Companies must learn to deal with lots of short-term pressures while building for a different future, explains our chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch.
She outlined five principles to help your business navigate the changes ahead, when speaking at the APRCE event in Kuala Lumpur in October.
1. Stay completely focused on your customers and keep adapting to their changing needs.
There are always lots of local variations in customer needs and many smaller retailers have been able to outmanoeuvre their bigger rivals by better understanding those local needs and adapting very quickly. But there are also some global trends, including more people living alone. Single people tend to shop little and often, in smaller stores – and they want smaller pack sizes too.
Another trend is shopper patriotism. Everyone wants access to the best international brands, but people are also passionate about their local culture. This is good for companies with strong local credentials – which doesn’t always have to mean a locally-owned company.
2. Pay more attention than ever to technology
There’s huge excitement about artificial intelligence and a new wave of automation is surely on the way. Technology and social media companies have become the new gateway to consumers. Technology will also increasingly guide people in-store. Is your team thinking about those opportunities in your market?
And don’t forget about food technology, because the products you sell are going to change too. Many food companies are working to reduce their sugar content, without sacrificing taste, to help with preventing obesity. New technologies like nano-encapsulation offer great potential here.
3. Get help from your suppliers
They’re deeply affected by the retail revolution too and they also need to change to stay relevant to consumers. New, flexible factory technologies are making smaller-scale production runs viable, and shoppers prefer things tailored to their needs.
Retailers in many countries are putting private label at the heart of their planning, because they have full control over the standards and they offer a point of difference. So if branded suppliers want to keep justifying a premium, they’ll have to innovate faster and help their retail customers to differentiate.
4. Do the ordinary, extraordinarily well and consistently
The first job in any period of change is to keep your basic standards consistently high. It’s about excellent everyday management, handling products safely, ensuring consistent quality, operating efficiently, minimising waste and providing excellent customer service. It’s very easy for these areas to slip if the managers are concentrating on big change projects. But without the basic disciplines in place, none of your more ambitious plans will succeed.
5. Success will hinge on one thing: the quality of your people
Everything else flows from having the right people with the right attitudes and the right skills. It’s always tempting to wait until next year to invest in training, because there’s always something urgent that has to be fixed right now, but this can be a trap. If you don’t invest in skills this year, then next year’s issues will be even bigger and more urgent.
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