Every year, after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season subside, most of us in retail embark upon the New Year with refreshed mindsets. We set resolutions and goals, and prepare to improve ourselves and our brand over the next 12 months.
But can we in the retail industry really maintain this positive outlook when a new report (released before we even close out Q1) predicts more than 12,000 store closures in 2018? It would be very easy to read headlines like these and feel resigned to another challenging year.
What if I told you, though, that perhaps we are looking at these headlines the wrong way? After all, only six retailers accounted for the 6,985 brick-and-mortar store closures that Fung Global Retail and Technology tracked in 2017. For every retailer that suffered, many others thrived.
To ensure you’re among the retailers to thrive this year, author Doug Stephens recommends making every effort to uncover new opportunities to innovate and differentiate — especially inside the store. As the founder of Retail Prophet, with more than 20 years of industry experience, Stephens has literally written the book on the subject. His latest opus, Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World, paints a compelling picture of the retail experience of tomorrow, including a robust discussion of several brands that are already embracing the future.
The first critical step to successful experience reinvention, according to Stephens, is to assess, challenge and be willing to reinvent your brand. After all, your brand should be present and embedded into all facets of the customer experience — from content to inventory and even the technology you implement in your stores.
“The first critical step to successful experience reinvention is to assess, challenge and be willing to reinvent your brand.”
Doug and I dug deeper into this topic during the latest episode of The Retail Experience Project podcast series. The conversation centered around how retail brand should impact – and even dictate – new store experience strategies.
Taking Brand Cues from Nintendo: Less About Products, More About Essence
As the industry has grown larger, more complex and more competitive, retailers have focused primarily on providing wider assortments at the lowest price — and less on discovering (and touting) what makes them unique.
“In a remarkably short period of time, the world has gone from being based on scarcity to being based on abundance,” he told me. “During this paradigm shift, I think it’s really important for brands to revisit why anyone should care if they exist.”
“During this paradigm shift, I think it’s really important for brands to revisit why anyone should care if they exist.”
You may be asking, though: What separates brand winners from losers? Doug had a simple answer. “Brands that survive in the long-term understand that it’s not the product that makes them who they are, it’s the idea. Powerful ideas are what consumers gravitate towards.”
For example, did you know that Nintendo started out as a card game for children? As the toy market evolved, the founders knew they needed to rethink their brand — or risk going extinct. They realized that Nintendo wasn’t just a creator of card games, but “a company that built fun for kids.” With this awakening, Nintendo was able to create a mission statement that summarized the essence of the brand, which they were able to expand and evolve over time, Doug explained.
However, Doug revealed that many retail leaders have become so risk-averse that they’re reticent to challenge or reassess their brand. This trepidation will ultimately prevent them from creating new, memorable and immersive experiences. They tend focus on preserving “the founder’s vision,” which is often decades past its prime.
Brand Reinvention Starts from the Inside
How can retailers take a critical look at their brand and uncover new ways to evolve and thrive? Here are some of the tips that Doug shared with me during our conversation:
- Ask the tough questions first: “I think it’s really important for brands to ask… ‘If we were to go away tomorrow, would we be missed? If so, what is it that the world would miss by not having us there?’”
- Challenge hiring and compensation policies: “In most cases, people are not compensated handsomely by questioning the organization’s ethos, questioning its purpose, or trying to be disruptive in terms of the brand’s positioning or the way it’s going to market. You’re either hiring and rewarding for innovation or you’re not. The truth is, most companies aren’t.”
- Determine the impact of inaction: Team members who want to innovate are often hindered by executives still stuck in their old ways. He recommends taking a more extreme approach to capture their attention. “Figure out how much time you have left if you do nothing and take that to them. Build a doomsday clock and lay out the case by saying ‘if we continue to be inactive…we reckon this is how long we have left before we go out of business.’”
“You’re either hiring and rewarding for innovation or you’re not. The truth is, most companies aren’t.”
Doug provided great insights to help ensure retail brands have staying power, even in a world brimming with disruption. Listen to our entire conversation at The Retail Experience Project to get your roadmap for success.
While you’re there, check out our library of assets designed to support your reinvention journey. We’ll be adding new resources and podcasts all the time, so be sure to check back frequently!