It’s no secret that retailers across the country are struggling. A flat economy and a sudden shift by consumers toward saving have hit hard.

But not all retailers are hurting, some continue to grow and prosper thanks to their understanding of the basic principles of success in retailing.

Here are four essential ingredients that successful retailers use:

  1. Localisation.

    The days of the cookie cutter franchise model are gone. These days, localisation is essential, and even the big franchises are starting to understand this as well. The market is just too diverse to be able to take exactly the same product line and format to multiple different locations around the country and have each work just as effectively in all but a very few cases.

    Local retail businesses that are doing well understand this, and are highly tailored toward the local market.

    The point – don’t just do something because it works somewhere else – survey and research the local market and understand what gaps there are that you can fill.

  2. Customer service is everything

    All retailers know that customer service is essential, but too often it something that’s said rather than done. Good customer service is something that you do, and false promises of excellent service in marketing campaigns do more harm than good. Retailers that have been in business over the long term know that word-of-mouth recommendations are the cornerstone of growth, and providing an exceptional customer experience is what drives this advocacy.

    The point – nothing drives new business like word of mouth recommendations – enable your customers to be your recruitment army.

  3. The physical store is compelling

    Too often, retail stores are bland and stagnant, giving customers little reason to visit more than once. Instead, good retailers understand the importance of keeping the in store experience exciting and compelling. This not only differentiates against other retail stores, but also competition from online stores. Regular turnover of stock and physical experiences that can’t be replicated online are critical differentiators.

    The point– focus on the experience of visiting a store – think critically about why a customer would/should return more than one – and give them something they can’t get online.

  4. Offline is integrated with online

    Successful retailers don’t think about their website as something separate to their store, but rather as a highly scalable extension of their physical presence. It’s still astounding how many businesses don’t have online marketing strategies and e-commerce enabled websites. Successful retailers understand that, moving forward, an effective online presence is essential. It also allows the retailer to move outside the geographical constraints of the physical store, and reach their market nationally and internationally.

    The point – embrace online as way to scale up the reach of your business and ensure the online and offline experience is closely integrated.

    In a world where everything is increasingly automated, it’s the personal touch that allows retailers to differentiate themselves from the competition. The experience you provide is the key to turning a customer into an advocate for your business.