If Necessity is the Mother of Invention, then we have to define Necessity to re-invent our stores. And re-invent them we must, because Necessity IS changing. In 1993, who would have thought that a personal, portable phone would be considered a necessity by a vast majority of the population? Most of us no longer feel that a landline, a checkbook, the morning paper or daily mail delivery is a need…but cannot do without multiple computing devices, energy drinks or lattes.
Generalizations, granted—but we can see the shifts all around us. Recently, I talked about rebooting our businesses to structure for customer convenience. I truly believe that Necessity—our customers’ needs, in this case—will guide us to re-invent ourselves. IF we pay attention, and IF we do it fast enough.
This episode, though, I want to look deeper. I think many of us will do OK recasting our displays, social interaction, and products and services for the evolving consumer. But the question I ask today is, “What business are we in?” If you frantically raised your hand and blurted, “The music products biz!” my answer is NO. You’ll have to think about the rest of this column to see if your answer is the same.
Point 1: The Erosion of Brand Loyalty. Thanks to the unprecedented flexibility of manufacturing, global sourcing and desktop design, we offer an immense selection of products in our stores. This proliferation of brands, sub-brands, house brands, private labels and custom builds is available to anyone who wants to join in and shell out the (ever-smaller) seed money. Our traditional customer still recognizes a (dwindling) number of iconic names, but many of those names have been diluted by indiscriminate or unfocused application across too many categories.