Quick quiz: What do Toys R Us, Radio Shack, and Claire's have in common?

Aside from declaring Chapter 11 (Radio Shack did it twice), each retailer committed the cardinal sin of ceding the personal customer relationship to the cloud (Think: Amazon, eBay, etc.). They also completely neglected the immense sales potential within a five-mile radius of each and every one of their stores. 

Aside from a brief stint serving up banana splits at the Teaneck, NJ, Dairy Queen, I'd be the first to admit I am NOT a retail strategist. 

But I happen to represent someone who is: Peter Weedfald, SVP Sales & Marketing Home Appliances, SHARP Electronics Marketing Company of America.

Weedfald is in charge of an innovative program for Sharp that focuses on partnering with retailers to help them delight customers who live in close proximity to them. Whatever business you are in, the strategic principles of this program can improve sales in almost ANY industry by combining the best aspects of the cloud and good old superior customer service.

1. Harness the power of good data plus great employees

Leverage the best that data analytics has to offer and combine it with a superb in-store experience. Companies like Amazon and eBay have disrupted traditional retail because they gather and parse so much customer data and use it to truly personalize the shopping experience. You can succeed by doing this on the local level, laying claim to your local customer base's data to determine their wants and needs.

The best way to do so is to find out everything you possibly can about the mom who enters your store looking for a great deal on steam ovens. Or by asking the single parent who is trying to find the ideal microwave for his college-bound son about his kid's likes and dislikes. You can incent them to offer this information through tactics like loyalty programs, but also through traditional interaction with store employees.

Store staff needs to be trained from day one to seek out these psychographic nuggets from customers. Using this data, you must go out of your way to not only surprise and delight a local customer with roses on her wedding anniversary, but also by greeting the single parent as a long lost friend the next time he sets foot on your property. In other words, "own" each and every relationship within a five-mile radius.

Look at what Nordstrom's is doing. Announced last fall, the company known for its customer service decided that a smaller local store in Los Angeles would fulfill that high-touch promise it was known for in a new - and maybe better - way than its traditional stores. Nordstrom Local offers a new convenient experience that blends the brand's promise with how people are shopping today.

2. Execute strategic change at lightning speed

If you think you're keeping pace with change, think again. In order to master the super-charged benefits of combining a cloud mentality with a five-mile radius strategy, you need to move quickly to make these happen:

  • Retrain your in-store sales force and teach them how to treat people as human beings.
  • Make sure each and every employee understands and memorizes your brand promise. Hint: If your brand promise isn't focused on factors like "service" and "happy customers," you're already in trouble.
  • Make sure the final "three-foot" greeting between the customer and your salesperson is a world-class experience. 
  • Enter every single nugget of information on each customer into a store's "data lake" in order to surprise and delight shoppers with tailored e-mails wishing them a happy birthday and suggesting a new purchase based on their previous buying habits.
  • Master search engine optimization and search engine marketing at the hyper-local level. If you manufacture the finest, handcrafted watches in Oshkosh, make sure that fact is front and center when someone living down the street decides to Google the phrase "handcrafted watches."

Weedfald's five-mile radius strategy isn't rocket science, but it works. Many Sharp retailers with whom he's partnered have experienced significant increases in local sales as a direct result. 

I'm not 100-percent sure my long-gone Dairy Queen would have survived if they'd have partnered with Weedfald, but I'm confident a parking lot wouldn't be occupying that space today if it had.