Published January 6, 2020
How many times have we heard the old clich, “the customer is king”? Today more than ever, this clich is true. As you look to please your customers and strengthen your bond with them in today’s competitive market, do you know who they are? Are you sure the person you sold to just a few years ago is the same person you will appeal to today?
As the recent store closure evidence shows, customers are shopping with new providers and in new channels more and more. With an estimated 11,000 more stores at risk of closure in 2020, the time is now to complete a holistic review of the competitive landscape and take inventory of your customer base. In doing so, you may find positioning opportunities you had never considered.
Demand segmentation is the process of understanding your demand and dividing it into smaller groups or segments of like or similar behavior. The key to successful segmentation is the unleashing of statistical analysis that includes all appropriate attributes (e.g. demographics, sociographics, product attributes, etc.) that can be used to understand underlying behaviors that go beyond the fundamental buy-sell historical review. To be able to confidently adjust future initiatives, relationships must be understood, confirmed and proven.
Traditional views of demand segmentation rely solely on historical performance to group products for analysis and planning. Today’s needs require a subtle shift to focus more on the customer-not the products-to understand their interests and makeup in order to select future products that can be marketed to customer profile groups. This micro-marketing approach allows businesses to stretch their appeal by cross-marketing both common and unique products to various customer profiles.
Branding and Image
Historically strong businesses recognize the power of their brand and image in the marketplace. These two attributes recognize intrinsic value in the business that drives customer loyalty. Providing a clear brand and image enables the customer to know who you are, the principles you stand on and the customer experience they can expect.
Beyond the mark or insignia embossed on a product, the brand exemplifies the quality and standards by which the item(s) have been made. Customers have been conditioned to look for the product brand to understand these built-in qualities.
Beyond the product qualities, the image defines how the business wants its customers to feel about the product. They will use this image in their marketing campaigns to set a mental impression they want customers to envision while buying and using their products.
Legacy approaches have been set around creating a single brand and image from which to launch a selling strategy. The advent and efficiency of digital commerce has enabled companies to create custom brands and images specific to the various customer segments they have defined. Connecting these approaches enables businesses to extend their reach and utilize a wide variety of sales channels to maximize visibility.
By completing customer segmentation and brand and image strategization, businesses can focus their selling efforts where their customers are with messaging that appeals to them. Sounds simple, but it is a powerful strategy for unlocking the use of working capital (i.e. inventory) to channel-focused messaging to drive demand. Creative marketing techniques and social media channels can also be deployed to present customers with the products they desire, when they desire them.
During the holidays we all receive tons of catalogs attempting to drive sales. Our house throws a majority of these out without even looking past the cover. If we do look at these catalogs, the first few pages set the focus of the catalog even though a mixed group of products may be offered. Channeling the messaging for the desired customer will ensure the right potential customer evaluates the messaging and decides to react or not.
We have always been told not to judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately, the barrage of retail marketing requires that we do this to survive the onslaught. If we know this is going to occur, developing a clear understanding of your target customer for each marketing campaign is critical to ensure you do not lose the opportunity before the offering is evaluated.
The digitization of retail has increased the avenues from which consumers can purchase products. As interests, products and trends change, do you know who your customer is today? Are you a trend creator or a trend follower? Are your products a primary shopping interest or are you evaluated on price? Understanding your position is critical to winning at the retail game.
Rounding your business will require that you expand your assortment. As you do this, are you targeting customer groups with messaging that entices their interest? In the end, you should be focusing your brand on customer groups that will desire your products.