Creating a strong brand in retail is more challenging now than it has ever been. This also makes it one of the biggest opportunities, ever, for forward-thinking retail organizations to capture market share from the big boys. You need a vision that is supported by very clear mission and positioning statements, and a very strong execution team that will be your brand champions along several fronts (communication, merchandising, people talent and finance). The process must be disciplined, focused and relevant to your target market.
First, you need to have a clear concept and a focused target market (demographic, psychographic and geographic). The next step is to research this target market using a host of different metrics that will assist you in finding the right product(s), and identify the most productive means to effectively communicate with your guests.
If you don't have the right product(s) and don't keep new ancillary products coming through the pipeline, you will fail. It's that simple. You see it everyday in the retail world - trying to accommodate too many different guest segments with a small assortment, thinking that you can keep everyone satisfied as long as you have, at a minimum, some product coverage within each of many segments. Many retail organization are hesitant to focus on fewer guest segments, because they fear the "liability paralysis" that keeps them from achieving success in being the clear and concise leader, within their primary target market.
Once you have identified your guest target segments, learn as much as you can about them. You do this by investing a certain percentage of your sales on research. It doesn't have to be conducted using expensive, and sometimes misleading focus groups , or customized studies. You also have lower-cost, yet equally or more productive, data available through syndicated data reports, online surveys and creating your own focus group / surveys with your best guests.
Next, you want to make sure you are communicating with your guests in the manner that fits their lifestyle. Younger guests typically spend more time online on social networking sites and spend lots of time surfing the web. They spend less time watching TV (when they do it's usually only a handful of programming that they consistently watch.) They spend considerably less time listening to the radio and more time using their IPOD. You need to know this and develop a comprehensive plan in order for your marketing efforts to be effective.
Finally, once you've completed product, market and consumer research; identified the right product(s) and created a comprehensive and diversified marketing strategy, you need to rally the troops. Every member of your organization should memorize your mission and positioning statements and live by it, every single day. Your executive team should spend at least 20% of their time on the floor or talking with guests and associates. It's amazing the number of ideas that are generated from the selling floor. Keep an open line of communication with your guests and associates to encourage change. Encourage your team to experiment and that it is healthy to fail, as long as you learn from it.
Lastly, lighten up and have fun. I worked at a large Fortune 100 retail organization who's senior management would occassionally visit stores and create uneasiness through the entire store organization - you'd think that royalty was coming to town. You heard stories about managers being reprimanded on the selling floor for the floors not shining or a T-rack being out of place.
One last closing thought - develop a store music-track that is fun, energetic and makes your associates and guests feel good. Encourage your associates to get to know customers and have fun with them too. Use humor with your associates and I guarantee that a happy associate will create many happy guests!
Bryan Kipp is President of CMO Retail Solutions, LLC. He provides interim CMO services and focuses on identifying and executing ROI-centric marketing programs for retail clients. Visit http://www.cmoretailsolutions.com/