Learning & Selling Channels

What you have to ask yourself is, are you are willing to be open to a new business model, as well as embrace creativity and risks? As the old saying goes, “Don’t fix something that isn’t broken,” but without a second look, you could be missing out on your true selling potential. Whether business is slow or good, it can always be better. Every organization is looking for quality results, and as an independent retailer, your quality results come in the form of sales, new customers, customer loyalty and profit margins. Three important steps in attaining these quality results are:

1) Maintain quality leadership.

2) Embrace creativity and risks.

3) Meet basic needs.

Keep in mind these important steps cannot be accomplished if you are not willing to frequently re-evaluate your business culture and adopt new business models that follow the trends put in place by your customers. As Retail Systems Research (RSR) explains in a benchmark report titled, “Omni-Channel Fulfillment and the Future of Retail Supply Chain,” current business and supply-chain models assume that the store is the endpoint of a transaction. In actuality, “Current supply chain models are not suited to an omni world, a world where consumers increasingly have little care which channel they use to research, select, transact or collect products.” Simply stated, consumers have new shopping behaviors that may seem disruptive to traditional advertising and selling methods that are part of the current business model.

Learning Channels

Mobile barcodes (a.k.a. QR codes) can be utilized in making your traditional print media more interactive. Many media companies and marketers use mobile barcodes as a means to create and manage measurable 2D barcode campaigns, extending brand engagement to consumers’ smartphone enabled lifestyles. For instance, Home Depot is offering to its do-it-yourself builders and home owning customers a taste of the new technology. Technology Marketing Corporation Contributor, Michelle Amodio, details Home Depot’s plan, saying, “In an effort to give customers more relevant information on product reviews, how-to guides and videos, 2D barcodes will be placed in direct mail pieces linking to product information and video demos.”

Another learning channel being accessed by customers is the podcast. The word, podcast, comes from combining the terms “iPod” and “broadcast.” The term actually applies to both audio and video recordings, yet most of the time refers only to audio broadcasting. Podcasts are downloadable so that they may be listened to on-the-go. According to the 2009 publication, The Social Media Bible, by Lon Safko and David K. Brake, “Podcasting is really easy and is much more psychologically desirable to your customers and followers than just plain text.” At the time of this publication, the authors cited that 30 million people were subscribing to podcasts, a number that is exponentially growing.

Furthermore, utilizing both video and podcasts will help tackle a few projects on your marketing to-do list. Participating in video or podcast sharing sites may help you with two scheduled items: social media and search engine optimization. Point blank, using these two technological channels and social media forums will allow you to present your business, its mission, and products in an interesting and interactive way.

Selling Channels

There are options when it comes to investing in selling channels. For instance, the increasing daily use of smartphone applications (apps) by your consumers has created a channel for your customers to purchase products. Embracing the creative idea of releasing an app could mean that you will reach 256 million potential consumers. Also, social media is becoming a big selling channel, as retailers post promo codes, discount hours, and daily deals out to their growing Facebook fanship. The fast growing role of Facebook was a constant topic at the National Retail Federation’s Innovate 2011 conference in San Francisco in March. While most retailers’ social media presence remains limited to Facebook fan pages and a steady flow of Twitter posts, several conference presenters made clear that the retail industry is only scratching the surface of social media’s potential. Some are even going so far as to dub, “F-commerce,” with the “F” as in Facebook, the next big frontier.”

Whatever the next big frontier is, it goes way beyond the store-centric demand model. It is a wise decision to take advantage of the multiple technology-driven channels your customers are accessing, whether it be to spread information about your business or to sell products beyond your checkout counter.