Scope Out the Competition
Do your competitors know something that you don’t? There’s no way to know unless you go and see what they are up to. If there are brick-and-mortar stores in your area that are in direct competition with you, make a point of dropping by them from time to time. Peruse each store to see what types of merchandise is being offered. If you see something that you’re unfamiliar with, learn more about it and study up even more after you get home. Keep your eyes peeled for unique sales strategies and other things too. If you find out about a neat thing that a competitor is doing through a customer, you aren’t trying hard enough.
Attend Trade Shows
Cutting-edge products often make their first appearances at industry trade shows. Stay in the loop about trade shows that occur within your industry; try to attend as many of them as you can. These shows make it a snap to get a head’s up about all kinds of new and exciting things. Upon returning to your store. engage your customers with information about upcoming trends and technologies. They will be impressed by your wealth of knowledge, and they will be more likely to return to your store again in the future.
Heed Customer Feedback
Customer feedback isn’t always a cut-and-dry thing. You’ll get your fair share of complaints and compliments, but there are many gray areas as well. Take note whenever a customer mentions a product that you’ve never heard of. If a customer asks about a product that you don’t have, consider stocking it. Always pay close attention whenever a customer compares your store to your competitor’s store. By finding out how your own store stacks up, you can glean great clues about emerging trends and position yourself more effectively. In short, don’t just interact with your customers – learn from them.
Use an RSS Reader
If you have a million bookmarks and have no clue where they all came from, it’s probably time to put a decent RSS reader to use. Google Reader and Feedly are two prime examples. You can use these readers to subscribe to blogs and websites that relate to your industry. News hits the Internet with lightning speed, so it pays to stay plugged into that particular grapevine. Play around with a few different readers until you find one that works for you. The information that you’ll gather will serve you very well indeed.
Plug into Social Media Sites
Word of mouth is one of the most influential ways to spread information about emerging trends. You don’t have to go eavesdrop on people at the mall or anything, though; you can simply sign up to use popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. These sites will give you the chance to see what everyday people have to say about topics that concern your industry. You can get a feel for what people are excited about and for products that have fallen flat. Set up searches on Twitter to stay apprised of relevant feeds; you will be learning new things in no time.
Turning a blind eye to emerging trends is a major misstep for any retailer. By keeping on top of new and exciting developments, products and services, you will show your customers that you are genuinely enthusiastic about being a retailer. Your enthusiasm will enhance the appeal of your store. Learning about new products will get them on your shelves more quickly, which will give you a leg up on the competition. Most importantly, there’s no need to waste a lot of valuable time staying informed about trends. Modern technology and paying a little extra attention are pretty much all that is needed.