In the timeless movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris looks into the camera on two separate occasions and says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Today’s business owners can surely relate to the sentiment, except they’re forced to look around far more frequently than once in a while. The world—mostly because of continual technological advances—is spinning fast, and if you don’t spin with it, you’ll get spun. Following are five keys for staying relevant in today’s active marketplace.
Know Your Customer
“Know your customer” is an old axiom, but it carries tremendous weight in today’s world. Technology has reshaped virtually every industry and ushered in a new type of customer–one that has far more choices and far greater expectations. These new market conditions are testing the bond between businesses and their clientele. To secure and solidify their relationship with customers, businesses need to thoroughly know what makes them tick. Beyond connecting with their customers online, business owners should get out and talk to them and walk in their shoes. It’s impossible to have your ear to the ground if you’re behind your desk. Being out of touch with your customers’ needs, wants, and whims is a recipe for attrition and decline.
Be Responsive and Flexible
The rise in online and mobile technology has led to a myriad of ways to shop for goods and services. This change has forced business owners to adapt or lose customers. We can all see what’s happening in the retail space, where the convenience and reliability offered by Amazon is taking increasing market share from brick-and-mortar retailers. In many cases, retailers were slow to adapt to ecommerce trends, and when they did, their online shopping experience was inferior, placed too many restrictions on customers, or didn’t offer anything better. Today, most businesses have gotten the message and are not only using ecommerce as an alternative, but they are also integrating online elements to deliver an enhanced real-world shopping experience. Examples include ordering ahead online with in-store pickup, loyalty programs that track rewards no matter how you shop, and the use of social media to gather feedback and build communities.
Businesses not only need to respond to change, but they also need to innovate so they can stay ahead of market trends. Forging new directions can be hard, but it’s what leads to competitive advantages. Businesses that are able to widen their perspectives, seek new angles, and take more risks are the ones that will not only survive but thrive. Smaller companies should take advantage of having fewer decision makers and leaner operations to engage in greater experimentation.
Protect Your Brand
Endless information and choice have defined the digital age. Switching from one brand to another—for reasons of cost or dissatisfaction, or for no reason at all—is as quick and easy as a tap of a finger or a click of a mouse. Not providing your customers with easy-to-use solutions, great service, and a pleasant shopping experience can sever a relationship and spawn a negative review. Worse yet, a lack of security when it comes to handling sensitive personal and credit card information can result in data breaches leading to costly investigations and lawsuits – not to mention reputation damage. Therefore, it’s imperative to work with technology partners that provide the highest level of security and service. In a time when customers aren’t as loyal or trusting as they once were, partnering with the right company can pay big dividends in keeping your reputation safe.
Make Incremental Improvements
Recent market trends have washed away household name brands we thought would last forever. The reason for their demise was the inability to update their products, services or customer experiences until it was too late. In a market that is constantly in flux, companies should strive to make ongoing enhancements to every aspect of their business. This includes everything from the products they offer, to the promotional media they use, to how customers purchase their solutions, to the business management tools they utilize to optimize operations.
Business owners who insist on operating as they always have will find themselves struggling to remain relevant in today’s economy. We are living in a fast-paced world where change is everywhere you look. Don’t ignore what you see. If you have vision and are open, nimble and positioned to face the oncoming transformations, you can succeed in, and dominate, your industry.