Manuel Rodriguez-Contra, Head of Fashion at EY, joins Spains Regional Host, Alex Kroger, to discuss challenges and solutions in retail and consumer business and the role of retail sales enablement to drive business success.

Manuel shares many deep insights on the current stat of retail while also giving insights on how we enable our retail sellers to be effective.  These insights include:

1️⃣Thoughts on training needs and how to properly deliver.

2️⃣The power, and importance, of rewards and recognition.

Give a listen and remain curious.

 

Audio Transcript

Alex Krøger
Nice to meet you again Manuel face to face for virtually face to face this time, unfortunately. But, but yeah, nice to Nice to have you here.

Unknown Speaker
So,

Manuel Rodriguez
john, is it always a pleasure to meet friendly faces, these sort of introspective time and to have the opportunity to share our knowledge with charities to help each others in in this moment

Alex Krøger
perfect and talking about knowledge, I know you have really deep and extensive knowledge from the retail and consumer industry. So could you could you share with us what you do and who you are and yeah a little bit your role in the retail industry?

Manuel Rodriguez
Okay. And well, it’s always difficult to to describe oneself in a few words, because we are a lot of different persons of the same time. But in this professional context, I am first of all a passionate of my work assisting companies in in their strategy and operations and specially a passionate of everything that has to do with the consumer and with the with the digital revolution at person now I am I am leading the fashion and luxury products industry for free Why? And my experience, large cities has been always related to the consumer and retail industry. 50% of my career was in a multinational company Unilever in in Europe and the Americas. And and the rest has been in different consulting firms, but it was very much focusing in retail and consumer.

Alex Krøger
Okay, perfect. So according to your opinion, what would be the biggest challenge in today’s retail and consumer industry?

Manuel Rodriguez
Well, for me, the biggest challenges is that the retail companies and consumer brands need to rethink completely the business model in order to be relevant to the client, and to be in the right to the right to be present in the in their life priorities. Many companies I found out in the last month believe that their biggest problem is COVID-19. And that there may be challenges adapting their way of working before the pandemic, to all the constraints that are being imposed in our in our day to day. And from my point of view, I think the pandemic is not the challenge in itself. It’s a problem that has that has come upon us that radical transformation that has been taking part in the in the consumer area, a in consumer values and consumer behavior, consumer attitudes. That started quite a long time ago, I think it started beginning or especially when the smartphones game came on. So it’s it’s something that was happening that many companies were not so concerned with this with this transformation. But that is that what’s happened now is that really it has accelerated. It is it’s it’s given the consumer and a new role and a new opportunity to have more power and to influence more in society. And obviously, part of the that influences the way to relate with brands and retailers, especially in our country and in Spain. Internal consumption is one of the main main chunks of the of the GDP. And it has proved to be actually a it’s played a key role in in recovering in growing and in recovering from the from the last recession.

Alex Krøger
Okay, so you mentioned that actually in 2021 or even further, that COVID is not a problem.

Manuel Rodriguez
It is a problem. But it did but the challenge is it’s not responding to COVID challenges responding to to a real consumer or people society transformation that was taking place. And that COVID has has accelerated I mean many of the things like like shopping more online or like a being more concerned about values about family about society and so on. They were already there. But now they’ve they’ve come very much more in the, in the in every day. Okay.

Alex Krøger
And if you would like to give us like one or two different tips around how to change this on on how to empower and make our retail sales organizations slightly more successful, what kind of tips would that be?

Manuel Rodriguez
India, I think obviously, it is fundamental because they play a key role in and they will play a key role. I mean, what we’ve been finding with this, we did a very, very expensive program 2019 that we call future consumer now trying to, to imagine what’s what’s the future of the, of the consumer or Generally, if the people in the in the next in the next decades, and during 2020, what we’ve done is following, following all the all these changes, and all these attitudes through through more than 50,000 continues a questionnaire in 20 countries and so on to measure the pulse of the consumer, not only during the hard times of COVID, or their recovery just after COVID, but special in the long term. And 74% are changing the way they shop, have this 37% belief, they will continue changing the way they shop in the long term 57% think that they will change also in the products that they buy, that they will buy less, and they will own less products. I mean, that’s, that’s something that was happening, but it’s not accentuated everyone. I mean, it started in the Nordic countries, like many trends with the no by year proposition, but it will continue everywhere and in. And in this in the in the last. In the last index that was a just before the end of the year 62% of the consumers that we interviewed said they would only buy things that they needed. During this this month, they had been conscious of all the things they had. And that much most of them were not really useful for them. So given these, I think the the changes that we have to go they are the enablers we have to provide to our salespeople in the special in their shops, is first of all provide them with enough information to understand the consumer and not their consumer in general, but the consumer, the one that goes to the to the shop. And second of all, give them tools to interact with this consumer in a highly personalized manner. As we know, consumers have become very autonomous in their shopping journey and they want to be autonomous, it’s something they value. So if we really want to, to be relevant for them once again, or to or to release them to the proposal, we want to make them interrupt in their autonomy. So to say it will have to be with something that’s directly adapted to them. They are, we’ve learned in the last few years that they are very much so willing to share information about themselves, but only if they see it provides them with a clear benefit. If not, it’s very, very easy to opt out. And I think the third one is to empower them more in an operational basis to be able to provide the best customer service to the clients and customers. Now they don’t they don’t work with or they don’t understand that

Manuel Rodriguez
they show up or the other channel that relationship is with the brand. So that that when the brand they’re interacting with them. So that person that’s representing the brand in this interaction, which is obviously the salespeople, a has to provide them with though has to be able to provide them with a solution immediately and efficiently. I mean, all of this technology or this digital revolution has made us some more somewhere less patient with with with things that we need to resolve. And in order to do the old days I think we have to to provide them with a continuous training so they can be one step ahead and of the consumer and in the traditionally in the in retailers, retailer, sales reps and so on the training they received was very basic and onboarding when they joined the company, and maybe some training on new or new tools or new systems that were implemented when they, when they had to interact with them, but all the rest was mainly instructions from the headquarters to the to the shop, yes to follow, and that said, No, not explaining why they have to do it, or how they can learn. I think now, we have to provide them with much more with much more training and to give them the opportunity to participate and to provide insights or suggestions and feel they listened. And I think the last one of these is reward and recognition. Again, trendy traditionally, being a shop shop assistant was not a career in itself for for most of the people it was just a transition job to another job that will be more more paid better paid or that will be more on the line of their their idea of of their career. So, that work conditions have been traditionally very demanding and the payment quite low. And it was not a problem because rotation for the companies was not a problem. So now that we need a different talent to relate better with, with the consumer, it has to be provided and it has to be to be rewarded.

Alex Krøger
So you would say that they’re all in the stores selling the profile of those people with need to evolve, and we would need to help them to evolve, right?

Manuel Rodriguez
Yeah, certainly, certainly, we need we need to, to give them a sense of, of understanding really the consumer, I mean, a lot of companies are talking about customer centric, but most of the time this customer centricity is the way I think about the customer, or where I think the customer is not not the other way around. And it needs a lot of skills more specially because people don’t want to go to shops, when they go to a shop, they don’t want to be interrupted, they are quite in control of what they want to do, and so on. So if you really want to interest them in something and you want to make a memorable experience for them, you have to be able to provide them with solutions and with the data targeted to them precisely.

Alex Krøger
I mean, so would you would you say that we have like two kinds of buyers? I mean, the buyer who goes to the store and is really Okay, do not interrupt me. And then you have the buyer who says, Okay, I want to really have an experience when you differentiate between these two paths, or?

Manuel Rodriguez
Well, I think we have, we have one. I mean, obviously, they are different segments, we identified five segments in this in all this study, but but basically, it’s they feel they can they understand if nothing surprises them, normally, it’s quite clear, I want to buy these for that or so on and the leisure part of shopping. It’s, it’s disappeared a bit from what it was in the 90s or in the beginning of the century. And it’s they are saying they will be much more focused in buying only what they need and, and so on. So, lately what they want is less interactions in the shop, they want to be able to, to do the self payment they want to be able to interacting with, with a tablet or with a screen, ask for whatever they need, or just to do it online and collect it in their shop. So they have less necessity to go to go to a shop or to a particular shop. So in order to make them come to us at the shop or online and consider our brand to be part of themselves. We have to we have to be able to interest them at that moment, not just to to be there

Alex Krøger
does it doesn’t mean that it would be more difficult to influence and guide the customer in the store. I mean, if I’m a salesperson inside a store with it’d be more difficult for me to guide a client towards where I want the client to go or

Manuel Rodriguez
no, I think really this digital The situation we have with the technology makes it easier to influence or to reach them. That the difficult part is is the content, what to build. So they are interested in what they, in what I’m providing them. If not, we won’t be, I mean, but another impact that they have continuously everywhere. So it’s a, I think, once if they’re in the shop, if they want to go to the shop, we have to know why they want to be there. If they want to buy something, we have to we have their data. So we know this particular barrel, we have the capacity now with, with analytics to know this particular person, how many times they come with what frequency what colors they normally like, or what’s the kind of product they normally like, if they pay by card or if they so I mean, we have a lot of information that we can provide, we can put in us to provide them with, with something that says okay, I feel comfortable in this particular shop, or I feel comfortable working with this with this brand, because they know who I am, they they they share my values, they they are not sort of impacting me continuously with things that don’t interest me and so on. I think I think that’s it, it’s it’s it’s is the way we we are we learn to be in general, we want to be in control.

Alex Krøger
And if you had to give one tip to our sales leader in retail, what would that one, take only only one tip.

Manuel Rodriguez
If it’s only one tip, let’s make it to first of all, is listen, listen and be prepared to satisfy the customer demands, even before they’ve manifested. And second, empower your people give them the tools to them the opportunity to say take decisions in in real time, because that’s the only way in this panorama, you will be able to be one to

Alex Krøger
one of the two three brands they will want to relate it to relate with. And when you say empower the people, or you’re referring to the technology piece of it only, or are you also referring to, let’s say the soft skills and all the coaching part of it,

Manuel Rodriguez
I think it’s a it’s the, the way they have to the consumer and they can provide themselves something useful for this consumer that then they are very useful. And I think what we have now is something that provides us with a lot of information in in every particular moment, and we’ll structure so we can take decisions or so on. Obviously, you have to train them in this kind of tools, but specially you have to, to understand them also and to want to make sure they have the interest to do these things and to to learn to be useful not to it’s very difficult to be customer facing. And you have to enjoy it if you want to

Alex Krøger
be perfect. So I know what I’ll be talking about retailing consumer business forever.

Alex Krøger
Is there anything else you would like to share with us something we haven’t touched on? I kind of Yeah,

Manuel Rodriguez
no, I just think it’s a it’s a really, it’s a really exciting moment, the one way we are living in in the last few years and what we will continue to live in. And, and it’s really an opportunity to, to learn a lot. We have to learn a lot. And that’s the part of the useful things of this kind of forum. And, and it’s also a very good opportunity to, to innovate, to everything is much easier and much accessible than it than it was. And we have to be also bold in in trying things. I mean, it’s one of the other virtues of this digital revolution is that we can try things they learn very quickly. If they don’t work, change them and try another thing. It’s not like we have as before to to build an enormous technological infrastructure to do to do something or to respond to something it’s very easy to work in a startup mode and and try new things, evaluate them, adapt them implement them or discard them and then try another thing. And we have a lot of information continuously from the customer to see if it works or not works. We don’t have to, to be betting ourselves in, in, in our own knowledge or something to impose something. Okay.

Alex Krøger
Perfect. So big thanks, Manuel. And one last thing, people would like to connect with you, where could they find you?

Manuel Rodriguez
Well as to find that any anyone in their social media is probably their best dentist area. So the I don’t know if you don’t provide any info, my link LinkedIn profile is Manuel Rodriguez, high form contract, they will find me on my Twitter handle. It’s a minute erode ma n u e, r o t. So that’s the quickest part from their own. They can come to my help telephone or whatever. Wonderful, wonderful, happy to help anybody.

Alex Krøger
Perfect. So big thanks for your time, Manuel. And really, really appreciate it. So yeah, hope to see you face to face soon. And yeah, to look

Manuel Rodriguez
to to share that coffee. We don’t have time to do that. Yeah, thank you very much. Thank you once again for the opportunity. I really enjoyed this.