6 Keys to Productive Competitive Shopping
One of the greatest sources of new ideas and fresh thinking for any independent retailer is all of the other retailers around them. When independent retailers think of competitive shopping, they almost always think in narrow terms about those retailers they see as direct competitors. Consumers, however, spend their money in all sorts of stores, so there are things to learn in any store you go in.
If you’re looking for new ideas to refresh your store and further drive your sales growth, I’d recommend you go shopping. Here are 6 keys to keep in mind when you’re out and about, whether you’re checking out a direct competitor or just being a consumer yourself:
- What do they do really well? All too often, the instinct is to focus on what the competition is doing poorly, as a way of reassuring yourself that you’re really doing a better job than they are. You’re looking for ways you can improve, however, not ways they can improve. So, what are they doing really well, and how can you apply that in your store?
- How do they differentiate themselves from their competition? What makes them distinctive? What is it that sets them apart from other stores? Every retailer, through the setting they create, is trying to communicate to their customers something important about what they are all about. This is the first impression, it’s instinctual, abstract and sensory.
- Who is their target customer? Can you tell from merely walking in the store who that target customer is? If you can, they’re doing a good job focusing their store on that target customer. Is this target customer defined merely by demographics, or are they targeting a specific interest or passion, lifestyle or taste level? What techniques, beyond merchandise assortments, are they using to connect with their target customer?
- What are they really selling? What’s the core category that drives the business? How do the categories that surround the core category complement that core? Are they product-centric, focused on selling a tightly defined range of products to as many different customers as they can, or are they more customer-centric, focused on selling an eclectic mix of goods to a customer base organized around a shared passion or lifestyle?
- What’s their merchandising strategy? How narrow or broad are their assortments? How deep is their depth of stock? Are they following a better-best strategy? Are they confident in their choices as merchants, or are they really asking the customers to make decisions for them? Are their inventories lean, are they focused on turning over their inventory quickly, to keep their assortments constantly fresh?
- What’s their visual merchandising strategy? Do their presentations help customers easily make distinctions between items and categories, or do things all seem to run together. What techniques are they using to draw their customer’s attention, and highlight specific presentations? What different types of fixtures and lighting are they using? How do those fixtures create interest and enhance their presentations and assortments.
There are great ideas everywhere, from the truly grand to the little details that can help set you apart. The key is to be constantly assessing every retailer you visit, for whatever reason, and consciously observing everything happening in the store. New ideas and fresh thinking is the lifeblood of any retailer. What new ideas can you discover, and adapt to your store, as you’re out and about, taking in the competition or just being a consumer yourself?