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May 04 2020

Retail and Hospitality recovery starts at the intersection of creative thinking and relevance

Cracks in retail, like hospitality, have been seeping ever wider for a long while now. Covered up, like a rug over a red wine stain, everyone in the house knows it’s there but ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as the saying goes.

A model of total over-supply. Where new store, bar and restaurant openings were a daily occurrence. Which worked perfectly well. What with excessive consumption, powered by a fallible economic and banking model, rampaging without restraint. Sprinkled with some conscious-cleansing consumerism call-outs and sustainability promises to provide the feel-good factor.

The perfect ponzi scheme, almost. Until now. Until Covid19. With the rug pulled from under us, now the spotlight is shining bright on those cracks.
A disaster you say, for hospitality and retail. How about looking at it differently? As an opportunity to reset your thinking. A creatively-led focus on quality rather than quantity. In our daily lives, in our work-life balance, with our health and socialisation, and yes with the way commerce finds its new feet in what will be an extremely challenging environment for a long time to come. Let’s strive not to be bland. Instead, to quote Steve Jobs new product mantra, let's make retail and hospitality “insanely great”!

If you are thinking about how you want to reshape your retail or hospitality business, start by thinking about how your brand story intersects with relevance. In this exercise, relevance equals customer. Stand in your customers shoes. To know what they are thinking, and to understand what they expect from their experience with your brand.

And as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, there is nothing like a generational crisis to rapidly change consumer expectation! So ignore them, and you run the risk of not being relevant. None of this is of course ‘new thinking’. The smart brands & operators have always known this secret sauce. They just kept it to themselves.

A bit like the fundamental goal of physics is to understand how the universe behaves, a successful brand should work consistently to understand their ‘fans’ behaviour. To develop an intimate knowledge of why they are fans, what they want from your brand, and the how & where they want to engage with your brand. Only then can you clearly define what your brands ‘promise’ to its fans should be, and then build a plan to consistently deliver the performance they expect from you!

So hail the new glory days. Where everyone has the opportunity to reset.
But where do you start? It’s a tough question, because it’s hard to think outside the box. If it was easy, there would be no box. There are so many questions to consider. What are you selling? Who are you selling to? What is your brand story? What does your brand stand for?

Why should a consumer choose you? Should I be boutique and premium, or be big and value-orientated? Just be online, and relieve myself of the cost of leases and managing sta? The list could run on forever. But perhaps the most important question is, ‘How can I reimagine my retail or hospitality business?’, because if you can find your unique difference, all the other questions answer themselves.

To succeed in the new world of retail or hospitality, you will no longer survive with a one-dimensional, good-not-great, offering. You need to strive to be exceptional, and different. And multi-dimensional. Ask yourself some simple questions. In your bricks and mortar world, how can you provide a unique social experience that can’t be replicated online? How can your retail space be creatively curated but not necessarily expensive? How can your performance (think service offering) be new and innovative? How can your ‘product’ surprise and wow your audience? And because one of the enduring lessons of this crisis will be Kiwis finally truly discovering the merits of online commerce, how can you deliver an elevated digital experience that has a clear point of difference from your physical brand world, while retaining all the values of your brand and staying true to your authentic brand story? Because the operators who succeed in executing a multi-dimensional, physical and digital, approach are
the ones who will succeed.

Warren Buffet said it best,

"Retail and Hospitality recovery starts at the intersection of creative thinking and relevance.
It’s only when the tide goes out that you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

Well, that point is fast approaching. Like a tsunami. So who will win, and who will lose? In my opinion, fortune will favour the brave and smart. Those willing to step back to go three steps forward, to challenge everything about their brand and their offer, and reimagine their future. Before the herd catches up. Don’t look to follow. Think different, and do different. Because in that difference you will find your unique story. And in that moment, you’ll have found your own nirvana. Build that and your fans will come,
and stay loyal.

The businesses that survive this crisis will be those who have an authentic deep connection with their brand fans and truly understand their needs, then use creative thinking to forge out an offer, based on a distinct brand promise that consistently outperforms their competitors.

In a post Covid19 world, the recovery of the retail and hospitality sectors starts where creativity and relevance intersect.