We’re only three months in and 2019 has already been quite the year in the headlines. Australia is on the brink of a recession, big bank drama is playing out like a soap opera and our major parties are playing political football with the future of Australian SMEs.
Many experts predicted the Australian ‘Retail Apocalypse‘ would happen at the hands of Amazon, but it never did. Perhaps we should’ve been looking more closely at the existing landscape all along…
Okay, don’t panic. Now’s not the time to shut up shop and hide away in your doomsday bunker. Let’s take a look at the facts, contextualise the blind panic and work on some proactive ways to make sure retail insolvency will never be on the cards for you!
The Cold Hard (Totally Unavoidable) Facts
I’m not going to sugar coat it. The headlines have been foreshadowing a big fat problem for Australian retailers for a while now.
You need only look at quarterly reports from the likes of Myer and Kmart to see a clear trend emerging. According to the fourth edition of The Worrells Insolvency Report:
Retail had the fourth highest rate of insolvency of any industry during FY17-18.
Within the retail sector, the rate of insolvencies jumped 19% year-on-year.
Retailers from New South Wales and Victoria reported the highest rate of corporate insolvency appointments, at 31% and 27% respectively.
And 27% of these appointments occurred because of “economic conditions affecting [the] industry, including competition & price cutting,” according to the report.
What Does This Mean for Me?
Okay, now that we’ve dropped the truth bombs, let’s talk about how to avoid ending up on the running list of bankrupt Aussie-retailers.
Step one, don’t buy into the fear mongering. It’s time to talk smart investments!
7 Smart Retailer Investments to Make in 2019
Investing in automation is a total no brainer.
No matter your job position there will be certain tasks that take you annoying lengths of time, drain your energy and put a damper on your creativity. I’ll give you a minute, it shouldn’t take you long to list a few!
Hmmm, let me guess. You thought of those times you answered the same customer questions again and again… or maybe data sorting, generic email follow-ups, and rectifying common shipping issues. All of which take your valuable time.
If you counted all of the hours you spent on these mindless tasks you’d likely find that you’ve wasted 20% of your work week…you’d also find that software could’ve done that counting for you.
Identify the tasks that need to be automated and then create the necessary systems and processes. You may need to invest in a Customer Relationship Manager, a customer service chatbot or an integration platform such as Zapier.
BUT the answer may be as simple as templating email responses, or updating your FAQs to include more concise answers. Either way, automation is the way to go!
Invest in automation and you will find yourself with endless hours to devote to innovation….okay, maybe not quite endless, but some for sure!
So what does investing in innovation look like? Sending the first unmanned rocket into space? Masterminding the next ShamWow? Delivering your packages with drones?
Well, that’s up to you. Because you don’t need to be Elon Musk to be an innovator!
Investing in innovation simply means you’re putting time, energy and where it counts, money, towards exploring new concepts, ideas and products.
Innovation, no matter how small, transforms you from a coat-tailer to a trailblazer.
By 2020, experience will outweigh price as the key product differentiator. I know I sound like a broken record here, but it’s the truth!
Read: 4 Key Areas for Mastering Your CX in 2019
There’s no all-inclusive package that will elevate your customer experience (CX) immediately, but there are small things you can invest in over time.
First to mind would be your user experience (UX)—perhaps by investing in an easy-to-navigate website and e-commerce platform. You could also spend a bit of time adding some sparkle to your in-store experience. Offer a personal touch to customer orders, providing more valuable content, or simply provide updated training to your customer service team.
You need to understand that if in 2, 10, 15 years your company finds itself on the dark path towards insolvency, you won’t be able to save your butt by discounting. Experience is key!
Efficiency and automation go hand in hand, but they’re not quite the same thing!
Automation is streamlining the tasks that need to be done. Efficiency is finding better ways to do those tasks or removing them from the mix all together.
If you were to invest in efficiency, the most obvious place to start would be your supply chain. Supply chain transparency and efficiency is a hot topic this year and for good reason. Finding ways to cut your shipping time, reduce your warehousing costs and provide a store-to-door experience will give you the ultimate competitive edge.
Powering ahead at full force is great, but your ability to recoup your loses and find your feet when (not if) you eventually get derailed makes the real difference.
Teaching your team to stay on their toes and remain agile is one of THE most important skill they can learn. Investing in adaptiveness doesn’t come with a large price tag, it just takes time and thought.
Build in retrospectives and periods of reflection for your staff and use customer surveys to inform decisions before pivoting in your strategy.
Have you hired staff or have you hired talent? The difference between your company scaling quickly or growing at a snail’s pace will depend on this.
Staff will dot their I’s and cross their T’s. Show up on time and leave on time. Do their work as expected. But they will rarely exceed expectations.
Talent will challenge you to think outside the box, bring new ideas to the table, and most importantly champion each of the qualities above.
Slight caveat—if you feel like you’ve fallen behind the eight-ball with automation, innovation, experience, efficiency and adaptiveness, your first step shouldn’t be to fire all of your staff. Don’t do the Donald Trump!
Talent needs investment. It needs support. And it needs a working environment where learning and career development will be championed.
Invest In MI Academy
Okay, I‘ll admit. The end of blog call-to-action is supposed to be a whole lot less obvious than this, but I believe in the work we do so here it is!
If investing in your talented team is top of your agenda, you need to invest in us.
We help growing companies solve customer experience problems. We do it using research-based training and consultancy to transform their digital marketing, customer loyalty, supply chain and sales strategy. Wow, that was a mouthful!
Why would you invest in Milk It Academy specifically? Well, we offer something unique.
If we were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, pack up and pursue a long lost dream of becoming a Cheesemaker working in the Italian countryside (Mmm tempting!), you would be totally fine. All our clients would.
They wouldn’t be scrambling to reskill or rehire. They would stick to their playbook of tried and tested strategies, design think solutions to their challenges and continue to ALWAYS put their customers first.
Our value doesn’t lie in our presence. It lies in our ability to instil an unshakable confidence in your team, empowering you for life, not just the life of one campaign.
Alita Harvey-Rodriguez is known as one of Australia's leading digital marketing futurists and the brains behind Milk It Academy – A research-based training firm to advance marketers skills into new school digital leaders and company innovators. For over a decade Alita has worked with global brands including SAP, Experian, SEMrush, TS14+, Estee Lauder, Myer, Power Retail, & Online Retailer.