With the recent announcement of Toys R Us closing all of its stores, analysts and business experts have scrambled to point out the reasons why it failed. Though the company had plans for modernizing its offerings, the general decline of toy sales and aggressive discounts from its competitors, particularly retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target, were enough to finish off the beleaguered company.
It can be all to easy to see Toys R Us as another company that has fallen victim by failing to adapt. But unfortunately for them, issues with finances prevented them from really adapting at all or dedicating capital to improvements in online practices. Additionally, the approach that the company took to business—namely, specializing in one area to beat out the competition with a breadth of selection—becomes less effective with online shopping and the modern consumer’s habit of comparing prices from the comfort of their own homes.
A certain level of agility is necessary to reach a modern consumer. There’s no points to be had for guessing that online shopping options have disrupted usual purchasing habits, but some companies assume that an online storefront is enough to keep sales up and change little else.
Take, for instance, Barnes & Noble, a company on the decline in recent years. Again, it’s easy to blame the prevalence of Amazon, but this ignores some shockingly poor business decisions on the part of B&N. Despite making forays into the e-book sector with the Nook, the line of devices proved inflexible, driving users to abandon the platform in droves. The Nook fiasco, along with the baffling insistence on keeping a section dedicated to media, demonstrates the company’s corporate obliviousness to the value propositions that modern shoppers are looking for. For instance, changing the Nook to allow for app installation and backups would help it fill the niche of a tablet as well as an e-reader, given the general enthusiasm for consolidating a myriad of functions on a single device.
Part of adapting to modern consumers involves recognizing and leveraging the constant flow of information. Retailers no longer control all of the information about them, and many consumers can and will slam a product or company that they feel has wronged them in some way. If enough people catch on to an issue, a company’s reputation can suffer. However, this also opens up new opportunities for companies to engage online and establish an authentic presence that isn’t necessarily looking to directly advertise to consumers.
Even webstores can and should be reevaluated to match modern shopping trends. The unprecedented access to information means that consumers can and will explore their options before making a purchase, even expecting companies to reach out with discounts if they don’t immediately buy. Personalized shopping recommendations involving location, shopping habits, and customer segments have become king. Community-building should be a part of online activities, channeling marketing through social media and other online outlets. Providing ample information about products is necessary, as consumers prefer knowing what they’ll be getting before making any sort of purchase.
All of these new tactics and more are just a small part of a larger initiative by businesses to appeal to the modern consumer. Though any company can put these ideas into practice, it inevitably takes careful analysis and time to determine the best ways to engage with consumers in a productive way. It’s all too easy to grow complacent in business, but adaptable companies have proven that surviving and thriving are not impossible goals.