Retail Transformation

The news of my death is greatly exaggerated.

Despite the flurry of retail major retailers that have filed for bankruptcy or experiencing their own period of austerity by  the of closing stores (AC Moore, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aerosoles, The Children’s Place, Forever 21, to name a few) the so-called Retail Apocalypse is, both exaggerated and happily, totally survivable.  Even with the dominance of Amazon, there are big box retailers, who are not simply retaining market share, but thriving and increasing their share of customers’ retail spend. Before we diagnose the secret of bricks and mortar success, we need to know why, so many, big companies, have failed so spectacularly and so quickly.

Many of the previously mentioned companies who have succumbed to their competitors did so because they thought brand was everything.  Build the brand, the customers, whoever they might be, would come. This has been the same strategy of every single major brand that has either died or suffered a near mortal wound.  Brand in a vacuum is worthless and without changing to the needs of their customer, because they didn’t know who their customers were or what their customers needed anymore, brand became more than irrelevant, it became poisonous. Brand is a living idea that needs to change, adapt and be aligned with the customers to remain beloved or else it will be derided and rejected by the fickle nature of customers.  Ask Abercrombie & Fitch or GAP.  

So, how, in the ever increasing shadow of online commerce, can big box stores hold their own and thrive and, in the words of Warren Buffet, ‘delight their customers’.

Indeed, if retail is war, and anyone who has gone up against the giants of retail will attest that it is, to know your self and to know your customer, is the best means of winning the retail war. How else do you know what will delight them? To price that delight, and market that product, for maximum customer happiness?

Target, Waterstones, Best Buy are great examples of retailers that kept in touch with their consumers and not only remained profitable, but by redefining themselves such that their customers were happier than ever, they are enjoying growth.

So how do you know when you know your customers and how do you know they’re delighted more with you than your competition? What does that whole thing look like and how do you get it and keep it?

I challenged myself and my team at a $1BN retailer to find these answers in the midst of the harrowing 2007-09 recession and we came out not just alive, but profitable, stronger and with superior vendor relationships than ever before.

Check out our Blog “Its all about the data” for insights on what that journey looked like.

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