Bob Phibbs, CEO of the Retail Doctor, a retail consultancy based in New York shares his candid experience on what retailers need to know to survive in this highly competitive industry.

An internationally recognized business strategist, sales coach, marketing mentor and retail author, Bob has helped transform thousands of businesses throughout the world with his straightforward, proven advice.

MANTHAN: What is the biggest challenge that you feel today’s retailers are facing?

BOB: Jaded consumers looking for experiences rather than things. Boomers have more than they need. Millennials are cheap and driving the appearance of quality without paying for quality causing downward pressure on premium goods and luxury items – both of which ramped up past demand.

Retailers can still win but the experience in the store has to be more than “we have a lot of crap to look at” which makes customers feel like shopping is work. The answer isn’t more technology, it is a new focus on human to human interaction – that’s what can create an exceptional experience that isn’t dependent on 40% off the store this weekend only like Gap and Abercrombie.

MANTHAN: In this decade, what changing consumer behavior has had the biggest impact on retailers?

BOB: Always on shopping via smartphone and iPads. Stores no longer are the sole source of product information or purchase. Retailers instead of changing their store experiences have cut staff as traffic count has dropped further reducing customer satisfaction for those who actually do drive to their brick and mortar stores. 

MANTHAN: Could you name a retailer that you feel is doing a great job of personalized customer targeting, and why?

BOB: REI does a good job from the very nature they have such a tight focus on who their customer is and what they are looking for.

MANTHAN: What would you consider the best starting point for retailers looking to improve customer loyalty?

BOB: Look at who you allow on your sales floor and their lack of training. Customers not greeted never become raving fans. Employees selling to customers who have money showing them products they themselves don’t have money for are leading to a wholesale commoditization of apparel and home goods. 

MANTHAN: How important is it for retailers to use analytics in their decision-making?

BOB: IBM is showing Watson as the new analytics tool that helps combine sales, trends and even the weather shortening overstocks and discount sales. That said many have legacy systems that don’t always play well together making accurate and actionable information hard to glean in real time. This impacts merchandising, marketing and managing staff loads.

MANTHAN: What are the upcoming challenges that retailers will be facing soon? How do you feel they need to evolve to stay competitive?

BOB: In a recent survey only 35% of retailers were confident enough to share their store inventory to customers on their websites. Most say check store or in stock when customers have been trained by Amazon to look for exactly how many are in stock. No one wants to drive to the store and be disappointed.

Thank you, Bob!