A Retail year in reflection

THE LAST 12 months saw the financial roller coaster ride continue on its merry way, but at a slightly lesser pace in recent months. It has undoubtedly changed the way we do business and for many it has created strong reason to step back and reassess what is important in life’s daily activities and what is not.

Many small business owners would look back on the year so far and may ask themselves one question – ‘how can I do it better in 2011?’

This is a good opportunity to recap on some of the key marketing and advertising pointers discussed throughout the year and identify those which you may want to give more thought to as you trade into Christmas and prepare for a new business year.

As with any well thought through and balanced share portfolio, the need to knee jerk or drastically change direction should be largely ignored. Emotional reactions often result in a worse situation than you had before. If you have planned and built a solid foundation and committed to a strategy, then stick with it.

At this point in the year you know your business strengths and you know where improvements need to be made. Let’s examine a few previously discussed strategies that may help in your decision making process.

Re-affirm your brand, brand strategy and what your business stands for. Do this initially with your staff and management, and then make sure all customer contacts sing the same song.

Deliver your brand promise in store. Give the customer what they want when they come into your store They have a certain expectation from reading your advertising and seeing your communication. Exceed that expectation. Over deliver.

Make sure your ads offer the customer something of value. If possible give them a little something for free as a gesture of goodwill and real customer care. Give them a reason to buy and give them a reason to come back.

Choose your media carefully when communicating with your customer base. Effective media decisions are best made by really getting to understand your customer and how they think.

Make sure your in-store offer is engaging and well merchandised. The bell, sell , tell principle should apply. Bell – to attract their attention with a device of some kind e.g. flashing light, music, in store spruker etc. Sell – sales staff to play their part in closing the deal. Tell – sales staff to give customers a reason to come back for a future purchase.

In-store messages if simple and easy to understand can be a very effective tool in helping convert a browse mentality to one of purchase. Keep consumer interest by changing your in store in relation to your annual retail plan – Mother’s day, Valentine’s day, Christmas etc. Variety is the spice of life as they say.

Consider a small research program to gain a better understanding of how your business fared over the year that has passed. You know what sold and what did not. Try to gain a deeper understanding of why your customers bought what they did, and conversely, what the various barriers to purchase were. This information can be gained through devising a simple questionnaire for your customers to fill out and return. However, a more effective way to do this is to personally go through the questionnaire with them and get the information first hand. This will help you to make informed decisions about your business strategies as you complete this year and move into the new year.

As a small business owner you know all about long hours. Give yourself a break and some well earned time off. It is all too easy to forget yourself and your needs in this situation. Time out with family and friends is solid gold and is time lost forever if you don’t do it. The world won’t stop revolving and your business will keep going. Good delegation and staff help.

Step back and smell the roses from time to time and you will really appreciate how your garden is actually growing.

Contact: Eddie