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As consumer purchasing patterns change in real-time, none of us have any spare time to rehash legacy marketing and/or distribution strategies. We have less time to listen to technologists and/or “all in one” app developers “sell us” on their game-changing widgets.

If we are serious about making the changes to our business that will allow our brands to remain relevant in this new era of product marketing and retailing, we need to stop embracing the delusion that the “good old days” will return. The changes that are happening in the retail trade are profound and irreversible. As leaders in our industry, we will be judged years from now based on our ability to adjust our businesses and our approach to engaging with customers based on the current and future market conditions.

There is really no need or time to be spent in complex “think tank” strategy sessions. We must adopt a new DNA in the way that we are as professionals. It’s time to go back to school. We must become students of consumer behavior and our competitors. We must also think out of the box and develop keen observation skills to understand all vertical market segments and the innovative ways that they are attacking and winning on the consumer battlefield. If we look up from our desks, we will find that the market is packed with all sorts of innovative new strategies and a landscape of brilliance in new market execution. Suffice to say, leaning on the “old and legacy” strategies won’t fit the bill in an era where change is happening in real-time.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on getting your thinking and change management efforts kick-started:

Treat Your Customer Like Your Best Friend

The customer today values brands that want a deeper relationship with their customer. They are tired of brands that treat every interaction like “Fifty First Dates.” You have a great deal of data sitting somewhere…start using it to build stronger contextual relationships with customers.

It’s brilliant what Amazon pioneered decades ago, i.e. “People like you who purchased this item also liked this ‘item.’” Such thinking demonstrated that the brand really cared enough about the customer to make a relevant recommendation. You need to maintain a dialogue on a regular and pertinent basis. Regular bonding builds strong, recurring and profitable relationships.

Get Involved in the Community

Your customers have changed the way in which they consume media. Are you monitoring the venues that they congregate within? Do you know where and when they meet? Are you monitoring what they like, don’t like and/or how they feel about your brand? Nothing brilliant about this, it’s just plain common sense — if you are using media tools from a decade ago to connect with this month’s prospect you are missing the mark.

We have seen the rise of social media channels in the last 12 to 18 months become a breeding ground for new customer connections. Are you tapping into the blogger community? You need to get involved and be an active and interested participant in the social discussions happening.

Stitch Fix Men

Stitch Fix  Courtesy Photo

“Stitching” to Your Strategy

Stitch Fix is the fashion industry’s Amazon. The brand has shown in great detail and success how to engage with customers and serve their needs. Customers desired a coach to help them determine the right garments that fit their profile. Rather than waiting for the consumer to visit a large room filled with racks, Stitch Fix built a model of working with customers that is innovative, engaging and profitable.

In building this sort of connection with the customer they also solved the key issue around subscription marketing: retention. The customer feels confident enough with the brand recommendations that the company selects monthly with little or no intervention from the customer. Brilliant.

Let’s Make Money!

Let’s remember that while there are a lot of non-profit companies in our economy; ours are for profit. The smartest players in the market today are leveraging technology and reducing redundancy. They are constantly sharpening the method and means they deploy their advertising resources to, becoming very focused on their bottom line. None of us will survive the decade ahead without this attention to detail. The new leaders in retailing all know this.

While private equity players are investing, there is a tremendous spotlight on the bottom line. New and more efficient distribution channels are popping up everywhere. Studying consumer preferences and behaviors has become critical in the sourcing and pricing of product. Let’s end the nonsense about a lack of focus and attention on the P&L. When we run profitable companies we can grow more efficiently and effectively.

Finally, let’s be mindful that the core principles and the basis for success this year and the years ahead will be our ability to understand our customer and do a better job in anticipating and serving their needs in every way that we interact with them. The winners are those that put the customer first.

Jim Fosina is founder and chief executive officer of Fosina Marketing Group. To read prior columns by Jim Fosina, click on this link.

For more business news from WWD, see:

In Price Fight Between Walmart and Amazon, Bentonville Wins

Today’s Consumer: Frugal, Community-Minded and Tech Savvy

Amazon, Wal-Mart and Apple Top List of Biggest E-commerce Retailers

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