What makes a retailer essential?

Our viewpoint of what an essential retailer is has been re-focused by the covid19 era.

Consumer goods were put into perspective within the wider social context. The people in our lives, and those who effect our lives, were recognised with a new clarity as being essential. The existential threats and the exciting opportunities now emerging for many retailers have been growing for some time.

What the COVID ‘emergency stop’ has given us is a unique point of reflection in the otherwise endless dynamic of retailing, where COVID lockdowns have ironically been a defining period of clarity to ask the question…’are we essential to the customer?’

‘Are we an essential retailer?’

Our new lives and behaviours are markedly different from before the lockdown. Retailers who were just familiar or friendly, convenient or useful, were always walking on a tightrope of viability. These ‘strengths’ alone were never going to be enough to guarantee survival and growth, in any future retail landscape.

To be an “Essential Retailer” is the only way to be part of that landscape.

Sketch 1 Functional & Emotional Customer Connections

The Functional and Emotional Relationship

We should never forget the fundamental buying process. The role of a retailer is to bring together the customer and a product. It is to bring them together functionally & emotionally.

A functional connection alone will rarely be enough to command customer loyalty. Equally, an emotional engagement can never compensate for a retailer who fails in the basic functionality of availability.

If a customer enters a shoe shop to buy a pair of size 5 black shoes, it is essential that they leave with a pair of size 5 black shoes. You are a shoe shop. It is acceptable that a suitable shoe is ordered which will be delivered to the customer’s home, or to the shop for collection the next day. It is also acceptable that the service team apologises
for not having an appropriate black shoe and directs the customer to a nearby competitor who has.

In all eventualities, the customer did not fail. The retailer did not fail either. It made no sale on one occasion, but it enhanced its reputation with the customer who will make purchases there in the future.

What is a ‘good customer experience?’ A good customer experience is not to fail!

Successful retail connection is more than just selling a product. Retailers can be so much more than what they sell, and the customer now expects them to be so much more. At every level of connection from product availability, through lifestyle engagement to supporting the well-being of the customer, the retailer must use every opportunity to be the ‘essential retailer’ amongst a growing world of ‘essential retailers’.

Sketch 2: The spectrum of emotional & functional connections

‘What makes a retailer essential’ is an extract from the book ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness: How to be an Essential Retailer.’ by Tim Radley.

If you would like to read more about the new ways that retailers are working with suppliers, how to develop different kinds of inventory, the importance of a ‘passion supply chain’ and how supply chains should be determined by product role, then you can find all of this and more in ‘Meaning in the Retail Madness.’

Available worldwide across all amazon platforms and popular online booksellers from Waterstones, Blackwell’s & Foyles to Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository.

For more information, click here.

'Meaning in the Retail Madness: How to be an Essential Retailer' Out now. Available worldwide across amazon and popular online booksellers