The seven most important words in retail in 2020

People have been buying goods from stalls or shops for thousands of years, as any visitor to Pompei can testify. It’s pretty safe to say that since the existence of currency, we’ve been used to buying things on offer from markets, street sellers, stores or warehouses. We strongly suspect that Greek and Roman retailers will have entrusted their children with the four wise words that embodied sound retail practice until recently.

Quality, Service, Choice and Price – Retail’s four trusted KPIs 

Although seemingly stating self-evident truisms, many a board of retail directors has taken the approach of continually trying to take a marketing stance which strikes the exact balance between these conflicting properties concerning the spending powers and habits of customers in their catchments.

1. Quality, in everything from food to finery, has always been a key determinant in a customer’s scale of values. It comes at a price, of course. High quality is always associated with a high price, with inevitable compromises for the benefit of those with shallower pockets. Retailers always claim, as vociferously as possible, that everything in their offer is of sufficiently high quality. We all know our Aldi from our Waitrose.

Quality has many different interpretations these days, too. Is the product recyclable, or does it have eco-friendly packaging? Is it manufactured ethically or responsibly sourced? Is it healthy to consume as well as being attractive to the palate? The old definition of quality, ‘more than the average consumer can afford’, has passed into retail history and been replaced by ‘brand perception’. If the stakeholders in a brand can attach the right combination of attributes to it, over time, consumers will perceive it as being of high quality; even a one-trip plastic bottle of clear, flavourless water.

2. Service, again, has gone through a perceptive metamorphosis in recent decades. From meaning a polite, (even obsequious), efficient or knowledgeable approach to addressing a customer’s needs across the counter, it’s become a measurement of comparative telephone strategies and the organisations’ supply-chain management systems. 

Somewhere in this morass, the telephone call-centre has raised its ugly head.  Service can be measured in the number of minutes spent listening to bland musical wadding and the grammatical skills of a second-language representative from virtually any corner of the planet.  It can now also be judged on the algorithmic intelligence, layout and speed of a company’s E-Commerce offering.  A satisfactory web experience is often the only direct contact a retail organisation may have with its end-user.

3. Choice, similarly, has extended from, ‘I’ll see if we have your size in the stockroom’, to the infinity of choice available in the entire planet. Your supermarket and local stores are the exceptions, of course. They may still offer you choices before your eyes. Department stores, some would say sadly, have become free and expensive exhibitions where you can closely inspect fashion, semi-durable and durable merchandise before ordering it on your phone from elsewhere on your way back to their free car park.

Carrying an abundance of choice means financing large static stocks, too. Another factor which ultimately attaches to;

4. Price. Arguments about the ‘price’ components being key in the purchasing motivational mix would undoubtedly have been familiar to the Trojans, as would the schoolboy rule of thumb that ‘stacking ‘em high’ and selling ‘em cheap’ is the key to retail success.

Certainly, shouting about value for money seems to be as popular a ploy with marketing managers as it ever was.

Today’s retail consumer audiences, however, are infinitely more complex. They’re part of a constantly shifting mix of brand preferences, loyalties, habit, intuition, judgement, boredom, familiarity, opportunity and impulse. For the reasonably affluent majority, (say, Marks and Spencer’s food shoppers) price is not the key determinant. It has still its part to play in tougher marketplaces. 

Awareness, agility and flexibility – Retail’s newcomers in 2020

So, what are the seven most important words in the retail vocabulary? In physical retail environments; quality, service, choice and price, of course.

And the other three? Awareness, agility and flexibility.

In the worst pandemic crisis in living memory, Amazon has gone from strength to superstrength – and Boohoo is knocking at the door. 

Get some advice from a B2C comms specialist like RMS and let us help you supercharge your retail strategy.