BrainTrust Query: Be Small, Think Big and Get Ready
Commentary by Doug
Stephens, president, Retail Prophet
Anderson’s point of view. We
truly are entering the golden age of small business. And while the
editor-in-chief of Wired magazine says “It might not feel that way
to a lot of small businesses,” there are enough clear signs to suggest
that the landscape is dramatically changing.
Being a small
retailer will no longer be a disadvantage – in fact, just the opposite.
The enormous scale that gave brands like Home Depot and Wal-Mart their
efficiencies through the 1990’s and 2000’s, will become increasingly burdensome
as they struggle to respond to new trends and changing economics. Small
retail, on the other hand, can and should quickly and nimbly adapt and
shift to capitalize on opportunities.
In short, the
age of “mass” in North America is coming to an end. Mass communication,
mass consumption, mass media, mass everything will be over. As Julien
Smith, co-author of Trust Agents, puts it, mass media was a “fad” in
the course of history. People were meant to converse, not broadcast. Our
interests, relationships, media choices and consumer preferences are increasingly
selective and niche in nature.
change, small retailers can also benefit from quantum improvements in technology. They
now have access to cost efficient store systems as well as a range of hosted
software solutions. Other technologies like Skype and Google Docs
are allowing small businesses to enjoy for free what less than a decade
ago big companies spent a fortune on. Being small never felt so big!
media has endowed small business with the power to establish their own
channels, spread their unique propositions and develop their own "tribes"
of loyal customers. Gone are the days of being shut down by deep-pocketed
competitors who could buy out entire media formats. In fact, some
of the most popular social media channels began as simple conversations.
It all adds
up to opportunity for great independently owned retail, the likes of which
we haven’t seen for at least 25 years. But as always, there’s no
free ride, no guarantee of success. The surest way to earn your place
in the future is by standing apart from the pack, being remarkable and
thoroughly indispensible to the customers who love you.
Questions: Are the
advantages in being small now outweighing the disadvantages? What specific applications
and tactics have you seen working particularly well for small retailers lately?