Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption
See how we changed our TV viewing habits. Once we had to wait for the correct time slot to access the content. Maybe our favourite TV show was on Thursday evening, but on Tuesday we had to adjust our expectations and take “average” as good enough. Now we time shift, for which we pay by subscription which reduced the power of advertisers (who had our eyes willingly or mostly unwillingly as we were locked in the seats, waiting). If you think, this has nothing to do with retail, I’ll try to prove it better. It shows how our access to popular products has changed. It’s a shift of paradigm. From push to pull economy.
As viewers, we are now in a position to choose between more options than ever before. Nielsen estimates 817.000 television programs at a particular moment are available to the viewer. Not only do we choose when, and what, but also where. The TV sofa still shopworn from Homer Simpson’s viewing habits, has gotten many competitors.
The choice of accessing popular products is more ours than ever before.
But the turnaround in the TV viewing is mirrored also in other activities. The “serious shift” transformed the whole society. We expect more, and we want our options to be of convincing value. In the flood of offered products, only those that stand out get our attention.
As the retail landscape is a kind of public pulse monitor, it couldn’t escape the change in customers’ expectations.
The trouble is that many of the brick-and-mortar retailers didn’t grasp the scope of the change. For years, they looked with conceit to emerging online retail, then corona pushed them to embrace it. The money was pumped into digital, but now there is also a boomerang effect. Acquisition of new customers in digital environment became increasingly costly, and many digitally native retailers (Amazon, Bonobos, or here in Slovenia Mimovrste). Physical stores became part of the “pull” environment. But many of the traditional retailers responded to this by physical store refurbishing. The evidence is full of “tired old ideas”. Just polishing more or less the same content without really changing the basic model of selling.
The result is often customer irrelevant, boring, retail (push), which is the opposite of remarkable retail (pull).
And here comes the title of our featured book which is a concept related to Seth Godin’s Purple Cow. Something that stands out of the clutter of options. More. Remarkable retail is a differentiator between a retail model with future potential and a model that is doomed to extinction.
In other words: remarkable retail is a reference to a new standard needed in the pull economy.
I encountered this book right at the peak of the first wave of corona scare. The human & consultant parts of me jointly tried to untangle the situation. Especially during the total lockdown, when it just seemed that online is “the new normal”. And, voila. Here comes Mr. Dennis’s firm belief that physical stores are here to stay. The reason: not only some customers like the “touch” of physical presence, but physical stores are essential part of the harmonized customer experience. Harmonized is a term that replaces omnichannel exactly to show that digital and physical retailing are blending together. It resonated and was a perfect fit for my store refurbishment projects temporarily on hold.
One other valuable point is that Dennis knowingly guides us through the shift that happens, embracing the new, while not overlooking the continuities of the past. He doesn’t fall into the trap of unconditional “digital worship”. The digital experience, omni-channel, and personalization are popular concepts but they are more a standard than anything else. He is encouraging retailers to be bold in strategy. In “pull times”, stores need to talk remarkable language to particular sets of customers, and get deeper into them.
Back to TV watching. Paradigm shift from push to pull coincided with higher quality standards of TV shows. Complex characters, amazing storytelling, bolder premises. A similar shift – with a little delay – should be expected from retail.
As a kind of navigation tool toward remarkable retail, the author sets 8 essentials:
#3: Harmonized → instead omni-channel
In his recent interview for the podcast Retail Revolution, discussing the updated edition of the book, he pointed out the #7: Memorable and #8: Radical.
The book might be taken as the last call for bold retail statements, especially for struggling “traditional retailers”. Which is kind of a good announcement. Who needs more mediocre commercial organizations in the world of abundance? Will the statements include also environmentally relevant solutions is yet to be seen.
The scope of the book is wide enough, so the book could be recommended for the readers outside the retail silos as well. Everyone interested in business strategy, marketing, and cultural shifts could gain valuable insights. After all, retail is a common playground for society’s yearnings.
Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption by Steve Dennis (2020, 240 pages, Lifetree, English edition)