Are We Out-Competing Ourselves?

Shoppers look pretty much the same as they did a few years ago when smart phones became prevalent. Shopper expectations, however, are vastly different. And guess what, it might just be our fault.

In our constant bid to out-compete every other retailer, brands have continued to up the game for the last 100+ years. We offer better prices, longer hours, more personal service, free shipping, and the list goes on and on.

The challenge is, the higher we raise the bar, the higher our competitors leap, until a service or a program that was once a differentiator is now just table stakes.

When consumers had fewer choices and bought more locally, retail brands had more control of their marketshare.

But not anymore.

Consumers have nearly unlimited choices, including access to consumer goods from the other side of the world. So, if we continue to compete with each other on this level, how will any retail brand survive?

Bringing Out your Brand’s Personal Best

I think the first step is to stop competing with each other. You read that right – I said stop competing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying stop trying to be the best brand you can be – but I recommend that each of us re-align our thinking to compete with ourselves instead.

Consider this scenario: instead of spending your energy in an attempt to figure out and one-up your arch enemy, what if you tried to figure out who are your best customers and compete against your own status quo be a better brand designed around their individual needs?

Brookshire Grocery Company is a great example of this. The Texas-based grocer operates more than 150 stores in Texas and surrounding states. Brookshire recently completed an SAP technology-based project to increase data integrity and visibility because they wanted to better understand their customers. More specifically, leadership wanted accurate, consistent and actionable information that could help the brand more effectively deliver on the Brookshire promise.

Guess what – when Brookshire turned its focus inward to be a better Brookshire, managers discovered that a deeper understanding of shopper behavior and needs allowed them to quickly and proactively adjust to demand, which has translated into increased sales and customer satisfaction.

Brookshire isn’t just relying on data, analytics and technology to take the grocery chain to the next level. They’re also looking at the role their 14,500 employees play in delivering on the Brookshire promise. A recent SAP Workforce 2020 survey backs this strategy up – it reports that 60 percent of retail companies with above-average revenue growth say that the changing nature of employment requires an increased investment in training.

Working with SuccessFactors, Brookshire rolled out LEARN, its new Learning, Empowerment And Resource Network. This program helps Brookshire deliver vibrant training and development programs to all employees and offer an opportunity for staff to weigh in on new training or resources that might be beneficial.

There are lessons to be learned from brands that have turned their focus inward for better outward execution. New technologies exist that can improve how we deliver on our brand promise – whether it’s to offer more personalized service (through better prepared employees), make offers more relevant for promotions, or give shoppers new ways to shop and pay, we can change and improve. But only if we know where to look.

Lori Mitchell-Keller, is Global General Manager for SAP Consumer Industries

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