Critical Note: Big mistakes retailers make (and how to fix them)

A retailer buys traditionally from wholesaler and sell to final consumers. It is trite to say that the informal sector dominated by retailers contribute no less than 45% of Nigeria’s GDP anually, in the past two years.

Corner shop mallams, kiosk owners and the petty traders at the local market form the engine of our economy. These retailers by their nature carry the burden of starting, developing and growing their small and micro businesses. It is therefore important that they wake up to the new reality as businesses that refuse to align with current market trends risk being put out of the market.

First off, as a retailer, how are you presenting your products in the market? What are you doing differently from your competitors? Do you play catch up with strategies deployed by rivals? Change the way you arrange your wares. Repaint your kiosk as at when due. Customers would appreciate buying from clean shops and stalls. They are not fools.

Next is attitude. The big elephant in the small room. Your customers are human beings and so have their low moods when they easily lose their temper or forget to observe courtesies. Watch your reaction in those periods and always be optimistic in them. Keeping a customer is harder than gaining a new one. Let your customers know you are above small insults and are only interested in making them happy.

Are customers king? Yes. Ford Motor Company and General Motors Company both headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, spent $2.34 billion and $3.77 billion on advertising in 2016 respectively. These were attempts by these companies to lure customers from their competitors. Innovations in business engendered by information and communication technology have provided final consumers a wide range of product and service options to choose from.

Finally, get closer to your customers without invading their privacy. If you notice a boil on a customer’s forehead and you are not a physician, suggest a medication you or a third person have found effective as cure. Suggest other options to your customers if you unavoidably run out of stock of a particular brand. You could even offer to help them buy from your competitors. It is counterintuitive but endears you to them. The product and service markets are full of substitutes that you have got to be socially intelligent to keep your customers from buying from your competitors. When you are in business, you are in constant competition even with yourself.

Share your own big mistakes and how to fix them in the comments. They are welcome.

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How local startups are getting tech wrong in Nigeria

Entrepreneurship is not only on the rise in Nigeria, but tech is increasingly adopted in local enterprises, especially new enterprises.

While this is suppose to be good news for the country, there is also a growing trend of tech misuse in most of these enterprises. A trend that might have a bizarre effect on the enterprises and the nation in the long term.

Recently, a friend of mine who owns a business support startup attended a tech entrepreneurship event in Lagos and lamented about one of these issues. According to my friend, one of the speakers at the event who owns one of the popular and successful new tech startups in the country, while delivering a talk on digital marketing strategies, said that pulling email addresses of people and organisations off their social network profiles for use in email marketing campaigns is also among strategies entrepreneurs and digital marketers could use to up their digital marketing.

I was at the digital marketing department of a new tech company sometimes too and the head of the team was instructing a team member to crawl the web and his personal phone contact for phone numbers of people and organisations for use in their WhatsApp marketing campaign.

These practices are already widespread. We have a lot of overnight social media growth among local entrepreneurs, fuelled by the costly and unethical strategy of ‘buying followers and contacts’. A lot of local tech entrepreneurs and digital marketers are using tech without any compliance with privacy and other cyber laws.

Apart from what such practices will translate to in the long term, in terms of cost of acquisition or operation, the reputation of the brand in the face of the public is gradually being eroded away. Before long all these will begin to tell on the growth and performance of the enterprise and contribute little to national revenue, except local entrepreneurs and digital marketers change their strategy.