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Guest column: Retailers, are you ready to service the shopper of the future?

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Wes Dillingham

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.24.38 AMI recently learned about a company called Enjoy, a 100% online reseller of consumer electronic products such as Apple TV, GoPro, etc. I know what you are thinking: another Amazon, right? The difference is Enjoy—which currently operates in New York and San Francisco—takes online retailing to the next level. When you buy a product from the company, they have someone deliver it in person, set it up for you (if necessary) and teach you how to use it. All this for the same price as buying the product on Amazon or at Best Buy.

Love it or hate it, this is a glimpse into the future of retail. Now, don’t stop reading because you think you aren’t ready. That’s OK—no one is entirely prepared for the future. But while no one can say with any certainty what the future will bring, there are things we can do to prepare and plan for the future.

Here is what we know about the future for sure: First, the population is changing; therefore, the way people shop and buy is changing. In illustration: millennials (those born between 1980-2000) will soon account for 30% of consumer spending. In recent months, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S., surpassing Baby Boomers and becoming a major force on the future of our economy.

Second, technology is changing the way consumers shop and buy as well as how businesses operate. This means having more mobile-friendly websites and a strong social media presence.

As a retailer you need to ask: Does my business accommodate for the technology expectations, shopping behaviors and communication needs of millennials? If not, it’s time to retool and learn more about this powerful demographic and how they will change the future of retail.

Following are some trends you can count on to change your business in the future followed by advice on how to “future proof” your business.

Adopt an omnichannel strategy. In essence this means combining all of the shopping channels your customers use into one integrated experience. For example, if they shop on your website they may want to buy online and pick up at the store. Or they may decide to research online, come into the store to purchase and then have the product shipped to their house. This means your online, mobile and in-store experience must be seamless for the consumer.

Data is king. Thanks to the Internet and the cloud there are numerous technologies capturing real-time, consumer and business data. Lucky for you, this information is more and more accessible to small businesses. More important, this information can assist small- to medium-sized businesses in making educated, real-time, strategic decisions the same way large companies have been doing for years. It used to be you had to buy this information from large research companies, but now you can get information from Google Analytics and other software programs right inside your store.

These programs capture valuable data to help you evaluate your business. A good customer relationship management system (CRM) will capture and provide valuable business data. This will allow you to monitor your business from anywhere and make key business decisions. Those who capitalize on this data have the ability to adjust to market conditions quicker than their competitors.

I suggest spending an hour or two each week Googling trends and learning about different business resources. This research will uncover key trends that will keep you in the know in terms of what is coming and give you ideas on a few things to implement into your business. Lastly, reach out to cutting-edge operations and leaders you admire, not only in your industry but in other sectors.

 

Wes Dillingham is vice president of customer success at Stock Systems a Cincinnati-based CRM startup. He writes frequently on matters related to online marketing and retailing.

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Guest column: The golden rule of software implementation

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Wes Dillingham

 

(First of two parts)

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when buying and implementing software is not approaching it as change first. It’s important to keep in mind that any software you plan to implement at your company is likely to present a major change to the day-to-day routine of your employees.

In other words, if you are implementing any type of software or any other type of change to your company, you need to first recognize it for what it is—not just new software or a new process but a new way of thinking and working.

When you are changing up the routine of your employees and asking them to implement any change that includes but is not limited to a new software program, you are likely going to experience resistance and you can expect your most tenured employees to fight the hardest, even though this may seem counterintuitive. They will also have the most ammunition in their arsenal. All of their experience and history with the company will likely be used to defend their position, especially if they have a proven track record of getting successful results.

According to Nikolay Bulava of Customer Think, the top reasons cited for resisting a CRM software implementation are:

  1. Fear of change
  2. Fear of visibility into one’s daily work
  3. Inconvenience of use

The following is a very simple and logical way to approach change within your organization. There are numerous change management concepts and processes you can Google to learn more, but I have found the “Switch” methodology to be a very simple concept to grasp. This concept comes from Dan and Chip Heath’s New York Times bestseller of the same name. In the book, the authors describe the problem their method helps to solve in the following excerpt: “For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your team…each has an emotional ‘elephant’ side and a rational ‘rider’ side. You’ve got to reach both, and you’ve also got to clear the way or the path for them to succeed. In short, you must do three things to impart the change you want:

  1. Direct the rider — appeal to the logical side.
  2. Motivate the elephant — the emotional side.
  3. Clear the path — the environment around them.”

Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia professor who originally proposed the analogy of the rider, elephant and the path in his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” describes it this way, “Our emotional side is an elephant and our rational side is its rider. Perched atop the elephant, the rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the rider’s control is precarious because he is so small relative to the elephant. Anytime the six-ton elephant and the rider disagree about which direction to go, the rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”

In the next installment, I will delve a little deeper into the rider, elephant and path concepts. But in the interim, remember this: The successful adoption of a new software program is 80% preparation and 20% implementation—that’s the golden rule. If you do the pre-work, the actual software itself should be a relatively minor step in the process.

 

Wes Dillingham is vice president of customer success at The Lead Tool, a Cincinnati-based CRM start-up. You can connect with him directly on LinkedIn or via facebook.com/theleadtool