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Retail Industry Updates

For Retailers, the Time is Now to Innovate and Provide Genuine Value

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States are starting to reopen for business, some more quickly but others not far behind. That doesn’t mean that things will go back to normal, though. Retailers have to rethink their strategies, find opportunities for innovation, and continue to provide customers with support and genuine value.

Consider product innovation, new potential lines and product enhancement opportunities. Critically evaluate your retail offerings to determine the value that they provide. For example, in addition to offering a product that can be easily ordered online or delivered, build your stock with differentiated products that offer real innovation for customers, while also providing increased per-square-foot profits.

Within the mattress industry, for instance, there are now over 175 bed-in-a-box companies all offering mattresses that are virtually the same as one another. How do you sell the innovation story when there isn’t much innovation to show? While these online retailers have completely changed the ways in which we buy mattresses, there is no real product innovation.

To stand out from the sea of sameness, it’s vital to break from current product molds and innovate beyond what we know, and what makes us most comfortable. Look at the bigger picture: Find an opportunity to provide consumers with an incentive to invest in themselves through your diverse product offerings.

Retail floors will be very different on the other side of this, with a number of products no longer being offered on their floors due to manufacturers going out of business. Companies that invest in innovation and can provide differentiated, unique product on retail floors will separate themselves from the pack.

Think Outside-the-Box to Keep Business Flowing

The current state of retail poses some significant difficulties, and retail leaders must push themselves to think of alternate ways to go about business. This may mean looking for new opportunities in your current supply chain if needed, given many vendors have stopped, paused or pivoted practices. Perhaps your company is facing offshore manufacturing product risk in the wake of COVID-19? In that case, it may be time to consider alternate manufacturing suppliers.

In my industry, the biggest impact from COVID-19 is that many white glove delivery operators are no longer offering in-home setup for mattresses and mattress accessories (e.g., smart bases), but are still able to offer curbside delivery. This is a major disruption; however, working closely with our vendor partners to provide a curbside delivery option ensures we are able to respond to customer demand while putting health and safety first, and complying with local government shelter-in-place regulations. Rebuilding or rethinking business practices, and looking at new solutions rather than being dragged down by the problems, are the keys to business success in this climate.

Educate Your Customers on Available Digital Assets

With an increase in internet traffic due to people being at home, many businesses launched free online classes and educational tools to stay in front of customers.

For example, swimwear startup Summersalt transformed its regular customer service channels into a free text message hotline called “Joycast” to provide emotional support. Also, Chipotle hosts daily Chipotle Together virtual lunchtime hangouts on meeting application Zoom, featuring celebrity guests and fans. Both examples show how companies can leverage online tools and existing infrastructure to help connect with and support their customer bases, without them ever having to leave the house.

To get your brand in front of the appropriate audiences, consider building out online video resources, conducting Instagram Lives or looking to co-branded opportunities to expand your reach. Retailers should continue to look for creative ways to connect and engage with consumers through all digital channels.

Where Do You Go from Here?

The retail industry should be thinking creatively about how to keep business flowing, ideating strategically on opportunities to innovate and finding nontraditional ways to reach consumers. As retailers reopen their doors, it’s time to provide customers with real differentiated offerings and true value.

Don’t be afraid of change — your businesses’ success depends on it.

Colin House is the CEO at Intellibed, which offers high-end therapeutic mattresses.

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