Running a successful business is no small endeavor, making the success stories behind iconic brands even more inspiring. Take Walt Disney, for example, who after overcoming adversity and failures (including surviving the bankruptcy of his first film company), managed to revolutionize the animation industry and created one of the most profitable and admired companies in the world. Disney’s tenacity and talent finally paid off, but what truly made his company flourish and prosper is the amount of work that went into forming good business practices and sticking to them. The importance of building consistency is particularly important in the retail business, as it is what will eventually determine the reputation and prestige of a brand.
1. Mastering the Basics
Exploiting powerful technology tools can help retailers drive higher ROI and prevent common mishaps. With the convergence of the digital and physical worlds, customers have come to expect a seamless customer experience across all channels and even greater convenience. While adding trendy new customer experience bells and whistles may be tempting, customers won’t be impressed if retailers fail to master the art of pricing, product availability, and basic customer service. Retailers should thus ensure they offer frictionless customer experiences before focusing on the rest. According to Salesforce, 50 percent of customers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs. For instance, when popular items are flying off the shelves, retailers should quickly restock and offer the possibility for customers to receive email notifications when the items do come back in stock. Demand management solutions can not only help retailers forecast and shape customer demand, but they also enable them to execute careful assortment and allocation plans to help them better plan their inventory and avoid out-of-stock situations in the first place.
2. Making Smart Technology Investments
Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming a major disruptive force in the retail industry. Gartner found that while retail CIOs believe AI will transform their businesses, only the top performers are currently investing in it. The retailers not yet investing in AI are losing out on opportunities to reduce costs and grow revenues with every day that they fail to embrace digital innovation. Netflix, for example, is well-known for having created a sophisticated recommendation engine that uses AI to improve the customer experience by making personalized content recommendations. Wired found that Netflix splits viewers up into more than two thousand taste groups and then makes recommendations based on the groups customers are in. Retailers could learn a lot about personalization and innovation from digital disruptors like Netflix. AI-powered solutions can be seen as a way for retailers to automate tasks, gain in efficiency, and improve the customer experience.
3. Constantly Reinventing The Brand
While even the most successful companies need a brand refresh once in a while, it does not mean that they must change everything and start from scratch either. As your business grows and evolves, you will want to keep it relevant all while remaining true to your brand. Instagram is a great example of a company that managed to keep up with the times but kept its brand’s soul intact. While the platform hasn’t fundamentally changed since it first launched in 2010, Instagram introduced new interesting features over the years that kept customers engaged. From stories to questions, stickers, and face filters, or even the ability to include several photos and videos in a single post, Instagram always finds new ways to build customer enthusiasm… and that’s what any brand should be all about. While reinventing your brand requires immense courage and audacity, it is one of the best strategies retailers can use to drive customer loyalty and keep a long-term relationship with their customers. Failure to innovate and evolve with the times has needlessly caused the demise of countless retailers. Evolving into a data-driven organization can also help retailers keep an eye on the aspects of their business that most require intervention and take the steps necessary to evolve if they don’t hit their goals.
4. Giving Customers What They Want Before They Even Know It Themselves
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs
Retail visionaries all know too well the importance of surprising customers to keep them interested. In fact, many extremely popular technology products were originally predicted to fail – but did just the opposite. For instance, almost every time Apple launches a new product (e.g. an iMac, iPhone, iPad, etc.), the critics predict that it will fail miserably, yet Apple keeps proving them wrong with a solid market cap of $1 trillion. So, what can retailers learn from all of this? While knowing your competitors is key, simply copying them will never make your brand truly stand out. Customers do in fact enjoy unexpected surprises once in a while, and this is also how retailers can keep the magic alive.