Speaker, author, and market researcher Pamela N. Danziger is internationally recognized for her expertise on the world’s most influential consumers: the American Affluent, including the HENRYs (high-earners-not-rich-yet) mass affluent. I had the opportunity to interview her recently, and get her thoughts on where small business is headed for 2018.
Ann Glynn: You are a strong advocate for small businesses. Why are you so passionate about small businesses and what do you think is the one trait that a small business owner must possess to be successful?
Pam Danziger: My message is “Small is the Big Story,” when it comes to retail. Small, independent retailers have the ability to create a personal, eye to eye relationship connection with their customers that big box retailers can’t cultivate. That is the key, strategic advantage for small businesses, and they need to capitalize on that in every way. The #1 trait I believe independent retailers need to develop is a helpful, friendly, personable attitude to interact with customers. And if the business owner doesn’t want to be the face of the business and carry that position, they need to hire someone to fill the role of business ambassador for them.
If you own a retail business and are spending more than 50% of your time in the back room, then you are not delegating your time properly and sales are going to reflect that. As a business owner, it is up to you to model the type of customer service you want your business to provide, and let your staff take their cues on customer interaction from you.
Because of the unique nature of the jewelry industry, many bench jewelers are store owners as well. Bench jewelers need to make their own call to take a hard cold look at the business they are in. Are you a retailer who runs a jewelry store first or a bench jeweler who owns a jewelry store? These are two totally different skill sets.
If you want to be successful at retail, then you need to focus your attention and energy on being a retailer, not a jewelry designer or bench jeweler. The start of a new year is a great time to reexamine your priorities as well. You might have made decisions 10 years ago that were right for you and your store 10 years ago, and have now become fixed in stone. Everything continues to evolve in business, and a decision that was right for you 5 or 10 years ago might be very wrong today.
AG: In your book, “Shops that POP!” you outline 7 steps to extraordinary retail success and discuss a retail shopping “experience.” What is your definition of a retail “experience” and how important is that to targeting and growing a customer base?
PD: As far as the “retail experience,” is concerned, the main message I have observed is in the past, shopping and buying went hand in glove - you had to go shopping to buy something. Today, shopping and buying are not one and the same. When you want to buy a product today, most people, they go right to the internet and buy it.
When consumers today decide to go shopping, they are making a choice to become involved in a retail experience. They want to actively engage with people and products and are oftentimes deliberately seeking out the expertise of small, independent retailers to help them make decisions on important purchases.
As a retailer, it is up to you to identify and create ways that you can elevate every store visit into a memorable customer experience. It is less about what you are selling and more about how you sell it that translates into a desirable shopping experience.
In many ways, evolving options for consumer purchasing has created a lot of confusion for small, independent retailers, because most small businesses operate under the old 4 P’s of marketing framework, which are Price, Product, Promotion and Place.
I recommend that small retailers forget about the 4 Ps and adopt a new strategy with the 4 Es, which are Experience, Exchange, Evangelism and Everyplace. The secret is to use these 4 E ideas to communicate and deliver meaningful value and experiences to your customers.
Start by thinking about where you like to go shopping. Where do you get your greatest thrill? Study those retailers and experiences that are special and exciting to you.
Take some time to get out into your community. Too many retailers think of themselves vertically. As a business owner, you can learn a lot from many other types of small businesses, not just other jewelers.
The two main factors in creating an enjoyable shopping experience and engaging people are touching/interacting with products and people in the store, and just spending time inside. The more your customers are talking, touching and trying things on, the greater amount of time they will spend in your store, which will translate into higher sales. The experience is what comes to the forefront.
AG: How do you think AI will affect small businesses and do you see an easy way for small businesses to adopt AI into their overall business strategy?
PD: One topic that I believe small retailers can ignore is AI. It’s much ado about nothing as far as I am concerned for independents. If they are busy worrying about AI then they are taking their eyes off what they should really be worried about, which is creating extraordinary personal experiences for customers in their stores. Person-to-person, hand-to-hand, and eye-to-eye!
I say this because AI isn’t here yet, and what small retailer has the money to invest in the development of it? Start with your basics, a great website, creative social media, developing your Facebook and Instagram, and so on. A lot of small businesses don’t have the technical expertise they need to develop these areas, and don’t see the relevance of developing out their website and/or Facebook pages. These elements are your storefront on the internet main street.
Many retailers who do have a website have not taken the time to update or do a makeover, and those sites are 5 or 10 years old. They are not relevant today. Small retailers must have a website that is modern, contemporary and fresh looking.
And please don’t make the mistake of using a Facebook page as your only presence on the internet. Invest the time and money it takes to develop some type of website presence. I believe that is more important than a Facebook page and it will give you a higher delivery of customers.
When I do surveys of small business owners and specialty retailers, I always ask them what is more important, a website or Facebook. Facebook might be less than 20% effective in most cases, where a website is 45% more effective, or more than twice as important. Think of your website as a digital catalog of who you are, your brochure and a yellow pages listing, all in one.
AG: What do you think the top shopping trends of 2018 will be and why?
PD: I think if you are worried about the outside trends and not the ones in your own business that is a problem. Assess your own internal trends and marketing opportunities. Take the time to examine the trends in your own business, and focus more heavily on those as opposed to what is going on outside.
There are key performance indicators in every business that act as indicators of the health of your business. These are not the same for every business, but you need to take a look at your own business critically. Don’t worry about competition. You can’t change it, the only thing you can change is what goes on within your own store. Create and focus on goal setting for your store, and then make decisions and choices based upon what you decide.
If you truly want to create a retail shopping experience for your customers, then examine your assets (including people, products and store environment), and use them to design an experience that is unique to your store and your customers.
If you want to incorporate the current trends of customization and personalization that are becoming more widespread in every industry, then you need to determine how you translate those trends for your customers. People say they want to do their own designs, but do they really know how? They need experts to guide them in developing the final product, and that would be you.
Another set of trends I am seeing is in authenticity and backstory. Everyone is talking about that now. But sometimes you can be very successful in going against the trends. Figure out what business you want to be in, and then be the very best you can be, by bringing key values into your business, and offering them to your customers.
AG: Any final thoughts or words of advice for our readers?
PD: There is so much that you can learn from other small retailers, including jewelers, but other specialty retailers, too, and bring back your learning into your business. Take a vacation designed specifically to learn from other businesses. Make notes on everything you see, what you like and what you don’t. Then once you are back, walk into your store and try to see it as a customer does. Look at your store from the outside in. Most of the time, we get too involved to see what is right before our eyes, but your customers are always looking at your store objectively - warts and all. You need to see your business in the same way your customers see it.
Don’t get too wrapped up in the details. Putting the time and effort into identifying the challenges and pain points in your business means you are on your way to correcting them. Small business owners are problem solvers, and many times when they see or identify a problem, they try to find or provide a solution to fix it immediately. Sometimes the best solution isn’t immediately obvious, or the immediate solution isn’t the best solution. Take your time to identify the pain points first. Then look at them objectively, and try to find a solution or solve the problem from there.
About Pamela Danziger: As founder of Unity Marketing in 1992, Pam leads with research to provide brands with actionable insights into the minds of their most profitable customers. She is also a principal with Retail Rescue, which offers focused and effective consulting, training and mentorship in retail management, marketing, sales and operations. Pam is author of eight books, including Shops that POP! 7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success. It reveals the secrets to crafting a retail shopping experience that’s irresistible to high value shoppers with examples from jewelry retailers included. As a luxury market expert, Pamela is frequently called on to share research-based insights with audiences and business leaders all over the world.