Posted on 14 October, 2018  |  5 mins

Things change. The seasons, our minds, your business—particularly your business, where regular change is essential for keeping up with retail trends. But are you sure your customers will wait for you to change? In the hyper-competitive retail environment, how can you confidently say “yes”?

Change for smaller retailers is a big deal… but it’s no small task. It could involve something as huge as a new business pricing strategy, opening a new store or you might be tasked with launching a new product into the market.

And while it’s a lot of work, adapting to the environment is absolutely a small retailer’s biggest advantage over both the high-street stores and global eCommerce sites. As a smaller business, you can be nimble, react fast and change direction in a way big brands can only dream of.

Being good at change means that when the economy throws something new at you, you can be nimble and evolve with it. You can be rolling with something new while the large retailers are still scheduling a conference call to go over what catering to get in for their first risk assessment meeting.

It's a sharp competitive edge... That is, if you’re set up to be responsive to change. Here are five ways your retail business can do just that.

How to make your retail business responsive to change │ 9 Spokes

1. Get your people used to change

We’ve written before about how to get your staff engaged with new ideas—new software, tools or ways of working. But when change is a constant, you need your people to get used to it as a part of your company culture.

It’s important that change is seen as positive, instead of something that stretches and disturbs your workforce. It’s a way for your business to be innovative and do cool things before the big companies can, so encourage this "David vs Goliath" thinking to breed excitement among your staff.

Focus on promoting retail innovation as a true company culture, and let that run throughout your business—from sales staff to the people who work behind the scenes. Some steps towards doing that can be to:

  • Take the time to discuss with all staff why you’re focussing on innovation
  • Welcome ideas from anyone in your team—let people know they can participate, even with disruptive ideas
  • Be active in advancing good ideas to the next stage
  • Incentivise innovation (awards for the best ideas and for people who exemplify the company’s values, for instance)
  • Share in success: everyone should celebrate when change is successful.

Have your own ideas or success stories for promoting innovation? Let us (and others) know on the 9 Spokes Facebook page.

2. Improve the speed of your decision-making

The fable of the tortoise and the hare taught us that slow and considered is better than fast and reckless. But there’s an issue: these aren’t the only two options available to businesses.

When you have the right information in front of you, you can make good decisions quickly and lead change more swiftly. It’s like being the hare with the winning mind-set of the tortoise—now add a compass and a map of the race route. What we’re saying is: data is important.

If you’re a data-driven leader, you can quickly see what resources you have to back up your decisions and start answering very particular questions like:

  • Will I have enough cash on hand to pay that big supplier bill in a month’s time or will I have to focus on getting my invoices paid on time to get more cash on hand?
  • Which product sells best in October, how many will I have in stock by September and can my suppliers get me more, should need be?
  • What’s my cost per sale through different social media channels, which are most effective, and which should I budget the most for in my next campaign?
  • … And many other ones that will crop up.

3. Focus on business clarity

It’s quite natural to fear the unknown. As a store-owner, not knowing your business inside-out can quickly bring doubt and anxiety. It’s one of the major reasons business owners suffer imposter syndrome.

On one hand, it’s hard to have a view of your entire business. In the modern world, you’re asked to be the jack of all trades, from salesperson to marketer and more. On the other, it’s never been easier to see your entire business at once.

If you use retail business apps—like inventory management software, accounting apps and POS systems—they collect information to help you manage your stock levels, money and sales respectively.

By connecting them to 9 Spokes, you get a company-wide view of all sales channels on one simple data dashboard. It’s all about seeing your business more clearly, so you can make better decisions and spend less time doubting yourself.

4. Learn how to scale what works

Let’s say you experiment with a small change in your store. You spotted the retail consumer trend of customers wanting a good mobile experience and invested in changing your website so it works better on smartphones and tablets… And it was a success!

Now it’s time to make it even better and more profitable as a sales channel. You might invest in personalising that experience, optimising images and layout for mobile, or even developing a mobile shopping app. You now know what works and can focus on making that thing better.

The same goes for the business apps you use. If you try a POS tool and find it works for you, start scaling it. Connect it to your inventory and accounting software, plug it into your eCommerce platform and start using it in more store locations.

One of the benefits of cloud-based business apps is that they scale with your business in terms of things like functionality or users. You pay for what you need, and as your business grows, you just add on extras.

Again, this is all about finding out what works on the small scale before spending more money on a bigger rollout—not the other way around. That’s why many business apps offer free trials.

5. Change constantly and incrementally

There’s a term in software development: Agile. You may have heard of it—businesses of all types are trying it out.

It’s basically a way of developing software and making continuous improvements on it in short sprints. If you look at your smartphone right now, there’s likely to be some software updates ready to go. That’s because the likes of Facebook, Uber and Spotify improve their products every day in this way.

Why are we talking about Agile in a retail blog? Because it’s an example of how change is approached in the modern world. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel all in one go. Small, constant, incremental changes allow you to make transformation more manageable, and kindles that culture of innovation you’ve been building.

Examples of some smaller changes could include:

  • Introducing a new inventory management tool
  • Automating invoicing
  • Experimenting with a new type of social media promotion
  • Trialling some products from a new supplier
  • Or bundling some products to see if they sell better.

Whatever it is, change doesn’t have to technically be “Agile” and involve scrums, sprints and other structures we use in software development. But constantly experimenting with things to make your store better will build change into your business. And when bigger changes are necessary, you’ll know how to approach them.

What do you think are the best ways to make your business more nimble and responsive to change? Let us know on the 9 Spokes Facebook page.

How to make your retail business responsive to change │ 9 Spokes Blog