering data and managing relationships with consumers. This is done by tracking what they’ve bought and spent, then using this data to tailor unique offers and recommendations to those specific consumers.
6. Evolve with the consumers around you
Find out who your consumers are, plain and simple. Again, we suggest you ask them, consider a draw, a questionnaire, and use your partners for email lists in an effort to build one of your own. Surveys are useful tools. Neighbourhoods change and consumers change with them, keep connected. You can find some of this information by doing your homework and gathering data about the demographic around you.
Remember the only way to notice change in retail is to do your research and keep in touch with budding trends.
The consumer is changing at a rapid pace and as a retailer we need to address these concerns regularly. Your customer is your partner and your best source of information and opportunity. Your email and social channels are effective tools and nothing is better in retail than the personal touch.
The change, it’s happening with or without your consent.
Michael Bickerton, Raven5 Ltd March 2015