Four Questions to Continually Ask About Your Customers, Products and Brand
You don’t have to operate any stores to always “mind the store.” For us in the catalog/direct/multichannel world, that means finding time in our 24/7, 365-days-a-year world to step back and ask ourselves a few questions. It’s not an easy task to pull back from our everyday happenings, but it’s mission critical to stop and ask:
1. Are we the company our customers want us to be?
2. Are we the company our competition envies?
3. Are we looking around every corner to see what’s coming next?
4. And for that matter, how can we adapt to meet the needs of the next “trend” so we can effectively contribute to our customers’ wants and needs and therefore our own EBITDA?
Although we in the direct world have our own issues, I’d like to share the following retail story to illustrate what happens when you forget to be vigilant in engaging the above, because this can just as easily happen to one of us.
I just read that after the holiday season, CompUSA will be going out of business. Incredible! It’s not often a big retailer like that goes under.
While it may be a shame, I can tell you why this is happening.
It was outdone by the competition! When you enter the stores of its main competition, Circuit City and Best Buy, you actually can feel a difference, particularly in store layout, merchandise presentation and in-store branding. Most of the CompUSA stores feel old and out of touch — like they’re still stuck in the ’90s. No balance of product, very little branding. It could be any old, generic warehouse store inside.
In contrast, Best Buy has developed branded generic services such as the set-up and repair of computers — both those it sells and those it doesn’t sell you. Best Buy quite brilliantly turned this service, which it neatly branded The Geek Squad, into something almost as hip as the nerds in the Revenge of the Nerds movie became all those years ago. Fast forward to the present, and you know you’ve made it when in this case, a TV show called “Chuck” builds its premise on your company, right down to replicating your store design for its main set.)
Furthermore, we live in the age of specialization. You can buy a Dell PC from a kiosk in your local mall (or at a couple of retail chains now) or a Mac at the Apple store (talk about branding). When CompUSA pioneered the Apple store-within-a-store concept years ago, it only did one thing: It taught Apple exactly what to do (and what not to do) to be successful at retailing. The concept was great, but the execution was lacking. It took wayyyyy too long to get the concept of staffing CompUSA Apple stores with people who actually knew what to do with a Macintosh. It was almost as if Apple’s current TV ads came to life: Mr. PC trying to sell Macs. Clearly Apple saw this, learned from it and ran with the concept.
CompUSA forgot what it was and what it sold. Back in 1992 when I first stepped foot inside CompUSA’s flagship store on Long Island (N.Y.), I remember being blown away. Here was the largest computer store I’d ever seen. With a great concept it entered the space at the right time with the right products. These days, it sells TVs and other electronic equipment. That’s great for Best Buy or Circuit City, but not for a company that positioned itself as “The Computer Superstore.”
Its competitors effectively have positioned themselves as “specialty electronics” stores. Therefore, when you think about getting that digital video camera or plasma TV, you’re not thinking CompUSA.
Moreover, if you get a chance before it’s gone to look at CompUSA’s store layout, you’ll see that all the noncomputer stuff seems like the afterthought that it is. CompUSA added enough products to say it sold other things, but not enough to be competitive in that space.
The bottom line: If you’re going to expand your merchandise selection to match the competition’s, you better beat it. Have more product on your shelves and make it look like it’s actually supposed to be there!
Speak to you next week. Got comments? Post them below!
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert , or you can e-mail him at email@example.com.
Jim Gilbert has had a storied career in direct and digital marketing resulting in a burning desire to tell stories that educate, inform, and inspire marketers to new heights of success.
After years of marketing consulting, Jim decided it was time to “put his money where his mouth was" and build his own e-commerce company, Premo Natural Products, with its flagship product, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Sprays. Premo in its second year is poised to eclipse 100 percent growth.
Jim has been writing for Target Marketing Group since 2006, first on the pages of Catalog Success Magazine, then as the first blogger for its online division. Jim continues to write for Total Retail.
Along the way, Jim has led the Florida Direct Marketing Association as their Marketing Chair and then three-term President, been an Adjunct Professor of Direct and Digital marketing for Miami International University, and created a lecture series, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,” which he has presented across the country at conferences and universities.