Retail… Mediocre is no longer acceptable

Retail… Mediocre is no longer acceptable
Published: 1 June 2018

2017 was understandably a rollercoaster year for the retail industry. And 2018 began with a number of the high street’s long standing brands fighting for their lives along with some surprising mergers.

So what do I mean by mediocre? Simply, middle of the road. Those that plod along operating the same business models, offering uninspiring or irrelevant product ranges, bland store formats and experiences and a lack of truly integrated cross-channel experience… I think you get the message!

The landscape is changing with customers at the forefront, and make no mistake they are an unforgiving bunch. Technology, globalisation and simple curiosity have allowed consumers to set the pace. We live in a world where loyalty only gets you so far and cynics would argue that there is no longer such a thing as customer loyalty. Having seen the fantastic ways in which some brands have created agile and constantly changing business models to satisfy consumer needs, and in some cases create a need, I would argue customer loyalty is still possible, but it must be earnt.

What most experts are in agreement on is that retail is undergoing an evolution, and with that must come reflection, uncomfortable questions and most importantly action. The future is bright for retailers, providing they don’t fall into the mediocre category! The pressures on the industry are being regularly debated. Areas for consideration include:

  • Consumers want an experience. They don’t need to set foot in a store if they don’t want to, so you need to give them a reason to go.
  • The right technology will enhance the customer journey and their relationship with your brand.
  • Try new formats. Recognise that ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t apply. Location and target audience matter.
  • Personalisation is going to become a bigger factor of the decision making process. Customers want to feel unique and be treated that way.
  • Use your data to understand your customer and find the best channels and language in which to engage with them. Mobile and social media are driving this.
  • Customers will always want choice which means that there is a place for both bricks and mortar and online retail, but you need get both right.

Businesses don’t suddenly become good or great purely through technology or data or products. They require forward thinking and brave leadership. Leaders who enable their teams to challenge the status quo to drive the business forward and innovate in ways others haven’t yet considered.

Alka Gandhi is the Head of the Retail Practice at Berwick Partners. 

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