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New year, new approaches

Chris Field
Chris Field

We want to be challenged, inspired, distracted and directed towards new ways of doing things. Otherwise, we’ll just carry on doing things the same way we have done for years – even if they are not working anymore.

We read the books, visit the trade shows, talk to the people outside our industry or profession, and even try to change our schedule or pace of work to allow new ideas to enter.

But then, we default to the tried and familiar.

Why is that exactly? We often think it is fear; fear of failing collectively, fear of failing alone and being the one who gets the blame; fear that it might actually work and then all our old certainties vanish.

But we are not all fearful all the time. And yet we don’t make the decision to change until it is forced on us by getting fired, or made redundant, or illness. All good catalysts for change to be sure; I had to get made redundant twice before I decided that being the boss, even if only of a typewriter and a printer, was better than another job.

Sure, we need to get braver, smarter (but less clever), naive to the point of questioning everything, and more curious. But now we also need new catalysts – and more often – because change keeps trying to blow our house down every day. I hear people say they are enjoying the ride, but I also see the fear behind the excitement – how long is this going to go on, how much longer do I have to take it?

So, as we head into a new year, which is an excellent time for adopting new approaches, here are my 5 catalysts for embracing change in retail, and sweating some value out of it:

#1 – Talk to the people who know more about the one person all retailers need to get to know: the consumer. Psychologists, behavioural scientists and neurologists understand people. Even their everyday insights can have a dramatic impact on how a retailer should serve a customer.

#2 – Talk to customers. And I don’t mean in a lab rat mass research project, where you are only searching for broad trends. I mean customers in focus groups, but not using the current model, where the chosen customers catch Stockholm Syndrome after about two sessions.

#3 – Talk to staff in the store, online and in the call centre. These are the people who absorb more raw data every day than anyone, and there has to be a better way to convert their considerable energies into smart action. By the way, Shop Direct is really good at this.

#4 – Talk to Millennials and Generation Zers. They might not want you hanging out with them any more than you want to hang out with them, but there is wisdom. They hold the keys to what is coming next – you probably won’t like what they have to say, how they choose to express it or how they put it into action, but they will do it anyway, so you might as well be on the front foot.

#5 – Talk to yourself. If you are over 45, your ability to build ideas from nearly two generations of experience, mistakes, broad world knowledge, family nurturing, decades of high and low culture, and possibly the odd foray into the world of drugs, should amply equip you to challenge the status quo AND to put the fruits of that insight into action. Even if you’re not over 45, you’ll have enough life lessons to help you on your way. What’s the worst that can happen? You may end up having a lot more fun.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Sunday Soundbites this year, and have found them of value. I’ll be back next year with more insights. 

Happy Holidays!

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