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One Size Fits All Is Flawed Thinking For Retailers

02/02/2012

Retailers will have to rethink their position in the market, along with strategies they have used thus far, to keep themselves in the game, according to a new Deloitte report, “The Next Evolution: Store 3.0.”

After surveying 39 retail executives in September 2011, the research firm discovered that retailers expect e-commerce sales to nearly triple over the next five years, yet nearly 8-out-of-10 (79%) believe the physical store will continue to be a primary place to shop. The issue at hand, Deloitte said, is for retailers to differentiate themselves by reconfiguring talent, physical space and store operations to meet or exceed customer expectations and understand there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach that will help drive business.

The report summarizes its findings with four ideas retailers should keep in mind:

Refresh your strategy – It is critical that retailers refresh their strategy so their operating model can quickly respond to changes and trends in the marketplace and among their customers.” This sounds good, but the reality of it happening is unlikely. In difficult times like now, retailers are topping off inventories, staying with what’s working now or just plain timid about the risk big thinking takes.

Improve the in-store customer experience – “There is nothing more important for retailers than improving the customer experience now and into the future.” Profound? No. True? Yes. Most in-store experience is dreadful. Go to a family owned hardware store, an Apple store or perhaps an independently owned dry cleaners to get a dose of honest to goodness customer experience.

Revive your talent management strategies – “As customers increasingly demand a more personalized experience, your sales associates become even more critical in achieving that goal.” This is corporate speak. Most retail management teams are unqualified to provide the leadership their company’s thirst for. Great retail leaders are made of equal parts visionary, creative and competitive – who love winning at the game of retail.

Connect your customers virtually from the physical store – “As the lines between the virtual and the physical stores converge, retailers should consider opportunities that connect customers and extend the in-store brand experience through all channels. Blending a personalized in-store experience with a virtual connection to the brand can help retailers establish a lasting relationship with customers after they leave the store.” Again, corporate lingo. I don’t even have a spin to make this statement make sense.

Here’s why. Amazon.com ranked first in the OC&C Proposition Strength Index, a survey of over 2,700 U.S. consumers in an effort to understand consumer sentiment toward 50 of the country’s leading retailers. The survey rates how consumers view core elements of a retailer’s value proposition — such as Value for Money, Customer Service, Product Selection and Product Quality.

Amazon scored No. 1 in the following categories: Product Breadth, “Products That Are Suited To Me,” Value for Money, and Trust. In all other categories relevant to non-fashion online retail, namely Price, Product Quality and Service, Amazon placed in the top three. Doesn’t seem that Amazon needs a store to create a lasting relationship.

Retailers should consider stop reading these surveys and start listening to their customers. That’s how they do it at the hardware store.

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