In a world of retail sameness, where nearly everyone has access to nearly every product, how are you going to stand out?
Many small retailers aren’t going to be able to compete with the behemoths on price. So it’s best to find another way to compete.
Small retailers can beat the big guys on product knowledge and customer service. But it’s tough to create a brand that’s based on human capital — there are just so many variables that we, as humans, exhibit that it’s hard to create any consistency around the people side of the service.
So how do you create a compelling brand?
- You study your competition.
- You determine your point of differentiation.
- You stake out and execute on an ownable segment, then don’t deviate from it.
Sounds simple, right? After all, how hard can it be to find the niche that you can exist in alone and be successful?
Independent retailers fall into a few traps when staking out a positioning for their brand.
- Base the concept on, and mimic, the competition. They watch what their competition is doing, then do exactly the same thing, from lines they’re bringing in to promotions they’re running and everything in between. But in order to succeed, you have to stake out the leadership position and own that. And being a leader means you lead, you don’t follow.
- Bring in merchandise that doesn’t fit the store concept and the brand. Too often, stores find themselves chasing sales in categories that deviate from their core competency. How can you be a photography store and carry candy? How can you be a candy store and carry greeting cards? How can you be a beauty store and carry clothing? How can you be a grocery store and carry patio furniture? None of these make sense for the core competency of the brand, yet retailers do it all the time. It’s simply because they need to increase sales. But this isn’t the way to do it.
- Continually change what the retail concept stands for. While I’m a big believer in testing, changing things for the sake of changing doesn’t make sense. I give props to retailers that try new things, but they so often fail for two reasons: They don’t support the new initiative and they don’t measure the success of it. For both of those reasons, retailers find themselves in a revolving door situation, where new product lines or services come and go. And that’s deadly for a brand.
How are you creating a strong, relevant brand for your business?
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