The new retail landscape: Seizing opportunities to thrive

By Melanie Dawes - January 16, 2019

Over the last decade, retail businesses have been buffeted by constant change, which has challenged our traditional view of retail. Competition has been sparked by improved accessibility to digital technologies that lend to greater efficiencies in the supply chain, ushering an influx of online and international retailers and new entrepreneurial endeavours in our local market.

Read: Contact Magazine 2018/19

Whilst some retailers have embraced change and reaped the benefits, those who have only made incremental changes are now struggling to remain relevant to a new generation of empowered consumers. Stories of success and struggle in the retail sector provide valuable insights – the most important of which is that change is no longer fixed, but continuous. Those businesses experiencing success understand this notion; constantly adapting to the needs of the market to remain relevant.

Below, we examine the core thinking driving new-found success for retail businesses.

1. Brand advocates, not the hard sell

Consumption habits change over time, subject to social, political and economic influences. As loyal followers age and their tastes evolve, and newer customers in the segment display new desires, habits and preferences, brands, products and channels to market must also change. Retailers who succeed today are those that have mastered the art of cultivating an advocate, rather than pursing the ‘hard sell’ or rolling out generic marketing strategies. Brand advocates are loyal customers worth far more than the value of a repeat purchase. They act as a referrer by spreading the word about your brand with peers, and have a powerful voice enabled by technology. Consumers want to hear what actual customers are saying about a product or service, which is why websites have made online reviews a key component of their selling.

Mecca Cosmetica is an example of a retailer with a holistic approach to consumers that has created loyal brand advocates. Mecca’s stores draw customers in to freely play and test their products, but the well-trained staff, membership gift boxes and exclusive members events bring them back for more. Their online platform dispatches beautifully wrapped items purchased before 2pm on the same day, prioritising customers’ desire for immediacy. Mecca continues to expand, with 1.5 million customers a year, 90 stores, and almost 350,000 devotees on Instagram.

2. Value, not price

Consumers are attracted to brands not just for the competitive price of goods or services, but because of the additional value the brand creates for them through experiences. These tangible offerings elevate products and services and establish the brands as an extension and enabler of consumers’ values and desires. Although research shows millennials are more enamoured with experiences than material things, experiential consumption has proven attractive to many consumer groups.

At Melbourne’s day spa and clinic Miss Fox, beauty and facial treatments are complemented by an after-hours program of anxiety workshops, yoga classes, and inspiring lifestyle talks. Similarly, Purebaby runs ‘Nesting Workshops’ covering swaddling, bathing and sleep tips to tap into the market for baby advice. Stationery merchant Kikki K hosts national masterclasses in goal setting (using their goal setting journal, naturally), to align with consumers’ desires to shape their dream lives. To engage today’s savvy consumers and turn them into advocates, retailers must give each customer a value-add experience.

3. Transparency, not slick marketing

Today’s generation of consumers value connection and authenticity. They look for a brand whose values align with their own, seeking out ethical and honest retailers. Through transparency in their practices and process, rather than slick marketing campaigns that can ring false, retailers can demonstrate their commitment to the issues and causes that matter to the more conscious consumer.

Grill’d is a retail food chain which has successfully created a community united by shared values, around their tagline of ‘Burgers done good’. The business is premised on the mantra: ‘be good; do good; feel good’; with ethically sourced produce, tasty burgers with options for different dietary needs, and a support programme for local causes. With each purchase, customers donate a token to a charity of their choice, creating a feel-good factor and a sense of making an impact. Simple branding, honest messaging, and the open-jar token system create a retail brand that feels authentic and sincere.

4. Data, not gut instinct

Data is your most trusted guide to making good business decisions and remaining relevant in a competitive marketplace. Data allows you to personalise the customer journey. Sales data tells you what and when your audience makes a purchase and can be used to predict what type of items different customers prefer to buy.

Marketing data from social media and email such as likes, clicks, opens and comments can be used to test what appeals to customers, and what products or services need to be replaced or improved. Broader demographic data can assist in expansion plans to reach new audiences, while performance and expenditure data will identify new operational policies and procedures.

Retail giant Woolworths uses the Everyday Rewards card to better understand consumer interests and habits. Online stores such as Amazon and Catch of the Day are now capturing new forms of data using their new, bricks and mortar stores. By deploying eye-tracking and movement-tracking software, they are better able to understand customer preferences and needs. This is evidence of the value of bricks and mortar stores in combination with an online presence. A retailer that uses their data to differentiate themselves and find a way to keep their customers engaged will outperform every time.


In the competitive retail space, it is essential to understand what appeals to today’s consumers, and shift business practices and processes to address these new demands, needs, mindsets, and consumption habits. Retailers willing to put the work into long-term, meaningful and informed interaction with their customers, who constantly innovate and do so with excellence, will see the benefits of a loyal and active consumer base.  

If you are a retailer looking for further support and advice, please get in touch with your Pitcher Partners contact.


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