RETA ILING B E TTE R
Agility and Growth By Robert Christie
ucts you are turning. Knowing what customers want to purchase is only half the equation. You need to have those desirable products available right now for that information to matter.
Do Some Research
As I write this, the first quarter of 2019 is in the rearview mirror and the halfway mark is just a few short weeks away. Woah! It’s a good time to ask ourselves “how are we doing?” and “what needs to change?” The beginning of the year is a natural time to lay out goals, plans and budgets. It’s equally important for us to evaluate our progress and review our goals on a regular basis. Here’s some truth: Your customers’ wants, needs and expectations are constantly evolving, and these changes are coming faster and faster. All that great planning you did to start the year just might be setting you up to have exactly what your customers don’t want in July. It’s crazy, I know, but it’s also the current reality of retail. Worry not, fellow retailer. Long- and medium-term planning are still important. Take the time to review the plans and goals you’ve laid out for the year now to ensure you are still on track. Being mindful of the current landscape is the most important step toward avoiding potential pitfalls. You know things are changing, and quickly. This means you know you have to be agile. The speed of change and pressure from our online competition can be daunting. The good news is that staying agile and growing your retail business doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Here are some simple strategies that will help you maintain a level of agility that will allow you to keep up with your customers’ demands and won’t cost a fortune to implement.
If They Want It, You Better Have It
You have an inventory management system. Use it. It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy computerized system or still do things by hand, the fact is you have data. Use it often. Keep track of your fastest-selling SKUs. Review your sales metrics regularly in an effort to best handle your inventory. Stocking too much of the wrong product can be terribly expensive and can even make it financially difficult to purchase the prod-
MUSIC & SOUND RETAILER
Research popular gear reviews, trending social media tags, artist interviews and popular gear-related posts, and you will learn quite a bit. Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage someone else’s work. Take a few moments to browse your online competitor’s website and see what is working for them. Take the time and you can get a real feel for what products and categories are hot right now. On the other hand, you may be able to see trends that will help you to be ahead of the next “must-have” product. In both cases, you can make short-term adjustments to your ordering strategy that will go a long way toward ensuring that you have what your customers want to buy. You can also leverage your social media platforms to learn more about what your customers may be looking for. Focus on your target audience and conduct Instagram and Facebook polls, or post online surveys. This way, you can find out exactly what your customer is likely to be purchasing in the near future. You may even learn how to be more effective selling those items than your competition.
Create a Little Excitement
Nothing gets people’s attention like the word “free.” But, if you’re like me, you know the road toward profitability is not paved with giveaways. Sure, sponsoring a drawing or running a contest may drive some short-term traffic. I prefer more creative solutions that still involve the word free. For example, offer a free evaluation of a customer’s current gear. This puts you in the position to recommend upgrades, modifications or repairs. Provide free gift bags to customers spending more than $50 on gifts. Invite your current customers to a free, hands-on demo event. You may even consider an exchange-based gear satisfaction guarantee to purchasers, providing customers the peace of mind that they will never be stuck with a piece of gear that doesn’t work for them the way they had hoped. Get creative and provide offers that capture your customers’ attention and make them more willing to buy now instead of later.
Make a Short-Term Alliance
You should always be networking. As you grow your network, keep your eyes open for “in” businesses, a company riding the crest of a fad or a local hot spot. When you find the right opportunity, join forces. Working alongside another business provides opportunities for you both to promote your products, reach new audiences and grow your sales. This type of marketing has the additional advantage of being free. Simple ways (continued on page 52) 41