The identity crisis of the independant retailer

I recently spoke at  event for retailers. At these events in order to keep them lively I promote discussions and try to ask provocative questions. The general theme of my talk was the how the independent retailer can compete and win in today’s market. We discussed a range of issues but the one that seemed to resonate was when I posed this question, ” describe what makes your business unique and distinguishes it from your competition”. The first few people’s responses were the usual: We’re customer oriented, We are committed to the community, We go above and beyond to deliver customer satisfaction. I could go on but you get the idea. The this one gentlemen stood up and said you better be doing all those things if you want to survive but are you sure your customers feel the same way about your store. He then explained how he distinguishes his business. He developed a list that clearly enumerates the value proposition customers can expect from his store. We have signs in the store that display the ” Our value proposition”, every employee understands it, it’s on our website and all our advertising and promotional material. There should be no question in the customer’s mind how we view our relationship them. We’ve kept it simple and straight forward:

  • We are here to assist you and provide any information you need to help you make a wise purchasing decision.
  • If you don’t see the product you are looking for we will make every to find it for you
  • If you are satisfied with your purchase you may return it.
  • Our goal is to be an integral part of the community and support worthwhile causes to best of our ability.
  • If we don’t meet these standards in any way please let us know by email or you can call this number.

These are simple and straight forward but they are easily understood buy both the customers and the employees. They are both the rules of engagement for customers and the performance standards for employees. Ask your employees and some of your best customers what they feel distinguishes your business. You may be surprised but more importantly this exercise can be the impetus for you to develop your own set of standards that become the governing rules of your business. Branding is having a consistent message that is communicated and understood. Brand you self before your customers do it for you.