Mind your P’s but own your Be’s - Retail Council of Canada
Marketing & Merchandising | Digital Retail & Technology

Mind your P’s but own your Be’s

Mind your P’s but own your Be’s

How Bricks can beat back Clicks

By Tony Chapman, Owner of Chapman Reactions & Speaker at Store Conference 2019

Exceptional retailing has always been based on the superb execution of the 6 P’s which drove traffic and profitable basket.

  1. Proposition – how you matter versus why you matter.
  2. Product – the right merchandise, merchandised right.
  3. Price – the perfect balance between margin and momentum.
  4. Place – location, location, location.
  5. Promotion – creative, convincing and cultivating.
  6. People – promises made, promises kept.

Until now.

Today the 6 P’s have been mashed and even smashed by the weight of the Platform Economy which harnesses the mobile phone as a Trojan Horse to bring in the world each consumer covets, with hyper-personalization and precision.

Amazon, Alibaba, Shopify, eBay, Facebook, Google, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Spotify, Apple, Hello Fresh and thousand of more digital matchmakers are rendering the conventional rules of retail, hospitality and tourism, or all others who rely on a physical space, obsolete.  Some even do it without holding their own inventory.

Amazon, the world’s biggest vending machine, has moved into antitrust territory with an almost 50% share of online retail in North America, which is more than their next ten competitors combined. This platform is powered by algorithms, not window displays and will get faster, better and more efficient.

For conventional retail, who must compete with their brick-and-mortar, or even with an omnichannel offering, there is no middle ground or status quo.

You must either choose to make things happen or you will wonder what happened.

Many retailers are in ‘the wonder what happened’ category. They lack differentiation, competition is intense, and their marketplace is saturated. Their six P’s have collapsed into Price being their primary tiebreaker. They are caught in a vortex of continuous cost-cutting to maintain some semblance of margins. A tiring gauntlet that even the best can try to run, but all will eventually succumb.

Platform Economy

Today the 6 P’s have been mashed and even smashed by the weight of the Platform Economy which harnesses the mobile phone as a Trojan Horse to bring in the world each consumer covets, with hyper-personalization and precision.

You can change your destiny, and make things happen by countering the Platform Economy.  What you will require is a consumer centric and operational mindset that extends beyond clever slogans, door crashers and store makeovers to how we are wired.  Humans are restless creatures who are rarely satisfied.  We are on a continuous quest to survive, provide, seek, learn, connect, validate, and improve our life and our family’s life and livelihood.

Why Not Answer Their Quest?

Conventional retail can be a key point of embarkment and engagement to satisfy and enhance human quests. You can play a transformative role by helping consumers get to where they want to go and with security and certainty.

Be welcomed - woman with dog

To do so requires a change in focus from being a place to buy to the place to be. Why not become a destination where consumers can find their individual Be’s – some to be happy, others to be fulfilled, enlightened, energized, excited, confident, relevant, alive, or to be with like-minded people.

When your essence is the ‘place to be’, your destination beats to the synchronicity of emotion of human connections, something that online can try to fabricate but never authenticate as machines do not have a heart.

Staging the place to be, however, offers infinite proportions and performances and one that proves the adage – ‘you can’t be all things to all people’.  You must determine what you can be outstanding at and then calibrate your persona, presentation, products, and the adaptation of new technology, accordingly. 

To do so requires a change in focus from being a place to buy to the place to be.

An independent retailer, for example, might choose to be like Sam and his bar in the 1980’s TV hit Cheers, a neighborhood bar/oasis where everyone knows your name and your favourite beer is served without asking for it. ‘This is ‘my’ butcher shop,’ or ‘I go there to buy ‘my’ unique gifts’.

A grocery chain focused on higher margin items like organics, and artisan products must choose to be inspiring and enlightening. They must channel their inner Martha Stewart to show how to make impossible dishes possible, and how to add a twist to familiar foods to create an Instagram worthy dinner party or backyard BBQ. Their home meal replacement must be convenient and adventurous. An ethnic grocery store must be inviting, encouraging and inclusive so that they can broaden their customer base and encourage experimentation – Stories that connect food and preparation to their culture to allow for even more immersion.


Be Wowed

A technology store must be the epicenter of knowledge and application where both novices and early adopters can converse, contribute and grow their confidence. In-store demonstrations geared for early adopters, coding camps for kids, and secrets of social media superstars will all work to build currency. If the focus is on gaming then create a like-minded hub for bravado, stories and inside tips, exclusive downloads, and where possible tournaments and leagues.

A fashion store must see its role as the Fairy Godmother and realize it doesn’t get to go to the ball, it’s there to dress Cinderella. Instead of selling merchandise they must learn to sell into individual moments. An après ski party, a black-tie event, commanding the boardroom and every moment in between. When you are outfitting to own a moment, you go beyond the merchandise and sales tag.

A convenience store must be a safe house for refueling and recharging and a clean bathroom for relieving. A pet store where owners can openly talk about their pets as extended members of their family. A jewelry store for marking a sparkling life, and a bank or financial institution for being an advisor that makes owning that house or retiring with dignity, possible. A discount store to be the place for a treasure hunt. Starbucks to be their customers’ third home. Bass Pro Shops for being your nature guide.

Any retailer or tourism or hospitality destination, that relies on human interaction between the retailer and the consumer, can adopt this winning approach by minding its P’s but owning its Be’s.

In my Keynote and Workshop, ‘From a Place to Buy to the Place to Be,’ I talk about how you can get to the heart of this matter.

  • Identify the consumers you want to serve.
  • Map out their quests and desired endgame.
  • Determine where you can help them get to where they want to go.
  • Own the ‘Be’s’ that are relevant to your target and your brand.
  • Merchandise into their moments versus trying to just move merchandise.

When you focus on helping your consumers find their Be, you create a heartbeat that pounds with emotion through your entire organization and supply chain and one that can drown out the tap on a mobile device. You provide the guide post to investing in the right in-store technologies that augment, personalize and personify.

You go from wondering what happened, a place to buy, to make things happen. A place to Be.


Tony Chapman photoTony Chapman is a top ranked keynote speaker, conference host and moderator. You can see Tony speak at Store Conference 2019.