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8 plain-speaking tips for re-energising retail

When faced with an ever-rising tide of ‘future of retail’ predictions and recommendations on what your strategy should be to ride the current storm, sometimes it’s useful to cut the rhetoric and get back to basics.

So here they are – eight plain-speaking tips for re-energising retail:

1. Make it easy for your customers to get what they want

Be honest about the problems you’re trying to solve, and if they’re not benefiting the customer, shelve them for now. Find out their key pain points and do something about them, from providing online ordering in-store to offering virtual consultations with built-in shopping features, because there’s nothing more frustrating than going through a whole conversation and not being able to buy what you’ve been talking about there and then.

2. Only use what works

It might be tempting to sign up for ‘new’ gadgets and products that promise to deliver an instant solution to all of your problems. The truth is that there is no magic bullet - you’ll get a far better (and longer term) return if you invest in connecting with customers wherever they feel comfortable and using your data effectively.

3. Trust your store associates with technology and decision-making

We asked 1,000 sales colleagues across all types of retail outlet how they felt about technology. The results speak for themselves – 74% said their employers should do more to provide them with the digital tools they need to do their job properly, with the same percentage stating that it would have a positive effect on morale and productivity, while 63% said that tablets would help them increase sales by up to 30%. Add to this the fact that they just won’t be able to do their jobs and deliver virtual as well as in-store experiences without the right tech tools and it makes business sense to capitalise on this enthusiasm to work with retail technology – it will increase profits as well as safety and satisfaction for store associates and customers.

4. Tell people what’s available – let customers know what they can do in-store and at home

It’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked – cross-channel promotion of the services available online and in-store enables you to make the most of any initiatives you’ve already invested in. Developing a terrific virtual consultation service will have no value to the customer if they don’t know about it - clear messages both online and in-store about how to access a safe, seamless customer experience benefit business, colleagues and customers.

5. Get your pilot up and running now – you can test, learn and improve on the go

With the ability to carry out low-cost, high-speed development over costly large-scale rollouts, it’s possible to put together a streamlined version of a product or process improvement in a matter of weeks, where more traditional methods might take months. You can build, measure and learn what works through a short-term, small-scale pilot, then adjust any features which don’t contribute to either customer experience or business results and use the output to build a business case for further rollout.

6. Decide what you need to do and you could be good to go in weeks

The importance of offering a safe, seamless and personalised customer experience is so clear that it is surprising that more retailers haven’t committed to it, yet some still do not have a strategy in place. One of the key reasons is that those responsible for making sure their business remains profitable are faced with so many decisions over where to invest that they stall because they don’t want to make the wrong choice. However, making no choice is definitely more damaging than making the wrong one – trying out new technology in a controlled pilot enables you to test, learn and, if necessary, move on without risk to budgets or business.

 7. Don’t be afraid of ditching unsuccessful initiatives

Once you accept change as a learning process, it is much easier to avoid becoming wedded to a single tech solution which, if it turns out not to suit your business, could prove to be an expensive folly. True pioneers know when to ditch an initiative which isn’t working and use the lessons to make better decisions next time.

8. Make yourself future-proof by seeing data as an asset instead of a pain

It’s vital to recognise information as a strategic asset. Now is the time to move on from a product-centric, tactical approach to information, accept that data is central to success and embrace its strategic value. This means ‘looking under the bonnet’ to truly understand the data which drives the engine – and the growth of the business. It’s just not possible to offer customers relevant, consistent, up-to-date information which enhances their experience and makes their lives safer and easier without the data behind every business activity, which is why information needs to be brought from its traditional back-office position to its rightful place at the very front of retail strategy.

While they won’t solve every strategic issue, these tips will certainly enable you to start tackling your key challenges and get a process in place for connecting with customers in-store and at home. It has never been more important to focus and act on the simple steps you can take that will really make a difference.

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Red Ant, 12th August 2020
8 tips for re-energising retail

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