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If you want to be a successful retailer, stop thinking like a retailer. If that sounds counter-intuitive, consider this – retail has changed. You can no longer sell to customers, you can only help them buy.
With that shift comes the need for a change of mindset from the retailer. If the way customers shop has changed then you need to make sure your business is set up for that. Retail is no longer a single channel operation. It is an exciting ecosystem encompassing everything from the store to online to mobile to connected devices to advertising to social media. There are more opportunities than ever before to be part of your customers’ lives and you need to be taking advantage of them.
If you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you – don’t. Innovation is not just for start-ups and new brands. In fact, well-established traditional retailers can be in a better position to take advantage of it – if you can get your thinking in order.
For a start you need to understand that the store is dead. Or the store as it was. Physical, offline space is still alive and well and a super valuable part of the retail ecosystem. This space needs to be part of a larger, digitally-enabled world though. If you try to operate it as an isolated island, then you are missing out on sales.
When we say digitally-enabled this doesn’t mean that you can just litter your store with touchscreens and consider the job done. Are touchscreens the future of retail? Absolutely not. Some of the best digitally-enabled stores don’t have any visible tech. It’s all in the back-end, working behind-the-scenes to make for magical, wonderful retail experiences delivered by humans. If it doesn’t truly enhance the customer journey, then it shouldn’t be there.
Think about some of the biggest names in retail – Amazon, Apple, Nike, Alibaba, Walmart, IKEA… there’s a reason that they dominate the conversation. They don’t think like traditional retailers. They have a mindset that is closer to that of a tech company.
They don’t spend all their time thinking about Christmas promotions and visual merchandising. They also think about robotics, 3D printing, cryptocurrency, AI, VR – they may not use them all, but they’re at least thinking about them. They are not preoccupied with what retail was or is, but what it needs to become.
It is this mindset that you need to adopt. You need to be aware of the new tools available to you and to think about how they might benefit your customers. How can you open up that ecosystem more? How can you create more ways to help your customers buy? Your job doesn’t start or end at the door of the store. It starts when a customer first thinks about buying something and it doesn’t end because with the right ecosystem that relationship keeps on going and growing.
But you must be ready to build it first. It’s time for you to start creating the future of retail, not just thinking about it.