asked: what are your customers wearing? What are they looking for when they go into the store? What are they looking for and they don’t find? What are they taking to the dressing room and don’t buy? “Every single day that data is translated back to the factories and they respond to customer demand,” says Barbara. “GAP, in typical fashion, was product focused. The designer, the merchants, and the geniuses would decide what to put in the stores. At Zara, the fashionistas decided what to put in the store, and that’s the difference between product focus and customer focus.”

Big data “In my research for my book, another thing I was looking for was general trends and how retail is changing, so I can make my new structure. The key word is omnichannel, and that means that sophisticated retailers have a seamless integration of data from mobile to online to physical store and that creates what is known as ‘big data’. “If you don’t have big data in this world of retail, you are behind,”

says Barbara. “Big data also means that you need to interact with your customers frequently. If you think about Amazon – it interacts with its customers 20 times a day! And, what it does with that data, of course, is to customise and personalise the customer experience; and it’s about customer-focused marketing.” Barbara also says the younger

generation is very mobile dependent when it comes to shopping. “Generation Z, they don’t go anywhere without their mobile phone. Everything has to be seen through the lens of a phone. They also get their information from online reviews, and that’s a very different way of shopping. Influencers and blogging etc, young people are digitally native and they look to others for information on what to buy.” Of course, one the biggest changes

seen in the US is Amazon. “I’m a marketing professor, I have tons of books in my office, and I figure the retail books must have frameworks – why should I reinvent one if there is already a good enough framework,” asks Barbara. “But, the

original framework in the books all talk about product, and say the most important factor in retail is product – assortment, merchandise, and it’s very product focused. The other thing the old frameworks have is it is about operations, it’s about logistics, delivery and stock. So, retail is about product and operations. Well, that’s true – but what’s missing? The customer. Nowhere in these old retail frameworks do they mention the customer!”

She concludes: “Give the customer

what they want. Customers want to buy something they value from someone they trust. You have to decide how competitive your industry is. In the US, retailing is ruthless. It is very competitive. If you are in a very competitive industry, you can still win, but the way you win is you have to be better than the competition. That means you can’t just be good enough – you have to be better.”

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19 JULY 2019 DIY WEEK 19

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