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Why Retail Businesses Fail Part 3: Do You Make This Mistake In Retail?
Misunderstanding the target market
I visited Harrods to research my books on store design and visual merchandising. Harrods, for anyone reading this white paper who may not know, is the mecca of retail. Royalty, A-list celebrities and the who’s who of the world fly to London to shop at Harrods.
Now you can imagine my anticipation when I visited Harrods. In my mind, everything in Harrods was made of gold. I was disappointed to notice that the toy bus I bought for my son from ASDA was also sold at Harrods. It was the exact same toy bus, in the exact same packaging as the one sold in ASDA.
I was wondering why the exact same bus, probably made in the same factory in China, is being sold in Harrods for double the price it is being sold for in ASDA?
The answer is certainly simple – ASDA sells a ‘toy bus’, however Harrods sells a ‘posh toy bus’. There is a difference. That’s marketing 101: people buy emotionally, but they rationalize their decisions.
Customers who shop at Harrods do not shop there to buy Harrods products; they shop at Harrods to buy “elegance and class”. Harrods sells them premium, even though it is “Made in China”.
How did Harrods do it? They achieve this by combining elegant store design and attractive visual merchandising. Moving from one department to another at Harrods is like moving from one store to another. Their ability to use their store design to create the illusion of differentiation is one of the keys to Harrods’ success. Harrods department store understands its customers; they know what their customers want, so they design their store and display their products to satisfy their customers’ wishes.
In his book “The First Thing You Need to Know”, Marcus Buckingham said that when he interviewed Sir Terry Leahy, who transformed Tesco into a global brand, he asked him what was the key to Tesco’s successful transformation. Sir Terry Leahy responded by asking and answering a simple question: Who do we serve?
When Tesco found out who they were going to serve, they changed the store layout and products to serve their target market. As a result of this change; Tesco increased the number of checkout counters, which reduced the amount of time customers spent queuing at checkouts, ultimately leading to a dramatic increase in Tesco traffic.
Wal-Mart serves the man who lives: pay check to pay check.
The Body Shop serves the ethical consumer.
Waitrose and Holland & Barrett serve the consumer who wants to live longer.
Ann Summers took merchandise that was hidden in secret adult stores; he made them trendy and brought them to the High Street. They made a taboo subject acceptable to the mainstream.
If I took my significant other clothes shopping at John Lewis, she’d probably call my mum to inform her I’d had a nervous breakdown. She wouldn’t want to be caught dead in John Lewis clothes. She describes the clothing department of John Lewis as a Bridget Jones museum where they keep a collection of Bridget Jones costumes.
However, John Lewis continues to increase profit year after year because John Lewis understands their target market. Someone like my significant other might not want to be caught dead in John Lewis clothes, but there are people in the UK who love Bridget Jones memorabilia, those people are John Lewis’ target market, so John Lewis caters to them.
The most successful retailers understand their target market and demonstrate that they understand their target market through their store design and visual merchandising displays.
Marketers who fail don’t understand this basic marketing concept.
Most booksellers are struggling because they are still using a 1960’s Amazonian business model. Borders failed because they didn’t develop their online business properly and invested heavily in compact discs during the transition to digital music. WH Smith only makes money from selling airports and train stations. The rest of its stores are struggling. Waterstone’s is also trending down. Sales are down and customer numbers are plummeting.
Why are bookstores at risk? Amazon! Everyone will scream. The reason is of course Amazon because Amazon understands their market better than they do. Since Amazon doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, will all bookstores close?
Will WH Smith and Waterstone’s close? Or will they rise to the challenge and modernize their stores? Instead of complaining about Amazon, they need to redefine their target market and redesign their stores to attract their target customers.
I didn’t do any grocery shopping on Christmas Day and dreaded the prospect of entering a supermarket, knowing how packed they would be. But when I drove past my local Lidl store I noticed it was empty. I ran inside and finished my shopping. As I drove home, a question came to mind; why is it that even on this day, when most supermarkets are typically full to capacity, Lidl was empty?
I think the answer is that Lidl doesn’t have a target market. One of their biggest sins was the decision to make customers pay for carrier bags. Marks & Spencer can afford this because it appeals to a different class of customers.
At Tesco and ASDA, environmentally conscious customers have the option to pay for shopping bags. However, those who do not want to pay for carrier bags also have the option of getting them for free.
This is because Tesco and ASDA understand their customers. Lidl’s top management, on the other hand, believed that after implementing a similar strategy in Europe, it could implement the same in the UK. If the Brits don’t like it, tough! Well, the British show their displeasure with their feet.
In the above examples, I have tried to demonstrate that success or failure in retailing is the result of the strategies that each trader adopts. Those retailers who understand and cater to their target market will continue to go from strength to strength, while those who roll the dice and hope customers turn up are the ones who will struggle or go into administration.
I hate to be the one to bring this type of news to the retail industry, I guess someone is going to have to do it: the internet is not going away. This means that retailers are not only competing with each other, but also with factory owners in China whose name they have never heard of. Shoppers now order directly from warehouses and distributors, for example, an individual can log on to eBay and order pallet goods.
Here’s the good news: most people still prefer to shop in physical retail stores. The question is, how does an individual retailer ensure that shoppers are attracted to their store? This can be achieved by adopting the concept of a “Blue Ocean” strategy.
Adopting a “Blue Ocean” strategy is the only salvation for sellers of books, DVDs, music and furniture. What is a “Blue Ocean” strategy? A “Blue Ocean” strategy “is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost,” leading to the creation of a new market space that renders competition irrelevant.
The “Blue Ocean” concept is practiced by the most successful business organizations, while struggling businesses pursue a “Red Ocean” strategy. The “Red Ocean” strategy is fighting for competition in the existing market.
The “Red Ocean” strategy has been adopted by many book, DVD, music and furniture retailers. They are trying to compete with the internet and it just doesn’t work. A brick-and-mortar store can never go headfirst into the Internet and win. It can never be cheaper than the internet.
But what they need to do to bring customers to their stores is to become innovative and creative. For example, a bookstore could hold regular book signings; of course, authors want to sell their books, so it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.
For book signings to be a successful marketing platform for bookstores, it would be advisable for retailers to work with publishers from the beginning to better promote book signings.
Book signing promotions could take a variety of formats, such as effective use of social media sites, local press, and eye-catching in-store and out-of-store signage.
Another idea could be to organize book clubs for different genres of books to attract different customers to the store, these book clubs would also need promotion in a similar way to that described for book signing promotions.
The trick is to be innovative.
Richer Sounds is a classic case of a retailer adopting a “Blue Ocean” strategy. They understand that people still prefer to interact with other people. So while other electronics retailers focus on price, they focus on excellent customer service and employee product knowledge. Their “Blue Ocean” is excellent customer service and excellent product knowledge.
To compete in Amazon country, book, DVD or music sellers need a “Blue Ocean” strategy that goes beyond price discounting. They need a soul. They need to understand the perception of their target market.
• What do they want?
• What are their hopes and fears?
• What is their perception?
I can order a book or DVD from Amazon and receive it the next day. I can instantly download music from iTunes. There are millions of me in the world. What kind of ‘Blue Ocean’ strategy can WH Smith or HMV come up with to get me away from my laptop? It takes me half an hour to get to the city centre, pay for parking, spend another half hour in WH Smith or HMV and another half hour to get home.
The $64 million question is: What can WH Smith or HMV do to make it worth it?
Let me give them a hint, I could order my groceries online, but I decided to go to the supermarket instead. What is the difference? That’s for book, DVD, electronics and furniture retailers to find out. They probably need to visit Starbucks, it just might hold the keys to unlocking their creativity.
The only difference that most retailers are aware of is the price cut. Cutting price is not a business strategy, it’s a death wish.
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