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Differentiate or Die

I recently stumbled across a commentary titled, “Why retail must differentiate or die.” This may sound harsh, but it is not an exaggeration. It’s like the Hunger Games of business.

The author of the commentary, Dr. Chris Petersen, says that “the ‘secret sauce’ in retailing today is differentiation beyond products.” For example, look at the history of the consumer electronics retail channel. In the past, this channel was composed of retailers such as Circuit City and Best Buy, but where are they now? Attempting to run neck-and-neck with big box corporations, such as Walmart, and e-commerce giants, such as Amazon. Circuit City has been trampled, closing its doors in 2009. On the other hand, Best Buy is playing up its points of differentiation in order to keep its seat at the table. It’s creating stores within its stores for top brands, leveraging brick and mortar locations to ship products from the store to online customers, investing in improvements to its web business, and combating “showrooming” by decreasing its usual margins. Best Buy has chosen to differentiate; Circuit City has died.

How about we change the title of this commentary to “Why companies must differentiate or die?” Technology has made it easier to compare products, services, and prices. It has changed how customers receive and research information. It has changed the expectations customers have for their beloved brands; they want more.

What about the media industry? An article reviewing the demise of PC World magazine, once printed on paper, expressed that the “blossoming of online titles chewed away at the giants of the print era.” And that without doubt the “U.S. has become a magazine wasteland,” with gossip magazines or amazingly niche titles as the only known survivors.

What about the medical device and pharmaceutical industries? Studies show that traditional sales call tactics are losing their edge. In fact, a study from 2012 found that 82% of physicians would like to see more sales reps use tablets when interacting with their practices. Physicians are pressed for time, so instant access to clinical studies, data sheets, brochures, presentations, and more are welcomed! Bring on the tech.

What about the energy industry? Companies like GE are realizing that they can make both their days and their customers’ days easier, faster, and more efficient by making applications. They have developed apps such as Transformer Monitoring, which allows people to manage gas turbine inventory, as well as electrical transformers, or PDS Mobile planner, which aids rail and track monitoring as well as locomotive management.

All industries need to focus on differentiating to find a voice in this technology driven world. If you can’t beat them, join them! Right? Technology, while it is part of the reason we need to differentiate, may also be part of the solution. Mobile applications have the potential to help you differentiate.

Incorporating unique and innovative elements, such as gamification, live in-classroom feedback, remote coaching or training, smart checklists, interactive ROI calculators, and unique communication and sharing capabilities are just a few ways that companies are adapting themselves to appeal to the consumers of today.

The world moves fast, technology moves even faster. Every business, not just retail, needs to differentiate or die. Cue the brainstorming and budget planning. Enable your business with mobile to ensure you are the last one standing, winner of the Hunger Games.

Sydney Hill

Not to mention refreshing, positive and downright invigorating. Should we expect anything less from a personality that absolutely bubbles…

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