The start of 2011 is shaping up to be a turning point in the difficult financial period we have endured over the last 2 years. While pundits continue to stress a long road to recovery, signs are starting to show that the consumer is coming back in a way that will require retailers to focus on issues beyond price.
Every January we resolve to better ourselves in the New Year. Retailers should be no different. These five simple resolutions can be easily applied with immediate results that the customer will notice.
How many times do we personally use this milestone to rid ourselves of unneeded or unwanted possessions? Retailers should do the same. Many stores are focused on numerous and varied objectives which can create competing interests inside the store, confusing the customer. More is not better; retailers need to simplify. Instead of stuffing the floor with as much merchandise as it can hold, a keen edit creates a more open and comfortable environment providing a relaxing experience for the customer. Present only those items which target the intended consumer. To be able to accomplish this, one needs a way to house more back stock -- think about investing in a great mobile shelving unit like Lundia High Density Shelving which can potentially double a store's stock capacity.
Be Sensitive to the Environment
The New Year is a time to recommit ourselves to the health of our planet. One easy way for retailers to do away with old habits is investing in bright, energy-efficient lighting. Since most stores are woefully underlit, the newest in LED bulbs offer magnificent options. In the recent years, LED lighting was not feasible given the limited selection. However Cree Light Bulbs offers wonderful choices which provide more light output for reduced energy (in some cases 85% less energy), with color rendition that is very close to natural light, and amazing bulb longevity (up to 50,000 hours/6-7 years).
Give Back to the Community
Charity should start at home and in this case, a retailer's local community. While aligning with philanthropy is prevalent today as a marketing ploy, retailers should connect with their local customers by offering their store to regional, brand appropriate groups as a space to hold symposiums, performances or meetings. For example, the literary-focused, non-profit group in Seattle, Richard Hugo House, creates opportunities for local writers to develop their creative writing skills in various formats and connects audiences with the world of writing through readings, talks and musical events. A retailer like Starbucks, which is based in Seattle, could make space available for small gatherings and events organized by Richard Hugo House, which would help promote and support this worthwhile organization.
Change Up Your Playlist
With the turn of the calendar it might be time to move beyond that tired old CD or iPod playlist and expand your musical horizons. Similarly, look to tailor a store's music selection specifically to the brand's message. In the retail environment music is one of the single most important ways to communicate the emotion of the brand to the customer. Graduate from "canned" generic music with the help of a resource such as The Playlist Generation. This in-the-know group of musicians has toured the world as DJ's and performers. Their mission is to find the right combination of music through a bespoke process that fits the image of the store.
Embrace New Technology
Technology continues to change retail in dramatic ways, first with the advent of e-commerce and more recently with the utilization of social media to further involve fashion and retail in our lives. Now with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, retailers can begin to better integrate the online world with the in-store experience. An example can be found in a new store for the performance eyewear company NL3 which uses this technology to educate and assist the customer in their product selection. Holding a pair of sunglasses up to a mirror in the store will trigger all the detailed product information necessary to make an informed purchase. The touchscreen allows a customer to email a picture of him/herself wearing the selected glasses to any friend for feedback. This technology can be applied to multiple facets of the retail experience, such as using RFID in fitting rooms to better inform choice, selection and availability of apparel and accessories.
The New Year is a time to re-evaluate and reflect upon how can we do things better. These simple but impactful choices enable retailers to dramatically change the customer's perception of the environment in which they shop and the products they are considering. If these resolutions are faithfully applied the end results will keep customers in stores longer, resulting in more retail conversions -- which would mean a very Happy New Year for retailers indeed.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more