A Retail Dream: What If You Could Start Your Business Over—from Scratch?

Brian Gallagher

When it comes to retail, I am borderline obsessed. I was hooked the minute I first experienced that rush of connecting directly with a customer and experiencing their raw emotion on the sales floor. A lot has changed in the past 27 years, but not my love of retail.

A few nights ago, I had what was clearly a dream. I had launched a chain of stores all across the country, and we were preparing for our first holiday season. I was standing in my favorite spot, the middle of the sales floor, taking it all in. I’m still not sure what kind of store it was supposed to be, as I remember selling everything from BBQ and tacos to plants and vegetables. Perhaps it was a true Brian’s Marketplace. One point was very clear. Every single display table, sales associate, and guest had a screen, tablet, or phone. It was like I was sitting inside of a Magnolia Home Theater Center but with food and plants for sale.

I woke up before anything too significant happened, but it did make me think about the realities of retail today. A completely digital connected retail experience sounds great, but it’s not realistic for most businesses. We all have limitations. Whether it is a series of antiquated systems all taped together or a simple lack of resources, we have to make choices.

Since I know we cannot tackle an entire digital transformation all at once, where would I start if I weren’t able to start from scratch?

In the post-COVID-19 world, guests “desire” complete digital connection. What they “demand” is accuracy and simplicity. This is a simple roadmap to success that may seem counter intuitive to us old-timer retailers.

Start with Data

The first point of focus must be your data. Data integration across all of customer touchpoints must be accurate, timely, and actionable. The consolidation of supply chain data, customer data, and promotional data across the entire enterprise has to be the number one priority—data scientists are in high demand for a reason. A great cloud partner like Azure is a must. The ability to share inventory availability, pricing, promotions, and customer data in real time is the most important step to creating a winning retail formula.

Prioritize Engagement

The next step is to ensure a consistent engagement across all customer touchpoints. Pricing, promotion, and support must be aligned. If you can’t provide customer support via a mobile device, you can’t expect someone to pick up a phone. The same can be said in reverse—that a customer on the phone will not be comfortable jumping to a mobile device. Limit your options to ensure consistency online, in-store, or through partners.

Empower Associates

The third step is to empower and enable your associates. This includes associates in all facets of your business, from the warehouse to the call center to the sale floor. Retail associates must be provided with the resources to be as smart as or smarter than your customers. This means associates must have digital engagement in sales, training, and communication. Ensure that every step in your journey is pointed toward the associate having the most current and accurate data available. Mobile engagement and real time data management will empower your teams to delight your customers.

Be All In

Be sure that you do not do any of these things halfheartedly. Be all-in or your customer will be all-out. Data management and digital engagement cannot be patched together. The digital world is fantastic, but it demands perfection.

If I ever get back to the store of my dream, I guarantee you I am going to be sure that every single screen has consistent data and that my guests are empowered to shop when, where, and how they choose.

If you want to learn more about retail transformation, Connection is here to listen and help you on your retail journey. Check out our Retail Solutions and Services today!

Brian is the Retail Strategy & Business Development Director at Connection. Brian joined Connection in 2016 as the Retail subject matter expert (SME) after leading National Store Operations teams for more than 20 years. Brian has a deep understanding of today’s Store Experience and Customer Engagement solutions requirements and works collaboratively with customers and partners to create complete business solutions to drive customer engagement and revenues. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling with his wife and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.