The Customer is our North Star

It’s the consumer, stupid!

You’d be forgiven for believing that retail in 2017 is all about technology. There is a lot of talk of the ever growing importance of eCommerce, big data, location based marketing etcetera, etcetera. There’s no doubt that eCommerce is now incredibly important and is continuing to grow at a very impressive rate across the globe, especially when viewed against the backdrop of stagnating or falling traditional high street retailing. In 2016 eCommerce accounted for 10% of global retailing. However it did grow at an impressive 20% plus in 2016 and this is against stagnating or declining traditional high street retailing. Global retail is a $21 trillion business so at 10% eCommerce is hardly small beer. Moreover the forecast is to have eCommerce take an impressive $4 trillion slice of global retail by 2020.

But all of the tech talk and impressive online sales growth is to miss the really really important point surrounding retail.  The technology is only an enabler and can never be the end in itself. For example let’s put technology in perspective. 100 years ago cutting edge tech was the Model T, RCA and wireless trading rooms connecting Wall Street to the great Atlantic liners of the time. So tech moves on. And so it is for all the breath taking innovations surrounding the transaction and discovery stage of a customers journey. However the fundamentals of retail remain as they’ve always been and that’s to satisfy the consumer. The technology is incredibly important but only when it benefits the customer.

Whereas 2000 years ago, when hungry we’d head out and do a bit of gathering or if you were up to it maybe a bit of hunting. 100 years ago, we’d head out to the local grocer, butcher or baker. 50 years ago we’d head to the local super market. Now we would in all probability pick up a device.
More often than not that device is most likely to be in our pockets. But here’s the rub, the start and end of the journey is pretty much unchanged from 50 or 100 years ago. Not sure? Well then check out this interesting bit of research presented in a handy quick view info-graphic from the nice people at Business 2 Consumer (B2C)
Like my last post it again underlines the fact that the physical is still very very important. So although the customer journey is now likely to take a circuitous route and involves a much more educated and informed individual the journey still starts with a need and finishes with a physical product. Just as surprisingly the consumer’s preference is to find the solution as close to home as possible, again just like 100 years ago. Back then it was because of transport considerations, in other words it was convenient. Well in 2017 it is still much more convenient to have the service or product fulfilled locally. It’s only when your customer cannot find the solution with you, or worse when it comes to those pesky screens cannot find you at all, that they move quickly on.
So how do you position yourself for retail success in 2017 with so much change and innovation? Our suggestion is you go back to basics and concentrate on the consumer and their journey. At COVA we have a very simple philosophy and that is the “Consumer is our North Star”. When we develop an approach or feature we simply ask does this benefit the customer? If the answer is yes then we go all in. If it’s no it gets binned. After all in our business if it doesn’t benefit the customer then it’s just a vanity, a piece of fluff and not worthy of our time and effort.
We think this is a simple criteria and one worth embedding in our culture. Because once we bought into this approach the road map became very clear. What does the customer want and how do we get it to them? When we answer those two simple questions with the customer at the centre, decisions become easier and more obvious.
The consumer habits have changed but the underlying motivation remains largely unchanged over the decades. As I outlined in my previous post the physical retailer still has many advantages over the pure play eCommerce retailers. But that shouldn’t mean you ignore the benefits having a digital presence can bring. The consumer now expects it from you. If you don’t offer it they’re off to a competitor who does. Let’s put it this way, you opened your shop due to the belief you’d get footfall in the chosen location. Well now you need to understand your customer is mobile in every way. It’s no longer just footfall it’s now about where your customers eye balls fall. The irony is that having that eCommerce presence is actually a driver of footfall. Grab the consumers screen time and reap the rewards not just online but in store too.
So if you keep your customer at the heart of what you do you’ll move to providing the solutions they demand in 2017. The consumer journey starts and finishes as it always did but the bit in between takes a little thought. It’s not difficult and the effort could see you grab your fair share of the projected $27 trillion retail sector in 2020. Hopefully there’s a little food for thought here. If there is and you’d like to discuss further give me a shout at
(Interesting that the hunter gatherer parlance still manages to influence our modern language as the homo sapiens skills have gone from hunting for food to hunting for bargains).
At we do an out of the box solution for retail aimed at the Suppliers and Retailers allowing for close co-operation benefiting all involved. You can be up and running in 5 minutes and punching way above your weight in the most cost effective way.

Make no mistake the future of retail is physical.

As an independent retailer you could be forgiven for thinking the game is up for the physical store. On a global scale we’re constantly bombarded with news and articles about how the retail world is changing. Indeed journalists seem to have their go to sources when they want to back this up. Amazon and Walmart get far more than their fair share of column inches especially as we get more and more of our statistics and data from US skewed sources. But guess what Global retail was worth a massive $22 Trillion dollars in 2016. The giants Amazon and Walmart accounted for 0.45% and 2.3% respectively. So the two giant US based retailers accounted for less than 3% of global retail.

And what might be a little surprising is the fact the physical retailer Walmart had five times the sales of the media darling Amazon. Now there’s no doubt Amazon is incredibly innovative and is not beyond flying the odd kite in an effort to remain at the very front of the consumer’s mind. But here’s the rub, at it’s core Amazon is a physical retailer. It differs from the Walmart’s and Tesco’s of the world in the manner in which it gets products in front of consumers but they do deal in real tangible product and in that regard they are very much physical.

They have brick and mortar fulfillment centres to house physical stock and use physical means of transport. Until Jeff finally announces his guys have perfected the teleportation device of the beam me up Scotty variety they still have many of the same issues of a traditional retailer regardless of size. 

In short Amazon are just another route to market for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers of brands. They do bring many advantages to suppliers and brands and can leverage size and volume to deliver value and convenience to the consumer. But none of their core activities are patentable or not open to being copied. The reason they laud their speed of delivery is in part due to the fact they have to. Unlike a local brick and mortar store a consumer cannot simply just drop in and pick up an item on a whim or in an emergency. So Amazon’s answer is to get it to the consumer ASAP when needed. But in general outside of emergency situations who cannot wait a day or so for that new dress, box of Persil or those bangin’ new headphones. In fact Amazon are rather predictably in our view looking to navigate their way into the physical space for the reasons outlined above. Sometimes it’s just easier to drop into a store or have a place to drop off a return. For the retailer there’s the benefit of offering a replacement product there and then or better again up-selling and offering what Amazon really can’t a true impulse buying opportunity.

So where are we going with all of this? Well it’s to remind SME retailers they they too hold a lot of cards. At it’s core, retail is all about satisfying a consumers need. Getting a physical product out of a warehouse or off a shelf and into the hands of the consumer is what it’s all about. Whether the consumer starts their journey on a website or in a store the goal is the same. How do we get that product from point A to point B otherwise known as the consumers hands. As a retailer with a physical store you already have much of the hard work done. You have the relationships with the suppliers and the consumers. In the case of our target retailers they also have the means of fulfillment in-house. 

You have the ability to give the consumer more confidence than a eCommerce only retailer. That ability comes from having a physical location a consumer can have last resort to. You have the fulfillment centre already on tap and again that’s your physical store. You have local market knowledge and relationships again due to your presence in the community. All that’s left now is to leverage all of the advantages you have and connect them to the power of the web. You could get moving and connect the final piece of the jigsaw with eCommerce capabilities. But yet you haven’t done this. So what’s stopping you? Technology, resources, time, finances? Worried you’ll end up with an increased workload, almost like running another business. 

No longer acceptable excuses. Why? Because we can take on the heavy lifting. Leverage the power of your suppliers, automate all of your eCommerce sales, retain all the consumer and sales data involved. We tick all of those boxes and much more. Get in touch at and we can arrange a demo and show you how you can quite literally open up a whole new world of opportunities.

Independent retail is very well placed to become a force in eCommerce. It’s easier for you to become a multi-channel retailer than it is for say the Amazon’s of this world. It’s easier for you to stand out from the crowd and leverage your local loyal customer base than it is for the larger chains. You have a level of exclusivity that the multiples don’t enjoy. Not everyone wants to look or be the same, right? So if you’re in retail you should be in eCommerce. You have 90% of the work done. You know your business, you know your customer, you have your product so why not do what you do when you have a plumbing or car issue. Find somebody to get the job done for you or as in our case with you. Independent retail has diversity, individuality, exclusivity and many other advantages over the larger chains so don’t let insecurity about your level of technical knowledge stop you. Take it from us at www.  cost or technical knowledge is no longer a barrier to entry.