For most independent retailers, there is always the constant pressure of reacting and adjusting to what Big Box and Internet Giants are offering the consumer. And, as you are well aware, that is typically low price points and near-instant delivery. But, I think that if you play to your strengths, you’ll find that you have much more to offer when it comes to your core competencies. Here are a few areas I always suggest to our buying group members to focus on.
Know your market position. Our buying group is composed of an assortment of luxury, high-tech, high-service, high-touch operations. Meaning we are somewhat exclusive by nature and we have a high bar to meet as it pertains to fulfilling our brand promise. Our clients’ expectations of what to expect when they step into our world are quite high. And everything we do should reinforce that message.
Know your customers. For most specialty retailers, you’re really delivering solutions and products one customer at a time. That means your retail space and staff need to personalize everything from when that customer enters your store, to how they are greeted, and how you focus on their individual needs. This carries over to the questions you ask, the various solutions you run down with the customer, and ultimately, how you present a customized, personalized solution that meets or exceeds expectations.
You hear people talk about the experience economy. But it is not just about letting customers touch and feel and play with products in your store. The experience economy is also about delivering a great retail shopping experience. Delivering to the customer exactly what they need, even if they weren’t aware that that was the solution that best fit their expectations.
In order to exceed expectations, you need to know your customer. Which means you need to focus all of your attention on them, one sale at a time.
Deliver the experience. It’s no longer enough to sell via a conference room and PowerPoint presentation. Rethink your showroom or retail space in order to show people what they don’t know they don’t know. Demonstrate products that customers haven’t necessarily thought about, in a hands-on fashion. This drives excitement and opens the door to conversations about what the right solution actually is to meet customer expectations.
Social media and market awareness. The bottom line is that we are not mass retailers and our media spend has to be targeted at our customers. So go local. If you understand who your customer is, then you know where to find them online. Local events, community news, comparative brands they shop for – these are all micro targets that your social media manager can target and tie into. Your SEO keyword search patterns should optimize local instead of global. And then translate that messaging over your social channels.
And speaking about social channels of communication, continue to evaluate which platforms you are posting on. Again, you should be evaluating which platforms your customers are on – because that’s where you’re going to find them!
Don’t be afraid of product evolution and change. Take a step back and do a quick business evaluation. What did your business look like five years ago? What’s changed? And where do you think it’s going to be in the next few years?
One of the best pieces of advice I would give is to not be afraid of change. It’s inevitable. You have to constantly look at product evolution and ask yourself if these are the tools you need to meet customer expectations. Embrace new categories if they add to the solutions you can offer your clients to stand out from the cookie-cutter mentality of big box. Consider new services that enhance and differentiate you from the pack.
In order to stay relevant and unique in your market, you have to realize that you are the specialist. You have to begin by defining who your customer is and how to personalize and tailor solutions for them they might have never considered. Deliver an exciting and innovative retail experience. Speak to them personally across your social media channels. Continually evaluate your product and service mix so you have the right tools in your toolbox. If you focus on your strengths, you will continue to be an invaluable resource and solutions provider.
CEO and President of ProSource