Adapt, or Die: 4 Fresh Ideas to Win at Retail

( Peter Koch/   Freepik  )

(Peter Koch/Freepik)

Use social media to inform buying decisions, find profits in sustainability, and other key takeaways from the 2019 Los Angeles Retail Symposium

Words by Rachelle Schouten

As the Administrative Coordinator for the NBDA, I work daily with President Brandee Lepak to find new ways of providing benefits and education to our members. When this year’s Retail Symposium was announced—promising to help retailers adapt to the changing landscape and a new generation of technology-savvy and sustainably-minded consumers—we knew that we had to attend, and share what we learned with you, our retailer-members. Speakers and panelists at the event included REI’s Product Sustainability Manager, VF Corporation’s Director of Advanced Digital Creation and Inte'l’s Director of Experience Innovation and Pathfinding, among others. Their 30,000-foot-view of retail is different from ours, in the frontline trenches, and worth taking a closer look at. Here are the 4 key takeaways I came away with: 

1. Constantly seek out better vendors.
Social media is prevalent in every aspect of our lives these days, both as retailers and as consumers. As consumers, we follow on social media those brands that we believe in and are excited about. Now try putting yourself in your customers’ shoes: Do you know who they’re following? If so, do you carry those brands in your store? Consumers are increasingly loyal to the brands they feel connected to, and will buy from their favorite brands wherever they’re available. If you’re not paying attention to—and stocking—the brands your customers love, they’ll take their business elsewhere, plain and simple. 

2. Sustainability is good for the environment AND your bottom line.
80% of millennial and Gen X consumers look for brands to take a stand on environment and sustainability, and incorporate it into their practices; 66% of all consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. Do you incorporate brand sustainability into your retail buying decisions and, just as important, into your signage? Make it clear to your customers your impact—and theirs—when they shop with you. 

3. Influencer marketing isn’t just for big brands anymore.
College-age micro influencers earn the highest engagement ratios among influencer marketing. Just like macro influencers, these college students promote brands on their social media in exchange for a free product or commission on discount code sales—but that’s where the similarity stops. Micro influencers go further, promoting a brand around their college (or high school) campus, responding to questions about its products from younger students who consider them role models, and promoting that brand at social functions held by their clubs, fraternities and sororities. Their peers look up to them and are excited to talk about the brands they love, so why not add yours to the discussion? 

4. Digital or brick-and-mortar, it’s all retail.
Your brand is essential to your business. You center your business practices, marketing, and signage around it. You tailor your store layout to the message you want to convey, the experience you want your customers to have. Does your website give the same experience as your store? Does your online store? 96% of online shoppers search for local businesses online, and will find your website before they walk into your store. Invest the time and effort necessary on your website to ensure that your customers’ online experience matches the in-store experience. In the end, it’s all retail, and every last sale counts equally.