“Where’s the store I use to love?”
How many retailers hear that now? The landscape is dramatically different than it was a decade ago. We now compete with countless natural foods and conventional stores who are luring our customers away. We work hard to adapt to market forces and create the changes necessary to survive and thrive in the new marketplace, often impacting our branding, selection, pricing strategy and customer service. But how can we make sure we are bringing everyone along with us as we change? How can we make sure our organizations still feel like the ones our loyal stakeholders fell in love with years ago? Managers may be creating competition strategies, but we have to ensure that talking with staff and loyal customers about the reasons for change is a part of any strategy.
- Keep your vision and purpose visible and prominent. People need to know what you stand for in order to accept changes. If they see the outcomes you are trying to achieve, like increasing access to local foods or reaching out to new populations of people in your town, they are more likely to understand and support you when they see your product mix or your messaging change.
- Measure your progress toward your goals. If you are changing your product mix to include more local options, post how many local products you are carrying or how many local purchases you made in a given period. If you are trying to appeal to more price-conscious shoppers, show how may new lower-cost items you are carrying. Showing measures toward your goals reinforces that any changes made are for a larger goal, and that promotes unity.
- Stay engaged. Leverage newsletters and social media to engage and reinforce relationships to customers. All in-store and externally aimed messaging should reinforce the outcomes you are trying to achieve in your town. Regular contact with your customers reminds them that you care and that you are still working hard to make a difference.
- Help everyone feel like they belong in your store and a part of your goals. When people feel they are a vital part of something bigger than themselves, they will understand and support your efforts. If they are out of the loop and do not feel a part of the movement or goals, they will perceive that the changes are "being done to them" rather than "with them."
Big changes like expansions or shifts in ownership might also require special attention to help reassure your stakeholders and provide insight for the upcoming changes. Seeking opinions from your core supporters helps provide clarity of values, and that helps management make better plans. But special meetings or informational resources can also provide necessary space for Q and A, which helps build alignment for the changes ahead.
Change is constant, especially in this new competitive environment. We need the enthusiastic support from staff and shoppers to carry us forward, so do not forget to bring them along as you reimagine your organization’s future!