Should retailers wait for the recovery or is this the New Normal? Expectations that retailers can both export Britain back to success and solve youth unemployment are certainly a little premature. But some are doing well bucking the trend by focusing on the basics and getting closer to their customers. What's their secret? Paul Court, Director of Sales at Futura Retail Solutions, tells all
Are we in the New Normal? Yes, I think we are. Three and half years since the credit crunch there's certainly little sign of improvement and waiting for the recovery simply isn't an option. It's not that customers have gone away. They're still out there. But expectations are higher and priorities are changing. We're seeing fewer impulse purchases and closer scrutiny of quality and durability.
So understanding what your customers are thinking and getting even closer to them has never been more important. We find the most successful retail customers focus their energies on delivering the very best customer service and understanding what customers want. It's about doing everything extremely well and focussing on the basics making constant small tweaks and improvements across all your processes to improve efficiencies and manage your cost base.
Accuracy is King
Everyone knows that accuracy is crucial - but we still find it's an area that lifestyle retailers struggle with. Mis-keyed data and duplication are frequently the culprits at best it means extra work for you to see your true stock position, at worst disappointed customers, lost sales and ineffective promotions.
Smart technology can capture accurate data at every customer touch point, at the till or online and increasingly with mobile devices across the store. It means mailing lists are accurate and preferences and purchase histories are logged. In turn, it's easy to segment your customers and target offers that are meaningful rather than wasted. In the new normal making this a priority, ensures customer data is up to date, stock decisions are accurate and procedures flow smoothly.
Retail Survival Nine Rules for Cutting Costs
- Get re-focused
- Improve customer data
- Create 'value based' promotions
- Do the basics extremely well
- Automate workflows
- Get tougher on inventory
- Up the service levels
- Deepen your understanding
- Move staff from data inputting to customer service
Workflows for efficiency
To improve control and efficiency consider workflows to automate the follow-up of simple tasks, or to alert staff when a decision is needed. A modern retail management system should allow you to create event driven workflows for specific users or tasks, with on-screen prompts and guidance, these will ensure processes are completed correctly and accurately. It's another way to help you remain on top of your game while reducing costs and operational errors.
A nudge in the right direction
If you're tough on inventory you'll always be in a stronger position, no matter what the market is doing. Getting this right will help minimise stock exposure, reduce capital outlay and costly markdowns. Short-term profit reports can identify your top sellers and worst performers, so you can make further discounts or promotions and react faster to customer trends.
Systems like Futura that are strong on stock control will enable you to balance the optimal amount of stock, in the right location, automatically. If you need a nudge in the right direction, intelligent stock replenishment will spot opportunities for allocations between store to web and inter-branch transfers, before new orders are placed.
Increasing POS security
Sadly shrinkage remains an issue nibbling at your margins, but even here technology can help and we are seeing enhanced levels of POS security. At Futura we have upgraded tracking and authorisation levels to permit much stronger access control and have simplified settings to highlight suspicious user behaviour.
I can you hear you saying this is nothing new. But the reality is these are good habits that some retailers have forgotten or shuffled off their list of priorities. By refocusing, doing the basics well and using IT to improve processes and efficiencies, you can realign your business for the New Normal and you'll be far stronger when better times return.