“Slow No” Is Quickly Killing Retail

I recently came across an article titled “Retail Reframe: Death by ‘Slow No’” written by retail speaker and strategist Carol Spieckerman. In the post, Spieckerman delves into the uncomfortable truth many retail technology and solutions partners face today: due to retailer indecisiveness they are indirectly (or in some cases, directly) being told “no” over the course of several months, or even years, and it’s killing their company.

She did a fantastic job putting her finger on a key problem in retail. I will take it a step further, there are issues that I’ve encountered in my own experience while in retail that have me believing that this “slow no” problem is far more serious than Spieckerman admits.

The “Slow No” is like tire kicking for enterprise retail: Looking and strategizing while the field of play crumbles around your brand. By the time you pull the trigger, it’s a different landscape. That solution provider you were working with for two years has the new technology now, but you’re going to have a lot of meetings before you can get a pilot off the ground. Better hold off until next season.

These moments below happen even when clear success has been shown. Massive customer engagement, clear success stories. I know the difference, and I definitely call it out when there isn’t a fit. These situations are fits.

Cultural Blanket of “Slow No” is Destroying Enterprise Retail

My position has allowed me to work with dozens of retailers around the world. Over recent years I have witnessed brands struggle, stores close, and brands excel in their space.

I have found this “slow no” to be a leading indicator of these successes and failures.

The one thing that the struggling and closed stores had in common was their inability to act. In the article, Spieckerman touches the fact that “no” often means “not right now,” and I agree with that. However- that “not right now” needs to be understood and applied carefully. If you’re finding that “not right now” is just your brands cultural version of “slow no”, then start working on a way to be decisive.

There is a strong correlation between your ability to make decisions and your ability to succeed.

Add to this a common occurance of having the person whose job it is to bring the brand “Ideas and new tech” not being the person whose job it is to get those technologies into the fleet… trouble.

Being in a constant state of consideration creates a false sense of security.

Competitive Advantages are Dying on the Table During Your Reorganization

The era of the cutting edge POS saving the brand millions have passed. Everything going forward is bigger, more interconnected, and requires integration (sorry, this isn’t all plug and play).

Especially the Star Trek “store of the future” you talked about in the board room.

In many cases, head quarters staff are not in their job roles long enough to work through configuring and deploying an effective new retail strategy (or technology). Inherent inter-department company politics can create lengthy blocks which can bring progress to a halt. It has repeatedly been my experience that even the best proponents for new technology see the transition coming from so far out that they freeze well before it arrives.

Tight budgets for leadership and HQ head count cuts are hard to reconcile with project management cycles. Be open about those realities when the project kicks off so solution providers can keep up the tempo.

Despite technology being essential when it comes to thriving in this space, there is an immense lack of resources and experience when it comes to tech-savvy individuals in the retail industry. I suspect that pending H1B changes are going to rock the industry as well. It also does not help that the IT department is usually high on the business resources chopping block.

A key example was a major global conglomerate retailer that just announced massive store closures. They were unable after 5 conference calls to get a team together that could enact a router policy change on a single pilot stores stack. That’s not a joke.

If this sounds familiar it’s time to move quickly to make some changes.

Playing Against a Stacked Deck

The best retailers in the industry are risk-takers. They are not afraid of failure and are innovative at their very core. They know their brand so well that they project it and draw customers to them. They don’t have an existential crisis about “who is the customer” and they don’t hire consultants to periodically dive in and tell them. Be genuine and set the trend.

I’m looking at you LuluLemon. Great work.

Amazon, has ended hundreds of online retailers in its wake. Once they have a strategy in place the company pushes it forward at breakneck speed, which has turned them into an online retail giant. Add in a dash of fawning media praise for projects that don’t do so well, such as Amazon Go, and you have a recipe for tough competition.

Don’t play their game. You are different – you have stores, you have a brand, you can tell stories that they simply cannot.
Get to work connecting your Associates with your Customers. Believe in both groups.

Beating the “Slow No”

Retailers have to start trusting their gut instincts more and initiate strong calls to action if they want to beat the “slow no.” Here are a few ways I think this can be achieved:

  • Create timelines that inspire action. Scale your decision making and initiative testing timelines so that they coincide with the amount of time the teams making decisions are in their decision making roles.
  • Use metrics that work, and go with your gut. Don’t believe a third party analytics suite, and don’t believe that comps matter. Get into the stores and realize that the only metric that matters is the experience in the store. Find a metric that makes you proactive instead of reactive, and don’t believe a red-light/green-light black box.
  • Hire young, motivated talent and believe in them. Younger teams tend not to accept a problem as being a permanent one, and are more willing to take the risks necessary to find a solution. Don’t just hire them- give them authority to innovate. Make that the culture. If you’re not finding people who think fast, fail fast, and aren’t afraid of some misses- you’re setting up your own retail “slow no” moment.
  • Start celebrating risk. Wall Street may frown upon you and fellow retailers may give you the cold shoulder, but remember that the best competitors in retail are regularly praised for their boldness—even when their plans fail. This isn’t War Games and you’re not Matthew Broderick.
  • Pick solution providers with passion and expertise. Obviously, that means working with me if you’re focused on the fitting room or call buttons, or any number of other things – but really it means finding someone who you can trust to partner with and make it happen. Nothing is plug and play at scale, and that’s what you need to be focused on as a retailer. Find industry vetted partners who can deploy to every single store. Find your advantages and move them to those stores- rinse and repeat.
  • Don’t spec technology that’s only for the flagship. If you can’t move it to the whole chain, stop chasing it. The industry needs to show experience to as many people as possible and fast. Sure it looks awesome in NYC|Milan|Hong Kong but it’s going to win your brand in Schaumburg and Greensboro.

Retailers who drag their feet and choose inaction over action miss out on opportunities and are immediately outpaced by their forward-thinking competitors. I believe it is those which choose to embrace the ever-changing landscape of retail by implementing new technologies, producing clear expectations and outcomes at the end of every meeting, those who take action are going to be able to bend “slow no” to their will and stop it in its tracks.

How Retailers Are Answering the Age of Consumer-Driven Retail

The retail landscape today looks quite different than it did a decade ago. How customers are making purchasing decisions and buying items has changed significantly. Customers will often be physically present in a store, yet still consult their smartphone to complete the buying decision. They will read product reviews, compare pricing, take pictures, and sometimes even purchase the product itself.

Rather than struggling with this consumer behavior shift, successful retail companies are coming out on top by embracing technology and blurring the line between the online and in-store shopping experience.

Delivering a Seamless Customer Experience Throughout All Retail Channels

From discovery to being ready to buy, next generation shoppers want to be able to do it all with minimal effort.

Retailers are responding to this demand by investing business capital into syncing systems. Global inventory management, merchandising, and logistical data meets with online platforms to provide a true omnichannel experience. This gives customers the information they need to know at their fingertips, such as real-time item availability and shipping times. Multi-channel communication also means that a retailer can eliminate overselling by viewing unified sales and inventory information across all stores and retail channels.

Empowering Employees and Customers with Technology

As global trends have shown, the prevalence of smartphones in brick and mortar stores is only going to increase over the next several years. Forward focused retailers have accepted this fact and have shifted their focus to providing a more mobile-friendly customer journey. Some examples of this which can be found in several stores today include:

  • Customers can bypass the traditional time-consuming checkout process and by using optimized websites and native smartphone apps.
  • A growing number of retailers are integrating in-store pickup or BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) technologies.
  • Retailers are providing customers with “call” buttons which allow them to receive service-on-demand from a sales associate.

Today, customers have a higher expectation of sales associates than ever. This new engagement technology means that employees can quickly respond to the needs of a customer, help them find the most suitable product, and increase the likelihood of a customer walking away with a purchase.

Gaining Better Business Intelligence to Drive Sales and Loyalty

How customers research and buy items is becoming more technologically driven, but it still does not compare to being able to physically touch and try on items. This creates an opportunity for retailers to utilize technology in order to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

Retailers now have the resources available to keep up with consumer-driven retail. With access to these tools, they can deliver a better and more memorable customer experience while driving sales and profitability.

Make Data-Driven Decisions When Rightsizing Retail Stores

As the online eCommerce boom moves steadily onward, more brick-and-mortar stores are closing their doors because their brand must downsize to be financially sustainable. While the public perception of downsizing may be detrimental to local companies, rightsizing can make sure that a business continues to thrive in this volatile marketplace.

Downsizing vs. Rightsizing—What’s the Difference?

The key difference between downsizing and rightsizing is that one is reactive while the other is proactive. Downsizing is where businesses are in the position of needing to lay people off. It can be stressful, disruptive, and have a significant impact on company morale.

Rightsizing, on the other hand, is a constant part of the management process. Leaders look at a variety of factors that will affect how they run their stores, including:

  • Market needs and trends
  • Alternative approaches and new ideas
  • New technologies

The focus of rightsizing is on the future, and as such, leaders use rightsizing technologies to steer their organization in the best direction for their brand. This helps  develop a clear strategic direction, which includes the gradual hiring or re-education of employees as necessary (which, as opposed to a mass layoff, can improve how locals view your store).

Store Closures Don’t Necessarily Mean Failure

A common misconception today is that the closing of a store means that the store has failed. But with the retail landscape constantly evolving, the closing of stores is often strategic and is a reflection of how consumers are shopping as opposed to outright business failure.

 

The online retail industry is growing at a rapid rate, but brands shouldn’t react by closing all of their physical stores. Consumers, as happy as they are to shop online, are even happier to find exactly what they want in a physical store for a number of reasons, including:

  • Online retailers cannot instantly deliver what a consumer wants (many consumers want to walk away with something in-hand).
  • Shopping in a brick-and-mortar store presents the opportunity for social interaction and advice.
  • Consumers want to try things on to check the quality of the garment and to guarantee fit.

Deliver the Best In-Store Experience

The key to brick-and-mortar retailers surviving today is to differentiate themselves by delivering the best in-store experience for their consumers. Associates can go beyond asking, “Is there anything I can help you find?” and can instead be presented with an entire purchase history for that customer beforehand, allowing the associate to make more meaningful recommendations. They can reserve fitting rooms, know who is in which fitting room, and be instantly alerted the moment a customer needs assistance.

Having data on consumer preferences, the number of customers visiting stores, and conversion rates is critical in the rightsizing process. Brands can make intelligent decisions on staffing levels, what sizes and types of garments sell best in which locations, and how they can improve the customer experience.

Technology is a critical player for online and offline stores alike. With the right tools and data-driven insights, any store can increase customer conversions, see a drop in returns, and significantly boost the number of people who walk out with their next favorite piece of clothing in-hand.

Why is the Fitting Room so Important in Retail Analytics?

Relatively speaking, the fitting room is one of the smallest areas of any retail store. These unobtrusive rooms are often tucked away in the back, and as a retailer, you could easily forget all about them. That is, until you understand the importance of this small-but-mighty area of the store.

For example, did you know that fitting rooms are key to increased sales and decreased returns? Let’s look at why the fitting room is crucial to retail performance.

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Why Customers Get Educated Online but Buy In-Store

Finally! Kristin sealed up the last envelope with invitations to her sister Sarah’s bridal shower. This was going to be a huge event!

Her sister was marrying the man of her dreams. Kristin loved the pair as a couple and couldn’t wait to see them walk down the aisle… this wedding was going to be one for the record books. Or, her record books anyway.

Sarah was marrying a man from India. The pair decided to hold a traditional Indian wedding with intermittent glimpses of the American culture where Sarah was raised. The entire affair would last four days.

Kristin was in charge of the bridal shower. That she could handle.

As she finished addressing the last envelope, she was excited for the next task on her to-do list – shopping!

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Is the Death of Brick and Mortar Retail on the Horizon? No, and Here’s Why

It’s a scary thought for many retailers. Brick and mortar retail could end, as we know it, as more people turn to the Internet to shop online. Not so, according to The State of Retail 2015 report by TimeTrade.

TimeTrade compiled a report on the state of consumer behavior, gathering details about how shoppers shop and buyers buy.

The company looked at the psychology behind in-store shopping compared to online shopping. They examined modern consumer preferences and compared these to how well brick and mortar stores will fair going forward.

The results were encouraging for brick and mortar retailers. Here are some of the highlights.

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The Future of Retail? Predictions for 2016 & Beyond

With more retailers than ever reporting dour statistics linked to the rapidly shifting digital landscape, how can businesses expect to stay afloat? Knowing the upcoming trends and using them to your advantage can put you ahead of the game.

So what are some of our predictions for 2016 and beyond? And how can retailers best adjust their operations?

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NRF 2016: What You Must See if You Sell Apparel

The countdown is on for NRF 2016! This is one of the most anticipated shows in the retail industry. Are you as excited as we are?

With exhibitions, sponsorships, meet-ups and more, it’s impossible to take in everything NRF 2016 has to offer. When you first walk through the doors of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, you’ll find a LOT competing for your attention – from exhibits to speakers to networking events. It can overwhelm even the most seasoned conference goer – unless you make a strategic plan.

We’ve been to this show before. Over the years, we have learned what’s a must-see for anyone in retail. And specifically, for apparel retailers. If you want to have an incredible experience here’s what we recommend.

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NRF 2016: Why it’s a Big Deal and Why You Need to be There

It’s that special time of year again for retail. This year, the NRF Big Show will take place January 17-20th at the Jacob K. Javita Convention Center in bustling New York City. You may be asking yourself:

  • I have quality products, and I’m well networked, so why should I show up?
  • What will this conference do for my business that I can’t do for myself?

Or, maybe, your retail business is struggling, and you don’t know why. There are no definite answers on why some retail businesses succeed and why others fail, but you’ll definitely get some great ideas from NRF’s Big Show.

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Using the Internet of Things to Your Advantage

If you have been paying attention to tech news in recent years, you have no doubt heard of the Internet of Things. If you haven’t been paying attention, fear not. Many of those who have waded through countless articles are still hard-pressed to come up with a clear explanation for the Internet of Things.

Luckily for both camps, we’re here to shed some light on the Internet of Things, and more importantly, how you can use it to your advantage.

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