Throwing the Best Party in Town
The NRF convention in New York last week focused a lot of attention on emerging technologies and how they can be applied to retail. Mobile apps, digital marketing, social media, Facebook, and so on. It’s hard to know for sure what about all of this is significant and meaningful, and what’s merely the fad du jour.
In the environment we find ourselves in, it’s only natural that there’s an emphasis on marketing. The top lines of most retailers, especially independents, have suffered mightily over the past several years. A merchant’s natural instinct toward rebuilding the top line is to pump up marketing.
But I’m reminded of something I heard when I was first starting out in retail: “Don’t send out the invitations until the house is ready to throw the party.” For many independent retailers, rather than throwing time, energy and dollars into marketing, I’d suggest you take that same time, energy and dollars, and be sure that you’ve got something pretty compelling and memorable inside your front door.
As I work with clients, all too often their instinct is to find a way to get more customers to come in to their store, as it is. The simple fact is that if “as it is” was good enough, the customers would already be there.
I don’t think you need to send out more invitations. I think you need to be sure you’re throwing the best party in town. What does that mean? I’d recommend that you be guided by the following questions:
- What do my customers want?
- What do my customers need?
- What do my customers expect?
- What will my customers pay me for?
Take those questions, and examine everything about your business. Do I have the right assortments? Are they unique and distinctive? Have I created a compelling physical space, with an ambiance that’s consistent with what I’m all about? Are my displays captivating and memorable? Do they draw customers to them, or merely hold stock? Are my employees energized, engaged and committed to exceeding our customer’s expectations? Is our execution flawless, day in and day out? Is my messaging consistent throughout everything I do?
Think about the very best independent retailers in your area. What is it that makes them so good? In my experience, what differentiates them from all the others is what happens when you step inside the front door. One first impression, you're struck by the fact that there's just something special going on. But on close and careful examination, it's pretty clear that the that first impression has been very carefully crafted. And everything after flows directly from that first impression.
So ask yourself: Do I really need to send out more invitations? Or do I need to work on throwing a more compelling and memorable party?