No retailer wants to be “just another [your product] store.” But how can you stand out? Every business has at least competitive advantage, some positive quality that sets it apart in the marketplace. For example:
McDonald’s competitive advantage is convenience; a restaurant location is never far away and the food is inexpensive.
Keens Steakhouse’s competitive advantage is quality; its single Manhattan location isn’t convenient, and the prices aren’t low, but it’s consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the city.
So how do you determine your store’s competitive advantage?
First, you’ll need market intelligence. That includes discovering what your customers want, what they’re willing to pay, and what needs they have that aren’t being fulfilled. That information can be gathered from studies and trade magazines, or by directly surveying your customers.
Next comes competitive intelligence. What is the competition offering? What is attracting their customers to them instead of you? What are their strengths and weaknesses? These findings will help you determine what separates you from the rest of the marketplace; the positive differences can become your competitive advantages.
“Investigate” your competition to determine your competitive advantages.
The strongest competitive advantages have these qualities:
Whether it’s unique merchandise or a fun policy (like The Disney Store’s “You break it, you don’t have to buy it” rule), a true advantage must be uncommon among your competitors.
Small differences don’t matter. If your competitive advantage saves customers money or makes their visit more pleasant, they’ll definitely notice.
Hard to Copy
If your competitors can easily duplicate what you’re doing, it won’t remain an advantage for very long.
“Buy One, Get Three Free” would probably result in customers rushing to your store. But then what? An offer like that can’t last long. Make sure your advantage is a true change in policy, procedure, or philosophy, and not a short-term gimmick.
Even if you can’t provide the finest products or the lowest price, there’s one simple and effective way to stand out: the customer experience. That means making the customer feel valued while in the store, handling complaints and returns with ease, and reaching out to the customers afterwards to get their feedback or offer discounts. Studies have shown that our happiest memories are tied to experiences, not possessions, so it’s possible that the experience of buying your products is more important than the products themselves.
The customer experience includes tech support and customer service, too!
“Simple” doesn’t mean “easy,” however. Creating a great customer experience means training employees differently and offering them incentives for great service. It may mean operational changes to make sure complaints and exchanges are made as hassle-free as possible. It might also mean expanding the job responsibilities of your HR or marketing teams to oversee all these improvements.
How will you when you’ve succeeded? Luckily, it’s easy to measure your store’s competitive advantage. Sales volume, same-store sales, and customer traffic are all straightforward metrics. You may also see more chatter – or at lest more positive chatter – on social networks, as customers share their experiences and write happy reviews.
Your retail store is unique, with advantages over your competitors. Once you discover those advantages, emphasize them, and make them part of your brand, you’ll reap the benefits.
It appears that Social Recruiting is here to stay. The social recruiting site options are growing in number (I pity the person managing a global social recruiting campaign) and the expectations for a great candidate experience are mounting.
From Life on Demand ROI Research
While most of the, surveys, statistics and comments I’ve read from Jobvite, CareerXroads and ERE(there are already 18 articles this year with the tag social recruiting) seem to indicate that the jury is still out on its effectiveness, one thing’s for sure. To do it well takes a passion, a strategy and a lot of time. And time is a commodity.
There are many lucky companies who have dedicated support people to manage the process, but most of the corporate recruiters in my network either squeeze it in among other tasks, or assign it to their latest intern. In either of those two cases, strategy may fall to the wayside.
As you plan budgets and headcounts, here are two very compelling arguments that you might be able to present to your CFO to get some dollars to support your social efforts.
1. Reputation Management.
Employee referrals are hotter than ever from the traditional internal programs, to the latest social integration apps and options. Last month Glassdoor published a report on the highest rated CEO’s for 2013. Show your CEO and tell her (him) that next year you want her (him) to be on it. Do a Twitter search for “my boss is a jerk” and let them know that the conversations are happening and you want in. Is it really a good idea to leave it to an intern?
2. A New Way to Figure out SR-ROI.
There’s a new site called The Social Recruitment Monitor that will keep track of your share of social voice through the SRM Index. It comes from a company called Maximum, a recruitment marketing agency doing great things around the globe.
Though the site is still in beta, it uses advanced digital technologies to track data for the major social networks, and refreshes it weekly to keep figures up to date.
The SRM Index is formulated from a mix of 3 measurable parameters : popularity (number of subscribers) , activity (frequency of content) and interactivity (social engagement.) Once you sign up (it’s free), it will allow you to benchmark your performance against other employers in a number of specific areas, and to compare employers with one other.
The SRM Index will allow you to measure your SRM Index over time, and against your competition for talent, and provide real proof of the impact of your new social recruitment star.
Employees join companies and leave managers. But how they leave is up to them. Conversations that were once shared with friends are now shared with friends, friends of friends and the world. And people, especially Gen Xers, discuss bad experiences almost 4x as much as good ones.
Here are 3 things you should be doing to make sure that your Employer Brand is thriving in a digital world:
1. Bi-directional communications: Make sure that you are creating listening opportunities from the bottom up. Provide safe ways for employees to discuss manager and co-worker issues.
2. Exit interviews: To ensure complete and accurate information, they should be conducted by a third party company, not someone on your staff.
3. Training: Add social media guidelines to your ethics and compliance training. Are employees blogging about the workplace or “friending” their vendors? Create policies and consequences.
According to a study conducted by Microsoft earlier this year, 70% of surveyed HR professionals in U.S. (41% in the UK) have rejected a candidate based on online reputation information. Don’t be surprised, but your candidates are doing the same thing.
In recent years, in most industries (healthcare and IT notwithstanding), the rise in unemployment created a temporary truce in the war for talent, as layoffs abounded and many non-business-critical positions were put on hold. That is slowly changing now, as corporate payrolls are increasing and jobs are being added.
That’s why it might be a perfect time check out your company’s digital employer brand. Pressed on time? Don’t worry. Technology coupled with sophisticated search engines has made it easier than ever.
Just type “working for [company]” into your fav browser and see what comes up. Chances are, you’ll see something from Jobvent at the top of the list. Further down, you may find surprising insights from Glass Door, Yahoo Answers or Vault.
Want to play more? Try putting in the name of your toughest competitor and see what you find out. Put together a play book for recruiters on how to sell against all your competition. Use the intel to re-sell employees on why they belong with you.
If want to delve deeper, LinkedIn can be a huge help. Do a search by your company name. Not only can you find current employees you’re connected too, but they’ll also show you past employees, new hires, and the most popular profiles. If you’re looking for brand ambassadors, there they are.
On the competitive side, call a past employee of your competitor. Find out why they left and what they think of your company as an employer.
Dick Tracy would be in heaven.
You can also opt to go with a no-work-involved investigation- sign up for Google Alerts, Trackr or Social Mention. Then the information comes right to your Inbox. (Or call BRANDEMiX– this is routine for us- it’s part of the research we amass to create authentic employer value propositions.)
Online reputation management is becoming big business, as companies look to track what’s being said and measure the success of their social media marketing strategies.
In a simpler time, employee conversations ended at the water cooler, but today they’re flowing around the world. HR and recruiters need to be part of the dialogue.