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Primark – Learning Lessons from the High Street

News of high street brands fighting to stay afloat is unfortunately becoming more frequent, with the media regularly bringing our attention to well-known retailers and their struggles, including Debenhams and House of Fraser. On the other hand, there are some brands thriving on the high street, such as Primark. I believe we can take learnings from the high street and effectively apply these in the professional services world.

First, we need to understand how retailers, businesses, and professional services can relate to each other by being categorized into three headings:

  • Relevant – open minded, innovative, reading customer behavior and pro-active
  • Momentary – competing for the moment, reactive to market conditions
  • Irrelevant – zero observation leading to ignorance of customer behaviors

In my opinion, many high street brands can currently be categorized within the momentary bracket, but many are very quickly heading toward becoming irrelevant. Primark is one high street brand bucking this trend. Whether you shop there or not, it is clear we can learn plenty from their story, with profits rising 25%, as reported in March 2019.

Their continued growth goes against many forecasts of high street store closures affecting major brands. We may look at the rise of Primark and suggest the growth is related to their low prices, but that’s too simple. Bear in mind, two of their main competitors, New Look and Select, are both fighting to survive.

Reading an article written by Gabby Hinsliff within The Guardian, it establishes how Primark is well known for not selling online as it’s not cost effective for their business model, making a store visit essential for their customers. I have talked plenty about brands like Debenhams remaining momentary or reacting to the market conditions. These brands fail to read customer behavior, and I believe that to be true for many high street brands. Primark, however, understands their audience and understands trends and the application of technology to their business in order to deliver a “Retail Experience.” Primark identifies their competitors as H&M, M&S, and Next but more appropriately, they identify their target market and their behaviors.

Primark has managed to convert their customers into influencers by installing a “snap-and-share” room in their flagship Birmingham store. This initiative allows people to take in as many clothes as they want, select music and lighting, then film or photograph themselves on their phones before uploading it all to Snapchat, Twitter, and various other channels. For a little investment in floor space, Primark has blended the traditional and new digital channels and made shopping a social experience.

Understanding their customers, Primark has also added a café, a nail bar, and various additional experiential elements, all catering toward the demands and needs of their customers. As a brand, they have innovated to remain relevant, while the rest of the high street either remained momentary or became irrelevant. Brands that have, or are, becoming irrelevant close their minds to the idea that their customer is constantly changing and are failing to address trends through the technology available to them.

Primark goes beyond focusing on experiences and is investing in what we, as consumers, now demand—ethical behavior. Water fountains replacing plastic bottles, sustainable cotton clothing, and eco-friendly glitter are just some examples. Most importantly, they’re actively delivering on what we all now demand as we start to consider our environment and climate.

For law firms to remain relevant, they need to begin to focus on improving the experience which will be the key differentiator between their competitors. A Customer 2020 report states consumers will view experience as more important than product and price by next year. This is crucial to consider. Your product is the service you offer; your legal expertise is not in question. Law firms need to consider experience as what happens when a prospect finds you, what do they experience throughout a transaction, and what level of aftercare do you offer. Firms need to question what elements can be digital for the benefit of clients and the firm.

The demand from consumers for an experience and ethical behavior in the future will apply to products and services far beyond the high street, vehicle purchases, and travel arrangements. Undoubtedly, demands will apply to professional services, legal services, and beyond. Consumers will want less paper; they’ll want improved technology; and they’ll want to feel that they have had a good experience.

The reality is, firms paying attention to the experiential demands of their consumers and using tech to overcome ethical experiential situations will be relevant, successful, and here for many years to come.


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