For retail business advisor, Christine (“Chris”) Guillot, the satisfaction of owning and optimizing a small business in these turbulent times comes down to a question of style — how to correlate one’s personal style and business style with the identity and mission of the business itself.
Before founding the Seattle merchant marketing boutique, Merchant Method, Chris honed her talents for designing optimal customer experiences on the fashion side of retail commerce. Her front line experience includes roles as a store manager for Anthropologie, a shopping consultant for J. Crew, and a merchandising analyst inside the offices of Nordstrom and Gap Inc. The universal truth for each of these market leaders is an appeal to individual style. They keep it human!
In the fashion industry, the answer is rarely, if ever, “one size fits all.” From sportswear to couture, what the fashion world has demonstrated to the retail industry is that tastes vary by consumer wants and needs. You can develop a product assortment that may seem objectively “perfect.” If it meets the customers’ needs, you’ll know it right away — and vice versa, ” she relates.
Merchant Method has developed a systematic approach to planning and synchronizing business performance, including a 12-month Merchant Map, a retail calendar for merchandising and marketing around key events and milestones, and an Infinite Content Model for sustaining an ongoing dialogue with fans, followers, the media and valued customers. To make it all click, both offline and online, Chris works with clients to integrate the relationship-building power of personalization.
“Every business needs to begin by identifying its ‘signature strengths’ and promoting the unique business personality that differentiates its position in the market from any other,” Chris shares.
Retailer know thyself!
As a matter of personal survival during the current pandemic environment, “self care” is a necessity. The same requirement holds true for the business owner who either makes creative products for sale or is the owner of an inventory-based business striving to make the bottom-line profitable.
In either case, if you do not thoroughly enjoy the business model you have created, and if you are not equally passionate about the daily activities you perform to turn your vision into reality, you are missing the critical ingredients in the Merchant Method formula.
With her own podcast entitled Retail Shift, a compendium of Instagram stories, a blog and workshops, Chris is both a lifelong learner, hosting small business supporters from across the retail landscape, AND a lifelong teacher. After earning a bachelor of science in business administration from Georgetown University, she combined her two majors in small business management and sociology to teach at-risk students how to start and manage their own entrepreneurial retail ventures through the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
Of course, Chris has had her fair share of the “pick-yourself-up, dust-yourself-off, and head-to-the-nearest-glass-of-wine” kind of lessons during her 19 years as a retail and manufacturing expert. The retail storefront and its E-tail counterpart can mask certain perils and pitfalls.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of U.S. small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of their fifth year, roughly 50% have faltered. After 10 years, only around a third of businesses have survived. Surprisingly, business failure rates are fairly consistent.
“The real-world lessons learned are that most entrepreneurs don’t know the skills they need until they’re knee-deep in consecutive months of negative growth, poor employee performance, and personal health issues. Nobody tells you that to put your passion to work, you need a base of tactical knowledge,” Chris explains. “Helping retailers and makers to build this skill set is my life’s work.”
From Retail Charm School to Gamification
To Ms. Guillot, (GEE-oh, with a hard “G”), who exudes a positive, playful exuberance in her work style that is highly contagious (and very approachable), the art and science of gaming are at the heart of the retail experience and especially the art of content marketing.
“Engagement, comprehension and retention are the keys to success when it comes to communicating with both customers and employees. By deploying business tactics that are both fun and entertaining, “delivering the goods” becomes less of a chore and more enjoyable,” she says.
Chris is a big fan of video, which has emerged as a vital visual asset and a proxy for so many things in this era of social distancing. When creating a video for your business, Chris advises this “how-to: “
“The hierarchy of decision-making should be: ‘brand values, benefits to your viewers, personal commitment to be consistent, and (finally) optimization.’ Many SMBs are concerned about optimizing views before understanding the most important success factors. For example, if your brand values simplicity, then a short video format is aligned. However, if your brand values analytical rigor, a short video format doesn’t make as much sense.”
“When it comes to platform-specific tools, like SnapChat or Instagram Stories, plan with the format in mind. If your content suits this format, production will be more straightforward than selecting a format that doesn’t suit your function. Planning is the most important part of the process!” [24×7]
Visit Merchant Method online.