Shoppers love specialty stores – whether they are shopping for candles or tyres; jewellery or hardware; bedding or teen fashion, they choose to go to a retailer who specialises, rather than a general merchandiser.

So what it is that makes the specialty store special? Why do customers, in their droves, head for the doors of the specialty store?

I see three things that really set specialty stores apart and account for their massive popularity.

Firstly, it’s the depth of their product range. Whilst a general merchandiser might carry all of the products mentioned above, they cannot, by definition offer a broad selection in any individual category. Whereas the specialist, who sells only that category, can and does offer a significantly greater range of that product.

Secondly, it is the expertise of the staff and the customer experience that they deliver. If I want to walk in to a store, pick up my item from a not-too-large range of choices, pay and walk out, then the general merchandiser fits the bill. But if I want to have somebody help me choose, with in-depth knowledge of the products, an interest in the purpose of my purchase, and insightful feedback, then a good specialty store will give me a really positive and engaging shopping experience.

Thirdly, I think it is that specialty stores, above all others, need to truly get to know their customers, and to develop very specialised loyalty and promotion offers. Often less price-sensitive than other parts of the retail market, specialty stores need to have a clear view of their customers’ motivations to purchase and build those into their marketing plans.

If these are the features that set specialty apart from other forms of retailing, then how can business owners and managers in this segment ensure that they capitalise on them and deliver the range, experience and marketing that their customers demand?

  • Inventory management – if specialty stores are going to maintain a wide range of stock in their category, they have to be able to track that stock, ensure sufficient turnover rates, and manage their inventory to ensure the right products are in the right stores at the right time. If they have multiple stores, and/or an online presence, they will need pos inventory software that gives them a single view of inventory across all channels, to maximise sales and minimise lost opportunities
  • Detailed product information – if staff are to provide the shopping experience that customers look for in a specialty store, they have to have in-depth product information. It starts with training, and to having staff who share the customers’ passion for the product, and it is helped in-store with information being readily to hand, ideally through a mobile POS device so that the discussion can take place at the customer’s side, in the aisle.
  • In-depth analytics – in order to drive the appropriate marketing strategies, including loyalty plans and promotional offers, specialty retailers need to really understand their customers. This requires detailed analysis of data that might include shopping and spending patterns, the impact of seasonal factors, which products are bought together and demographics. With this level of understanding specialty retailers can build marketing plans that increase sales and customer advocacy.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared some customer stories, showing real examples of how iVend has helped specialty retailers achieve these goals. If you haven’t yet seen them, do take a look at how Chateau d’IvoireLaksala, and Valu Home Centres have seen dramatic improvements in their business by implementing iVend’s POS, Retail store analytics and inventory management.

If those stories have inspired you and you’d like to achieve the same in your specialty business, please contact us here at iVend and we’ll help you make your specialty store even more special.

The three differentiators that set specialty apart – and how to manage them for a thriving business Paula Da Silva, CitiXsys @iVend_AsiaPac


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