Customers Buying Habits Are Changing. Adapt or Watch Your Business Die
Every day I get an email from RetailWire.com, a daily publication that is read by thousands of people in the retail industry. It’s the number one forum for discussions about hundreds of important issues in the industry. Now, before we go further, even though RetailWire.com focuses on the retail industry, what I’m about to share is relevant to every business in every industry.
A recent article in RetailWire posed a question about virtual reality and if it will make brick-and-mortar stores less relevant. By the way, if you haven’t experienced virtual reality, you must. It’s incredible. You put on what looks like goggles and you see the most amazing three dimensional images and videos. Okay, back to answering the question. My response was that virtual reality and augmented reality are just enhanced ways of viewing and experiencing products online. Yes, it will change the way people shop online, but it’s still “virtual.” It’s not real! You can’t touch the material to determine the quality of the suit or dress you’re looking at through a virtual reality headset. You can’t try it on either. So, how could this technology make physical stores less relevant?
The discussion of physical stores becoming irrelevant has been a topic of conversation for years. The first online purchase was made in 1994. According to a video produced by Shopify, an online shopping software program, the first online transaction was on August 11, 1994 through Dan Kohn’s online startup company when a friend bought a Sting CD over the internet. People said this kind of business would never work. People would never buy online. Well, never say never. Shortly after that Amazon came into the picture. And, here we are today.
Adobe’s research claimed last year’s Black Friday’s online sales were over $3 billion. And Cyber Monday’s sales, just three days later were also over $3 billion. Forrester predicts that by the year 2020, just three years from now, online sales will exceed $523 billion!
So, should retailers be scared? Maybe… because some retailers aren’t willing to change. And there are companies in virtually any industry that aren’t willing to change either. So, here is the lesson:
Business – in all industries – is changing. The old saying is true: The only thing that is consistent is change. So, get used to it.
Will online stores kill physical stores?
Did ATM’s eliminate bank tellers?
Did “Video Kill the Radio Star” when MTV went live back in 1981?
The answers are no, no and no!
Maybe the consumer is migrating to do more shopping online. It may make a physical store a little less “relevant” – but it doesn’t make the retailer less relevant! A retailer, as anyone or any company in business, must adjust and change. What makes a retailer less relevant won’t be because sales are moving from in-store to online. It will be because the retailer doesn’t adapt to the way their customers want to buy. And, it’s the same for any business. Your customers buying habits are changing. Adapt or watch your business die a slow and painful death. You must be willing to change as your customer’s change.
Why Lasting Change Is Hard
Before we had any children, my wife and I lived in the heart of Dallas. One day, on our way back to our house, we were driving down Skillman Avenue when we were caught in a sudden torrential downpour.
The rain was coming down incredibly hard, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the storm drains were equipped to handle that much water. Instead, the road itself filled with water faster than we could have anticipated. Quickly, the water rose up the side of our car. Trying not to panic, we realized that we could not continue and would need to turn around and get to higher ground.
Water rising up the side of your car door is the kind of roadblock you might not expect to encounter, but when you do, it’s formidable. We couldn’t drive through it or even around it. We had to deal with it quickly or face serious consequences.
When we’re trying to implement change in our own lives, it’s important to identify and plan for common roadblocks to lasting change.
The first and, in my opinion, most important roadblock to lasting change is not addressing the real issue.
Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. You’re annoyed by feeling sick but your throat really hurts, so you get up and spray a little Chloraseptic in your mouth and drift off to sleep. When you wake up the next day, you still have a sore throat, so you pop in a cough drop and go about your day.
The change you’re making – using a numbing agent – might work if you’ve only got a cold, but if it’s strep throat, you’re not addressing the real problem. Only an antibiotic will cure what ails you, even if Chloraseptic will keep the pain at bay for a while.
Just like how more information is needed to diagnose your sore throat than one feeling, problems you encounter in your life or business require diagnostics, too. Figuring out the real problem – not just your most apparent needs – requires some introspection and a little bit of time.
Here are eight questions to ask when you need to discover the root cause, courtesy of MindTools.com:
- What do you see happening?
- What are the specific symptoms?
- What proof do you have that the problem exists?
- How long has the problem existed?
- What is the impact of the problem?
- What sequence of events leads to the problem?
- What conditions allow the problem to occur?
- What other problems surround the occurrence of the central problem?
Once you have your answers to these key questions, you can’t stop there. Your vantage point is skewed from your own perspective. You’re going to want to ask someone else to evaluate the problem at hand with the same questions and then compare your answers.
If you and all of the partners at your firm have similar answers, you’ll know you’re on the right track. If you wind up with wildly different ideas, I suggest seeking the advice of someone outside your organization. Fresh eyes can make all the difference in understanding a problem.
I often talk about being ‘too close’ to understand. You’ve probably heard the illustration about a group of people standing by an elephant with blindfolds on, trying to describe what they’re experiencing. Depending on what part of the elephant you’re next to, you’re going to have different observations.
But someone outside of that elephant’s cage can clearly identify the elephant.
The first key to making a lasting change is to make sure you’ve addressed the real problem and are looking for authentic change.
Next time, we’ll address the second major roadblock to creating last change.
- 1 of 990