Last month, I had the privilege of attending the ARA Australian Retail Awards in Melbourne showcasing some talented retail performers across Australia. There were a multitude of awards taken out including Lush Cosmetics for Australian Retailer of the Year and The Good Guys for Australian Multichannel Retailer of the Year.
The retail industry is an important one for all Australians and our economy as it is present in almost every area of our lives. From our morning coffee, our chosen attire, leisure equipment, to our home at night. By taking an opportunity to recognise exceptional companies and brands outperforming in their specific categories, we are taking an important step to encourage even better service and growth in the industry.
For retailers considering entering the awards for next year, there were 5 clear attributes the winners possessed that when consciously managed and improved upon, made them the clear winners of their categories.
1. Embrace technology and use it to your advantage
The digital age is well and truly upon us and hiding under the ‘I don’t need to sell online’ rock, is not going to do anyone any favours. Most importantly, your customers. They are looking for you online, they are researching your brand, reading your reviews, they want to know more about you and the more you actively connect with them where they want to be connected with, the more growth you will see.
So this could be via social media if that’s where your clientele are hanging out, or it could be ensuring you have a webstore so that you’re able to sell your inventory online. And then, (we’re stating the obvious here), your site must be responsive so that you cater to the increasing number of mobile users both researching andbuying on their mobiles.
2. Attract and retain the best staff
As Richard Branson says:
“Train people well enough so they can leave, Treat them well enough so they don’t want to”.
Attracting the best staff is largely up to the way you portray your brand and voice through your online and physical presence. What kind of environment are your new recruits being welcomed into? Would you work for you? Are you hiring for skill alone or are you hiring for the perfect fit? Many (but not all) skills in retail can be trained but a positive and passionate attitude for what you stand for, the type of products and services you sell is something that must be inherent within the individual.
As the skills are trained, the next most important step in the staffing process iscoaching and ensuring positive reinforcement is an ongoing process throughout your company.
3. Fit out and merchandise your store with the customer in mind
Often retailers find themselves merchandising their stores based on their own personal preference, rather than evidence. You may be your own ideal client however you’re only one in potentially (and hopefully) hundreds of thousands within your audience. What you may consider to be a big seller based on a guestimate may not be the product bringing in the greatest profits based on your margins. This is where your reporting comes in very handy and can potentially save you thousands.
One of the most easiest and also neglected methods of analysing customer behaviour and merchandising in store is called money mapping. The concept involves mapping out your store physically on a piece of paper and labeling each category item and it’s location. Then, doing a quick report at the end of the week or fortnight to determine which sections are selling the most products. You’ll find there are little pockets in your store that do remarkably well which may not be intuitive – it’s important to place the items you need sold quickly in these pockets. More on the concept of money mapping here.
4. Listen to your customers – reviews, suggestions, analyse their buying habits and behaviour
This may seem glaringly obvious yet is one of the opportunities many retailers seem to miss. Try and initiate as many opportunities as possible for customers to submit feedback to you or your company.
Have a feedback page on your site, prompt online users with a follow up suggestions email, have a suggestions box in-store, ask your sales associates to be aware and open for feedback with clients, use an automated POS that can communicate with in-store customers after a purchase, read any existing online reviews on third party sites, set up regular competitions where your customers go in the drawer to win a prize for sharing their favourite shopping experience or suggestions for improvement.
Then take this information regularly and implement suggestions that you see fit – clearly not all suggestions will be useful but if you see the same suggestion regarding a sales associate or lighting or the same questions being asked, then find a way to improve.
5. Innovate – always strive to be the best in your niche, even if you’re a small independent retailer
Image: Jason Batterham / Shutterstock.com
Many retailers assume that they can’t compete with the big guns in retail and that is clearly not the case especially when you started with a passion, knowing you were moving into this particular market. You provide something unique for your customers – whether you’re a large retailer or a niche one store retailer.
So with that in mind, focus on what your strengths are and expand on those rather than trying to directly compete with another retailer. Even if you provide the exact same product in some instances, you may be able to find another element of your business you differ in and perform exceptionally well in like ongoing customer engagement and communication, customer service, price, packaging, bonuses, your community, education around the product/service, social interaction, the list is endless.
These were the top 5 qualities that really stood out for me as I witnessed and engaged with the winners at the awards this year. You might find many business owners approach the elements of technology, staff, merchandising, customer engagement and innovation differently, but these core attributes are almost always present.
Author: Aaron Blackman