Becoming a differentiator

Becoming a differentiator

The path to differentiation depends on whether your company is a hopeful, doer, visionary, or a differentiator.

  • Hopefuls need a strong brand strategy.
  • Doers will benefit from a capabilities-driven strategy. First, identify your competitive advantage and build a strategy around it.
  • Visionaries should focus on building operational capabilities so that they can take action on their strategy.
  • Differentiators should focus on growing strategically through innovation, strategic alliances, etc.

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How to stand out in a crowded marketplace

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A good customer experience is essential

Competition for brand recognition is fierce. While digital-native newcomers with their tech-savvy, direct-to-consumer approaches enter with ease, the traditional retailers are struggling.

A big part of the problem is the inability to connect with customers. One PwC consumer survey showed 73 per cent of respondents valued customer experience. The same survey showed that consumers are willing to pay up to 16 percent price premium for a superior experience.

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Retailers continue to face a changing environment, such as market disruption, changing macroeconomic conditions, competition. 

Consider the following tactics to stay relevant:

  • Embrace disruption from new entrants. Continue to innovate and reinvent.
  • Capture growth opportunities. Acquisition targets can help to leverage or enhance your existing capabilities.
  • Know your competition. Identify emerging direct, indirect, and adjacent competitors.

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Operational excellence doesn’t require differentiation in all six areas. Most successful companies focus on only a few of the areas.

Operational areas:

  1. Product offering. Adidas set record-high sales by focusing on its portfolio, where other retailers often do the opposite.
  2. Strategic pricing. Everlane positioned itself as an ethical value player in the clothing industry.
  3. Digital engagement. L’Oréal encouraged people to experiment online with their products.
  4. Loyalty programs.
  5. Multiple channel experience. Online and a store.
  6. A well-functioning supply chain is crucial.

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Companies fall into one of four groups:

  • Differentiators have a differentiated brand strategy and effective operations.
  • Visionaries only have a differentiated strategy.
  • Doers only have effective operations.
  • Hopefuls lack in both.

Assess your company's effectiveness and rank yourself using a scale of 1 to 4.

  • Brand strategy: Identity, value, perception, awareness.
  • Operations: Product offering, strategic pricing, digital engagement, loyalty programs, omnichannel experience, supply chain.

You should rank at a 3 or 4 in each of the brand components and at least 2 of the operational components.

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Hopefuls and doers should put the customer at the centre of their approach in the four brand strategy components: identity, value, perception, and awareness. Then they should build operational capabilities on top of that strategy.

  • Focus on what you do best for your customers.
  • Recognise that value is more than just price.
  • Ensure you know who your customers are.
  • Use social media to connect with consumers, sharing stories and other engaging, authentic content.

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