2017 is pitched to be the year of uncertainty for our retail industry.
With the imminent trigger of article 50, Brexit negotiations and an unsettled international stage, markets are predicting a slowdown in the UK economy and, although actual business transactions and figures on consumer spending show otherwise, it seems that we may be in for a rough ride.
As a sector, the UK’s retail industry generates a whopping £326 billion in sales each year and directly employs around 3 million people1. It’s one of the UK’s major success stories, but one that hasn’t been easy given the global recession that crippled our High Streets and decimated our housing market just a decade ago.
So, in the face of yet more global financial uncertainty here are our top three success drivers for 2017.
QUALITY & TRANSPARENCY
We all know how important quality is. We’re often tempted by a cheap deal, but quality means a lot more to us, and encourages repeat sales more than anything else.
Where their money is going is also just as important to consumers in 2017 as what it buys them, and whilst we have established that quality is important, it is no longer enough just to sell a high quality product without any information about the provenance of the product being purchased.
To help drive success this year, keep this in mind and promote how/where products are made, blog on how materials are sourced, post content showing employees enjoying their work on social media – basically, if you have a strong message of quality, then be transparent about it. Do everything you can to get that message across. Craft marketing strategies to inform customers and, most importantly, be consistent in approach.
The retail environment has never been one-dimensional, but as 2017 unfolds an omnichannel approach will enhance the customer experience.
ASOS in particular is a case in point. As a result they are pulling in high volumes of followers to their website and social media accounts. Providing their dedicated, and ultra-fashionable stylists with Instagram accounts associated to the main brand (@asos_gamze as a perfect example) and linking those accounts to dedicated pages on the ASOS website as well as instant purchase apps such as Like2Buy, creates a seamless consumer experience that provides much more than just a basic sales approach.
Omnichannel builds and enhances the customer experience, providing multiple outlets for the brand to engage with its customers, creating the feeling that the brand knows and understands exactly what they’re looking for. It allows the retailer to build a personality and connect with the customer without being overtly salesy – they’re the friend you turn to for inspiration.
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
The ability to craft unique experiences, whether in-store or online, will help the retail sector enormously over the course of 2017. Customised and personal communications, out of the ordinary shopping experiences, surprise and delight, blending seamlessly with online shopping, integrating digital into the in-store experience. All will help drive sales this year.
Take Pret A Manger for example, who are bucking the norm in their field by not introducing a loyalty scheme like most other coffee retailers and instead looking to surprise and delight their customers by occasionally (and unexpectedly) offering free drinks or food as they stand in line.
And Hunter, who are bringing to life the concept of ‘retailtainment’ by linking up with successful bloggers and ‘Instamums’ such as @mother_pukka to host special pop-up themed events, bringing together fun and sales in a quirky and friendly way to encourage brand loyalty and repeat sales.
The customer experience is key. And throughout 2017, as brands compete for sales in what may well become an increasingly tight market, building a unique experience for customers will help to define a brand and focus marketing.
Whatever the approach you choose to enhance your sales throughout 2017, as Virgil said, ‘Fortune favours the bold’.
So this year why not be brave? Work on an approach that elevates every aspect of the experience for your customer. Start with your own brand and think about what you stand for, talk to your customers, find out what they want and need from you and then challenge the norm.
Do something a little different that will set your brand apart and make your customers feel just that little bit special.
You don’t have to out-spend, but it’s clear that you must out-think the competition to get ahead this year.
1. Investing in the UK Retail Market: A Global Opportunity, January 2017, Revo & intu