5 ways retailers can keep up with consumer preferences
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It’s been a difficult time for UK retailers, with a number of high profile brands toppling under the pressure from online competitors. So, naturally, the question on every retailer’s mind at the moment is ‘How I can keep up with consumers and drive more sales?’ Consumers are all looking for bargains in order to make their money stretch further and, as a result, are spending less. This, in turn, means that’s it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain your bottom line and ensure there’s enough profit available to support further investment. However, the key to safeguarding your business could be to review how you’re keeping pace with consumer preferences.
1) Act fast
Retail is a rapidly changing environment to work in, so making sure that you’re as versatile as possible at all times is essential. One thing that you must avoid is allowing your branding to become stale and losing touch with the values of your customers. As such, you need to be constantly looking for new opportunities and generating ideas for the future. What you must appreciate is that if you allow the momentum behind your business to slow, getting it back up to the same level again is going to take more time, effort and money to achieve. Besides, your competitors aren’t sitting idly by - they are most likely looking for ways to entice your customers. Therefore, the value of being proactive and seizing upon opportunities as and when they arrive cannot be understated.
2) Brand visibility
In the struggle to draw more customers, your brand is your most valuable asset. But in order to ensure that it’s effective, differentiating yourself from your competitors and expressing how you can provide more value than everyone else is crucial. That’s why, if you haven’t already, you need to develop a powerful online presence and run sustained and effective marketing campaigns. This might involve anything from:
- Building a website
- Designing a mobile app
- Using Google Adwords
- Creating SEO-optimised content (blogs/vlogs)
- Posting adverts in your local area or beyond
- Setting up stands.
Yet no matter what tools and techniques you choose to employ, visibility is only part of overcoming the challenges you face. Everything you do must focus on expressing your unique selling points, what value your brand has to offer to customers and how it can fit into their lives. So if you’re able to regularly engage with your customer, highlighting the benefits of your brand, the more likely they are to shop with you instead of your competitors.
3) Constantly add value to your customers
Although promotions, discounts and coupons are all good ways of enticing consumers to purchase your goods, you must appreciate that this involves selling goods for less than what you’d normally charge. As such, this shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution for retaining customer loyalty. Instead, in order to add value, you should be focusing on:
- Service - The quality of the service you offer is going to be vital in both acquiring and retaining customers. One way of living up to customer expectations is to provide regular training for your staff, help them refine their skills and techniques for dealing with customers. You also should reward consumers for shopping with your business by introducing a loyalty program which will allow them to save money on future visits.
- Feedback - another aspect of providing great customer service is how you and your staff respond when things go awry. Taking the time to listen and understand the nature of the issue can help you find the most appropriate solution. But you should always treat customers with respect and compassion and, if necessary, personalise your responses with a phone call or a written apology letter.
- Expertise - Another way of adding to value to your customers is by ensuring that your staff have the necessary knowledge and expertise to offer additional services that your competitors, online and off, cannot. For example, could you offer your customers access to designers and personal stylists free of charge? This is one such service that online retailers aren’t able to provide in person.
- Exclusivity - With customers looking for bargains to make their money go further, justifying a higher price tag can be difficult. But if you do want to charge premium prices, exclusivity is key. Let your customers know that your goods are only on offer through you. For example, this could be designer shoes and handbags. In addition, working together with your marketing team, you could give loyal customers the ability to pre-order exclusive bundles from you. This has been a useful technique for retailers selling games and films but, with some imagination, could be applied elsewhere within your business to drive sales.
- Convenience - Convenience can easily make the difference when it comes to making the sale and being able to charge a premium price tag. That’s because rather than take the journey to go elsewhere, which costs both time and fuel money, customers can acquire what they’re looking for there and then. Besides, although online retailers believe they have the monopoly on convenience, you still have to arrange and wait for the item to be delivered. This could pose a problem to consumers as they may be at work or engaged elsewhere, making them unable to be in to receive it. But that’s not to say delivering goods directly to your customers doesn’t have its merits - online retailers are able to prosper because many have started offering same or next day delivery but at an additional cost. You could compete with this by encouraging customers to send items their work address, that way they or someone else within the organisation can collect it on their behalf.
- Experience - In addition, you need to change the customer’s perspective when it comes to shopping, encouraging them to perceive it as an enjoyable experience rather than just a necessity. That’s why you must be constantly reviewing the customer journey and make improvements to further maximise profit margins. That’s why many retailers choose to hire the services of mystery shoppers who can report on what’s working well front-of-house and where improvements need to be made. Plus, if one of your staff members has exceeded expectations, reward them to encourage the same behaviour from the rest of the team.
4) Be open to various payment options
Finally, make sure that you’re able to accept a variety of payment options both in-store and online. More and more consumers are choosing to complete transactions using their credit and debit cards but retailers also need to get up to speed with mobile payment technology as well, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and even Samsung Pay. Naturally, getting your head around the number of payment options available can be a headache, but if you’re not on top of if you could be losing sales and missing out on prime opportunities to grow your customer base. Fortunately, this can be easily overcome by installing an EPOS system in your shop(s) which is designed specifically for retailers. Some of the systems available include Touch Retail, Vend and Eposnow.
Need help supporting your retail business?
To succeed in the modern-day retail industry you need to treat your business like a chameleon, changing the way operate sometimes at a moments notice. One of the biggest challenges that retailers face, along with rising property rates, is living up to customers’ expectations. With new technology being introduced making it easier to compare prices at just a click of a button, shoppers are becoming more and more picky about where they choose to spend their money. However, making the necessary changes to how your business operates isn’t easy and requires access to sufficient amounts of capital. Yet rather than put your finances under even more strain, you could explore what the Alternative Finance Industry has to offer. All you need to do is choose a product which is suitable for your business’ needs.
At Rangewell, we’re an Access to Finance specialist who searches over 300 lenders to offer business owners just like yourself an overview of more than 23,000 business finance products. Our services are free to use and we’ll also guide you through the application process - support from start to finish. So if you’re looking for a cost-effective way of meeting the demands of your customers, apply for Alternative Finance today or find out more with Rangewell.