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If you want to sell to retailers you have to know retail

Chris Field
Chris Field

If you want to sell to retailers you have to know retail – obviously. But how much time do vendors actually spend understanding the retail market and the people who run it?

Take, for example, John Lewis, which has just posted a 14.7% drop in half year pre-tax profits. Bad news indeed, but this is a company with underlying strengths that are certain to make the latest figures a blip. To suggest (as someone has) that the John Lewis bubble has burst is clearly a misunderstanding of the business.

That’s not to say that the retailer won’t become more cautious with its spending in strategic areas such as technology, so if you want to sell to John Lewis, it probably helps to know what their buying priorities are.

Do you know how IT director Paul Coby runs IT, and who he goes to for advice?

Do you know how the operations team finds and develops its ideas?

Do you know the details of John Lewis; programme explore what retail might look like in 2025?

If you did, you might think again about what and how you sell to them.

And so it goes for all retailers. Now, you may have to start from a position of blissful ignorance, but knowing what you don’t know is at least a plan. No one has all the answers, and plenty of people travel a long way on what they knew from years back, but this is an important investment to make before going to market.

You need to qualify out early so you don’t end up wasting valuable marketing dollars preaching to the never to be converted.

Having this depth of insight before going to market is more important now than ever. We operate in very competitive markets, full of noise and misdirection, which makes it hard for retailers to find the right partner and the right solution. Worse, the number of people within the retailers empowered to make big buying decisions has narrowed, putting even more pressure on a chosen few.

And yet the opportunities are there; retailers’ reliance on technology is increasing, budgets outside the IT department are rising, and there is a commitment on the part of retailers to invest intelligently. But now is the time to put in the homework before jumping in.

As I explain in my latest report, How Retailers Choose Technology – and How to Get them to Choose You – this mantra applies as much for established players who have seen their traditional playground bulldozed, as for mid-market players who are often prospecting with old and worn out tools, and start-ups who want to change the world overnight.

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