A Guest post by the incredibly insightful and retail guru Stephen Rinaldo creator of Rubicon Retail.
That is the question on many a retailers mind right now & understandably so.
But should the retail sector be overcome with doom & gloom. I say no.
Unfortunately, continued soothsaying that retail is in decline, the GFC is about to hit again & the onslaught of online is destroying bricks & mortar, no wonder retailers are asking themselves, is all this really worth it.
The reason retail is suffering, has nothing to do with the above. Why? Because they are the same factors affecting every other sector yet somehow, those sectors are coping. Retailing is stuck in the Dark Ages. Discounting, hard sell advertising, no innovative brands, the BIG retailers are STILL doing what they’ve done for thirty years. Unfortunately the retail landscape has changed, but they haven’t. And who are the ones screaming the loudest? Don’t listen to them!
My take why retailing isn’t flourishing is quite simple.
1. Retailers continue to compete on price only.
When you do, there is only one winner and that is the customer. Compete on price and you may as well close your doors now. But I hear you say “but if I don’t compete on price, my competitor will take my customers” Well, I say, find WHAT your customer wants that your competitor CANNOT offer. It is simple and the quicker retailers realise that discounting doesn’t work the faster retailing will start to flourish. I’ve always said, “Someone will always be able to sell it cheaper but rarely can someone sell it better.” That is so true in this day and age, and the smart retailer who is successful, does not rely on pricing to be competitive!
2. Think BIG picture!
Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t think BIG. Too many retailers think about sales today, not tomorrow or next month. Their marketing is reactive, short term and this new trend of DIY promotions, fails to communicate who they are and what they offer in a professional and innovative way. Basically it’s boring, unattractive and well, no benefit to the customer. See point One.
Stores and product presentation fail to inspire customers and the entire experience fails to impress and worse still, fails to be enjoyable and memorable. Plan your marketing, create a strategy & promote to grow your business not just sell.
3. Online – Get onboard!
Let’s face it, online is here to stay and if you’re not embracing it, you’re losing out on many of its benefits. Its bricks & mortar’s best tool and utilising it’s true potential can be an asset. See many retailers are not using online well and to be honest are doing it quite badly. It’s the current day tabloid and with many customers (up to 80% researching & making decisions online before purchasing) who are time poor, your online site could be the second store you’ve always wanted yet never thought you could afford! That’s right, understanding how your customer shops could be the difference to a successful online presence or not.
4. Cheaper overseas products.
Deal with it. That’s life. The internet is making the world rather small and a lot closer now. Just like a competitor could set up shop across the street, you can now have a competitor across the Atlantic. Don’t panic. You now have to be innovative and deliver what sets you apart. Build on your own brand, your benefits and your customers will remain loyal no matter the price.
Nothing has really changed, but what is interesting is how retailers are dealing with this new landscape. I’m seeing a return to smart marketing, retailers building innovative BRAND’s and promotions that drive benefit rather than price. I’m seeing more emphasis on providing the right atmosphere that YOUR customer expects, and an experience that the customer remembers and is happy to refer on.
You see, the biggest change is that the customer has less time to shop. The SMART retailer knows this and that doesn’t mean less time to visit an actual store. Quite the opposite. The customer, now short of time, wants a memorable & pleasant experience, efficient use of their time is the key. The right product at the right price is becoming the benchmark. The customer is more savvy now, more knowledgeable and they know what they want at the price they’re willing to pay. That doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest price either. The smart retailer is addressing this!
Retailers need to think smart. Be competitive but innovative. Gone are the days of 70% off. You’re not offering savings you’re saying, until now, you have been OVERcharging! The customer knows this and their loyalty is shifting. Fair & realistic pricing is the way forward. No longer can Australia claim distance and isolation as an excuse for higher pricing. No longer can Australia charge for higher labour costs when the product is imported. No longer can the Australian retailer claim, high margins. The customer knows what a fair margin is, and that is why, competing on price only is not only detrimental to your business, it’s suicidal for the industry as a whole.
There are many successful retailers out there and when you investigate them, none of them compete on price only. They offer the total experience. They know what their brand values are, who their customer is and most importantly, know what their customers wants. Then they simply offer this. How they promote this, is what sets them apart.
With an extensive career in Advertising working with some of Australia’s iconic retailers, Stephen understands retail. He is the accessible, down to earth, jargon free marketer – that gives every business a competitive advantage by teaching & showing them how to create a great brand & promote it through smart marketing & advertising campaigns, affordably & effectively.
This is the 3rd in a series of posts written by Australia’s leading retail experts, all three had the same question “What are your thoughts and predictions on the current state of the retail industry” at no time was it was discussed prior to being published therefore all viewpoints all solely the thoughts from each expert.