Did you know that well more than half of online shoppers start their searches on Amazon, not Google? That’s right! Most people begin…and often complete…their purchases directly on Amazon, circumventing Google entirely.

Why am I telling this to all of you who are likely focused on your retail businesses and getting customers into your showrooms? I’m telling you this because it’s time for all business people to face the jarring facts of the rapidly evolving marketplace we exist in.

Sure—right now, consumers may often prefer in-person experiences as a means of selecting more permanent materials for their homes or commercial spaces. However, the world is rapidly changing. The shift away from Google to Amazon for online product search happened over two years ago, and the shift has only expanded since the 2016 stats came out. What’s changed for your business since 2016? What are you doing differently as a result?

While I’m not going to spiel on e-commerce in this article (though you and I really should chat about it sometime very soon!), I am going to spiel on the necessity for business people to be on alert, in constant knowledge acquisition mode, and on the ready to create new ways of doing things. Honestly, I’m consistently flabbergasted at people in our biz who express that they “don’t believe in” social media marketing or think anything online is just “what our kids do”. You may dislike Facebook (too political) or disregard Pinterest (too many cupcake recipes). However, your customers are buying stuff they discovered on Facebook ads and hopping on Pinterest to identify what kind of flooring they want and clicking through to the website of retailers in your zip code to find it. It’s essential to separate personal biases and rash, broad assumptions when assessing what’s preferred by your customers in today’s retail environment.

If you are not constantly sitting on the edge of your ergonomic office chair ready to embrace fresh approaches for reaching customers and standing out in the market, you may as well kick back and ride it out ’til retirement. Businesses that want to be viable for 5, 10, 15—heck, even just 2 years—into the future have got to be nimble and proactive rather than reactive.

  • Create rather than compete. When your only business strategy is to disrupt or outdo the competition, you live your life copying and competing. That’s boring and not terribly effective. Wipe the slate and think about your business in totally new ways. What can you do that is unique and creative to support growth? What can you nix that does not add value and is trapped in 2006?
  • Look at disparate industries for ideas and inspiration. Rather than stand in place and observe only the flooring industry to learn what’s up, go ahead and rubberneck! Look at outside industries to inform new strategies. What can you glean from the upending of traditional taxi service by Uber and Lyft or the evolution of lodging propelled by Airbnb?
  • Don’t rely on your customers for customer insight. Huh? Yes, you read that correctly. Plenty of business gurus affirm that polling previous or existing customers about preferences will consistently reveal people just want more for less. Instead, connect with those who reject your business model to learn why they haven’t or won’t buy from you. Therein lies the most actionable information that you can run with.
  • Make the most of digital marketing’s immediate measurements. When you clean the slate and create new business approaches, it’s likely many of those approaches will be digital, social, and/or mobile in nature. That’s great because so many of these tactics will produce quick results or, at minimum, useful data. We all know it’s best to succeed or fail quickly in business, as that allows us to either continue or abort mission accordingly. Yes, good ideas require time to germinate even if the data Indicates a slow start, so blend the data and your biz intuition to adjust the sails in trying new things.
  • Catch the (brain) wave. Neuroscience confirms that humans who are in close, physical proximity to each other begin to share brain waves. That’s why face-to-face moments will always matter, even as technology expands. For you as a business person and for the sake of your business, surround yourself with colleagues who are running progressive, successful businesses. Intentionally spend time with those who embody the kind of thinking you hope to attain. Over time, you’ll be more likely to catch the wave to position your biz for the future.

Here are three areas you should focus on as you aim to create rather than compete in the modern marketplace.

  • Build community with customers. Look around and you’ll see it’s happening. Brands are building communities in so many ways. From private Facebook groups to offering ‘insider’ exclusives, retailers can benefit from methods that make customers feel a part of something more. How could that translate in your business? Think practical and tactical. Special email newsletters with coupons, referral codes that make previous customers affiliate marketers, Facebook Live chats to answer commonly asked questions—the list could go on.
  • Customize your connections. In our tech-driven world, consumers are groomed to expect ads and messaging tailored to their search histories and stated preferences. And beyond the technology, there’s the immovable truth that nothing is sweeter to someone’s ears than the sound of her own name. Consider the ample array of automation and digital marketing tools out there today that allow you to personalize and pinpoint customer messaging. And don’t forget the value of the handwritten thank you note along the way!
  • Heed the data to make smart moves. Your Google analytics and the stats from your social platforms are very actionable business intelligence if—and only if—you review key data points regularly with intention to take action. With ever-changing options, tools, and messaging platforms you could spend money on, it’s essential that you heed your data and your gut in making business moves. I’ve written previously about what data in Google analytics can be most useful to you. Search my articles on the Floor Trends website to revisit that information.

Ready to think differently about your business? Let’s chat about how you can get off the hamster wheel of me-too competition and create new opportunities for your business! Reach out anytime by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by!
Irene Williams head tilter and marketer