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2020 Trends 1: Why retailers aren’t buying from you… and what to do about it

Chris Field
Chris Field

A lot of tech vendors missed their sales targets last year. Brexit in the UK and the general upheaval in retail everywhere didn’t help but, while Brexit will have no long term effects on retail tech, the general upheaval is with us for five or more years. So, with the retail landscape changed forever, that means retailers will buy differently and vendors will have to react. 

There will be no return to business as usual.

Here’s why retailers are not buying from you and then we can talk about what to do about it.

  • The list of projects that are already scheduled by IT does not align with what the business actually needs to do, which can see many vendors trying to remain relevant with different stakeholders that do not talk to each other about tech.
  • The market is very competitive and there are too many similar products chasing the same budget.
  • There are too many ‘solutions’ that do not really work or would require the retailers to do too much of the development themselves until they end up with a massively customised beast that cannot be changed easily.
  • It is too hard for retailers to choose. Vendors are very good at the top line messaging and marketing, and good on the commercials of a deal, but not so good on the bit in the middle. Call it sales collateral or sales development but there is a dearth of content that enables business development to keep the conversation going.
  • The compulsion for retailers to act is weak. They know that there is always something better around the corner or at least they have come to believe this because of the scale of innovation coming out of not just the US, but the UK, Israel, Denmark, France and now other parts of central and Eastern Europe as developers have started to market their own products.
  • Vendors do not know how to navigate the retailer’s business, so waste too much time reaching or even failing to reach the wrong people. It’s easy to get a good feeling by having lots of positive conversations with people who are still not buying from you.

So, what is a tech vendor to do about a range of symptoms that are unlikely to go away soon or ever?

  1. Pick your targets by doing your homework. Are they right for you? Do they buy from companies like you? Are they really in the market for a solution? Have they got any money? Will the cost of implementation destroy your profits and steal all your time? Is your guy the real decision maker? Who else do they listen to when choosing tech?
  2. Repeat yourself. No one is paying any attention to you or what you are saying. They missed what you said the first five times. They saw something you did but immediately forgot about it. They liked something you said but didn’t really know who was saying it or what they needed to do about it. You may get bored by repeating yourself endlessly, but often it will be someone’s very first time. If you have something important to say, you need to keep saying it.
  3. Don’t give up. This follows on from #2. I am constantly amazed by how quickly companies give up. A good campaign with a strong message and some great content can last up to 18 months.
  4. Start. Uncertainty causes companies to hesitate with the result that they often do nothing. I accept the need for tech companies to have a rethink about how they engage, but it is not smart to switch everything off. It is not hard to keep the energy up in the wider market and may be nothing more than some digital advertising.
  5. Give Marketing more money. Well, you’d expect me to say this but in a crowded and competitive marketplace, marketing is not discretionary spend. Too many gifted internal marketing people are not being given enough money to do decent campaigns or even any campaigns.
  6. Find more partners. Whether you sell through channel or not, you will need more friends who can help you build a bridge into the retail business. The retailers need more help than ever to make the right decisions but getting close to them will require resources and bodies; you can’t do it all alone, no matter how large your organisation. This is not just about hiring more inside sales people, but working with partners, agencies and industry influencers.
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