Regardless of age or profession, every citizen in a small town understands retail’s fundamental principles: trust, word of mouth and network.

As Amazon, voice-controlled devices, and smart homes change the way consumers and retail interact, these fundamental principles of human interaction will continue to become more important.

Here are three old practices that will enjoy renewed importance in the year to come.


As technology simplifies and expands our reach, it will simultaneously make our interpersonal interactions more important. Social media has captured our attention because of its ability to so quickly convey timely information, both positive (flash sales, new product launches, etc.) and negative (bad reviews, recalls, etc.).

However, the importance of social media notwithstanding, it is critical for physical shop owners to double down on the in-person experience.

Whether we run a flower shop or grocery store, the community that walks in to our business every day deserve our priority. To do so, we have to figure out what it is we offer them that they would miss if we were gone.

Is it convenience? Service? Product line? Seth Godin, the master of all things marketing, notes simply in this Entrepreneur article and his new book: “This is Marketing,” that we must ensure we are not “hunting” for attention, but rather working to “attract” it.

Thus, first we must figure out what differentiates us to our core customers and build on the characteristics that continue to attract them.

Word of Mouth

The next step is to leverage both social media and our core customer base to maximize word of mouth.

One excellent way brick-and-mortar stores can do this that others cannot is by emphasizing the differentiator that is a physical storefront. In other words, to get people to drive instead of surf, our stores must provide a compelling experience.

Looking to the extremes can provide hints and trends as to best practices in this area. For example, Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, is adamant that her core product, cupcakes, are best when experienced in-person, in the shop.

She has likened visiting one of her stores to a pilgrimage and instead of shipping cupcakes, Sprinkles only distributes a limited number of mixes. This reinforces the importance of both her core product and her storefronts.

Thus, the next step: get clear on ways to make the in-person experience definable, unique and memorable so that we can continue to reinforce it to our core customers and in our social media.


Finally, rethinking our networks is another basic worth revisiting. Like those small-town principles, there may be local relationships tarnished by something done long ago; relationships never started because of some now-forgotten slight; or new roads not taken simply because they are new.

In each case, to maximize the impact of the in-person experience, we have to reconsider our current network and look in both old and new places for ways to expand partnerships, referrals and other mutually beneficial relationships.

The bottom line is: while technology continues to propel us into more relationships, faster; the underlying retail trend for 2019 will be the focus on optimizing our storefronts’ in-person relationship differentiators to strengthen the mutually beneficial relationships we have with our customers.