Who raised a glass to Auld Lang Syne to welcome in 2016, and foresaw the seismic events that would come to pass during the year?
The early polls for the forthcoming European Referendum showed a healthy lead for ‘Remain’.
In the U.S., the competition to become the Republican Party candidate for the Presidential election was hotting up, and although Donald Trump gained momentum following November’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, surely he couldn’t become President? Well, not according to the polls.
Who would have thought we would be entering 2017 without Terry Wogan, David Bowie and Victoria Wood.
And who, hand on heart, believed Leicester City would be crowned Premier League champions or that a 58-year-old Nick Skelton would bring home an individual Gold Medal for Team GB on Big Star. Certainly not the bookies.
Further down the equestrian ladder, Dandy Flame made a mockery of the form book, when he won over five furlongs at Wolverhampton at staggering odds of 200/1. For context, that’s the same odds as Simon Cowell or Wayne Rooney to be the next Prime Minister.
So in a world where the pollsters and bookmakers can get big calls so wrong, so often; how can the humble retailer spot trends and stay ahead of the competition?
The temptation, in such a topsy-turvy world, would be to avoid risk wherever you can sense it. Stick to the big-name brands, steer clear of new product launches until you can see the demand is there, postpone capital expenditure and put off investment in existing or new staff until calmer waters are reached.
With the political and economic ramifications of Brexit and the implications for the wider world of the Presidency of Mr Trump still cloaked in uncertainty, it’s a brave business which takes risks in such a climate.
However, we know that you retailers are made of stern stuff, and we all know that with great risk comes great reward. So here are some pointers for 2017, which might offer some help:
- Mobile internet usage is already higher than desktop usage and will only continue to grow.
At the very least you need to ensure that your website is mobile responsive, which ensures that your website views correctly on smartphones and tablets. If it’s not mobile responsive, make this your number one priority for 2017. When you’ve done the hardest work in getting someone to view your website, it would be criminal for them to leave your site because your website is too difficult to read, or the images are not showing correctly on their tablet or mobile.
- Data is king
Many large businesses talk grandly about the power of their data, their big data, their massive data. Small businesses have data too, and your data is bigger than their data, and it’s better data because it’s your data. It’s information about your customers, what they’ve bought, how often and when they’ve bought it. You’ll probably have data from potential customers too: information from shows and events you’ve been to, where people have filled in forms with their email addresses and you’ve put them to one side, to sort out later. Trouble is, there’s no later with data. Capture it now and use it now, before it’s all out of date, then use a free service like MailChimp to email your existing and potential customers with regular offers and updates.
- Social Media will always be there
A few years ago, everyone was buzzing about the commercial possibilities of the free marketing opportunities available via social media. Here’s the thing: it was never free and never will be. It either costs you your time for you to write and manage your output, or as more and more companies are doing; you pay someone to do it for you. Nevertheless, social media still represents a mightily important opportunity for you to connect directly with your audience. Make 2017 your year to fully exploit this. If you’re nervous about using social media, feel that you lack the necessary skills, or just don’t have the time to devote to do it properly, engage with a company which does understand it and pay them to write and manage your social media content for you.
- Customer Service
This will never go out of fashion or drop in popularity, no matter who is in the White House or whether we’ve got the trade deal we wanted with the EU. And it’s the single most important weapon small businesses can use to gain loyalty and build sales. Never be afraid to ask your customers for their thoughts on your levels of service, even the ‘difficult’ ones – and having asked for it – act on it! On–line, Google’s search algorithms are starting to account of feedback when they present search results, so investigate if your website can have a feedback plug–in or module easily added to it?
And as for 2017 predictions, if you still fancy a risk – you could do worse than having a flutter on Aidan O’Brien’s Capri for the Derby in June, you can still get 20/1 if you’re quick. Or remember it’s 200/1 for Simon Cowell to be the next Prime Minister. After all the shocks in 2016, it might not be such a long shot after all.
Happy New Year from all at PressPoint.
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