You don’t need to follow trends to be stylish. – Naomie Harris

Such is the speed of change in our sector that I sometimes wonder if we are often unintentionally getting rid of the good as well as the bad as we seek to improve. The buzz names that trends in retail are given suggest we must change our strategies and adopt new structures that, in many cases, we’re not comfortable with.

Yet despite the argument that all is changing, are some aspects really changing? The shops are still the centre of consumer attention, and always will be. The majority of us still watch and read – or at least acknowledge – the traditional forms of advertising and messaging. We still want the right product, at the right place, at the right time, at the right price.

What has changed irrevocably, and at increasing speed, is technology, the resulting consumer behaviour and, naturally enough, consumers themselves.

We speak of a requirement for increased customer centricity through customer journeys and the like, yet really retailing itself is a customer centric activity. The measurements are pretty simple and the best at it make more money than those who are merely mediocre.

 Multichannel, cross-channel and even omnichannel have a very significant flaw in terminology, and that is that they are simply not customer centric terminology. They speak to a channel derived from pushing the product, service or message down the channel. That the target consumer is eagerly waiting at the end of the channel doesn’t imply the most customer centric type of nomenclature.

Two weeks ago I spoke at the Omni-Channel Retailing Conference in Hong Kong, where I was also delighted to listen to the presentation of Andrew Keith, the President of Lane Crawford. Lane Crawford is an experiential department store, clearly bucking the general trend of department stores worldwide.

Keith spoke with clarity when he spoke about retailers, considering that through all the various formats, channels and mediums available, what really matters is, “Do I have my target customers catered for in my retail coverage strategy?”.

 So their approach to customer coverage includes:

  • World-class experiential department stores abound with rich department and category stories – and not too many of them.
  • Online support – urging targeted consumers into the shop.
  • Online offers supporting offline.
  • Social media linked to physical shop and online, building the sense of community – adding to the tribe.
  • Dedicated, segmented offers based on outstanding BIS application.
  • Understanding the desired customer coverage and building a world-class customer “pull strategy” rather than the rather passé omni channel push tactics.

So, how do you seek to change the construct of thinking in traditional approaches? Because old approaches with new titles might not get us where we need to go.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group. Brian can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or

First published on Inside Retail, June 24 2015.