Why do some businesses flourish when others are short lived? What does it take to create and grow a successful company? Many would say it’s down to the visionary behind that organization – what would Apple have been without Steve Jobs, or Virgin without Richard Branson?

But the truth is that even the most talented entrepreneurs achieved global domination through a combination of hard work and the right strategy. That’s why we’ve brought together some of their key lessons in this blog post, as inspiration for retailers of all sizes hoping to take their business to the next level.

“Information flow is the life blood of your company because it enables you to get the most out of your people and learn from your customers.”
– Bill Gates

Now more than ever, successful retailing is underpinned by data-driven insights. However, from our experience, although many companies have reporting and analytics solutions in place, not all of them are converting it into tangible actions fast enough.

Truly learning from customers means not only being able to measure and interpret their behaviours, but use that information to create experiences that are more convenient, more meaningful, and more profitable.

“In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
– Mark Zuckerberg

If the world as a whole is changing really quickly, then retail must be one of the fastest moving sectors. Consumers are constantly pushing the boundaries in terms of their channel expectations, speed of fulfilment, and richness of customer experience.

The only way to keep up with their rapidly evolving behaviour is to try new things – whether that’s personalisation of marketing strategies, investing in new omnichannel technologies to bring the digital and physical shopping environments closer together, or even experimenting with the store layout.

There’s no single path for retail businesses to tread; the only truth is that those who stand still will get left behind.

“My definition of success? The more you’re actively and practically engaged, the more successful you will be.”
– Richard Branson

This quote could have been written for the retail sector. Achieving growth today rests on creating interactions with shoppers, which can be nurtured into longer-term relationships. This is certainly being shown in the development of loyalty schemes from generic paper or points-based offers, to digitised programs that reward customers on an individual basis.

We’re also seeing a shift away from retailers incentivising customers for purchases alone. The increasing value of user generated content (UGC) means that non-transactional engagements such as posting about a retailer or brand on social media carries huge value. The more progressive organizations realise this and are using loyalty schemes to encourage it.

“I’m not a tech guy. I’m looking at the technology with the eyes of my customers, normal people’s eyes.”
– Jack Ma

Technology drives business efficiency, so it is understandable that many retail company owners and senior decision makers get caught up in a language of systems and processes. However, it’s important not to lose sight of the end objective: to make the customer experience better.

When investing in retail technology, it’s vital for organizations to find solutions that can evolve alongside shopper behaviour, so they don’t end up tying themselves in technical knots trying to keep up with the customer. That will only make the end user journey disconnected and clumsy.

“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
Steve Jobs

Following on from my point about putting the customer experience first and sourcing the technology to meet that challenge, the importance of back-end simplicity cannot be underestimated. If new operational systems and processes are added piecemeal, they will eventually start to cause technical constraints that stunt growth.

Retailers of all sizes need to be investing in end-to-end solutions that make it easy to action the insights provided by business intelligence. Moreover, that solution needs to be scalable, so that it remains fit for purpose as their company expands.

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