There are thousands of retailers born every year. Many, of course, are single outlet operations, such as a small coffee house or a new website selling a specialty product. Each new entry is looking to mold together the right combination of business decisions (e.g., marketing, finance, human resources, etc.) that will lead to a successful operation.
When it comes to the right marketing decisions, retailers can find success for several different reasons. Some are successful because they sell great products that others do not sell (e.g. Apple Stores). Other retailers find success because of personalized care they extend to their customers (e.g., Nordstrom). While for other retailers it is all about using low price to attract customers (e.g., Walmart). And then there are those who are successful because of ordering and delivery convenience (e.g., Amazon).
Yet, while these examples of retail success may suggest it is about being great at one marketing mix variable (i.e., product, price, promotion or distribution), what all successful retailers have in common is making sure they invest heavily in fully understanding their customers. For instance, the companies mentioned expend great efforts in researching customer needs and in capturing customer data, such as purchase history and website traffic patterns. They then take this information and provide a retail experience that they believe is addressing what customers are really seeking.
A case in point of a company that knows what its customers want can be found in this story from Bloomberg about the Sports Bar chain, Buffalo Wild Wings. The story provides a fairly in-depth explanation of how this company has grown to be a powerhouse eatery with over 1,000 U.S. locations with more on the way (including international locations). What is particularly important from a marketing perspective is how this company has taken what some would consider a niche food product, chicken wings, and turned it into a business that is thriving with over $1.5 billion in sales. What is even more impressive, they are accomplishing at a time when many other major restaurant chains are struggling.
The issues found in this story cover all key marketing decisions. And even for organizations not in the restaurant business, this story will serve as a good case study in how to do marketing right.