Strategic Designer Insider – Mariann Wenckheim

Managing growth, by attracting new customers, is this mystical thing in the retail industry and is something that is pitching marketing managers into more of the role of growth managers.


Managing growth

The big question they have to answer today is how do they grow the number of customers coming into their businesses? They know the success of tomorrow is dependent on attracting new customers from the latest generation because those from the previous ones are dying out.

How you take retailers through this generational shift is something we’ve encountered at 20.20. As a design consultancy we create stores that obviously affect existing customers but increasingly our remit includes attracting new ones too.

A good starting point is to take a fundamental look at the business and ask why it exists on both a rational and emotional level. This is necessary as retail businesses become far too tactical over time and lose their initial essence.

For some businesses – with great authenticity – the task is not too tough. The likes of Dr. Martens has long recognised what makes it attractive to each successive generation and these young customers arrive in waves. It has distilled what the truth is about the brand and it has not changed its emotional aspects.

Although they have changed many things at the company over the years they have never messed about with the boots, which have always sat at the heart of the business.

The same could be said about furniture retailer DFS. It might have a new management team that are keen to promote its authenticity as a company that is manufacturing a growing percentage of its products in the UK but it is not deviating away from its core of being about keen pricing and interest free credit.

The most prudent step all brands should take is to go back to the very start of their existence. Back to their beginnings to examine where they came from. This should help them step out of the madness of their complicated structures of today. From that uncomplicated place it should be possible to again be personal and to randomly surprise their present day customers.

They need to not only be omni-channel but also omni-dimensional and let their businesses explode in places. Successful people – and companies – do wild things. I’m thinking Apple.

In the UK we have Waitrose that welcomed a new batch of shoppers when it took the radical step of introducing its Essentials range and some years previously Tesco did a similar thing when it launched its upmarket own-brand Finest.


Now, should I have 12 or six?

Majestic Wine also opened the doors to a new customer base when it changed its minimum order threshold from 12 bottles to only six. For other retailers the way to attract the new generation might need even more radical change.

If after harsh self-examination it is found that there is no reason for the brand to exist today then the existing business has to be treated as a dying cash cow while something new is invented.

B&Q was created to help homemakers improve their homes and the desire to do this has not changed but the expression of homemaking is very different for the new generation. So maybe it needs a new brand/model to attract this new customer base.

It could follow the lead of Sweden-based H&M that has recognised its core product does not have the same levels of growth as experienced previously and recognises that it cannot stretch the brand into the new generation.

It is therefore busy opening up seven new brands around the world including ‘& Other Stories’ in the UK. It is possible that in the future one of its new brands will become the pre-eminent retail business within the group.

In the UK, Next has constantly re-invented its Directory business. It is forever looking at the age of its customers and will sometimes pitch in a new range that is too young and it has to back-track. But its constant eye on the new customer has placed it much more on-the-ball than its keys rivals such as Marks & Spencer.

The reality is that retailers who simply deal with the world as it is today are dramatically limiting themselves in the future – to the point of potential extinction as their customer base disappears. Retailers have to look back to see forward.

01 280912-2291Mariann Wenckheim is a partner at strategic design consultancy 20.20