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What Retail Success looks Like in 2020 (& beyond)

9 min read

Have you ever been to a retail conference or event and come back all fired up with success. Not because you learnt anything especially new and earth-shattering, but because it confirmed everything you already believed to be true….?

This month I was invited to attend the biggest online retail event in Australia. Evidently, their creative team were having a short vacation at the time the name of the event was decided because they kept it at an unambiguous; “Online Retailer” (jokes, I love that it’s short sweet and unambiguous!)

Maybe you were there?

Over the weekend I started putting together a list of my top takeaways from those 2 events, so I could come back and share them with you but as I write them I feel the need to point out the things being heralded as the future of retail are the concepts that I’ve been teaching inside of my course Scale Your store and are the foundations of my coaching programs.

We need to acknowledge that sales and marketing, as we know it has totally changed.

What worked, 10 years ago, or even 10 months ago, might not necessarily work today, or in 2020.

The ecommerce landscape has morphed at supersonic speed and if you’re not keeping up, then you’ll fall behind – fast.

2019 brought technology that was previously only in the budget for chain stores and enterprise level customers, into the hands of the independent retailer and ecommerce store owner.

And looking forward to 2020 and beyond, it’s going to take more than just having a bricks and mortar store, or a functioning website, to grab your share of the customers disposable income.

Early this year, I sat in on a panel of economists listening to what they predicted for the future of retail. Everyone was convinced we’re heading for a severe tightening of the economy all around the world. The word recession was bandied about freely with time frames of late 2019 right through to 2021.

But it doesn’t take an economist to work that out. Economies have a cycle, and the world is perched on the edge of a downturn.

Which means more than ever, you need to be constantly innovating, surveying your customers, analysing your product mix and keeping on top of your cash flow.

But what exactly, are customers looking for? What’s going to work in sales and marketing in 2020?

I’ve summed them up as the 4 P’s

The first one, and it’s one that seems to be talked about on every stage of every conference I’ve been to, is Purpose

Today’s buyer wants more than stuff. They don’t want just another store. They want a brand. They want to hang out with a company that has the same values and ideals that they do. Today’s customer wants to associate with your brand, because it gives them street cred or social proof. Saying they shop with you is a badge of honour and comes with status.

Now, this was once the domain of cult brands like Harley Davidson and sports brands like Nike, or, customers had to pay big dollars for luxury brands to get that.

But today, and in the future, it’s not about money. It’s about purpose.

And the good part of that for you, is that it doesn’t have to cost anything. Defining a set of values, having a mission statement, and having a why behind what your brand does (and notice I said brand, not store), those things are intrinsic. And, they’re not necessarily costly.

In 2020 and beyond, the retailers that flourish, will be the ones that have a greater purpose than selling stuff

Retailers who are thriving are those who exist for a purpose greater than to simply sell more stuff to more people.

There are so many great examples of retailers doing awesome things to build a social and environmental bottom line as well as a financial one. Patagonia with their return or repair policy and ‘Worn Wear’ (2nd hand goods) options.

Naadam, which was founded by 2 guys have been featured in places like Forbes, Entreprenuer and fast company. They sell cashmere clothing. Nothing different about that right?

Yet, their mission is to Naadam is on a mission to democratize cashmere by translating transparency into real sustainability, better prices, and better quality for our customers at every possible turn. These guys have cut out the middle man and deal direct with the nomadic herders to pay them 50% more than other companies. From two guys who got lost in Mongolia, to a mission to improve the livelihood of the nomadic herders who took them in

On top of that, they invest in breeding and vaccination programs for healthier goats, and develop sustainable grazing practices.

Oh, and did I mention, that their signature product is the cashmere sweater that costs just $75 – which is unheard of.

Read Retail Right Now

Hopefully this will get you thinking about why you do what you do and how you can incorporate that story, into your overall brand.

Maybe at this point, you think “but I just sell clothes” or “I just sell homewares”. Check out an Aussie store called The Iconic, who now offer their ‘Considered’ range – where you can search for clothing manufactured to the highest social and environmental standards.

You can start making steps in a new direction – one that builds a tribe, not just a store with customers.

So this leads me to the second P that is the future of retail and ecommerce success for 2020 and beyond, which is price.

Now we all know that there is always going to be a market for FMCG – fast moving consumer goods aka fast fashion. Generally, it’s the stuff of big box and chain stores. But, piggy backing on purpose, is a movement of customers who aren’t price sensitive.

Slow fashion, ethically made, buy to give back. The new era of customer is prepared to pay more, to support their values, their beliefs and greater world good.

Which means you, as the retailer, need to constantly be researching and asking your customers, what’s important to them.

Maybe you trade 100% on cheap and cheerful. And if that works for you, great. But if that’s not your jam, if you’re looking for a way to differentiate yourself, stop trying to compete on price.

likewise, stop giving your customers discounts, if they really don’t want them. More and more, I’m hearing storied of retailers saying, “I send out a discount code and no one uses it”.

#reailtycheck. Not everyone is motivated by discounting.

In fact, the great customers are more than happy to pay full price. If you have a great customer experience and a brand that aligns with your customers, they don’t really care about saving money.

Think about it, the person who shops at Louis Vuitton doesn’t care if it’ on sale. The people who DO care, are the aspirational customers, the ones who want the status associated with owning a LV bag, but can’t quite afford it. And yep, there’s a time and place for those customers as well.

But the customer royalty – the top 4% that bring in a vast chunk of your revenue, they don’t give a damn. So if you’re giving someone 10% off in exchange for an email address, think about it from the view of a potential customer. To me, it just screams “our stuff isn’t good enough to pay full price for”.

Instead of rewarding freeple- reward your royalty with experiences, not discounts.

With all this talk of people, let’s move on to my third “retail of the future” concept, is something that I’ve been talking about for a while now, which is personalisation. And this can mean 2 things in retail – sticking someone’s name on something, the equivalent of monogramming, yep, that’s totally a sales trend worth jumping on, but today I’m talking about personalising the marketing, advertising and shopping experience.

I mentioned earlier, that the technology that allows us to do this as indie retailers, has for so long, just been out of our budgets. But with SaaS companies popping up like flies, personalising your customer journey can be done for less than a hundred dollars a month.

Automation is vitally important if you’re going to cover all your bases and be in every one of the places your customers expect you to be, because it’s not humanly possible to deliver all those touchpoints without some help from technology. But don’t sacrifice personalisation in the process

If you want a customer to come back and shop with you, you can easily implement retargeting ads on Facebook, Instagram and google.

Google shopping allows you to serve your products up directly to a customer when they request it – they don’t have to sift through your website looking at 432 sweaters to find a ladies red cashmere v neck sweater less than $100. Google will do all the work for them.

Klaviyo email marketing allows you to send personalised email newsletters, with content that is targeted on a customer’s browsing or buying behaviour, with just the flick of a button. And customer journey segmentation takes nothing more than an afternoon of mapping out what you want to offer, to whom and when.

So why aren’t more indie retailers adopting this technology?

Well quite simply, it’s because their spending way too much time doing stuff in their business, than focussing on growing their business. And I’ve recorded a few episodes about this – doing stuff to stay busy, because if you’re being busy, you’ve got an excuse as to why you can’t spend time on these other CEO type jobs, so I’m not going to spend too long on this. But ask yourself, in all honesty, how much time do you spend mapping out what growth looks like for your business? Do you attend conferences or expos to learn about now software or marketing practices?

Change starts with in. It’s easy to add an app, or change to a different ecommerce platform. But the reality is, if you’re stuck, disconnected, alone, or just plodding along… a couple of things will happen.

1) You’ll lose money because you’re thinking small or limited or

2) You’ll end up burnt out because you’re stuck on a hamster wheel..

OK, so enough of Sal on the soapbox, let’s jump into the last P – perception.

And when it comes to perception, in particular, I want to focus on frictionless interaction.

Yet, even the big stores, are failing to provide this. Which means, this is your opportunity, as an indie retailer, to excel.

Now I could do a whole episode on providing a frictionless experience, but for this aricle, let’s start with the end – checkout. A whopping 69% of people who add to cart, don’t check out. And the reasons why – extra costs, like shipping or taxes were too high, 55%

34% wanted the customer to create an account

26% checkout too long or complicated.

21% couldn’t calculate the order costs without going through cart.

What blows my mind, right now in 2019,.that 3rd stat is 26% checkout too long or complicated.

With Apply pay, google pay, Shopify’s dynamic checkout and even on-platform purchasing with Instagram checkout – this stat shouldn’t even be in the top 20 reasons. Streamlining the checkout process is actually super easy, and no one should be losing 26% of their sales because of this.

Likewise, 55% of customers abandoned checkout because of shipping and taxes. Shipping is such an easy this to address. Heck, I don’t even care if you put your shipping info on every single product page, if it means you’ll recoup just a fraction of that 55%.

It really doesn’t take much to sit down and go through your own shopping cart, or through your own instore checkout experience, to see where those friction points are.

I was in a store recently, that didn’t have a barcode scanner. The poor girl behind the counter had to search for every single product. That meant each customer was waiting several minutes just to pay. For less than $40, that store could have bought a barcode scanner and sped up the entire checkout process.

Where in your business are those little sticking points? The ones that don’t seem like much on their own, but when you put a bunch of them together, you’re losing customers?

I mentioned right at the start, that what’s currently being touted as the future of retail, are really business fundamentals. Sure, technology plays a huge part in making sure you’re able to grow, but the fundamentals are the same.

Love your product, love your customer and tell everyone why you’re doing this thing.

Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been in business 15 years, You’ve put some much time, energy and money into your retail business, that spending some time each week or even each month, to evaluate what’s working well, what isn’t and getting into the minds and hearts of your customers, isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

but if you’re int that place and it’s something I see loads of retailers struggle with. Where You’re so busy head down bum up and there never seems to be enough hours in the day or spare cash in the bank to invest in growing your knowledge. But it’s so important to keep your brain in the game and your knowledge up to date.

If you can’t get to every conference that comes to town or don’t have the capacity to go hunting around the internet looking for information – it’s time to become a member of the Retail Collective. One of the perks of being a member is, the on the ground, live from the conference room floor updates I send to the folks inside the Retail Collective.

And if you’re looking for some help on how to achieve all of those things – to step off the hamster wheel and focus on growing your retail or ecommerce business, come and check out the retail collective. It might just be exactly what didn’t even know you needed until now. You can find more info about it at the retialcollective.net.

I truly believe that as independent retailers, you have the upper hand. You’re nimble, you can give great customer service, and you’re not bogged down by corporate hierarchy or disparate systems that don’t talk to each other.

So don’t throw that opportunity away. Don’t let being independent equal being or thinking small.

We love the convenience of online retail, but humans still need humans. In-store sales account for 85-90% of overall retail revenue, which means as humans we still crave interaction. Every opportunity you have to make a personal connection with your customers, grab it.  Sending handwritten notes with your orders. Wrapping that has clearly been done by a person.  Taking the opportunity to meet your customers face to face at an expo or market. Running real life VIP events for your online customers. Let people know there’s a face behind your business. Even as simple as replying to an email as a real person or picking up the phone and making a call.

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