In my last article, “Top 3 ways of running a Retail Business that no longer work“, we looked at traditional methods of running a retail business that are having less impact every year. At one point they were very effective but now they no longer work as well as they used to.

Today we look at what new methods are working better as replacements for those discussed.

If you have been following my previous posts you will have worked out by now that my motto is “Less Talk… More Action”, so let’s get straight into it.

# 3 – Digital Marketing


As the last article pointed out, many traditional marketing mediums are becoming way too cost prohibitive for SMEs to use for promotion of sales and limited offers, thus they are best used for branding purposes. However the gap can easily be filled with digital marketing. Digital marketing is mostly focused on inbound activity, rather than outbound, meaning potential consumers are engaged in your business and offerings, rather than simply ‘shouted at’, thus they are more likely to seek you out as ‘the place’ to shop.

Niche marketing is gaining huge traction, whereby you focus on a specific segment of the market that you happen to excel in, (and your demographic supports), then tell everyone about it. Rather than promote price or best service as your point of difference, try looking at what else you can offer that is not commonly available and make this your USP, (Unique Selling Proposition), instead.

As an example, I recently did a business needs assessment for a new client; her Antiques business was starting to struggle after two other Antiques dealers opened up in the same small town. These other businesses had larger premises and thus were able to present a much bigger range than she could ever provide. However, a close look at her books revealed strong growth in other areas of the business, namely imported lines from exotic locations. By shifting focus to “exotic imported goods”, and away from Antiques, she now has a niche that no-one else is supporting for hundreds of kilometres, and sales are increasing in response. She is now even planning to sell online.

You need not be this dramatic in order to come up with your own USP. It can be targeting high end products, rather than everyone else’s low end, or something as simple as providing a play area for children. Perhaps offer a “wow” factor experience, such as interactive digital signage/augmented reality. Basically get them talking and make them keen to return for more… with their friends…

Some examples of Digital Marketing include emails, Q.R. Codes, mobile websites, Social Media, SEO, (search engine optimisation), Google maps/places, digital signage/augmented reality, celebrity referrals and loyalty programs tied to CRM software.

# 2 – Buying Analytics

There have been significant advancements in software to track inventory. Now it is easy to pin point which departments are working best for you and at what price points. Even down to specific items that sell faster than others and thus deserve priority when placing fresh orders.

This data can be used to drive future buying plans and make for much less guess work and a lot more certainty. One can prepare a 12 month buying guide that allows for more purchases in certain months, e.g. the lead up to Christmas, and less for others.
Even the lines themselves will vary from month to month, depending on upcoming events, such as Valentines Day and Mothers Day etc. 

Now items purchased will be more in line with what your customers actually want and no longer heavily reliant on the owner’s personal perceptions, or intuition.

I once queried a client about why she had so much high end product when the demographic research I did for her indicated her local market was mid to low end. Her response was that it made a great ‘draw-card’ and besides she loves looking at them, as they are really beautiful. I told her to take them home if she loved them that much, but in the meantime she needs to reduce her top end range and focus on what her clients want. Then her husband tried to tell me “You can’t sell it if you don’t have it”. I pointed out that this only applies to products that sell in your demographic, products that meet the current trend or style/fashion and at proven price points; otherwise “You WON’T sell it if you DO have it”.

It wasn’t until I sat down with them and analysed their data, were they able to see they had too much stock in poor performing departments and not enough in the good. Plus, they were missing the mark in their price points and not meeting current trends. Even their aged stock report showed their old stock levels as being way too high. Finally they agreed to follow my guidance
and almost immediately started to make more money.

Fast-sellers come first. Bread and butter lines are your number one concern as they not only pay for themselves but your bills as well, so if you don’t have as many of your fast-sellers in stock as possible, then don’t be surprised if you don’t have any money in the bank either. In short, before you go looking for the ‘next best thing’, make sure you are fully stocked in the ‘current best thing’ because these have already proven themselves, whereas the ‘next best thing’ has yet to do so.

# 1 – Modern Performance Management

‘New wave’ management. It has never been more important to make the workplace an enjoyable place to be and to ensure recognition of staff efforts is a standard thing.

Studies have proven that if you encourage a ‘family’ atmosphere, with ‘buy in’ to your values and vision, that productivity increases exponentially!

So share your business goals, recognise individual efforts and encourage your people to perform as a team. You will get more respect that the ‘my way or the highway’ employer and enjoy greater returns as well.

Encourage their input too, you may be surprised at some of the good ideas they put forward once they feel a sense of ‘ownership’ in your business’s progression. In short, they will always try to do better when they ‘feel a part of the family’.

Now, what if you already do this, in fact you have the perfect team/family model in place and yet you still have one ‘bad egg’ that just wants to take advantage of you and even tries to undermine your authority every time your back is turned? Let’s face it, with more and more employee rights being legislated every day, it is getting extremely difficult to deal with staff that keep up with said rights and then basically use them as a tool to stay employed, even though they may not be good for your business. The truth is, firm tactics and even written warnings are having less and less impact, especially on the “I’ll avoid work if I can, so long as I get paid” mind-set. So how do you deal with this and how do you prevent it from happening again in the future?

Believe it or not, resolution can often be attained through the very same rights that protect staff, as there are just as many rights in there for the employer as well; so learn what they are and use them to break free. I could write an entire article about best practice for performance management and handling difficult staff, so mention in the comments below if this interests you and I may well do so. Meanwhile, here’s how to avoid it from happening again.

Personality Tests. Begin by profiling the role itself, as in what it involves and what type of personality is best suited to doing it long term and happily. Then survey applicants to see if they match the profile needed. By placing people best suited to specific roles, they are far more likely to be happy in the position and thus perform better. Thus job satisfaction will bring increased productivity and higher potential for retention, (due to less stress).

Positive focus. The more positive and ‘upbeat’ you are about your business and where it’s headed the more staff will ‘feed off of you’ and become more enthusiastic within their own roles. People buy from people, so watch sales increase when you have enthusiastic people on board. If you are always finding excuses for why sales are down, or always complaining about the last grumpy customer, just remember that you have then ‘set the tone’ for how you expect your staff to behave as well.

Try it; be enthused and upbeat for just one week and watch your staff respond in kind… your sales will go up as well, especially if you get just as enthused about their results. Besides, whilst people are concentrating on finding reasons for failure they are not spending their valuable time learning from past mistakes and planning to succeed next time!

I hope these two articles have been of help to you. Keep following me for more free retail tips and advice, or perhaps join my mailing list, to make sure you don’t miss out. If you would like to learn a lot more about running a successful retail business, or ask for my assistance in growing your business, please contact me.
Retail Rescue