Miele boss: ‘You must understand the consumer to win local business’

Miele GB managing director Simon Grantham has told independent retailers that they must do more to change their businesses to fit the needs of consumers.

Speaking at the Retra Conference 2017 on October 10, held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in central London, Mr Grantham said that the pace of change in consumers’ shopping habits was difficult to keep up with, but understanding their motivations was vital to future success.

“I was recently visiting some dealers in the South-East of England and one told me he was really fed up because every time he leaves his store, he can see AO lorries delivering in his area. He was very frustrated and it prompted me to think about how to win business locally.

“There is so much change affecting consumers’ shopping habits that’s it very difficult to keep up with the pace of it all. In the past, it was much easier, we had local marketing, you could look in the Yellow Pages and find out where your local appliance expert was. It was a simple as that then, but life has become much more complicated.”

Customers have become very self-centred in their shopping habits, he said, and approach it thinking it’s ‘all about me’.

“Everything is incredibly personalised,” Mr Grantham said. “And the way that we market and talk to our customers needs to be much savvier if we want to get into their heads. It’s also about having everything at your fingertips. In just a few minutes, they can find out about the retailer, the shop and the experience and that’s incredibly powerful.

“They also think, ‘I want it now, and I expect to have it now’. The real testament to this is the huge growth in mobile sales – almost 60 per cent of transactions in some categories are on a mobile phone. With data freely available, our customers want everything immediately and, of course, that can be anywhere. It doesn’t need to be in a shop, it can be at home or on the train, you can buy 24 hours a day and get access to that information.”

The way to grow your business locally, Mr Grantham argued, is to offer customers experiences rather than simply products.

“Customers love experiences and the most powerful part is that it’s all over social media and they become vocal fans of that experience. And, of course, independent retailers do this brilliantly.”

“For example, cooking is one of the biggest lifestyle trends on social media – particularly with young people. If you just look online at the amount of content available, it’s incredible – and that’s ingredients, kitchen design and appliances. It’s also very aspirational, and they want to know how it will positively impact their cooking, their friends and their family.”

But it isn’t just cooking. Mr Grantham used Google search examples to highlight the kind of expert information people were looking for. One, ‘how to wash cashmere’, had millions of relevant results.

“It’s not exciting, but increasingly customer are searching for solutions to problems like this. If that was me, I would want to see one of the top search results being my local expert telling me to pop into their store offering to demonstrate how to do it.

“In this search for expertise, customers want a face-to-face experience and that gives independents – who do that better than anyone – a great opportunity.”