Business problem turnaround: Obsolete products

June 7, 2017

Is the fear of becoming obsolete keeping you up at night? Even the best products and businesses face a conundrum. How do you stay relevant in a fast-evolving market? You could wait for your product to have a renaissance period ten years from now (the 90s are most definitely back), but that doesn’t seem like the best business plan. While obsolescence can threaten any business, this might be particularly relevant for bookstores, video rental shops, and a host of other retailers who face technological challenges.

Trends come and go, and consumer tastes change faster than you can say “blockbuster.” Nevertheless, you don’t need to completely reinvent the wheel to enjoy a lifelong relationship with your best customers (and bring new fans through the door). Here are some ways you can mitigate the risk of becoming obsolete.

Focus on solving a customer’s problem.

New products are created every day to try to meet the same needs customers have felt for decades. Even as technology changes, the impetus for building that technology remains the same. Don’t lose sight of the core need that your customer is trying to meet.

For example, if you’re a bakery, happiness never goes out of style. There will always be an occasion to celebrate and a moment where a cupcake can solve everything. Rather than trying to push cronuts, think about that little something that’s going to add happiness to your customer’s day. Gather feedback to get to the heart of what your customers are truly looking for, and evolve your business accordingly.

Take it offline.

It might be tempting to rely on social media to reach more customers (and that’s certainly one way to go). However, research shows that customers value experiences when looking to make a purchase. Millennials especially want to feel like they’re a part of something. “Millennials want a customer-centric experience in which they feel wanted and valued. Whether it is in-store or through social media channels, showing interest in these shoppers creates loyalty.”

What’s the best way to create a personalized experience? Take it offline. Host live events for your local community to bring people together. Foster a relationship with like-minded fans, whether you host a book club reading or a live music event. Curate unique experiences that bring people together and bring fresh faces through your door. Consider how you’ll monetize those experiences, too: a 10% discount for book club attendees, perhaps?

Promote your expertise.

Since Netflix changed its rating system from five stars to thumbs up or down, online streamers have been beyond confused. Guess what? If you own a video rental store, that’s a big opportunity for you to promote your expertise. Give customers your recommendations to help them find their next favorite movie, and they’ll love you forever.

If your product is going obsolete, that may be because it’s been around forever. That means you’ve build knowledge in a particular area over the years, and that institutional knowledge is invaluable. Find a way to monetize that insight with a subscription-only newsletter, for example, or by hosting classes in your relevant skill area.

Branch out.

You might be the go-to destination for console video games. Now that consoles are forced to compete with apps and online games, it’s time to evolve. One way to do that is to branch out. What similar, related products can you offer? Is there a way to co-market with another business to continue serving your customer base?

Think of ways you can continue to reach your gamer fans by making it easy for them to patronize your business. Consider hosting profiles that people can sign up to play from, or offering a subscription service for certain online games at a discount. Go omnichannel: some physical bookstores will advertise the fact that you can buy e-books from them, for example. Libraries will offer magazine subscriptions at a discounted rate. There are plenty of creative ways to continue to stay relevant. Think outside the box!

[image: typewriter by Ak~i on flickr]

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