Published on: February 7, 2017by Michael Sansolo
Paul Harvey, the famed radio broadcaster, used to say that "in times like these, it pays to remember there have always been times like these.”
In some respects, it’s a pretty calming statement. Sure, we tell ourselves, things are crazy now, but they’ve been crazy before and we managed to survive. That’s comforting, but it can also lead you astray if you approach tumult with complacency.
The truth is that the people, companies and industries that managed to survive other tumultuous periods did so by making the changes necessary at the time. They found a way to evolve, sometimes rapidly and dramatically, to confront and rise above the new environment.
That time is here again and let’s be clear, past success promises very little for the what’s happening today.
The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America is out with a new study examining the heart of the challenges the entire world of retail faces today and it’s a massive topic. In short, the question is whether retail as we know it can remain relevant to today’s shoppers, competition and technologies.
It’s a question that deserves consideration and discussion inside every company, no matter how large or small.
The study, assembled in partnership with Kurt Salmon Associates, offers a bevy of ideas and initiatives that retailers should consider to take on the challenge of continued relevance. But it also powerfully sums up why, with apologies to Paul Harvey, this challenge is unlike anything we’ve seen before. (Full disclosure: I am the Research Director of the Council and had a role in compiling this report.)
Start with this: in the emerging world the cornerstones of retail advantage are eroding or disappearing. Begin with location, which has always been the ultimate trump card against competitors. In the new world, the convenience of a great location is wonderful, but can hardly compete with the Amazon Echo or the like.
Other long-held advantages are equally threatened. No longer can retailers claim exclusivity of specific products. Channel blurring is on steroids in this new world. Plus, no longer will shoppers provide the free labor of choosing and transporting their own orders. Whatever else e-commerce may bring, profit pressures are sure to be a big part of it.
Continued relevance requires a new relationship with the customer, one that provides an improved and possibly personalized experience that solves the problem of the day or the moment, the meal or the specific shopping trip.
In other words efficiency still matters, but is no longer enough. Convenience and value both still matter, but they, too, are simply not enough.
Tomorrow is demanding more than ever and tomorrow is coming fast.
The new council study challenges retailers to consider how the shopping trip is changing and many key potential ways to respond. The study includes a diagnostic tool aimed at helping to get company teams and trading partners talking about the emerging issues so that a plan of response and attack can be formulated.
The road to irrelevance is likely a one-way street in the wrong direction. A roadmap seems like a really good idea. That's what the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America has endeavored to provide and you can download it here.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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