Who are the retailers doing it best? I’m often asked this question when interviewed, and it’s always a difficult one to answer as there are many retailers that are simply “nailing” it. Characteristics of those that are on the “doing it best” list are ones that put their customer at the center of the equation, are open to experimenting, include “design thinking” elements into the mentality of the brand, and lastly empower courageous leaders – leaders who are not afraid to step out and use the “brain windows” to stay relevant and innovative.
There are very few retailers who can actually stay ahead of the customer, but the best ones can keep on par with the customer. Shoppers are difficult to predict and often not as loyal as past shopper generations, so the challenge is to understand their basic needs and fulfilling them to the fullest.
It sounds simple, as retailing as a general model seems easy to execute upon, but in practice it’s really quite complex. Those that succeed in retail should be highly regarded for not only their success, but succeeding in an environment of consistent, disruptive change.
So, who is doing a great job? Well, let’s talk now … Holiday 2015.
The top of the list for physical retail for me is TJX (NYSE: TJX). They offer “value product” which is high designer profile at a low price. They have strong commitment to Black Friday while at the same time giving employees Thanksgiving off – I actually think this breeds a more appreciative and engaged worker as employees see the brand showing strong commitment to the workforce. TJX has worked hard to bring great product to market for their customer.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is at the top of the list for digital. They are nimble and create a “sense of urgency” with their core customer through the flash sale-like management of online promotions. Amazon has created the online treasure hunt mentality that includes gamification, and couples those factors with product variety and speedy delivery.
Determining the top brands is perhaps the most difficult, as so many brands share in the success characteristics. But if I had to pick three, Victoria’s Secret, Levi’s and Nike have done a spectacular job with branding and keeping the customer engaged in the community ecosystem of the brand. They deliver value product that resonates with their customer, and all three remain aspirational on many levels. The brands have also done well with the convergence of the digital and physical channels, and are leaders in using data to drive decisions at both strategic and tactical levels. And, of course, they layer best-in-class examples of socialization and two-way communication into their customer messaging.
There’re so many brands to consider as best practitioners, but so little time to give them their deserved recognition. But, relevancy is the key, and relevance begins … and ends … with the hearts and minds of shoppers.
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