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Whatever the channel, don’t forget the basics

Associated Independent Stores commercial director David Standing

As a director of a leading buying group with a broad mix of members from small to large across several retail sectors, I see more diversity than commonality in the fashion retail business. However, the truly common factor with them, and any other retailer, is that they only survive if people choose to shop with them.

The inexorable rise and influence of digital channels generates pages and pages of web and print media coverage and exercises the minds of the whole of the retail sector. For example, John Lewis has got multichannel, or omnichannel, call it what you will, right.

It makes it easy to shop with the department store retailer in any way a customer chooses but that accessibility is backed by a strong proposition built on quality, value and service underpinned by its famous ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ price promise. If it didn’t have that proposition then its subsequent development of multichannel strength would count for nothing.

So, forget the channel - it won’t matter how great a website is, or how well it is mobile-optimised, if your core proposition isn’t what anyone wants. The basic principle of attracting and retaining customers through some or other USP still holds today as it did long before the world wide web was a twinkle in the eye of Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Whether that’s about range, service, quality, experience, price or some combination of those or other attributes, is down to the individual business.

At the start of a new year if I could offer one piece of advice it would be to take a step back to look at your business and ask if it meets customers’ needs in a compelling way. Unless those customers feel you have a place and a purpose for them, they won’t come through the door or visit your website.

Unless you’ve got a reason to be, there won’t be a reason for people to buy from you, and it’s no good bemoaning lack of footfall or traffic if that’s not understood.

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