Sunday 21 January 2018

The Big Debate At QVM

What is the big debate at QVM? Ok, there are a few, but this one is gaining momentum. - "How much of our success relies on QVM dragging customers to our stalls, and how much relies on traders reaching out to customers with modern technology including websites and social media?"

In the past traders have been part of an incredibly efficient retailing model - set up a display and feed off passing customer traffic. The rigors of running a small business efficiently have been conveniently encapsulated around as little as 5 or 6 hours of trading 5 days per week with the rest of our time taken up with stock procurement, preparation, bookwork, and so on.

There are traders who say this is the only way we can operate profitably. We simply don’t have time to add on all that online stuff, and really, if QVM just brought us more customers everything would be fine. And there is the problem. Bringing MORE customers is incredibly hard because customers have found alternatives to walking past our stalls. They have found retailers happy to open more than 6 hours, they have found retailers happy to allow them to shop online and then deliver to their home, or workplace. They have found retailers who will communicate with them, anyplace and anytime, offer huge ranges of produce, and bend over backwards to get their business.

Attracting crowds will always be a primary function of QVM as well as adapting our offer so that it meets changing consumer demand (for example more food and entertainment), and making it easier for consumers to find what they want. Analysing consumer data is a key function for QVM. The recent discovery that we are getting half the number of regional and interstate customers to our market opens up a great avenue for improving attendance. But this is all against a backdrop of rising competition, and general retail decline. We cannot expect miracles.

So what about trader websites and social media engagement? Many traders are finding that maintaining a website and social media engagement can be productive. The capacity for social media to go “viral” means that it is all about lighting the spark that will get your business out there. Good feedback on your business generates more business. The secret is to find ways that generate news about you without having to spend a lot of money or effort. And here is another problem. This process does require effort, especially in the early learning phases. We have been guilty of over simplifying the adoption of online and social media on this website. For many it is a steep learning curve. But it can start with an entry on the QVM website, a product photo on Instagram, or a Facebook page, and there are endless opportunities to be creative with your promotion at comparatively little cost.

So what is the answer to “How much of our success relies on QVM dragging customers to our stalls, and how much relies on traders reaching out to customers with modern technology including websites and social media?” Obviously both are critical and both require 100% effort. If traders think they can put their feet up and handball customer engagement to someone else, forget it. If management think they can place all the responsibility for customer attraction on traders, forget it. Like many things we do at QVM this requires management and traders working together, although, without being alarmist, recent sales trends in many categories suggest that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

The next big debate: “With so many demands on trader’s time, including this online stuff, how can we justify so many traders spending between 2 and 4 hours per day simply setting up and packing up their stall?”