Lessons in Retail Leadership

JohnNewDespite fast-changing customer expectations, shortened product and retail life cycles and rapid technological advancements, many retailers have not taken advantage of opportunities to innovate.

By applying new perspectives to established ways of doing business, convenience store retailers can strengthen their competitive and financial positions, improve the customer experience and create a new life cycle of growth. As customers’ lifestyles become more fast-paced, there has never been a greater need for retail innovation than in today’s cluttered marketplace, nor a period of greater opportunity. Significant and rapid demographic, economic, social and technological shifts are creating a fertile environment for new ideas to better serve customers and steal market share.

To help retailers identify areas of opportunity, Retail Forward, a consulting and market research firm, identified 10 innovation opportunity areas with tremendous potential for creating new consumer benefits and stakeholder economic value:

Catch a Wave. Retailers that apply innovative thinking to a growth market opportunity created by demographic, societal, economic and technological trends can generate significant growth and financial performance. The needs of an aging population, ethnic consumers and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle provide fertile ground for innovative solutions.

Solve My Problem. A consumer-centric approach creates opportunities to add value to the shopping experience. This requires adding services, information and support to the product mix to provide a complete solution for task-oriented shoppers. Presenting products in context and by bundling products and services, retailers create consumer value and competitive differentiation.

Do It for Me. Demographic shifts and lifestyle changes are driving former do-it-yourself consumers into the do-it-for-me market. Retailers are responding to consumers’ increasing demands with innovative services and conveniences. Services like home meal replacement are fast-growing examples of do-it-for-me innovations.

Help Me Choose. Information overload, too many choices, more complex products and a lack of knowledgeable sales assistance create opportunities for retailers to develop innovative solutions for consumers.

Come to Me. New distribution models are allowing retailers to connect with consumers wherever they are—at home, at work or in the car. Mobile retailing and target marketing are gaining in popularity as time-pressed consumers seek greater convenience.

Enhance the Experience. Retailers increasingly will differentiate themselves by using experiences to sell the dream—as well as the product—and bring the brand to life. Consider Maverik Convenience Stores in Utah, which has integrated branding into entertainment and other customer experiences to create memorable brand interactions that resonate with target consumers.

Make It Easy. Innovative process, service and design solutions that are simple, intuitive and in tune with shoppers’ needs can save consumers time and effort. Retailers that implement easier and more rewarding customer experiences will realize sales growth and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Do It My Way. As shopping becomes increasingly individualistic, innovative retailers will seek ways to provide more unexpected gratification to shoppers and allow them to express themselves in unique ways.

Help Me Connect. Social networking fosters community among consumers who share a common interest. Retailers are forging stronger relationships with consumers and earning their patronage by helping them to connect in ways that are important to them.

Speed It Up. Consumers want it fast; they want it now; and they want it first. The need for speed in the shopping process will continue to drive changes in store concepts, design, location, merchandising, transaction processing and payment.

The retail world is changing rapidly. If you fail to evolve or connect with your customers on a personal level you risk slipping into obscurity. It’s challenging times like these that separate the winners and losers. It’s times like these that require outstanding leadership.

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