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The trouble with men in retail

Retail is a business that is predominantly about women (the dominant customers), run predominantly by men (hardly any retailers have women in their senior teams). Men in retail have always had trouble understanding the difference between shopping, and buying. In my view this is really about emotional intelligence, a character trait far better developed in women than in men.

Men in retail: gadgets and technology first, relevance second

A great example of this is exactly what is happening across the industry today. Technology has come along and suddenly, men in retail have something that excites them – that they can relate to. So what we are seeing is loads of initiatives from loads of businesses which all leverage the new channels by which vendors can reach out to their market.

For me, this brings to mind the marketing world of the 1970s. Back then technology suddenly allowed lists and primitive databases to be built. People suddenly discovered the letterbox. Many went away and dreamt up lots of packages and bit of paper that fit through them, and the world of junk mail was born.

There is no more reason to believe that electronic mail will have any more successful or sustainable than its paper predecessor. In fact it is far more likely to be brand damaging, if current approaches are anything to go by.

Most of what we are seeing totally misses the point. And the point is the customer. Being able to reach out to people will have an increasingly negative impact on your brand relationship if you fail to focus on what it is you are saying to them. Virtually everything we are seeing right now is focused on the message and the messenger, and virtually none on the only determinant of its value – the customer.

Customer relevancy is key

The idea that customers are going to want to have hundreds of messages fired at their mobile phones (or any other devices) is ludicrous. The idea that shoppers will want bombarded with messages as they walk though the mall past every store is the same. They simply will not tolerate such totally insensitive, irrelevant, untargeted marketing. And they will unsubscribe in vast numbers. Getting them to come back once you have treated them like this will be extremely difficult.

Good, effective marketing must always start with the customers. Understanding what she does not want is as important as understanding what she really does want. Understanding where else she shops and how that defines what she thinks of you. Understanding that shopping is not necessarily going to involve buying, particularly if the retailers on view are not good enough, relevant enough and credible.

Technology is transforming retail but it is just a means to an end. And that end is about selling product and services to consumers. In a market where supply exceeds demand and will do so for the foreseeable future, there are more winners than losers. And the winners understand their customers far better and are able to translate that understanding into relevance.