Reflecting on 2018

What Retailers Can Learn from This Past Year

By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

With a new year ahead of us, retailers have the opportunity to thrive in 2019 thanks in part to lessons learned from the year behind us. This is particularly the case for independent retailers looking to strengthen their sales, enhance their marketing and deliver more streamlined and effective efforts in their operational actions.

With profit top of mind, consider how the below reflections of this past year can help your retail store thrive in the year ahead.

2018 introduced more opportunities for merchants to understand their customers thanks to data being more accessible than ever – ultimately allowing retailers to make more accurate decisions in their inventory planning, marketing efforts and more.

Thanks to technology and data generated from a variety of touchpoints that connect retailers to customers, merchants are now able to gain more clarity to their customer preferences, habits, purchases and other factors that influence buying decisions. From social media to email marketing to website analysis and all other digital factors that help drive visibility to merchants, savvy retailers are reviewing data generated to be more proactive and precise in their future store planning efforts. More specifically, point-of-sale data is allowing retailers to identify best-selling items and slow-moving inventory which in turn allows retailers to react to these details sooner rather than later. Collectively, this data enables merchants to improve their overall operations – including the ability to better support customer demands, enhance buying efforts, increase profit opportunities and identify ways to be more efficient in managing their businesses. The best part, though? Much of the data available to retailers is free – such as that delivered via social media and Google Analytics – helping small business owners keep their budgets intact for other necessary spending and of course, more increased profit opportunities.

Customers have increasingly demanded stronger engagement with retailers over this past year – positioning merchants to embrace a variety of ways to entertain and retain their customers and potential customers alike.

Retail has always been a social experience, yet the savviest of retailers have delivered enhanced customer engagement and social experiences in 2018. Consumer expectations are leading this demand, however the real culprit in this enhanced retail strategy is easy access for customers to connect with stores and brands. After all, the competition is tough – so merchants must identify how they will stand out and be memorable to their customers and target customers alike… especially when knowing their competition is doing the same. To help achieve this, creating memorable moments both in physical stores and online is a must for retailers to incorporate into their store strategy. A key point to consider here, as well, is that the path to purchase is not always a straight shot into a brick-and-mortar store. Because of this, retailers must engage their customers where ever their customers may be. From social media to online review sites such as Yelp to email marketing and community events and more, retailers need to go above and beyond in their efforts of trying to entertain, engage and ultimately retain customer attention. As a result, retailers can appreciate increased customer satisfaction and thus, increased sales.

Incorporating updated merchandising strategies remained a key component in retail success in 2018 – particularly for brick-and-mortar merchants who recognized the value merchandising delivers when it comes to strengthening sales.

Being proactive in response to inventory trends, consumer expectations and customer preferences is a must for any merchant – but without merchandising, each of these scenarios cannot be best supported. Keeping this in mind, a recent report from Deloitte Digital explained that being “agile, flexible, fluid and interactive” within your store environment is a key factor to retail success. Undoubtedly, merchandising impacts this greatly and as a result, merchants must embrace creating store environments that welcome easy updates to their merchandising while also demanding customer attention and engagement. Looking ahead to 2019, creating store environments that both engage customers while making it easy to transform through merchandising is a vital factor to consider.

Finally, with 2019 just around the corner, ask yourself how you can review your own store actions to strengthen your future efforts. Were you satisfied with your employee trainings and performances? Did you meet the goals you set for yourself in 2018? Why or why not? And can you confidently reflect backwards and identify best practices you want to replicate across all responsibilities… or are there areas you can improve upon? Taking the time to understand your own strengths and weaknesses will help you find greater success in the year ahead. Combined with the efforts above, your retail store will be positioned to make 2019 your best year yet!

To help make sure 2019 becomes your best yet, save the dates for upcoming Rocky Mountain Gift Shows! Explore more here.