Operational tips for independent retailers learnt from the big boys

One of the things I love the most about digital is the lightning speed at which it changes, the flexibility and adaptability required to keep ahead of the curve at the cutting edge is phenomenal. As someone who is motivated by new challenges and finding solutions, this speed of change keeps me interested and excited all the time. Retail digital consultancy luckily lends itself to fast paced adaptation. Being operationally nimble is no small feat and certainly not something to be under estimated.

Having spent the last six years working with retailers there are common hurdles and barriers to success I see time and again. In this post I am going to explore five of the lessons independent and growing retailers can learn from the big ones, and get right.


All too often I see big in house teams divided, marketing and ecommerce working independently, to goals that don’t align with each other. Marketing speak digital but don’t fully understand it. Ecommerce are revenue orientated and are laser focused on the 2-3% of site visitors who are converting, often neglecting the other 98% of visitors who need to be engaged through the brand experience. Brand vs Ecommerce, ultimately with the customer suffering as the result.

Unify your team, set collaborative goals and clear lines of ownership.

Your marketing team should own acquisition, retention, engagement and advocacy. Bringing together harmony between departments is the only way to do this successfully. Up skill your brand team to exploit opportunity and support the ecommerce function but with the customer at the heart.

KPIs must be centralised and teams working collectively to the same goal. Minimise waste, maximise efficiency and create a unified customer experience.

Vanity Vs. Sanity

Get to know your customer, marketing should be aspirational but it also needs to be inclusive and realistic. All too often brands have an idea of who their customers are or who they would like them to be, but the reality of those actually buying is very different.

Use your data effectively, investing in your data partner and getting your customer data in good shape is essential. Build a centralised, single view across all channels, no silos or duplication of databases!

Segment your data and get to know your customer beyond their purchase, who are they, what do they care about, how do they want to be communicated with.

Each part of your business can then use this data to create a perfect experience across all touch points for all segments.

Look beyond last click

All activity needs to be driving a return that of course is a no brainer. However all channels are not equal when it comes to ROI. All too often activity gets canned (mostly by the FD!) if it is in a silo and cannot hold its own in the ROI stakes.

Don’t underestimate the halo effect of activity, ensure your reporting looks deeper at metrics such as assisted sales, brand and non-brand impressions, new visitors vs returning, engagement etc.

Set realistic goals with conversion in mind. Appearing number 1 for high volume generic terms may boost your ego (and cost a pretty penny), but will those customers actually convert?

Make structured change and measure the impact. Changing lots of things at once can leave you unsure of what impact each change has had. Analyse, develop, test and repeat.

Jack of all, master of none

The temptation to try and do everything, be everywhere and use all channels and tactics is all to present for brands. Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be for the bottom line.

Use your customer insight and data to identify where your customers are actually spending their time and getting their inspiration and turn that into action. Invest your budget wisely.

Embarking on activity without a clear brief or objective is the road to failure. Make sure you know what you want to achieve from the activity and set clear goals so you can kick the tires and test the effectiveness of it. Analyze, develop, test and repeat.

Do less but do it brilliantly.

Direct to consumer vs wholesale

All too often do we see brands battling with their stockists for market share. Trade team driving forward their partners whilst the ecommerce team are hemorrhaging budget trying to keep up with the big players and their deep pockets.

Get your Trade and Ecommerce teams working together.

Agree terms and guidelines around products, pricing, promotions and brand bidding through paid media in your trade agreements.

Retain exclusives so you are the go to for the full range or hero products.

Get full visibility on stockist promotional activity and align your promotional strategy. Enabling you to manage your budget effectively in times when you may not be price competitive.

Submit your authorised stockist list to Google via their trademark form. This allows only authorised stockists the ability to use your brand name in their ad copy. Simple and effective but also needs policing.

All of the recommendations above are well within the reach of smaller retailers. They don’t require huge budgets, just time and focus. What are your barriers to success? Speak to us now about how we can help you start making a change in your business.

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