3 Important Differentiators for Retail Brands to Stay Ahead of the Competition

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The retail markets across the globe are becoming increasingly competitive for 2 major reasons. On the one hand technology has disrupted the industry in multiple ways and on the other hand customers shopping behaviors have changed dramatically. Additionally, both these factors are influencing each other to further pose more challenges and create opportunities for retail businesses. In this intensely competitive scenario, retail brands need to differentiate themselves so that they emerge winners.

Below are 3 important factors that can help retail brands differentiate themselves:

Supply chain – Simply put, getting the customer what they want and where they want it is a serious concerns for most retailers as the complexity of processes and operations increase with the different channels and random ways the customer goes about shopping and ordering products. New omni-channel fulfillment options such as click and collect or BOPIS, endless aisles, reserve online and pick-up in-store, and a few other combinations have emerged over the last couple of years. Moreover, same day delivery, drone delivery, collection from preferred location, anywhere returns, and so on, have also come to the fore lately. Offering these fulfillment options requires retailers to have a solid supply chain system that can reduce the chances of stock-outs, damages and other potential risks. Thus it is important for retailers to focus on the supply chain and use technology to optimize it so that there is a smooth flow of the product from manufacturing to the consumer.

Customer relationship – As stated earlier, technology has influenced the shopper. Customers today are more informed and demanding than about a decade ago. In addition to that, they are spoilt for choice thanks to the variety in products, different channels of shopping, payment methods and accessibility to information. The customers are on the driving seats and retail brands need to be ready to fulfill the demands of the customer on their terms. This will be possible only if companies keep their customers at the focal point in the business. They will have to build deep and long lasting relationships with the customer and take appropriate efforts to understand and know their customers’ preferences. Using technology to capture and analyze customer related data and with proper customer segmentation and profiling, retailers will be able to design and create tailored offerings to the customers in terms of products and related services.

Marketing and branding – It is a no brainer that if retailers are not able to get their marketing right, they won’t be able to click. Retail companies are pumping in huge investments and efforts into their marketing and branding strategies and execution. But with so much noise around it is difficult to get noticed. In order to stand out, retail brands must adopt for a unity in diversity approach. Firstly have uniform branding and messaging, secondly identify platforms where their customers are most likely to be and thirdly promoting the brand message across these platforms will help retailers reach the desired audience with higher chance of conversions. Taking this to the next level by designing and creating offers and promotions that are hyper personalized, localized and unique will have customers wanting for more. As customer attention spans are small, retailers need to get their act together and render the maximum impact in a short time.

Understanding Millennial Shopping Behavior is Important for Retail Brands.

Millennials enjoy a seamless experience while expecting a high level of convenience across multiple devices and touch-points when it comes to shopping. There has been a profound influence of smartphones and social media in everyday life. Millennials use these mediums substantially and on-the-fly to get assistance while they are shopping in a brick-and-mortar store as well as to search for coupons and other offers.

Though Millennials generally love to shop in a store, they demand cross-channel capabilities so that they can acquire whatever information and help they seek from any channel that is most convenient to them during the shopping journey. To summarize, Millennials and the newer generations expect a lot more, a lot faster, at their own convenience and at desirable prices. All this has forced retail businesses to evolve and this is an ongoing process.

The below infographic depicts certain important trends about Millennial shopping:

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Millennials have been one of the game changers for the retail industry, demanding versatility, flexibility, convenience, and speed from retail brands. Going forward, this generation along with the Gen Y and Gen Z are set to disrupt the retail industry further. It is high time, retail brands take the right steps to understand these consumers and be able to satisfy their demands.

Reinventing the retail shopping journey!

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Retail shopping experience right from research to purchase to post sales service has seen a paradigm shift over the last few years. One of the primary reasons for this shift is a significant change in the consumer behavior. This change has had a global impact across industries including retail and it continues to drive innovations and advancements which will shape the world through 2030. Further, economic and technological shifts have reinvented the shopper journey holistically. Previously, shopping revolved around the purchase and was highly transaction focused. However today, shopping is an entire journey. It is a relationship building process for the retail brand with their consumers.

The modern day’s shopper journey can be broken down broadly into 3 stages: pre-purchase stage, purchase and the post-purchase stage. Today, the brand experience has to be infused into all of these stages seamlessly.

Taking a look at the pre-purchase stage, this stage is all about the brand connecting and framing a relationship with the shopper, by being able to answer the shopper’s questions about products they are exploring and helping them realize how their purchase can fit within their values and lifestyle. This stage is where customers research about brands and their products/service offerings, and based on their evaluations considering various factors would decide to make a purchase for a particular product, from brand. Hence this stage is a huge opportunity for retail companies to influence consumers and thus lay the foundation of a solid relationship while ensuring their patronage.

Meanwhile, in the purchase stage, being central to the shopping journey as the transactions happen here, there has been a reinvention in the overall perception of the transaction. Price still remains extremely important; however, today’s customer is not only paying for the product but also the convenience that is associated with the purchase. This convenience will also be integrated into the shoppers’ perception of value. Moreover, making things quicker is not only about speeding up the payment process, but other factors such as curating goods and services and information faster, also contribute to it. These will influence the purchase experience of the shopper and retail brands should ensure that this experience is positive, personalized and perfect to establish loyalty.

In the final stage which is the post-purchase stage, it is important for retail brands to extend their post-sale services to shoppers and continue efforts to cement brand-customer relationships as well as enrich loyalty. As such, the shopper’s journey with a particular brand may end at the purchase stage itself and this would be a huge loss as retail companies will miss out on repeat business from loyal customers. Thus the brand value should be extended to the shoppers in the post purchase stage as it enables connecting the brand with the consumer’s lifestyle thus making the brand experience relevant.

Globalized Expansion With Localized Experience

Retail in a global economy has unlocked multiple channels and opportunities for retailers to enter or expand operations in developing growth markets. The diversification of business demand is critical to counter economic stagnation. But, the capability to safely and successfully port your brand across continents is harnessed through streamlined core operations. Retailers need to be more strategic, as each marketplace represents unique advantages and challenges. While India’s PPP ranking is high, its foreign investment policies remain restrictive. China’s increased demand for western goods needs to be carefully routed through its extensive tax regime.

Retail brands are adapting to local culture, skill-sets and eco-systems. They balance localization with customer expectations by fine-tuning store models and personalizing online strategies. For example, Walmart in America is focused on bargains and selection; the same is true in China, but for different items. Real estate is much more expensive in China, so Walmart purchases a small plot of land and creates several levels, like a mini shopping mall, instead of a single level that is spread across what seems like acres in America. However, the quantities are kept smaller in China as most houses in China are small and do not have room to store bulk purchases. Samsung plays an active role in understanding local appetites, customs or preferences to meet customer needs – In Bulgaria, yogurt is an important part of the local diet so they developed an oven able to produce the perfect homemade yogurt in seconds.

Regional retailers are also flexing their marketing muscle to maintain growth, as global players increase footprint in their respective regions. The future will lead to increased localization efforts by foreign retailers to fortify market positions. Consequently, regional retailers would focus on strengthening existent customer connect while emulating the proven best practices of the larger retail competitors. Technology has played a vital role in enabling globalization across multiple industries including retail. From manufacturing processes established at different continents for cheaper labour and raw material costs to end consumer analytics for determining the right product and market matrix; retailers can expand their supply strategies and introduce cost-effective innovations to operations. This helps optimize business capital expenditure to support local market efficacy and boost global expansion.