What do you mean by retail environment? A retail marketing environment consists of the external actors and forces that affect the retailers ability to develop and maintain successful transactions and relationships with its target customers. We can distinguish between the retailers’ micro environment and macro environment. The macro environment consists of legal, social, economic and technological forces.
The first environmental fact of interest to retailers is population because people make up markets. Retailers are keenly interested in the size of the population, its geographical distribution, density, mobility trends, age distribution and social ethnic and religious structure. Demographic structure is seldom static for long and changes in its composition often test the residency of a marketing firm. Further, these changes influence the behaviour of consumers which, in turn, will have a direct impact in the retailer’s business. The ripples of these changes will reach the organisation forcing it to alter or amend the existing marketing practices in vogue. In short, Retail firms, will have to continuously measure the changes – qualitative as well as quantitative – that are taking place in the population structure. To avoid negative consequences brought on by active consumer groups, a retailer must communicate with consumers, anticipate problems, respond to complaints and make sure that the firm operates properly.
Retail marketing decisions are substantially impacted by developments in the political / legal environment. This environment is composed of laws, government agencies and pressure groups that influence and constrain various organisations and individuals in society. Legislation affecting retail business has steadily increased over the years. The legislation has a number of purposes. The first is to protect from each others. So laws are passed to prevent unfair competition. The second purpose of Government regulation is to protect consumers from unfair retail practices. Some firms, if left alone, would adulterate their products, tell lies in their advertising, deceive through their packages and bait through their prices. Unfair consumer practices have been defined and are enforced by various agencies. The third purpose of Government Regulation is to protect the larger interest of society against unbridled business behaviour. The retail marketing executive needs a good working knowledge of the major laws protecting competition consumers and the larger interests of society.
In recent years, the concept of social responsibility has entered into the marketing literature as an alternative to the marketing concept. The implication of socially responsible marketing is that retail firms should take the lead in eliminating socially harmful products such as cigarettes and other harmful drugs etc. There are innumerable pressure groups such as consumer activists, social workers, mass media, professional groups and others who impose restrictions on marketing process and its impact may be felt by retailers in doing their business. The society that people grow up in shapes their basic beliefs, values and norms. People live in different parts of the country may have different cultural values – which has to be analysed by retail business people/firm. This will help them to reorient their strategy to fulfill the demands of their consumers. Retail marketers have a keen interest in anticipating cultural shifts in order to spot new marketing opportunities and threats. Several firms such as ORG, MARG etc. offer social / cultural forecasts in this connection. For example, marketers of foods, exercise equipment and so on will want to cater to this trend with appropriate products and communication appeals.
Retail markets consist of purchasing power as well as people. Total purchasing power is a function of current income, prices, savings and credit availability. Marketers should be cognizant of major trends in the economic environment. The changes in economic conditions can have destructive impacts on business plans of a firm. Economic forecasters looking ahead through the next decade are likely to find their predictions clouded by the recurrent themes of shortages, rising costs and up and down business cycles. These changes in economic conditions provide marketers with new challenges and threats. How effectively these challenges could be converted into opportunities depend on well-thought-out marketing programmes and strategies. Further, no economy is free from the tendency of variation between boom and depression, whether it is a free economy or controlled economy. In any event, economic swings affect marketing activity, because they affect purchasing power. Retail marketing firms are susceptible to economic conditions, both directly and through the medium of market place. For example, the cost of all inputs positively respond to upward swing of economic condition – which will affect the output price and consequently affect the sales. The effect on consumers also influences the marketing through changes in consumer habits. This is an indirect influence. For example, in the event of increase in prices, consumers often curtail or postpone their expenditures. Conversely, during time of fall in prices, consumers are much less conscious of small price differences and would buy luxury and shopping products.
The most dramatic force shaping people’s lives is technology. Advances in technology are an important factor which affect detail marketers in two ways. First, they are totally unpredictable and secondly, adoption of new technology often is prevented by constraints imposed by internal and external resources. At the same time, it should be remembered that technological progress creates new avenues of opportunity and also poses threat for individual firms. Technology has helped retailers to measure the products with modern weighing machines. Earlier, they have used balances which could not measure the merchandise correctly. With the help of weighing machine, products can be measured with the result customer satisfaction can be enhanced. In the following areas where technology have been extensively used.
- Packing of the products
- Printing the name of the shop on the product visibly
- Modern refrigerators where merchandise can be used for a long time and
Technological change faces opposition from one group of people-telling that it may lead to retrenchment of employees. But in the long run, this argument may not sustain, retail marketers need to understand the changing technological environment and how new technologies can serve human needs. They need to work closely with research and development people to encourage more consumer oriented research. The retail marketers must be alert to the negative aspects of any innovation that might harm the users and create consumer distrust and opposition.