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Blog

Another Year

Retail is brutal. Ask RadioShack. Ask Eddie Lempert. Ask JCPenney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Starbucks and Staples. Even ask the most successful retailers out there. Shoppers are fickle, demanding and awash in options – from Amazon to Etsy and American Apparel to Walmart.

And it’s only getting harder to find and maintain success. Retailers – both clicks and bricks – must continually innovate, improve the shopping experience and aggressively compete for every dollar to survive while reducing operating costs. Average US store size has been shrinking since retail space per capita topped out at 46.6 sq ft back in 2006 as they strive to do more with less.

How does a retailer find and cling to success? I suggest three keys: First, know your shopper. Who is she? Why does she trust you with her money? Where else does she shop? Your shopper is a moving target. Just because you knew her a year ago doesn’t mean that you know her today. How do you continually refresh what you know about your shopper?

Second, curate for that shopper. Too many retailers plainly fail here, drifting into me-too offerings. What does she want? What else would she like? She’s counting on you to anticipate her needs and help her navigate the myriad choices in the world. If you don’t make her world less chaotic, you’ll lose her to another retailer who will.

Third, think like your shopper – and never stop thinking like her. How do you meet her evolving needs? How can we make her life better by what you do – and better than what other retailers do?

All three keys have one thing in common: continual learning. Just as shoppers have new and better access to information, so do retailers. Whether online, in-store or omnichannel, stores that excel in 2015 will be those who know, curate for and think like their shoppers better than their rivals.

Shoppers and consumers know more today as the information to make buying decisions is often gathered before they set foot inside a store or click “ADD TO CART.” Access to data, facts, recommendations, even horror stories, make purchasing a process that may span months or take only seconds. Google puts it like this, “Whether we’re shopping for corn flakes, concert tickets or a honeymoon in Paris, the Internet has changed how we decide what to buy. At Google, we call this online decision-making moment the Zero Moment of Truth — or simply ZMOT.”

Successful retailers in 2015 will take a page from the search engine company that changed the way people find information and become the trusted avenue for shoppers to find their ideas, goods and services.

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