4 min read

Successful retail business : Five tips from extraordinary business leaders

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In retail, change is inevitable. An emerging consumer interest today can become a mass trend tomorrow. In the recent events of online shopping, click and collect, same or next-day delivery and contactless checkout quickly went from marginal to the status quo, putting retailers under increasing pressure to pursue digital-first strategies and walking on tiptoes trying to assure the best experience for shoppers.

As the next normal continues to form, retailers face never-ending challenges. In this article we share some thoughts from a few past and present-day retail leaders on what it takes to be successful, and how to build resilience into your business and stay on top of customers needs.


Create A Seamless Consumer Experience

"One order management system, one database, one inventory. Without these, you will never seem seamless to your customer."

-Andy Laudato, COO, The Vitamin Shoppe

Customers now expect to be able to shop via whichever channel they choose and for their journey to be entirely connected, consistent and personalized - omnichannel journey across multiple devices will ensure less churn, more recurring users and better reviews.

To provide this kind of experience, retailers need to run their business from a centralized platform, which combines online sales, stores, order fulfillment, inventory management, customer support and management, point of sale and more into a single system. It is now widely called unified commerce. This model allows retailers to sync their inventory pool across all platforms, share information seamlessly across multiple business or locations, and build comprehensive buyer segments. Having all your business and customer information in one central place also enables you to build truly amazing, connected consumer experiences that stretches to every channel.


Make Physical Shopping Engaging

“You walk into a retail store, whatever it is, and if there’s a sense of entertainment and excitement and electricity, you wanna be there.”

-Howard Schultz, former CEO, Starbucks

As online business models continue to grow, retailers have been forced to reassess the functionality of their stores. The industry now widely accepts that physical stores are a vital part of the retail experience. At the same time, to maintain footfall and engagement, retailers need to rethink the experience they offer and adapt to consumer's needs paying special attention to leveraging between online and physical. Some have turned their brick-and-mortar network into experience hubs, where customers can see, feel, hear, taste – creating places meant for engagement and entertainment as much as purchasing.

Deloitte believes that experience remains essential to the future of the store, but it needs to be thoughtful and aligned with a company’s brand values.

“The cost pressures remain and investments in experience need to ensure that they make sense from a brand perspective, add value to consumers, and deliver a commercial return,” said the professional services firm. “It cannot just be experience for experience’s sake.”


Embed The Importance Of Sustainability Across The Business

“Sustainability is the new business model, the new low cost. The old model of irresponsible consumption or consumption without limitations is, at the end of the day, a very expensive model. We cannot be IKEA for the many people if we follow that route.”

- Jesper Brodin, CEO, IKEA

IKEA is just one example of a high-profile retailer that has committed to its efforts to focus on sustainability. Its aim is to inspire customers with affordable, sustainable solutions for life at home. The company is also experimenting with a variety of initiatives to help reduce consumption, including Circular Hub areas in every store, where customers can purchase  display products, discontinued furniture, and used items from IKEA’s Buy-back service for less.

Now more than ever, retailers are realizing that they must do more to build a sustainable future, and that involves rethinking their operation and supply chain in its entirety to achieve meaningful and valid results. Customers are showing interest too. Research found that consumers increasingly consider a corporation’s values and commitment to social and environmental sustainability in their decision-making process. They want to see valid, demonstrable, and quantifiable proof that show businesses are doing more than simply setting aspirational goals.



Motivate Your Employees 

“As a company and organization, we always aim to generate an environment of creativity and innovation. To do this, I believe that it is important to give employees ownership of how they work and to build the optimal environment to complete each task.”

- Niels B. Christiansen, CEO, Lego

Happy employees drive business to success. It’s a well-known and long time ago established link; companies with strong reputation for looking after their employees also tend to be the most successful. One of the reasons is that satisfied employees are more productive with their time at work, and are more likely to walk the extra mile for their company's success.

So, what’s the secret to happy employees? Business advisor Gallup says that it’s engagement, not pay, that spurs people to go the extra mile and give their best. “Engagement creates commitment,” Gallup said. That involves giving employees clear expectations and praise for a job well done, and providing them with the tools and support to do their best work.

Its research found that businesses with highly engaged employees achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.


Embrace Change

“One thing you never want to do in retail, and I want to be really careful of this, is you never say, ‘We have the answer. We’ve figured it out.’ Because our customers are always changing. Regardless of how well you think you’re doing, a week from now, a month from now, there will be much more to do.”

-John Furner, CEO, Walmart US

The pace of change, accelerated by the pandemic, has forced retailers to revert back to their business strategies. They have realized that greater resilience has to be built into their supply chains, and harness insights about their customers to deliver the products and services they really want at just the right moment.

McKinsey calls for retailers to raise their metabolic rate, “that is, the speed at which they process information and develop new offerings.” With ever shifting and evolving consumer behaviors, retailers need to find new ways of launching ideas at scale faster. They must be able to pivot to meet their customers’ needs, for example launching a new delivery solution in a matter of days or weeks, and work with consumers to understand what their needs may be ahead of time.

Ultimately, the most successful retailers are the ones that know they can always push for more. They listen to their customers, adapt their offerings, deliver engaging and memorable experiences, and stay true to the values that matter. To achieve this, they harness the latest technologies that empower them to understand their customers and make truly informed, data-driven decisions.

Do you need help understanding what technology will make your retail business thrive, no matter what challenges lie ahead? Contact us.

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