HomeOPINIONHow will retail evolve over the next year?

How will retail evolve over the next year?

As the population grows, particularly in Auckland, retail will continue to thrive through new and expanded shopping malls, the growth in large format stores, food/hospitality, hardware and in speciality stores as well as through new Australian and International brands entering our market.

On-line purchasing will continue to grow within New Zealand based retail stores and click and collect will gain more traction across all sectors.  If the government introduces GST and duty (where applicable) on private imports under $400 this may have an impact on offshore purchases. 

However, it is not just price that drives this market but choice and range, as often some items are not available in New Zealand.  There is still  doubt in some consumers’ minds about security of payment and courier costs so if GST is added in the future this will go some way towards levelling the playing field for local retailers.

While the chains are actively engaging with all possible channels and continuing to develop and use digital technology to advantage some independents have been slow to realise they need to embrace technology and broaden their channels to include on-line.  Some are either reluctant to embrace the opportunity or don’t have the resources to manage the change. While 2015 has been a race for many to explore every possible digital channel I believe the realisation in 2016 will be, particularly for many independents and SME’s that Bricks and Mortar is far from dead and Bricks and Clicks with “in store collection” is an opportunity for growth. Some research overseas has shown that by bringing customers back in to the store to collect their on-line purchase can result in additional sales up to 23 percent of the value of the online sale.

However the store still needs to offer an exceptional customer experience and for many It is back to basics and realising “The customer is king” and having a point of difference in your store and product offer is essential.

It may sound old fashioned but the old four Rs of retailing are as true today as they ever were: “Having the right product, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time.”

This gets back to buying what your customer wants and using your point of sale technology to direct you’re buying, control your stock, increase stock turns, and deliver what your customer needs.

Having the right price does not necessarily mean cheap but pricing the product to meet customer expectations in terms of perceived value for money.

Having the ‘right product’ in stock at the right time is critical to meeting seasonal expectations or product buying peaks and ensuring you are not out of stock of these on demand items.  So tracking this info and using your POS technology is important.

Having the product available at the ‘right place’ is all about your store and product brand having a consistent positioning combined with customer perception, the store experience, and of course excellent customer service which when combined can be your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

Increasingly CEM or Customer Experience Management is where retailers need to invest in 2016 to know how they are perceived by their customers.  Technology allows this information to be captured in real time and responded to in real time while at the same time giving management insight in to service failures and what is working for customers and what is not . 

Another opportunity is through a regular physical independent store appraisal with written report and consultation.  One weakness that I often see is inconsistent and unprofessional ticketing, visual imagery and merchandising and this is essential to support your brand/product positioning.  Second best won’t be acceptable in 2016 as customers are spoilt for choice and will vote with their feet.

However the missing link in many stores is exceptional customer service, going the extra mile and creating the “Wow” factor. Over the last 12 months I have witnessed many examples of poor customer service across all sectors of the retail industry. 

I do not think this is altogether the sales employees fault and goes back to the hiring process and support given following that.

The solution is “Hire for attitude and train for skills”.  If someone has the wrong temperament/attitude that will not change. 

Staff are the key asset to any retail business so the first thing is to recruit the right people. Do your background checking thoroughly and make sure you have an employment agreement, a position description and house rules that everyone understands and abides by. Meet with staff on a regular basis and give them the opportunity to express their ideas for improvement and their concerns. This will create a happy committed team but most of all reward them not only just with fair wages and incentives but invest in them with training, training and more training.  

Then you will see them flourish and your rewards will come in the form of happy repeat customers and increased sales.

So in summary 2016 will emphasise that retail is not just selling goods it’s about meeting customer expectations, creating theatre, excitement and a memorable store experience.  Make your customers go wow!

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