With consumer behaviour being harder to predict then ever before, retailers are under immense pressure to create outstanding customer experiences. Whether that’s having the capabilities and infrastructure to offer a seamless omni-channel experience both online and in store, as well as being able to deliver a CRM system which can second guess what customers want to buy. Then throw into the mix, having the ability to create immersive in-store visual merchandising and ‘retailment', whilst continually responding to customer comments on social ideally within a nanosecond. These are just a few of the challenges retailers face in the current climate. Put simply, retail is hard.
We’ve all read about retailers reaching for a CVA solution to avoid collapse, suffice to say only those who truly understand their customer base and can offer something over and above a competitor are likely to survive. However, this point of difference needn’t be a massive investment in the next life changing consumer tech application, it could simply be an evaluation of what the current proposition is and making relevant changes which have a significant positive impact on the bottom line.
Retailers with store portfolios invariably have impressive stores which tick all of the boxes in terms of visual merchandising and general ‘look & feel’. However, the product sat on the shelves, although will be well considered and varied in range can sometimes be formulaic. So for instance, a retailer with 50 stores split into A, B, C categories (typically based on square footage) and therefore, the quantity of stock is adjusted accordingly, and that approach is rolled out across the estate.
This most definitely isn’t the wrong thing to do as clearly a base is required to negotiate contracts with suppliers. However, what if a percentage of shelf space in each of those 50 stores was more relevant to each local community it was selling to? Examples could be the introduction of a new category or implementing extended lines, or perhaps the store supports local producers by selling their products, or it could be that with a bit of fine tuning to the existing offering it just becomes that bit more relevant.
This needn’t stop at selling product, that’s only part of it. Moreover, it expands across how that store interacts and engages with their local audience, both online and offline, therefore, turning a physical space which ‘sells stuff’ into a store who are part of the community, giving it a sense of purpose.
Here’s an example… a pet shop utilises their physical space outside of opening hours to offer free of charge puppy training clubs, staff get to engage with the new ‘pet parents’ on an emotional level whilst showcasing their high knowledge of dog ownership. The pet shop starts to become a place which is more than a shop to buy commodity purchases but is a place where a customer can go for friendly advice on raising their new pup. The customer feels confident in the advice they are being provided, they feel their custom is welcome, in return, they increase their basket spend and they come back again. It’s simple but effective and it doesn’t need to cost the earth, it’s still retailing but just done in a different way!
Naturally, consumers want to buy into retail brands they believe in and can align themselves with, those who talk the same language and understand their needs. Retailers can reap the rewards in customer loyalty if they get this right and can deliver it in a genuine way. Something even the most advanced CRM system couldn’t deliver.
At Chalk + Ward, we’ve developed an approach which evaluates each store on its own individual merit, it’s an extensive audit covering everything from location to product to people and it allows us to work with our retail clients to make informed, commercial decisions on whether they’re putting the right product on the shelves for each individual store catchment area. Then we look at the retail marketing and communications and how messaging is amplified in the local area to a local audience. None of which undermines the core values of the business, it works in conjunction to create a more unique, considered retail experience, therefore, helping retailers give customers what they really want, and not just what they think they might want.