We’ve all had the conference experience. We leave fired up with enthusiasm to put what we have learned into action. A day later and business as usual has resumed. Then the weekend when real life takes over. And then Monday morning where the harsh reality of last week’s sales figures completely swamps any plans we might have had. And by Tuesday, even if the information has been remembered, the enthusiasm has waned. The final nail in the coffin is that no one around you appears to either understand or share an appreciation of what you have learned. Cue the tumbleweed.
Retailers know that they need to change and what the consequences are of doing nothing or doing it too slowly, but culture, politics, other priorities and events get in the way. Here is my advice on how to keep the faith with what you have learned and stay committed to getting things done.
- Get more friends
You cannot go it alone, or should even try. There are people who share your ideas both inside and outside your business, you just need to go an find them. Creating a whatsapp group around your idea is a good place to start; you may get no reaction from invitees initially, but over time, they will start to share content and ideas. Have only one main objective, make it clear, achievable and stick to it. That way, people will start to remember and say, oh, yes, that’s the guy who is always going on about xyz. You do need to be a bit of a pain in the backside to get noticed.
2. Tell your suppliers you are not happy with your current relationship
If you are in the normal client/supplier relationship with all its politics and passive aggressive ways of working, then working with them in a new way is the perfect way to change that dynamic and get support for your idea. Retailers will often tell suppliers that they know what they want to do, and just need some tools to get it done. Better to get them involved earlier on and say, ‘look, I don’t have the answer yet, but work with me on it and we will both benefit.’
3. Collaborate with the enemy
Retailers don’t like to collaborate with other retailers because they think they are competing. Firstly, you are all faced with a common enemy, and that is the customer. Secondly, where is the evidence that you really are competitors? If they did not buy from you, do you even have the evidence that they bought from someone else? Better to sit down with other companies in your sector and tackle shared problems. Sure, New Look and Zara are never going to collaborate, but you never know. Who ever thought that Germany department store chain Karstadt Kaufhof would ever partner with Zalando?
4. Work with tech companies
The old complaint from retailers that tech companies don’t really understand me has passed. Most tech companies now employ ex retailers so you are now dealing with people with hands-on experience in your sector. Now, their principal objective is to sell to you of course, but they have already got used to a very long sales cycle, so they will generally welcome the chance to change the dynamics. Again, this requires you to share more information that you might normally be prepared to, but I think you will be surprised by the perspective they can bring to the problem. Consider also that while generally, tech is simply a tool to enable you to do better what you already do, more and more of it changes the business model entirely. Carsten Keller at Zalando got the Future Stores audience thinking hard about whether they really need so many stores, given how 90% or more of orders can be made through the web site and fulfilled from a warehouse.
5. Be sure about what you want to happen
One man’s great idea is another’s disaster. We learned at Future Stores that the obsession with making shopping friction free is wrong; you need some friction for customers who want to browse and enjoy the process, while you don’t want friction when the deal is about to be done, at the payments stage for instance. And while most payments vendors are committed to removing friction, there are also newer vendors that are changing the whole shopping process, such as Newstore built by the creator of Intershop and Demandware. This is a transformative transactional and engagement model, perfect for some but perhaps not for everyone. What do you think your business will look like in 5 years time?
Want to connect with Chris and discuss how more technology vendors can market to retailers more successfully? Connect over on LinkedIn