Retail Advice from Lumen Mundi

November 28, 2018

 There's an old French saying that means "the more things change, the more they stay the same."  This may be the single most important principle for a small retailer to hold dear. We like to talk about how fast things change nowadays, and certain kinds of things (like computers and smartphones) do, but the fundamentals of human life are constant. A famous professor of business management put it this way: "Reality is made up of circles, but we see straight lines."  We feel like we're always moving into new territory, with all the uncertainty and tension that means, but where the basics are concerned, we really keep coming around to the same places.

Retailing is one of the oldest businesses of all, and the fundamentals today are the same as they were when Roman legions conquered the Holy Land. Let's remind ourselves what these are.

The Four P's of retailing are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. A retailer must offer the things customers want and need, at prices that they're willing to pay and which provide an adequate profit margin. These products have to be made readily available for purchase by the customers and customers must be made aware that the products they want and need are available at this location at prices they're willing to pay. These principles held in the open-air markets of the Roman Aventine and are equally valid in 21st Century cyberspace. The differences are mere details.  Crucial details, yes, but not rocket science if the principles are sound.

The other Iron Law of retailing comes right out of the Four P's: the Customer is the most important person in a retail business. Without the Customer, there is nothing. All value comes from the Customer. The Customer, as they say, is King. A retailer's job revolves around knowing and understanding the Customer, servicing the Customer, and always providing more than the Customer expects. There is no way to overstate the importance of customer service. It's true that in our personal lives getting along with others and understanding them often seems nearly impossible, but retailing is not personal life, it's business, a simpler context with more straightforward rules.  A lot is known about succeeding in customer relations. Knowledge that's available, usable, and valuable. Every retailer should master it.

These principles are the rocks upon which retailers walk. Everything else rests upon them.  As the world seems to toss and churn on tsunamis of newfangled, exotic eruptions like Search Engine Optimization, Attribution Models, Redirection, Bounce Rates, and all the rest of it, we need to feel those immovable stones beneath our feet. Stay calm, do the basics, and the shifting winds will blow in your favor.

Article published by Lumen Mundi - We Sell:


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