RETAIL RESILIENCE – A HOW-TO avoid a collapse in retail
I have restricted my consumption of news twice a day now. I read articles on retail from all over the world and speak to my counterparts on the other side of the globe. The world seems pretty bleak right now, and while many wish they could open their stores immediately, I do worry that if that were the case, the results might not be what they expected.
In Australia, physical retail is still allowed to trade (even hairdressers) with social distancing measures, however, still, many retailers have shut as there are simply no customers out shopping.
But there is a silver lining in all this (believe it or not), that the pandemic has given every business cloud-cover to transform and reassess what business they are in and how they need to adapt once things normalise. There are very few opportunities in the day-to-day which presents an environment to get on your best ever course.
There is no escaping that many retailers will be unable to stay afloat. COVID tipped them over the edge, but 9 times out of 10 they were on a path of destruction anyway.
Overnight consumer behaviour has shifted. It has accelerated adoption of technology and online ordering from audiences which may have never given it a go (heck even my mother-in-law bought her washing machine from Noel Leeming online and started using online banking and she isn’t what one would call tech-savvy).
The term contactless delivery and contactless pick-up is now part of everyday language.
Shoppers will be shopping differently, their expectations will be different, their interactions will be different and their commitment to brands will also change.
What do I need to do to position for success?
There are some clear indicators;
- Retailers that have solid e-commerce platforms are in better shape than those who rely solely on physical stores
- Over-footprinted networks will need to right size
- Retailers who know who their customers are and have the ability to connect with them are well positioned
- If you sell luxury products or rely significantly on visitors/tourists – you are going to do it tough
- The list goes on.
Good enough is not going to cut it. Use the cloud-cover to pivot and get your business in shape through our
7 R’s Resilience Approach
1. RETHINK - RESHAPE
What customer problem does your retail proposition solve?
Anyone can sell a bike, a jersey, a pillow or a pair of shoes.
What is it that you offer that no one else does the same as you?
And apply the “really” lens to it. How many times someone has told me “we have exceptional service” for me to say “really…like really?”
What makes it more exceptional than anyone else, or is it simply same-same? If you don’t have clear space then you are likely in the middle – and the middle always gets squeezed due to its irrelevance.
Rethink how you can pivot to be more relevant to solving a customer problem and reshape accordingly.
How do you deliver your offer to the market? What are the channels where customers can connect with you and purchase from you? If you don’t have a transactional e-commerce site, now is the time to sort that out. This doesn’t have to be difficult or costly, but you need to take action immediately.
Customers have been exposed to eCommerce and will be forced and want to continue to shop frictionless and contactless. The reality is shoppers in the future will continue to use all channels to ensure they can shop whenever, where ever and however they want.
Remember, a picture needs to tell a thousand words, so the information and imagery of how you communicate your products is vital.
Who is my target audience and what do they look like? Will they be different now? Are there new audiences that I am now more relevant to?
If you sell homewares then “anyone who has a home” is not your audience.
There are rationale, functional and emotional reasons why a customer will choose you. If you are a retailer specialising in NZ designers then your audience will be different to a retailer who sells replica homewares and furniture.
Customers are going to gravitate towards local, community and Kiwi businesses so that they can help support businesses through this tough time. Are there different geographical areas that are now more important to you.
What do we do in our business? How do we do it? Are our processes efficient? Do we double handle stuff? Can we automate aspects to free our people to do other important stuff? Are we focusing on what’s important or just what is urgent (firefighting)?
An example we see quite often is the “Go to market” processes for promotional activity. The flow of actions and activities around the promotional planning and implementation process that uses multiple spreadsheets, briefs and then various pieces of POS and advertising material that is simply thrown away or not put up in stores to be compliant.
This is an area where not only significant cost savings can be made but the effectiveness and efficiency of a program can be delivered in a way that brings in more sales.
A brand/business is evaluated by the sum of the parts in which a customer interacts with that brand/business. From the team members, website, store, advertising, word of mouth, the list goes on.
What we have seen through the pandemic are some brands and businesses step up. Step up so much we simply want to give them our custom. Others have behaved in a way that makes us want to reject them because they haven’t exhibited the values and behaviour we want from someone we buy from.
It’s critical that you curate and manage the narrative and story about your brand and business in a way that is your best self. Something that is genuine, authentic, relevant and true. If we look to an extreme worst-case scenario in the US, two big-box retailers didn’t protect their own team members well enough through social distancing practises and team members died as a consequence of their inaction. But they were on TV saying how much “they care about everyone’s health and wellbeing.”
Cotton-on continued to advertise their sales and dispatch clothing from Australia to NZ in a time where other apparel retailers were precluded from trading. The barrage of feedback has had a significant impact on their brand and sales.
If you haven’t already, reconnect with your customers and raise your profile (relevantly) in their lives. Being relevantly proactive and talking with, not at customers will ensure a continuity of relationship.
Now is the perfect time to continue advertising and communicating to customers but in a way that is relevant. If they can’t buy from you, what information, insight, education, etc can you share with them that enhances their life (or again, solves their problems).
I have had a wonderful apparel retailer show me how to reorganise my wardrobe properly (I haven’t done it, but kept the email) and a furniture and homewares company I love, share their favourite reads (which I have noted, as I must be as cool as they are). Rather than speak at me, they are inspiring me and comforting me and when they start selling next week, they will continue engaging me.
7. REAL VALUE
These lockdown circumstances combined with the broad availability of many shopping conveniences which have been withheld means customers will be seeking product information, product choice and different types of access more and more.
Relying on simply opening your website (or doors) will no longer be good enough. You will need to be remarkable in delivering real value.
That doesn’t mean immediately moving towards the vortex of discounting. Yes, you will need to stimulate purchasing, but think hard about how you can add value to the transaction and relationship.
An apparel retailer launching their new winter range offered a 20% discount off your next purchase if you ordered something from the range now, to be delivered when we move to Level 3. Remember value can be in the way you deliver, provide service or value the relationship.
Prior to COVID-19, there were many NZ retailers offering remarkable value in product and convenience and have been growing sales, profits and stores. Others have delivered new and unique experiences and have been growing, while others have delivered poor financial results. Those with poor results are largely those trapped in the mediocre middle. They have been trapped in “old retail” thinking and have consciously or unconsciously rejected reinvention. Don’t be a casualty. Get resilient.
RetailX has developed a Due Diligence Audit which has been applied to retailers of all sizes to grow and optimise their business. The 5 step process identifies the clear opportunities and nuggets of gold not being utilised effectively in the business. Our observations, insights and recommendations provide actionable outcomes delivering cost savings, stronger profitability and increases in sales. The ultimate resilience review.
Find out if a Due Diligence Audit is right for your business. Contact Juanita@retailx.co.nz or 0274 768 073