The first panel session of yesterday’s PCR Retail Boot Camp provided an interesting discussion about whether small businesses and indie retailers should try to compete with the big guns.
On the panel were Donna Demain (Retail Profiling), Craig Hume (Utopia Computers), Carl West (GfK), and Alicia Shepherd (VIP).
The discussion, which was chaired by Adam Harris from CompTIA, started off with the title subject, ‘Why you should leave PC sales to Tesco and PC World’. The general consensus across the board was that although indies cannot compete in terms of pricing, they far outweigh the competition when it comes to customer service. “Small indie stores are better at advising customers and explaining to them that they don’t always need the most expensive thing, just the right PC for their needs,” commented Craig Hume from Utopia Computers.
The next subject was all about creating footfall, and how indies are supposed to compete with the likes of Tesco. “Have the right expectations, find the right customers for your company and make sure you deliver value,” suggested Carl West from GfK. The panel all agreed on this point with Craig Hume adding: “If you make sure people know they’re welcome, they will not be intimidated by you and return to you for advice.”
The discussion then moved onto what the right questions to ask retailers were, Donna Demain from Retail Profiling commented: “It is important to understand the customers lifestyle and what they want the product for. From this you can figure out what to up-sell.” This prompted an interesting comparison to fast food stores by Alicia Shepherd from VIP: “Fast food places don’t just give you a burger, they ask if you want fries with that.”
The next topic on the list was customers, and panelists were asked how they think customers will change moving forward. Everyone on the panel agreed that social networking is very important for today’s customers with Craig Hume commenting that: “People expect to be in touch with a company 24 hours a day, companies that do not embrace social media will lose customers”. Carl West added: “Everyone has multiple devices with access to online shopping and internet TV, if you don’t maximise on these changes you’ll be missing potential business opportunities.”
The final subject was about marketing support, and the panel was asked for their suggestions on how small businesses can get the kind of support that major multiple retailers get. Alicia Shepherd suggested that it’s all about the relationship between the retailer, vendor and distributor. “If everyone works together to understand each other’s vision, then they can meet in the middle to work on something that benefits each party,” she explained. Carl West gave the final though on this subject and of the whole panel session by explaining that vendors can make themselves stand out and be different by going for a niche market that bigger retailers may not be looking at.
So it seems that what we’ve learned from this panel session is that indie stores should leave the major retailers to it and look for interesting ways to build a more personal relationship with customers who are looking for something a bit different from their local PC store.
PCR Retail Boot Camp, powered by Innergie, is an exciting new conference and expo for the UK PC and IT channel.
Supporting the PCR Retail Boot Camp are Innergie (Headline Partner), Micro-P (Connected Home Partner), GData, VIP Computers, Arctic, Westcoast, Lygo/Turtle Beach, EntaTech, ESET and Zotac/Kuoda (Platinum Partners), plus AVG, AOC, Philips, Avance Technologies, Computers Unlimited, Koch Media, Autotask, Samsung, TP Link, Wasp, Synaxon, Realtime Distribution, Avance, Cisco and Hama (Gold Partners).
CompTIA, Brigantia and the Network Group are also Associate Partners of the event.
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