Despite macro-economic and geo-political challenges, at pretty serious scale, impacting everyone, retailing and retail placemaking industries are finally returning to more consistent pre-pandemic performance. More specifically, consistent (growth) performance is returning, but mainly for businesses and entities that truly stayed focused on relentlessly adapting and readapting to the rapid change in consumer behaviour.
And those were the businesses, that acted as if they were a startup, were entrepreneurial at heart (whatever size and shape). It was the ones who listened to their consumers (users and non-users) and then applied a test and learn philosophy, implemented new initiatives, with an aim to ‘gain traction’ or to ‘fail fast’, and then having the courage and stamina to start over again, whenever it did not work out. A strategic survival mechanism, that embraces the required ever-evolving reset of a business, one that aims to continuously perform better for everyone.
During 2023 I saw a lot of businesses make some great progress and adapt to the changes in economic conditions and to consumer behaviours. So, what did they really do differently? Whether they were Real Estate players or Retail/Branded business, they all asked themselves and their organisation some BIG QUESTIONS. The result, in many cases, led to smarter strategic thinking and more nimble operational principle approach. I heard these questions a lot:
- Is our current business model still valid
- Are we delivering a competitive advantage than is hard to copy?
- Which area of excellence hold relevance to our business
- Do we focus on consumer segments with potential, and do we know their drivers
- Are we assessing our corporate beliefs and removing processes creating un-necessary complexity
It sounds so simple, but it has taken a lot of courage for many business leaders to do this exercise., and the hardest part, for everyone, was to accept and deal with ‘their reality’.
So any business, I get involved with, will primarily spend 2024 to focus on their consumer approach. Yes!!, the largest opportunity in 2024 continues to be taking (hyper) personalisation serious, which in reality means the following:
1. ‘Do it for ME and make Me feel something, something that adds value to MY life’.
There are many ways to interpret this statement:
- Let ME choose what I do, where I do it and how I do it
- Make ME feel something and make it mean something to ME
- Give ME great value, and don’t classify ME on price! I am no longer about expensive or cheap
So having real understanding of the ME principle and building out detailed customer segmentation/preferences accordingly and then applying appropriate communication and services to leverage engagement must be a focal point of any business wanting to remain relevant.
Secondly, and ONLY second to above, as a responsible CEO you can now begin to consider a few other strategic initiatives, I have picked 3 interrelated priorities:
2. Generative AI:
How to think about adaptation of Generative AI, and how do we use it to the benefit of our customers and organisation (especially considering point 1 above)
3. Social Equity Impact:
How to continue to ‘do good’, as the new (EU) legislative sustainability changes are coming into force and how do we begin to live and act with a pure and meaningful Social Equity principle
How to maximize impact on the expected super growth arising from the consumers desire to travel (noting that 2024 is predicted to be a return to former times glory) and how do we use our learnings from the 3 previous points to create, an everywhere and always relevant, philosophy.
Henrik Madsen is Chief Executive & Transformation Officer at HMJ International Services Ltd., and member of the ACROSS Advisory Board.