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The retail sector is one that is in constant flux. For the companies who do business by selling their products to consumers, the struggle to match the speed the sector is evolving at can often be the difference between succeeding and failing.

shutterstock_273534773Take, for example, the huge rise in sales the e-commerce sector has experienced in the past few years — culminating in a growth of 16.2% in 2015, according to the Centre for Retail Research. During this period, retailers who have previously done well on the high street, but have failed to translate their tactics to the online sector, will have missed out on a huge chunk of potential revenue.

So how can retailers learn to anticipate new developments and ensure they aren’t left behind? Let’s take a closer look at three ways of adapting to changes in the retail sector.

Stay up to date with shifting tastes and trends

Most retail markets will experience shifts in consumer tastes and trends fairly often, which is what keeps the sector from going stale with the same types of products. Keeping up to date with what your customers want from your inventory will allow you to tailor your stock appropriately, while being well prepared for any big changes that occur.

Staying in contact with your customer base is the easiest way to keep your finger on the pulse — this can range from simply talking to the people who come into your stores to carrying out an in-depth market research campaign, depending on your time and budget.

Be willing to explore new technology and buying habits

You should be willing to embrace new technology and the buying habits that come with it. A great example is the recent focus on mobile search and shopping, which was brought about by the huge increase in people doing their browsing on handheld devices — something Google themselves have confirmed. It cannot be overstated how valuable having a mobile-optimised retail site will be in the coming years, so being willing to adapt now will reward you in the future.

Technology has driven changes in habits within the physical retail environment too, with customers expecting stores to keep up with the times. Attiq Qureshi, CIO at Lookers, a nationwide car retailer, said: “Over the next five years, we expect our customers to drive further demand for a better, faster, and easier retail experience. Our response has been to heavily invest in technology to ensure our business is perfectly equipped to deal with the changes brought on by the digital age. This has involved investing in everything from the best CRM, campaign management, and cloud hosting tools, to fitting our dealerships with the best available Wi-Fi, computers, and tablets.”

Be aware of what is going on around you

We’ve discussed technology and how it has changed the way people shop, but you also need to keep an eye on what is going on in the world around your stores. If you are the owner of a small to medium-sized retail business that has only one or a few locations, the changes in the local area around you could have a major impact on the level of trade that you do.

For example, if you owned a shop that sold car parts and accessories in an area that matched your customer demographic, should that neighbourhood undergo gentrification over a number of years, there is a chance you might lose many of the customers that once gave you a lot of business in the past as they found elsewhere to shop. This might call for a re-think of your business strategy or even a relocation.

To stay on top of situations like this, you should take care to keep up to date with any developments and how they might affect your business. Consulting websites like Street Check is a great way of getting a snapshot of your local area, though you might need to delve into denser statistics to get a detailed picture of what is going on around you.

Take stock of these three points and you can begin to prepare your own business for potential shifts in the retail sector.