Red Zebra Business Centre -Management Memos
June 2010. Making Measurably More For Your Business Since 1985!

Have you noticed the straws in the wind? 

Max Williams, Principal Consultant

Coles, you will know, is locked in a major battle with Woolworths to increase its share of Australia's weekly supermarket spend

What is so interesting is that some of the old ideals have reappeared in Coles Supermarkets. Store entries are being opened up making stores more welcoming. The range has been revised by adding back  lines previous management thought should disappear in the interests of 'stock rationalisation'. Choice has returned.

If that isn't enough, there has been a big change in the training and behaviour of check out staff. We couldn't expect universal success in that (after all, many if these young people are not at first work ready) but the customer service experience is clearly improved.

And the banks! More staff, more branches, your own personal business manager - the list goes on! During my most recent trip to a little visited Westpac branch, I was 'caught' at the door by someone who didn't want me to wait in the queue.

They took my documents and finalised everything for me - while I was still ten people away from the teller! I had to go back the next day to complete the process, with a similar experience!

Nothing was a problem, and the staff did absolutely everything they could to make my visit shorter, easier, and more satisfying.

This was Westpac, but the other banks seem to be following suit.

Coming soon after the change in Coles and at the banks, a big, new, national marketing campaign took hold:

"Expect Change at K-Mart!"

And what a change it is! Again, as at Coles, the entrances are more open and inviting, a new merchandise range to gives customers more choice, and new, more customer friendly, check-outs. The icing on the cake is a total store refurb to create a bright new shopping experience.

These significant changes, which are clearly working for Coles, just go right back to basics. It's that simple. But how many businesses do we see that just do not pay attention to these basics?

Again and again, you can see store entrances that are cluttered and crowded, lighting that is just plain old 'warm white' fluorescent lights, and staff who are polite - but nothing more! If only the simple basics were being followed! What sales potential is being missed?

All this focus on the basics is sound, but there are several changes occurring in the retail space that show a profound, even fundamental, change is on the way. But it's coming in an evolutionary way.

We explore some of these changes in this edition. Our point here is that a successful formula is to pay close attention to the basics, as well as keep an eye on the evolutionary changes going on around us. Evolutionary changes are just that - evolutionary. By definition, they are not revolutionary, and go almost unnoticed until they bite us hard.

Given our propensity to soak up 'hype', it's easy to see some things as revolutionary - for example the dotcom revolution - that really are not revolutionary at all. That hype collapsed when it was obvious that the revolutionary change promised wasn't going to happen.

Now, 'dotcom' is coming to your business, and it may be sooner than you think. But it will come quietly, almost un-noticed. In an evolutionary way

The magic is to keep in step with that evolution!

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Marketing Evolution


arketing is often confused with advertising. Not so! Even while we're trying to come to grips with what enhanced 'marketing' might mean for your business, marketing itself is evolving.  Yesterday's rule of thumb has disappeared today. How we communicate with our customers is changing rapidly too. Let's look!

Get The Basics Right to Keep Your Customers Happy - and Keep Them!

If you're in business, you  need customers. And if you need customers, you need to keep up with the market trends around you, or you'll sink into the background. Here are some of the basic needs and a few trends ...

Be Open and Appealing
You know the saying. "You only get one chance at a first impression". So what is the door to your sales outlet like? Wide open, well lit, attractive to look at and welcoming in it's atmosphere? Do you have an inviting display just inside the door to lure customers? All pretty standard stuff, and so often ignored!

Be Unique and Up to Date
How unique is your offer compared to others in the market. That is, what is really unique?   Be serious about this. What do you do to think every day, how is our offer unique? What you did yesterday is not going to stack up tomorrow. The market is evolving, and your sales offer must be strong enough to grow in this evolution.

Be Friendly and Helping
Good showroom and sales room staff like to be with people. They enjoy meeting and talking with customers - even if the customer has a tough request or a complaint. If your staff don't feel like that and deal positively with your customers, get them trained so they can change. If you can't change the people, then change the people. Get it? Fine! do it!

Give Your Customers A Reason to Be Loyal
A really loyal customer is a fantastic advocate for you. Some people talk about the 'connected apostle' - a customer that loves you, knows you, communicates with you and is loyal to you. Loyalty comes about by having the right offer at the right time, and having the right service people. All of these elements help build customer loyalty.

Be Consistently Strong
We need to be better, sharper, and faster in our physical environment to make our store or showroom a compelling visiting point for our customers. The day has quickly gone when shoppers would comparison shop two or three stores, or two or three departments. Markets are changing and marketing is evolving.

When your customer first deals with you or your staff, if is the first 'moment of truth' for them We get less chance to maximise that 'moment of truth' these days. We have to make it stick.

To be a fully effective operation, we must communicate with our customers in all the channels available; our advertising, Point-of-Sale promotions, visual merchandising, staff presentation of the sales offer, our website, and yes, today, our social media. The list goes on.

These basics always remain the same. But it is important to watch the developing trends too!

Is Your Marketing Integrated and Online?

To make sure your marketing program is right for you, check to be sure you have those basics right. But is your program fully integrated? And is it moving forward to the new digital world?

Fashion Retailers Turning to Digital
The Australian online retail market continues to flourish, with General Pants, Surf Dive & Ski (SDS) and Tony Bianco all turning their attentions to ecommerce.

"Fashion retailers are realising that their customers don't just want to view their collections online, they want to be able to buy items they like," says Tim O'Neill, joint MD of the online Digital Agency 'Reactive'.  Demand for new fashion websites is high according to O'Neill, with Cue Clothing, Jeanswest, and Crumpler also working to build their online presence.

More Traditional Retailers Also Turn to Digital
Many companies were burnt in the dotcom bust of 2000, so most retailers have been waiting to see what other retailers are doing first. Ten years on, and now we are finally starting to see some more traditional retailers such as JB Hi Fi, Bing Lee, Dick Smith, Big W and Woolworths establishing a strong online retail presence.

Coles is also there online along with Woolworths. Coles GM online shopping, Keith Louie, said online shopping provided a convenient alternative way of grocery shopping for customers looking to recoup some time in their busy lifestyles. "Customer interest in online shopping is a sign of the times." he said.

Now Digital is Going Mobile Too
When it comes to online purchasing, mobility now appears to be key with just over half of all respondents (51 per cent) in a recent survey stating that they are likely or extremely likely to make a purchase from a mobile device during the next three months.

The survey was conducted in June by online pre-shop portal,, and involved more than 180 consumers in gauging attitudes relating to retail purchasing and the use of mobile devices. As if to reinforce these survey results, Coles has released Coles Shopmate, an iPhone app allowing shoppers to check the prices of more than 5000 products targeted to the users location. So far, more than 170,000 downloads have been made.

Should You Be a 24/7 Retailer?
Not me! Forget it! Ok, it's fair enough to feel that way, but some of your customers are right now buying outside normal retail hours! It's no longer about opening the shutter door at 9am and closing at 5pm. Some of your customers want to be in touch with you after hours. They're time poor, and would prefer 24/7 access from any point in the world.

With Australian broadband penetration levels at more 94 per cent and over 80 per cent of Australian internet users shopping online, Australian retailers are mostly being left behind and are just sitting back and watching consumer spending go off shore.

Now that is a dramatic change that many retailers are only now starting to come to grips with.

If you'd like to find out more about how to make measurably more in your business right now, talk to us, or ask us a question here! Remember, there's no charge or obligation.

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McNicol Williams Management & Marketing Services is a Small Business Advisor listed with the Small Business Victoria, and has presented The Red Zebra program under its auspices. This listing requires that the first hour's consultation is always free. So when we say "No charge or obligation", we mean it!