Winning in retail is a marathon. Here are five killer approaches to winning in a crowded retail environment.

It has never been harder to win in retail as buyers are under tremendous pressure to maximise revenue and profits, while an ever-increasing number of brands are vying to get their products on the shelf. The situation has become so bad that some CEOs have even considered ditching retail in favour of a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model.

While that might seem appealing, the reality is that winning in retail is a marathon and not a spring. But this doesn't mean that you must go it all alone. With that in mind here are five killer approaches to winning in a crowded retail environment.

1) Connect with Your Customers

Here's the deal -- your customers don't care about your data and analytics team or investments in social media. Instead, they want you and your brand to connect with their wants and needs on a human level.

Yes, you probably need your data and analytics and social media to make this happen. But your customers don't want to feel like they are being targeted by an algorithm.

Part of this starts with not taking yourself or your company too seriously. Show your customers that while what you do is important you also have a sense of humor. This doesn't mean that you should shirk commitments to quality and safety. Rather you should highlight the people behind the brand.

Approaches include integrating factoids about team members - especially those on the front line. These factoids shouldn't be just what they do at the company but what makes them tick. In this way, your customers will see your brand and its product on their local retailer as something which mirrors them.

2) Don't Use Social Media Just to Sell

This is something that a lot of companies get wrong as they see social media as simply another channel to push advertisements and promotions. While this is probably going to be part of your social media strategy, just selling is missing an opportunity to have a conversation with your customers.

Simply talking with your customers can be a cheaper and more effective way to advertise. The reason is simple. Once you start having a two-way conversation with your customers you can better understand what motivates them and in turn, your customers may even become ambassadors for your product.

This focus on building relationships can pay massive dividends over the long-term as you no longer need to spend precious resources on mass marketing but can use the same money to improve your products, offer new products, or even offer targeted offerings to customers based on what they want.

3) Forget Celebrities

While there was a time when celebrity endorsements helped to propel brands to great heights, the game is changing, and today's consumers want an authentic experience, not something which is contrived.  Another benefit to this approach is that it forces decision-makers to talk to the people beyond the numbers providing actionable insights.

One of the best ways to make this happen is to rely on online tools that can monitor sentiment about your company and its products.  Another way to collaborate with bloggers who can not only provide candid stories about how your products help them but can help you to reach your target audience in ways paid celebrity endorsements never could.

4) Focus on the Details

It's easy for products to become wallpaper in a crowded retail environment as everything is lined up neatly on shelves. While this is good for the retailers, it poses a challenge for your brand as you want to stand out from the crowd.

As such you want to focus on the details. This includes your packaging, POP materials, and everything else which can help your product stand out. Custom hang tags are a great way to differentiate products and attract customer attention by including eye-catching designs and unique stringing options.

5) Go from Strength to Strength

If you have an advantage, then you want to build on it. After all, why would you let your competitors gain ground on you? As such, you want to focus on what works best for your brand and then find ways to accentuate them.

In this way, you can optimise your advantages and continue to build on them. The thinking goes like this; while something is working today, there is no guarantee it will work tomorrow. However, it also doesn't mean that you should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Instead, you want to continue to find ways to go from strength to strength rather than continually needing to rebuild your strategy from the ground up. In this way, you can maintain the momentum needed to win in a crowded retail environment.