Today: December 4, 2021 3:23 pm

Will You Survive the Retail Apocalypse

The retail apocalypse continues, leaving destruction in its wake.

No, zombies aren’t destroying retailers, small and large. But the fact remains many retailers are going out of business. So many that it’s fair to call what we are observing an apocalypse.

While this impacts anyone engaged in commerce, there are two types of people who need to pay especially attention to this:

• Business owners
• People who work for major brands

A little thought about what’s happening can teach many lessons. This can help you not just survive but to thrive during these turbulent times that are like a bloodbath for businesses.

To put it into context, during the first half of 2020, more than 3,600 companies have filed for bankruptcy. Many of them are major brands that have been around for 50, 70, or even 80 years. The landscape of the marketplace is changing…dramatically.

Companies that want to survive must learn how to adapt to shifts in consumer behavior. Whether you own a small, medium, or a large business, you need to assess the trends and learn from them.

This is because the changes in consumer behavior can impact you…and your bottom line.

Back in 2010, the people running J Crew, Gold’s Gym, Neiman Marcus, JC Penney, Hertz, Tuesday Morning, PQ New York, GNC, or 24-Hour Fitness most likely weren’t expecting to file for bankruptcy in 2020.

And what happened to Chuck E Cheese? Everybody used to want to have their parties there. And don’t forget Lucky Brands, Brooks Brothers, Sur La Table, New York & Company, Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, California Pizza Kitchen, Lord & Taylor, and Men’s Wearhouse. More big brands that went into bankruptcy.

So why should you care? You might be thinking, “Well, businesses go bankrupt all the time. It really doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t really matter.”

But we’ve never seen so many file in such a short period of time. The number of major companies and brands impacted is insane. It’s hard to contextualize the magnitude of how many companies are actually going under.

This isn’t happening just because of Amazon and Walmart. While they play a role, the bigger issue is the huge shift in consumer behavior and buying habits. The large companies that are now in bankruptcy failed to change or adapt to how their customers behave.

Eventually, this will trickle down to even the smallest of businesses. Which is where internet platforms or E-commerce comes into play.

In other words, if a business doesn’t adapt to the changes in how customers become aware of products and make their buying decisions regarding those products, it will wind up in bankruptcy along with so many of the big brands.

For example, one major shift is the desire for convenience. It’s easy to sit at home, surf the internet, find what you want, and buy it. A lot more time and effort are required to actually go to a store, wander around until you find what you are looking for, stand in line, and pay.

People will still go to a store if the buying experience or customer service makes the trip worthwhile.

They’ll also come if the information you have on your website is complete and intriguing enough that they’ll want to visit in person. Many people still prefer to try on clothes and shoes, for example, before purchasing.

But these days, instead of just going to a favorite store, people will often do some comparison shopping online first. That way they know the effort they make to travel to the store won’t result in a wasted trip.

The fact of the matter is that if major brands that have been around for over fifty years are struggling to adapt to this shift in consumer behavior, then small local business owners will have the same challenge.

And if your competitor is staying ahead of the curve, seeing the trends and learning the lessons of what’s happened to major brands, they’re going to be well suited to ride out this volatile period of transition.

What should you do to survive the retail apocalypse?

Start with an audit of yourself and your online presence. Study your website and online properties.

And ask yourself:

• What type of information and experience am I giving customers?
• Do I provide complete answers to their questions?
• Do I make it easy for them to contact me…or not?
• Do I have a way to offer detailed information, such as through a chatbot or through Help Scout?
• And if using my product requires some instruction, does my website include knowledge pages, videos, and tutorials?

Just by asking these questions, you can learn how you can adapt to the new changes in consumer behavior.

As I work with my small business clients, time and time again I observe that they have overlooked their digital properties, their platforms, and websites. It’s almost as if their online presence is non-existent.

And this is true for even very successful business owners, such as lawyers and real estate companies. Their success is coming in spite of the neglect of their online presence. So they don’t see the importance of putting effort into their websites.

But in today’s market, even the most profitable businesses can’t count on their success to continue without a strong online presence. What’s happening with the big brands will trickle down to the smaller businesses.

Because, and it bears repeating, consumer behavior is shifting. More and more, consumers expect the buying process to be seamless. Whether they are booking a table at a restaurant, making a dental appointment, or just seeking product information, they expect an easy and convenient way to get the job done.

And if the process isn’t easy or seamless? Consumers won’t like it. They’ve been conditioned by their experience with major brands to expect otherwise. Whether it’s the way they get their food, book a hotel, find products on Amazon, all these buying encounters have created a new standard in the consumer experience.

Which means people will expect the same from local service providers. The businesses that figure this out and adapt will be ahead of those who ignore this trend. Those who fail to learn from what’s happening in the market and to adapt to the new realities will join countless others in bankruptcy.

You don’t have to become a casualty of the retail apocalypse. With a little attention to your online presence, you can be one of the victors.

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