Retail Trends & Strategies


  • Better market positioning: This involves more careful identification of market segments and providing service superior to that of competition.
  • Market intensification: This involves clustering more stores in the same metropolitan area and contiguous markets.
  • Secondary markets: Expansion will be increasingly focused on secondary markets  of under 100,000 population because there may be less competition from larger retailers, and costs, such as wages, may be lower.
  • Differences in store size: Retailers will have a more flexible portfolio of different sized stores depending on the size of the community and existing retail competition. More use of second-hand space will occur because this can result in savings of 30 percent or more in rent.
  • Productivity increases: The application of central checkout, self-selection, and low gross margins to areas of trade where these techniques have not been used before will occur. Look now at toy supermarkets, home-decorating centers, and self-service shoe stores.
  • Fewer product options: Product lines will increasingly be consolidated, and new product development will be cut back.
  • Service growth: Services retailing will continue to grow as a percentage of total retail sales. Services already represent about 50 percent of the gross national product.
  • More mergers: Increasingly, smaller and weaker firms will be absorbed as more retail outlets struggle to survive.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Sales Forecasts


From a sales manager’s point of view, the importance of timely, accurate sales forecasts cannot be overstated. There is nothing quite as needlessly frustrating as being surprised at the month end sales results because the forecasts from the field were incorrect, untimely, or inadequate.

More than simply keeping sales managers up to date, accurate sales forecasting can have an important impact on other areas of the company as well. Sales forecasts give management the information that is necessary to implement a product plan that ensures that the right product is available for salespeople to sell.

It is true that a sales force automation system cannot compensate for poor forecasting skills of salespeople in the field. What a sales system can do, however, is to move the information from the field management instantly. Perhaps more important is the fact that an automated sales system can deliver the information in a format that allows the forecasts of several salespeople to be automatically rolled up into a consolidated regional report. Since the information is in a more usable format, it is more valuable to management. It is more likely to be useful in preventing end-of-the-month surprises.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Strategies to Cause Change


In developing a strategy for change, it is always useful to define clearly what is to be changed. Is it knowledge, attitudes, behavior, or entire group or organizational processes? Each of these is increasingly difficult to change, and each requires proportionately more time to consummate. In most instances, each of these four types of change requires that those preceding must be changed first.

The change process involves three general stages. The first is “unfreezing,” or developing a willingness and readiness for change. The second is the change process itself, which involves new learning. The third is “refreezing,” or the consolidating of the learning from stage two.

Structural strategy means the redesign of the authority, task, and other structures to accommodate changes in the external and internal environment. This approach is sometimes efficacious in localized difficulties, but it has limitations when the nature of change requires adjusting to a deeper level of contingency-severity rather than just adapting to a configuration change in the external environment at the same contingency-severity level.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

The Bottomless Pit


For many companies the networked enterprise vision became the reality for what appeared to be a bottomless pit into which money was poured with little prospect of achieving the ‘benefits’ that were originally sought. The returns from early investment in IT were problematic. The potion turned those with aspirations to become princesses and fairies into frogs and goblins.

Much of past ‘investment’ in IT has been used to shore up existing ways of working. We have used IT to set our organization in concrete. We have worked hard and spent millions consolidating a bureaucratic form of organization which we are now trying to break down.

IT suppliers, with a mixture of cheek and bravado, have long been in the business of offering solutions to the many problems which their own products have created. They suggest that this or that upgrade may yet turn the lead boots they have supplied into winged slippers.

While overall the introduction of early generations of IT may have had little beneficial impact, it does appear to have widened the gap between the more and less efficient companies. There are ‘winners,’ but for many IT from its origins to the dotcom era has been an ‘honest mirror’ that has confronted them with their own warts and wrinkles.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Challenges of Execution


A successful change effort requires: a) adequate appreciation and planning, b) sufficient support by employees, c) competent execution by managers, and d) change managers with appropriate skill sets and capabilities. Less than one-third of all organizational change efforts are successful in producing anticipated results. There are eight reasons for this low success rate. Organizations that fail to produce results after undertaking change do so because managers in these organizations do not:

  1. establish a sense of urgency among employees;
  2. form a powerful guiding coalition for implementing change;
  3. create a powerful vision to energize employees;
  4. communicate their vision effectively to employees;
  5. empower employees to act on their vision;
  6. plan for and create short-term wins;
  7. consolidate improvements and produce still more change; and
  8. institutionalize new approaches.

The first four reasons deal with appreciating change and mobilizing support and the last reason relates to creating capability for change. Remaining three reasons concern the implementation of change. There are three prerequisites to effective execution of change, relating to empowerment, motivation, and consolidation.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Changing Face of Customer Service


Excellent customer service—the daily, ongoing support of a company’s offerings—is critical in creating brand identity and ultimate success. It includes answering questions, taking orders, dealing with billing issues, handling complaints, scheduling appointments, and similar activities. These essential functions can make or break an organization’s relationships with its customers. The quality of customer care can significantly impact brand identity for service, manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Because of its importance in creating impressions and sustaining customer relationships, customer service has sometimes been called the “front door” of the organization or its “face.”

 

So how has the “face” of customer service changed with the influx of technology? Long ago all customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. To get service you had to visit stores or service providers in person. The telephone changed this, allowing customers to call companies and speak directly with employees. Customer service became less personal, but without a doubt more efficient, through use of the telephone. With the evolution of computer technology, customer service representatives (CSRs) became even more efficient. Through computer information systems and customer data files, CSRs are able to call up customer records at their workstations to answer questions on the spot.

 

Over time, because communication and computer technologies allowed it, large organizations began to centralize their customer service functions, consolidating into a few large call centers that could be located anywhere in the country or world. But still, in these types of call centers, customer service is for the most part an international event with customers talking directly, one-on-one with an employee.

 

The advent and rapid proliferation of the efficient, but much maligned, automated voice response systems have changed personal customer service in many organizations into menu-driven, automated exchanges. In almost every industry and any business context consumers encounter these types of systems, and many are quite frustrating—for example, when a system has a long confusing set of menu options or when no menu options seems to fit the purpose of the call. Similarly, consumers become angered when they cannot get out of the automated system easily, or when there is no option to speak to a live person.

 

Some companies have overcome these obstacles, however, and have well-designed automated telephone systems that work well for customers. This is accomplished through a form of natural-language speech recognition technology that allows customers to easily interact through the telephone in ways that are much like talking to a real person. Further, a human contact is always easy to get to if needed. Customer satisfaction is rated among the highest in any industry. One of the keys may be that the vice president of retail voice technology occupies a senior management position, showing importance placed on this function. In general, satisfaction levels for automated speech recognition systems are higher than satisfaction with touch-tone systems and in some cases are higher than for live agents.

 

Beyond automated telecom systems, explosion of the internet is also dramatically changing customer service for many companies. Service can now be provided on the internet via e-mail, website robots, FAQs, and online chat. In these cases there is no direct human interaction, and customers actually perform their own service. At Ford Motor Company’s technology that allows dealership customers to set their own service appointments, send messages regarding their specific repair needs, and monitor the status of their vehicles, all online.

 

With the relentless proliferation of technology solutions, firms are finding that expectations for customer service have changed. Customers are demanding choices in how they get customer service, whether it be over the phone, automated voice systems, via fax or email, or through internet self-service. However, while customers often enjoy technology-based service and even demand it in many cases, they dislike it when it doesn’t work reliably (a common problem), when it doesn’t seem to have any advantages over the interpersonal service alternatives, and when there are no systems in place to recover from failures. Interestingly, when things don’t work as they are supposed to on an internet site or through an automated response system, customers are quick to look for more traditional interpersonal (in person or via telephone) options, coming full circle to where we started.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight