Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. –Vera Nazarian
Reading is an endeavor every entrepreneur — particularly those who sell products in person — should undertake on a regular basis. Adding to your base of knowledge and honing your skills not only broadens your horizons, but it can also help you run your business more effectively and efficiently.
In the ever-evolving world of retail, no one has the luxury of standing still. Professional development is key to shedding light on new techniques and technologies, keeping up with trends, and understanding where the industry is headed.
But stretched-thin entrepreneurs only have so much time between their day-to-day tasks to dedicate to this kind of reading. So, if you’re going to crack open a book, your best bet is to spend time between the lines of a high-impact read that offers you some valuable insights.
Based on current best-sellers and some long-standing industry favorites, we’ve rounded up a few must-have books to add to your to-read list (in no particular order).
1. The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism, by Doug Stephens
My sense in talking with business executives across North America was that many believed that what we were going through in the retail industry was a ‘bad cycle’ being driven largely by the economic turmoil of 2008.
Yes, the retail landscape is changing — and many of these shifts are seismic, according to author and retail advisor Doug Stephens.
His book “The Retail Revival” documents the rise of a new era of consumerism, which is leading to a complete redefinition of retail. The book offers an insider’s unique perspective on how massive demographic and economic shifts, as well as historic levels of technological and media disruption, are permanently altering this industry. He also examines how these across-the-board changes have reshaped consumer behavior.
2. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh
Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins.
Online shoe retailer Zappos has long been lauded for its positive company culture and commitment to high standards of customer service. In this audiobook, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh discusses his motivation to improve the lives of his employees, customers, vendors, and investors using anecdotes from his own experiences.
In addition to running through Zappos’ core values and offering a deeper understanding of what has helped make the retailer successful, Hsieh also offers practical takeaways and actionable insights for other retailers and entrepreneurs who hope to duplicate these accomplishments.
3. The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
Develop the skill of observation. Question the obvious and you will discover many hidden insights. What seems to be obvious often is not.
Businessweek named Don Norman one of the “world’s most influential designers,” and the author has poured many of his insights about industrial design into this tiny tome.
Poor product design can make even the most intelligent among us feel inept. When we fumble while figuring out which light switch or oven burner to turn on, or whether to push, pull, or slide a door, the fault doesn’t lie with our ineptitude — but in fact, with poor design. Norman’s book, “The Design of Everyday Things,” tackles the topic of such designs that ignore user experience and principles of cognitive psychology. The problems he highlights range from ambiguous and hidden controls to arbitrary relationships between controls and functions, coupled with a lack of feedback or other assistance and unreasonable demands on memorization. “The Design of Everyday Things” shows that good, usable design is possible and reminds us to keep design and users in mind when creating products.
4. The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World's Toughest Marketplace, by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart
We are entering what we call retailing’s Wave IV, in which its leaders, grappling with a new, fully birthed technology era, are attempting to address the enormous challenges it brings...
In “The New Rules of Retail,” retail industry gurus Robin Lewis and Michael Dart explain how unprecedented consumer power, enabled by technology and globalization, is revolutionizing retail. They warn that survival in these dynamic times called for a business model based on three distinct competencies: pre-emptive, perpetual distribution; a neurological customer connection; and total control of the value chain.
The years that followed this forward-looking book’s publication have seen many of these predictions come to fruition. In this updated edition, the authors revisit timeless case studies like Ralph Lauren and Sears, as well as recent retail upstarts like Trader Joe's, Lululemon, and Warby Parker, to assess how retailers must continue to evolve in the era of ecommerce, data mining, and tiered distribution. They also identify the five current trends that are currently driving consumer demand, including technology integration and channel consolidation, as exemplified by Jeff Bezos at Amazon.
5. Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition, by Guy Kawasaki
I meet companies every day who say, 'well we're software services, and we're also consulting...' And you know what, it's hard to do any one of those things, try doing four.
Any list of entrepreneurial reads would be remiss if it didn’t include one of Guy Kawasaki’s fantastic volumes. Not only is this edition full of great insights from a renowned Silicon Valley leader, but you’ll find yourself regularly chuckling as you eagerly turn the page. Irreverent to the core, this renowned innovator has poured many of his insights from his quarter century of success as an entrepreneur, evangelist, venture capitalist, and all-around guru, into more than a dozen books. And “Reality Check” is no exception.
In his 2008 book, Kawasaki provides an all-in-one guide for starting and operating great organizations that stand the test of time and ignore passing fads in business theory. His book collects, updates, and expands the best entries from his popular blog and features his inimitable take on everything from effective e-mailing to sucking up to preventing "bozo explosions."
6. BUYOLOGY: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, by Martin Lindstrom
When we brand things, our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are.
How much do we know about why we buy? What truly influences our buying decisions in world so full of white noise? Is it that eye-grabbing advertisement, a catchy slogan, or an infectious jingle? Or do our buying decisions take place below the surface, within our subconscious minds?
In BUYOLOGY, Dutch author Martin Lindstrom explores and attempts to what triggers consumer buying behavior. Lindstrom, who was voted one of Time Magazine's most influential people of 2009, crawls inside the head of consumers as he presents his findings from a groundbreaking, three-year, $7 million neuromarketing study. This cutting-edge experiment peered inside the brains of 2,000 volunteers from all around the world as they encountered various ads, logos, commercials, brands, and products. For those retailers who are interested in the psychology of what sells, this is definitely a must-read reference.
7. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, by Barry Schwartz
... the fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.
Whether we're buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a retirement plan, everyday decisions — both big and small — have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.
As such, many consumers now suffer from choice overload. The inundation of options sets many of us up for unrealistic expectations before we even make any decisions. Additional symptoms include anxiety, ongoing stress, feeling paralyzed, and an inability to make a decision. In “The Paradox of Choice,” author Barry Schwartz highlights the point at which choice — which is hailed as the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish — becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being.
Throughout the course of this accessible read, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice — from the flood of daily mundane decisions to the deeply profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs — has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse, which supports the argument that retailers can help consumers grappling to choose by offering a highly curated selection of products.Retailer Reads Giveaway