Spotting and implementing retail trends well is both an art and a science, opening you up to new ways to delight your customers and drive significant business results, as Rebecca Horton, founder of Paper Plane, recently shared on Dor’s latest webinar.
Drawing on her insights, we’ve put together a quick guide to spotting retail trends.
Observe and engage your customers
One of the most effective ways to get an accurate pulse on the latest trends is by observing your customers and how they currently engage with your brand. Understanding your current customers’ behavior can often lead to powerful insights you may otherwise miss.
Leveraging your store's foot traffic data is a valuable method for providing insight into whether or not a recent initiative is performing as expected. Noting where foot traffic spikes or falls can help you recognize big picture patterns that can lead to more effective decision making.
Accurate foot traffic data helps you understand your store's trends without overly relying on untested assumptions.
“In retail, if you know what you’re doing and want to meet your goals, you’ve got to know your traffic and your conversion of that traffic,” Clothes Mentor franchisee Adam Scott shared with Dor. “Without a traffic counter, you leave way too many things to assumption.”
Using your store's foot traffic data to unlock actionable insights is a great start, but you can take your customer observations even further by simply interacting with customers regularly. The late Blake Nordstrom was known to answer 30 customer emails a day and preferred spending his time engaging customers rather than doing media appearances.
Consider taking a page from his book by stopping by several of your stores each quarter and interacting with customers in person, or shadowing your customer service team for a day each quarter. Work to understand their experience with your brand and how you can improve their overall journey.
Research outside of your comfort zone
When working to understand trends within your organization, avoid the temptation of doing what’s easy.
Instead of observing your most well-known high and low performers locations, stop by some of your stores that may not always receive maximum attention from your executive team. Make an effort to talk to employees from all levels of your organization, as well as interact with customers that may be outside of your standard customer base.
To gather even more insight into the latest retail trends, consider studying and shadowing some of the top retail influencers in your industry.
If you’re in home design, for example, learning from a stylist or author like Emily Henderson can provide unique insights into your customers that might take months to discover otherwise.
Influencers in your niche generally have a strong pulse on what’s currently working and can help you alter your organizational strategy if needed.
Empower employees to share their insights
Another critical component of spotting retail trends effectively is building a company culture that supports and encourages your employees to speak up and share their unique insights on how the organization can improve.
Employees on the ground are often in the best position to know whether or not a new initiative would be worthwhile. Unfortunately, despite being in a unique position to best serve customers, many employees can’t act on their insights without management approval.
The more you can empower your employees to act on relevant customer insights, the better.
Making it easy for your employees to share their ideas via email can go a long way in encouraging buy-in. Tools such as SurveyMonkey and communication platforms like Zipline can also be incredibly useful in gathering insights and observations from your employees at scale.
Create a company culture that encourages sharing ideas with management, and when warranted, show you are willing to commit the resources needed to make their observations heard.
Leverage past campaign data
Empowering your employees and engaging with your customers in person can go a long way in spotting the latest retail trends. However, leveraging your past campaign data remains one of the most effective ways to have a strong understanding of where your organization is heading and where you can improve.
On a regular basis, go through past campaign data with your team and do a full and thorough audit. Review your previous sales campaigns. What went wrong? What went right? Are there noticable changes in how your consumers behave?
Employing these strategies will put you and your team in the best position to strike on the latest trend when the time is right.
Learn how Dor's software can make gathering actionable insights easier by booking an exploratory call with our team.