Marketing

What We Can Learn from the Department Store’s Demise

How can your business avoid the same fate as Boston Store?

Source: carlballou / iStock / Getty Images Plus

They’re hard to avoid if you spend any time driving around a suburb—malls with huge, open spaces and “For Lease” signs where a Sears, Kmart, or Shopko used to be. Department stores are closing left and right, and some have shut their doors altogether. But instead of dwelling on the depressing look of shuttered stores, how can you take a few lessons from the demise of department stores?

Digital Marketing Is King

Like it or not, we are currently living in a digital world. Even if you run a brick-and-mortar store, having a solid digital strategy is a must. This doesn’t mean you need to be on every single social media platform or even spend a fortune on shipping all over the world. But you need to at least be cognizant of how your brand appears online. Why would a customer choose your business over Amazon and its free 2-day shipping? How can you use technology to transform your business? Maybe it involves rocking a killer Instagram account, incorporating voice technology so that people can order from your store from their Alexa device, or focusing on personalizing your marketing efforts. Whatever approach you take, ignoring digital marketing will be the death of a business in 2020.

Take Risks

Businesses are often focused on profit margins. And they should be—if a company isn’t making money, it’s not in business. But you may need to take short-term risks that will pay off in the future. Again, think of Amazon—the company’s market value is sky high, even though its profit margin is below the average for a department store. It focuses on growing its market share, not raking in average, steady money. What can you do to disrupt the market in 2020, even if it seems a bit risky?

Riches in the Niches

Department stores struggled to be known for any one thing. They wanted to sell kitchen wares and clothes and books and lawn mowers. But if you create a more niche business model, you’ll have a much higher staying power. It’s scary to say “We’re selling this, not this” because it feels as if you’re ignoring potential customers. But at the end of the day, trying to be an expert at everything will make you an expert at nothing. The people who are looking for a high-quality product will flock to your store once they hear that you offer exactly what they need—and once you become known for it.