What’s the most important skill a retailer can learn?


What will be the most important business skill of the next 5 years?

Well a Harvard professor says it’s storytelling. In fact, Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt, has boldly stated that tomorrow’s products and companies will “Live Or Die By Their Stories….”

That’s big talk!

Stories help to build deeper relationships between consumers and the products they’re selling. Stories join up dots and make connections. If data gives credibility, then stories provide truth.

Ultimately, storytelling helps communicate your passions and your expertise in interesting and attractive ways. And why is storytelling so important to how you sell? Well because today’s consumers don’t want to buy just any old a drill — or a t-shirt – or carton of eggs – or television set — they want to know WHY they should buy yours! They want to know where your meat comes from, where the grapes that make your wine are grown, who sewed the fabric so meticulously together for those jeans they’re thinking of buying.

That doesn’t apply to all people of course, but certainly an increasing numbers of them.

Jamb, an antique dealer on the Pimlico Road in London illustrates my point perfectly with their household paint supplies. The Dutch Paint company communicates their ‘Story’ brilliantly – right from the get go.

Dutch clogs

Enter the store and Jamb’s point of sale is used to visually show customers why they should go Dutch and buy from them. With a set of painted Dutch clogs adorning the shop walls, they display their selection of paint colours available.

It’s a clever bit of visual merchandising because it creates instant fun in a very practical way. The use of clogs not only makes the Dutch connection – but it also allows customers to view the paint three dimensionally – allowing you to observe the colour under a number of lighting conditions. Genius! With a bit of  product tag line humour thrown in to help you justify the price … “there’s nothing more expensive than cheap paint”.

When it comes to online retailing we’re FORCED to ‘tell the story’.  A photo may not do your product justice, and so product information becomes a shoppers only connection with what they’re buying. Materials, sizes, who designed it, where it was made, the price, the availability, and in many cases an online customer review as to what others thought about the item. It’s quite astounding then, that when it comes to high street retailing, you so often walk into a store and so much of the story is left to chance.

At the metamorphosis group, we come across many bricks and mortar retailers that are missing a trick. So the question to ask yourself today is, does a customer entering your shop know your story? If so, will they tell people about it? Remember, all the time we are failing to communicate; we are failing to sell.

For more lessons in retail and visual merchandising, why not sign up for a one-day master class at The Retail School.