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At a time when shoppers have more options than ever before and online shopping increasingly grows, stores face a new challenge: providing a wide variety of high-quality products along with great shopper service. This is easy online, where they have nearly unlimited storage space and customers can reach support staff via phone or online, but much harder in brick-and-mortar businesses. With this in mind, a growing number of stores are considering renting or buying space in mixed-use developments to ensure they can consolidate operations and meet their shoppers’ needs.

Digital Versus Physical

As demonstrated by Amazon’s recent launch of physical store locations, e-commerce brands today are open to the possibility of brick-and-mortar operations. After all, physical stores can increase brand awareness, decrease the cost of customer acquisition and increase the depth of shopper-brand interactions. But despite this shift, there is still a strong divide between the two structures, and it can be hard for companies to make the transition. Mixed-use real estate, however, helps ensure staffers have the tools they need to support their customers.

Front End Meets Back End

One major way that formerly e-commerce-focused businesses can benefit by moving into a mixed-use development rather than a traditional office/store split is that it allows them to keep front end and back end operations in one place. That means if a staffer who typically handles the shop floor can’t provide the answers to a service question, service staff are just down the hall or on another floor. This set-up can also make it easier to train employees to climb the corporate ladder. Skilled retail employees can split time between administrative office roles and the shop floor without splitting time between two different business locations.

Mixed-Use Spaces

For businesses interested in testing out a mixed-use operational space, this is an exciting moment. That’s because the real estate industry is developing more of these properties, with single structures combining a variety of functional spaces. But, they do need to understand the different requirements of each space.

When looking for a property, then, businesses should consider commercial office space for back end operations with easy access to front end retail space. There should be a seamlessness to this shared construction; though it may not have been built for use by a single company, you should be able to adapt it to this kind of use. You should also be able to negotiate a decreased lease rate in return for leasing a larger share of the property.

Finding Your Place

In addition to assessing the individual spaces your business will use, businesses looking to take up space in a mixed-use development should consider what other companies occupy the development. Ideally, you want to share a development with businesses that will cross-fertilize yours, whether that means joining a diverse group of apparel and accessory brands in a single complex or creating a plaza filled with health-oriented brands like health food stores, medical centers and gyms.

Grocery stores, which have historically struggled to break into the e-commerce space, may find that the growth of local delivery services make mixed-development spaces more useful than otherwise expected. This would allow them to handle shipping and support for local distribution services in the same space as the actual grocery store.

Ultimately, stores that will thrive in a mixed-used development are those that want to improve shoppers’ in-store experience. By rearranging the relationship between the front end and back end of the business, administrators develop a stronger commitment to the customer service side of the process, while front end professionals come to understand the processes that help the business operate. Mixed-use construction may not solve all the problems businesses face, but they can create a cohesion that benefits everyone involved.

About the writer: Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter @LarryAlton3 and on LinkedIn.

Join the #retail, #ConnectedJourney & #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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On any day, you need many return customers for your retailing business to thrive. A report by Bain & Company concluded that the average repeat buyer spends 67 percent more on a specific business over time; thus, bringing to light the significance of paying particular attention to this customer segment. That said, what exactly makes repeat consumers so profitable?

  • They are more likely to shop with you repeatedly.
  • It is easier to sell to a return buyer.
  • They spend more during the busy season.
  • Repeat shoppers market your business to a broader demographic.
  • They spend more each time they purchase from you.

As a retail merchant, you can implement various strategies to ensure you convert a good number of visiting shoppers to repeat customers. In this post, I have handpicked eight best practices you can implement right away.

Keep Communicating with Customers

Shoppers with an emotional connection to a brand have a 306 percent better lifetime value than customers who are simply satisfied upon interacting with a particular business. Therefore, you need to go out of your way to ensure you build strong relationships with all new customers. One way you can achieve this without much hassle is by keeping in touch with your customers.

Make a point of informing your customers about promotions, special sales, appointments and so forth. You can also send out personalized messages such as happy birthday emails/texts, etc. Doing this shows you are keen on being with them throughout their journey, thus eventually increasing your repeat clients.

Develop a Loyalty Program

According to an InMoment report, 61 percent of loyal buyers will do whatever it takes to shop from their preferred brands. Also, 60 percent of a company’s existing customers will frequently purchase while 50 percent will buy more products. Now, from these statistics, it is easy to see that customer loyalty is right for any business.

So, what can you do to boost consumer loyalty? Create and implement a rewards program. Aside from getting customers to stick around, such programs provide a brand with useful data highlighting customer spending habits that enable merchants to personalize their approach when marketing directly to customers.

It is necessary to combine loyalty programs with customized marketing because 77 percent of customers opine that rewards ought to be personalized. You can manage and implement customer loyalty programs using dedicated SMS service providers.

Also, it is essential to understand your customer base to ensure you run effective loyalty programs. For instance, 66 percent of millennials prefer an element of surprise and interactivity in these programs, compared to only 33 percent of Baby Boomers.

All reward programs should be provided on an opt-in basis. Customers always want to feel they have control.

Practice Word of Mouth Marketing

Just how useful is word of mouth advertising? A staggering 90 percent of people trust and purchase from brands recommended by friends. Today, word of mouth is more than merely informing someone about a specific product or service; it’s more of an approval.

When your existing customers post something about your service, it is important to comment on the same. These messages show you appreciate them and they will be more willing to share their experiences with others both online and in-person. Now, even if one person does this, they will at least help you attract a new customer.

Retain Customers by Implementing Multi-Channel Distribution

Today’s customers do not always interact with brand’s first-party online presence when shopping. “About 86 percent of online shoppers purchase through channels other than the specific e-commerce stores. A buyer’s journey may commence upon seeing a post on Instagram, Facebook or Tweet that stirs their interest,” says Andrew Ortiz, Marketing Specialist at Skillroads.  

In this world of severe digitalization and never ending switching on- and offline, a majority of shoppers feel a great need to interact in real life with the products they are intending to buy. A study conducted by RetailDive indicates that 56 percent of shoppers touch and feel products in stores before buying them online.

So, be sure to provide different ways for previewing, researching, and purchasing of products if you want to convert one-time shoppers to regulars. Doing this makes it easy for your customers to find your store in the future for more business.

You can promote your business on various platforms, for instance, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so forth. After that, customers will see your thriving business on a variety of sources and thus be more inclined to do business with you.

Win Customers Over by Telling the Story of Your Brand

Branding is all about the image a business imprints on the minds and hearts of customers. All buyers want to purchase from brands that share their core values and world views. So, you could start by sharing your mission, vision and basically any other thing your business is all about. Doing this is essential given that about 64 percent of surveyed consumers say having shared values with particular brands is the main reason they stick with them.

When branding, it pays to be careful. You need to stay true to all religious, social and other convictions you align yourself with. Also, you need to be consistent to give your brand power. Do not try to play for opposing sides by saying this to one customer and that to another. Doing this is sure to alienate both.

Retain Your Customers by Following Up

Keeping in touch with your customers after interacting with them is a sure way of winning repeat buyers. You could follow up in say two weeks after purchase to inquire if they are satisfied with your products and to solve any problems they might be facing with your items.

You can keep up with customers via email or text message as per their liking. For instance, an Open Market survey concluded that 75 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 34 would opt for a text-only instead of voice-only communication. However, no matter the channel you use, the point is to ensure you provide your customers with an interactive experience.

Also, try to make your follow-ups worthwhile by using them to cross-sell or up-sell. Aside from that, you can use them to set up new appointments.

Provide a Good Experience to Your Customers

The customer experience (CX) is paramount to driving purchases. CX is expected to outdo both product and price by 2020 in regards to being the key brand differentiator. As such, improving your CX should go top of your priority list if you are to reap the benefits of repeat business. Adopting a customer retention strategy that enhances CX extends way beyond excellent service and encompasses issues such as:

  • Payment options provided by your store
  • Return policy
  • Shipping and/or delivery
  • The speed of finding products

Being a store owner, you ought to ensure all the above issues are straightforward. Customers are prone to avoiding complicated processes and systems. So, make it easy for them to get information about your store, find and purchase products, and return them when necessary.

Get Repeat Customers by Using Social Proof

Your social proof stems from testimonials, reviews and case studies. With good proof, you eliminate the fear in your customers’ minds whenever they want to purchase from you.

As a merchant, it is essential to request content from your customers. See, while they write their reviews or testimonials, they will be re-engaging with you, thus making them more likely to become your loyal customers.

Final Thoughts

Keeping in mind that retaining customers is more fruitful and less straining on your company’s budget, converting first-time customers is essential for a brand’s success. However, it is of utter importance to evolve and adjust your marketing strategies in accordance with our continuously developing world. So, if you were trying traditional methods, it would be a smart decision to shove them aside and implement the excellent strategies highlighted in this post. With time, your business will bond with and eventually convert lots of customers.

About the writer: Alice Berg is a blogger and a career advisor from Bath, UK. She helps people to find their own way in life, gives career advice and guidance, and helps young people to prepare for their careers. You can find Alice on Twitter and Medium.  

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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The latest edition of the RetailNext Retail Performance Pulse has been published and is available for download, providing an overview of brick-and-mortar store performance for the retail month of April 2019 (April 7 through May 4 on the industry’s 4-5-4 calendar).

Download the Retail Performance Pulse for April 2019 store results.

After a rather difficult early spring, retailers enjoyed a relatively strong April showing in brick-and-mortar stores. While shopper traffic declined 5 percent as measured year-over-year, sales dropped only 2.7 percent, the lowest monthly decline in physical store sales since July 2018.

Sales were buoyed by strong results in conversion, average transaction value and shopper yield/sales per shoppers, demonstrating again shoppers’ strong intent to purchase when shopping offline. Conversion increased 0.1 points, ATV was up 3.2 percent and shopper yield climbed 3 percent. For ATV, it was the ninth consecutive month of positive increases.

With shoppers preparing for the Easter celebration, April posted its best results during the second week of the month as net sales, traffic, ATV and transactions were all up year-over-year, more than making up for major declines across traffic, sales and transactions over the last week of the month.

Regionally, warm weather in the middle of the month helped spur shoppers to stores ahead of Easter, although plenty of April showers ahead of May flowers affected shopping trips across much of the county. The Midwest region was the highest performing region, posting a substantial 12.5 percent increase in shopper yield. In general, the Northeast and South regions underperformed across all metrics.

For a full reporting of physical store performance for the month of April 2019, please download your copy of the Retail Performance Pulse today.

Join the #retail, #ConnectedJourney and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter at @RayHartjen and @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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In celebration of National Small Business Week, the RetailNext blog is focusing on mom-and-pop shops today. Historically, mom-and-pop shops have been known as family-owned businesses, especially those who operate drug stores and pharmacies. Today, they include various kinds of businesses, including bookstores, restaurants, insurance agencies and more.

There might be a common assumption that mom-and-pop shops are obsolete in today’s retail world or economy, especially with the rise in e-commerce. However, many statistics point to how some commonly held beliefs may not be completely true. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, about 90 percent of American businesses are family-owned or controlled. While this also includes larger companies, these businesses account for half of the nation’s employment and half of the Gross National Product.

In addition, it may seem mom-and-pop shops are not relevant to millennials and Gen-Z shoppers as well. However, this perception isn’t completely true, as 98 percent of Gen-Z would rather shop in-store, and 40 percent of millennials would shop in-store to support local businesses. It’s not that every mom-and-pop concept will succeed, but that their connections with local communities and personalized shopping experience are what today’s shoppers crave. As such, mom-and-pops need to focus on providing such an experience while reducing friction in other parts of their shopping experience.

To learn more about tips for mom-and-pop shops and how to thrive in today’s retail climate, check out the infographic below from Fundera, “7 Tips to Help Your Mom-and-Pop Shop Succeed against Big Retailers.”

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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Today, shoppers expect a quality, consistent experience from retailers whether they are engaging them in person or online. This means no negative surprises, compatibility and superior customer service across all “platforms.” A single bad or confusing experience can not only break a bond with a valuable customer, but can also lead to a string of negative reviews.

It is well worth a retailer’s time, effort and thoughts to make sure both in person and online experiences are aligned. Here are some thoughts to consider.

Consistent Branding Efforts

Shoppers are less likely to conduct business with a company or store than they are with a brand, and nothing can hurt branding more than inconsistent messages and themes. This means your online and brick-and-mortar branding and image must be consistent to be most effective. This involves more than just messaging. Fonts, logos, colors and the feel of your online presence should be consistent with your bricks-and-mortar locations. This also helps shoppers feel more comfortable with your brand no matter where they come across it. An extreme example of this would be a business that positions itself as modern or high-tech, but – while its physical store is sleek and technologically advanced – its website design does not look far removed from the early 2000s.

Create a More Omnichannel Experience

It is interesting how consumers see less of a difference between dealing with a brand either online or in-person, yet some retailers still maintain distinctions between the two interactions. In many cases, this even involves a customer’s payment options. If a consumer’s online purchases help indicate purchase preferences, those should be able to be utilized when making an in-store purchase. Perhaps an in-store purchase can trigger an email offering discounts on like-minded products online. Likewise, an online purchase could result in an email “in-store” purchase coupon. If you are not using all the customer data available to you for both online and in-person experiences, you are not using all your resources.

Align Sales and Promotions

If you are going to conduct and promote a Fourth of July Sale, Back to School Bargains or Black Friday Specials, strongly consider advertising and offering them both online and in-store. The fine print may not matter to a shopper who is either disappointed or who feels “tricked” by a limited promotion through one platform. Some potential customers who see a promotion while driving by may visit the website when they get home. Alternatively, some may choose to go to the store to ask an employee about an offering they saw on the business’ website or social media.

This is not to say that promotions cannot be used to promote a specific, desired action. If a special promotion is meant to drive traffic to either the brick-and-mortar store or website, promotional materials and ads should be extremely clear in their intent to avoid any confusion.

Enable Staff to Bridge Gaps

Too often employees are trained strictly to function within their silo. What if an employee could suggest that an item not available at one location is available to reserve/pre-order online? What if a sales agent could notify a customer of a contest or raffle taking place on the store’s social media page? Perhaps an employee knows who to call or email if a customer calls the store to complain about a broken feature on the website. Training and having easily-accessible resources for staff members can translate to a cohesive operation for the company and for the customer.

Recognize the Power of Voice Search

As voice technology continues to improve, more and more shoppers are discovering the items they want they can get with a simple voice command. If you want to make sure these high-intent purchasers are directed to your brand either in-person or online, retailers should become familiar with and begin to invest in geotargeting search marketing. Exploring available assets like Google’s Location Extensions can help ensure your business location and website will show up higher in location-based voice searches. Keep in mind we are still in the infancy of this technology and as it becomes more common in our homes and cars, it will be increasingly critical in search marketing.

Unify Customer Services

One of the most challenging hurdles for retailers in breaking down the barriers between their online services and in-store experiences is that they are set-up as separate entities. This can cause problems for consumers in multiple ways:

  • A difference in how products are returned
  • A difference of in-store credits or refunds
  • Consumers may wish to exchange a product ordered online at a local store
  • Consumers may not have kept an original shipping box to return an item
  • Potentially different pricing

Far too often online shoppers returning an item to a brick-and-mortar location are made to feel as if they are doing something incorrectly. Brands should work on erasing these boundaries to make the shopping and return process as seamless as possible. Whether an issue initiated online or in-store, retailers can benefit by building a brand that just “takes care of it.”

Many in-store and online shopping experiences were initially set up as separate entities because we just didn’t know any better. Today, big data, apps, more robust online options and customer relationship software can help us better connect with shoppers and build brands more seamlessly through various platforms. Consumers don’t want, and sometimes don’t make a distinction between an online and in-person shopping experience, and businesses shouldn’t either.

About the writer: Gary Ashton is the CEO and owner of The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage. His RE/MAX real estate team is #1 in Nashville, Tennessee and now #2 in the world.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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Are you seeing profits plummet? Just slap the “sale” label on them and you’ve got yourself a spike in sales!

Unfortunately, too many retailers, both online and off, make price promotions their primary marketing strategy when it comes to spurring sales. However, this tactic often doesn’t work well – for both parties. Your shoppers and customers won’t come in as huge a crowd as they once did, and you won’t profit from discounts.

Why discounts aren’t appealing anymore

Have you noticed your discount participation has dropped? And, the sale spikes you do have do not translate to long-term success? Here are a couple of reasons why this can happen.

Discounts are everywhere

Long gone are the days when you could dominate the market by offering a discount on a product. This strategy is now so overused it is often completely devalued in the eyes of consumers.

The best way discounts work is by being exclusive – you offer a bargain that shoppers won’t find elsewhere. Then, a sense of urgency kicks in, and shoppers take action to buy in the moment.

Too often now, that feeling of exclusivity is gone. If an alien arrived on Earth and spent a year here, it would soon learn that if one can wait a couple of months on any fashion collection, the brand will sell it at a huge discount. So, what’s the point of buying it on the day it’s out?

It’s a no-brainer, and most people have long figured it out. Discounts are everywhere, and shoppers don’t have to rush with a purchase. They can always get a discount elsewhere, or at a later time.

You devalue your product

Now, try to imagine yourself in the shoes of your most loyal customers. Once you drop a new collection, they rush in to buy your clothes. They love your product for what it is and don’t need a discount to buy it. They see value in your product.

What if a loyal customer visits your website or store in a month’s time and sees that the nice outfits he paid $200 for now cost only $100? He’d feel betrayed. Why would his favorite brand force him to overpay when it could later afford to sell those same products at half the price?

As a byproduct of repeated discount pricing, even your loyal fan base doesn’t see much value in your products anymore. Imagine what ordinary shoppers think. There’s no reason for them to buy your products now because you’ll eventually put them on sale.

Once you start selling at discounts, you lead your brand down the path of devaluation. You may as well consider cutting all your prices from the very beginning.

Shoppers know what you’re doing

Whether it’s the spread of pop psychology or just learning from observation, people know the purpose of discounts. They know it’s not just a treat from a brand. Most people understand that you wouldn’t be able to sell the product if it were not for the discount.

This makes the value of any discount they see much lower. The problem is in how retailers deploy discounting strategies. It was so effective for short term profits that we moved from offering a discount for liquidating the last items in stock to using discounts as a viable marketing strategy.

As a result, many shoppers know what you’re doing and will buy products spontaneously less often.

Discounts bring in the ‘bad sheep’

If your strategy is slapping the “on sale” label on any item that doesn’t sell as well as you want it to, you’re draining your business of customers. The good ones stop trusting your pricing policy, and the bad ones come in bunches.

This is especially true if you constantly have discounts or are present on many coupon websites. Position yourself as a discount hub, and you will invite bargain seekers, those shoppers who will only buy if there’s a discount. They don’t see value in your product per se, just in the discount itself.

Some niches are less susceptible to this than others. If you’re a paper editor company where quality is crucial and the niche is small, you’ll attract fewer of such customers. If you’re selling beauty products, you just invite failure with continuous discounts.

It’s bad for you

The bottom line is you often can’t get more customers to buy your products with persistent discounting. They don’t feel discounts are worth it anymore. Neither should you.

While this strategy shows some short-term success, you won’t see any long-term profits from it. Worse even, you will see total sales and profit plummet as you destroy the value of your brand with your own hands.

Your customers don’t think discounts are great. It’s time to learn from them.

When to use discounts

Sale pricing used to work, primarily because it created a feeling of urgency. It’s only when shoppers know they are not going to get a particular deal later that they’re going to buy.

The other thing that works with discounts is a feeling of uniqueness and a feeling of getting a real deal. Some people pride themselves on getting a product they want for the lowest price possible. They feel good about it because nobody else can get it. They’re unique.

Today, discounts are far from being unique. They’re somewhat universal, and they’re taken for granted by shoppers.

But discounts can still work. When smart consumer brands introduce a new product to stores, they roll a marketing campaign, rent premium shelf space and offer special introductory pricing. The product is on sale, so lots of people try it.

Then, when the initial stock is sold, the product is taken off the shelves. Shoppers, however, still look for it. Once it’s back on the shelves, they’re eager to buy it at the regular price.

Here’s how you can use discounts old-style to make them work.

Make the first touch

Discounts used to be a way of getting new customers to try your product. If the product was great, customers tended to come back.

Well, this doesn’t work if you present all your products at a discount on a coupon aggregator. Why would a shopper buy something for a full price if she can always return later and buy it at a discount?

Be smart when you are making the first touch. Minimize the number of products first-time buyers can purchase at a discount. While they’re at it, make sure to take their contact information so they know you can help them down the sales funnel.

Finish the sale

Lots of people fill up their carts and/or wish lists but do not proceed with their purchases. Even more people want to buy something from you but are waiting. Maybe they’re considering a different brand, maybe they’re saving up if you sell expensive products. Maybe they’re waiting for a special occasion.

Regardless, give them a reason to buy. When your shopper adds a product to her wish list, she may need just a slight push to make a purchase. Email her and offer a small bargain. You may succeed with as little as a five percent discount.

Make certain you know your customers’ birthdays so you can congratulate them by offering a bargain on something they’ve wanted for a while. This creates a sense of personalization and uniqueness other pricing discounts lack.

What to do in place of discounting

There are ways to grow your sales without discounts. Here’s what you can do if you want to end the discount disaster for good.

  • Offer a gift. Discounts tend to devalue the worth of your product in the minds of shoppers, but they are not the only bargains you can offer your customers. Gifts do not have the implicit messaging. Try offering an inexpensive product relevant to the purchase you’d normally offer a discount on.
  • Engage in influencer marketing. In this era of social media, consumers trust other people’s accounts of buying and using a product. Negotiate a deal with influencers to mention your brand in their work, and offer gift and incentives to influencers and customers who refer customers to your brand.
  • Differentiate. Discounts are often meant to bring in new shoppers, but the problem is they inevitably leave, either after making or purchase or not. Work on differentiating your products and services from competitors and communicate your value proposition in your marketing outreach campaigns – it may be a wiser decision than devaluing your brand by repeated sales.

You can see now there are various and far more effective ways of keeping your revenue and profits up without resorting to continuous sales and discounts. Shoppers simply do not trust continual price cuts nowadays.

Establish a system that will appeal to the shoppers and keep the money flowing at the same time. Study the target audience and work with the trends instead of clinging to the old discounting system in a desperate attempt to attract people to your shop.

About the writer: Mary Steinford has been a bookworm since a very young age. For that reason, she dedicated herself to creative writing, and her daily routine consist of novels, articles, news releases and book reviews. There is nothing more inspirational for her than the opportunity to investigate a new topic.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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So, you’ve gotten your business off the ground and you’re beginning to enjoy the fruits of your labor – congratulations! This is an incredible achievement, and I hope you have taken the opportunity to pause and savor your success with those you care about.

Of course, that pause can’t last for too long – now that you’re moving in the right direction, you’ll want to keep up the momentum and continue growing your business in new ways. This can boost your revenues and ensure the long-term viability of your business.

Below, please find a few tried and tested techniques that will help you grow your retail business in 2019.

Consider new locations

Now that your flagship retail location is a viable business in its own right, you might want to consider taking the capital and experience you have gathered to create another physical location.

This can help you to maximize your profits while also boosting your brand reputation. Naturally, you will want to ensure the move is viable and conduct a range of risk assessments.

If you are wondering how to finance your expansion, there are a range of alternative business financing options available to you. Crowdfunding and cooperatives are such examples. Additionally, you could also consider a business loan from a company like Excel Capital Management, for example.

Develop new sales channels

Your retail store is thriving, but could you perhaps further develop your business offering by leveraging the range of digital tools available to you?

Does your web store need to be developed from the ground up or benefit from some attention? Perhaps you can find a way to list the items you sell on a range of platforms like Uber Eats or Deliveroo.

Could your items work well on Etsy or other digital platforms? Opening new digital sales channels could help your business to thrive and grow in new directions, making use of economies of scale to properly boost your profit margins.

Expand your products

What is your product range looking like? Have you developed it beyond those products you launched with, and is there the space for a new innovation that will build upon the success of your initial product?

You should always be thinking about the way new products can enter your business and make big impacts on your customers. The experience you have developed over the years and your proximity with your customers will be the best guiding lights when it comes to the development of new products.

Get involved on a local level

As a nascent business, you play a unique and constructive role within your local community. There is a tendency among shoppers to appreciate those businesses which do good on a local level and get involved within the community.

Is there a logical and constructive way your business can further expand its roots within your local community? Could your product or service be offered at a local level, or perhaps your staff would like to spearhead or join an initiative to help raise money for a good local cause?

On a practical level, this type of activity helps you to establish your business on a deeper level within your local community and expand your reach. Of course, you’ll also have the wonderful opportunity to use your business to do some good in the world and have a real social impact!

Get serious about feedback

Once of the areas new businesses fail to explore the most is feedback. It’s pretty incredible so many businesses lack the infrastructure to collect and process the feedback from shoppers and customers.

Feedback is essential to guiding your approach and future strategy. As a smaller business, you are uniquely placed to collect this information each day. It can help you to grow and it also demonstrates to your customers that you are a considerate and adaptable company that takes their needs to heart.

You should explore a range of ways to collect both the qualitative and quantitative feedback that can help you to grow your business in a natural and healthy way.

I hope these tips help you to expand your retail business in 2019 – good luck building upon your strong foundations!

About the writer: Chad Otar is the CEO at Excel Capital Management, a pioneer in the Fintech and alternative lending space. He has assisted thousands of business owners in receiving funding over the last 10 years, and is focused on helping one small business at a time achieve access to capital.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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Stuffing your store with all kinds of products is good, but a retailer needs to know how to be more appealing towards shoppers as well. Simply put, more shopper traffic provides more opportunities to maximize your sales.

Retailers often find it difficult however to drive more traffic into their stores. Below are a few proven tips to help solve for this problem.

Train Your Employees

If your store associates are well-trained, then it is a big plus for your store. Once you manage to get shoppers into your store, then it is the job your employees to provide the best possible services. Their duties include:

  • Being well-behaved
  • Guiding shoppers through the store
  • Answering shopper inquiries
  • Providing attentive and prompt responses to visitors’ needs
  • and much more

If all of this is done efficiently, you will be able to retain your customers for a long time.

Design Eye-Catching Displays

Displays are usually the first things people notice about your store. Therefore, make sure you invest enough time and effort to produce creative and unique presentations. Lastly, make your exhibition section as shiny and reflective as possible, as you should consider installing focused lamps, attracting the attention of shoppers even from quite some distance away. Remember, the first impression is often the last impression. Make yours a worthwhile one.

Offer Location-Based Services

Survey the location of your store carefully and offer services and products according to the needs of the people living in the surrounding community. Naturally, people will visit your store more from the area where it is located, so you should keep their preferences in mind.

Introduce Yourself Online

An engaging online presence is so important these days. With consumers and brands so actively engaged on the internet, shoppers might very likely never notice you if you don’t have an online availability.

  • Focus on local SEO so as to effectively target nearby shoppers and increase the chances of getting more foot traffic. After doing a local search, 50 percent of users visit the local business within 24 hours.
  • Social media is one of the most effective platforms to market your business today. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter have revolutionized retail marketing in a short period time. Activate your brand on all these platforms. Apart from marketing, social media is the best place to be in touch with your followers and translate the online engagements into physical engagements.
  • Consider using content service providers like CrowdWriter if you find difficulty engaging your target audience online.

Provide Free Delivery

Just to reinforce the importance of free shipping, 96 percent of people would shop from a store that offers free shipping.

Sometimes, it is difficult to manage the cost of this service. Salary of a rider, fuel of the vehicle, its repair and maintenance – everything costs. If you can’t afford free delivery on every single sale, then make it the part of a decent offer. But, by all means, keep a window open for this facility.

Display Your Best Items at the Window(s)

Whatever product lines you are selling, the best quality of those lines should be made available at the windows of your store. That way, shoppers will find it hard to ignore stepping into the store. Ensure your shop’s windows are clean, effectively decorated to garner attention and engage shoppers, and frequently updated in order to remain fresh for your shoppers – it will send positive vibes about your store to passersby.

Produce a Seminar

If shoppers are fully aware of the benefits of your products, then they are likely to show more interest towards your brand and your offerings. Even if you don’t generate enough revenue initially through event hosting, it will be beneficial in the long run. You can further influence people through seminars by inviting well-reputed figures as guest speakers and presenters.

Offer Free Wi-Fi

Today’s shoppers don’t quite fit in at a place without a Wi-Fi connection. Shopping journeys are connected journeys, with people browsing and comparing, accessing data from different sites, and even sending pictures of shoes, shirts and other products to gauge their friends’ opinions. Plus, if shoppers’ needs are met with internet connectivity, they’ll remain in the store longer, not only providing you more opportunity, but giving your store a busy look as well.

A frequent problem in retail is that a store may have Wi-Fi available, yet shoppers don’t notice its availability and utilize the service. Create visible signage, and ensure the network name and password are both easily readable and simple to enter – long, convoluted passwords will turn shoppers off.

Draft an Email List

Even in this era of social media, emails have maintained their relevance. This landmark highlights the importance of email marketing. On social media, you might have to scroll up and down a lot to find the post, but emails are always on target.

There is email automation software in place which makes it even easier for you to look after your customers. You can schedule reminders for new and old clients accordingly with different offers. Better still, rewarding customers who subscribe to your emails.

Use Influencers & Brand Ambassadors

People tend to believe the words of those who they know and or respect more so than the advertising claims of corporations. Luckily for retailers, there are plenty of people connected to robust, engaged communities. Hire them and use their reputations in your favor. They might charge bit more upfront, but the amount proves to be peanuts in the long run.

Provide social media-friendly settings for spontaneous pictures and posts, mentioning your brand and any relevant hashtags. Moreover, if a celebrity or any social media influencer drops in your store, use her presence for marketing your business – make a request for a short video praising your store and products, and encouraging others to visit. Of course, be sure to respond back to those who mention you on social media, not only expanding the reach of posts, but encouraging influencers to continue to engage your brand.

About the writer: Stella Lincoln holds a master’s degree in marketing and works as a marketing director at AcademistHelp and MHRWriters. She is into writing and writes her own blog at Educator House. The author has a cute pair of puppies.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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From hardware and software technologies that offer detailed analytics to help even the smallest businesses understand trends and traffic to robotic systems that help retail giants like Amazon streamline their services, the long tentacles of Industry 4.0 are reaching deep into retail. Here are five ways Industry 4.0 is poised to change retail.

1. Robotics Speed up Delivery

Robotics in retail is still in the earliest stages of development, which currently makes most robotic solutions unavailable to small retailers. Retail giants like Walmart and Amazon, however, are already using robots to speed up their delivery systems.

The time is not far off, however, before smaller retail stores are able to offer robotic assistance to their customers that can handle routine, basic tasks, freeing up store staff to assist shoppers with more complex needs, which will completely change the associate role in retail.

2. IoT and Big Data Help with Personalization

With the increasing number of connected devices, there is a completely unprecedented amount of data generated each day. Thankfully, advances in AI and machine learning are making analyses of this data not only possible but accessible to smaller retailers.

Detailed data analysis helps retailers better understand the ebbs and flows of their own businesses to optimize staffing, inventory management and even lower the risk of experimenting with new product lines. Connected devices can even help retailers understand how consumers are using their products, helping them to better market them to other interested shoppers.

Brick-and-mortar stores can make use of this by offering location-based push notifications whenever their targeted or returning customers are nearby (if they opted in to receive them, of course).

3. Cloud Computing Keeps Data Safe

Cloud computing offers numerous benefits to retailers, such as having a better overview of all operations and better insights into business performance, and all of that for a fraction of the price of other server-based solutions. Not only is it cost effective, it’s also scalable and flexible, and cloud-based security services can be used to bring security up to date.

Since the advent of credit cards, consumers have been vulnerable to having their information stolen. Laws that once favored credit issuers now protect consumers, making it the responsibility of every retailer out there to protect consumer information. No matter how small or large your retail brand is, protecting your customers’ data is a must.

4. Additive Manufacturing Eliminates Waste

Additive manufacturing is sometimes referred to as 3D printing, but it is so much more than that. In fact, 3D printing and rapid prototyping are merely subsets of additive manufacturing. The difference between additive manufacturing and traditional manufacturing is the milling process. In traditional manufacturing, an object is initially manufactured that is larger than the end product and then milled down into its final shape or form. Needless to say, this results in a lot of waste.

Additive manufacturing adds on materials to a base, which results in almost no waste in materials to achieve the final form. Not only does additive manufacturing cut costs by eliminating waste, but the computer-generated design also eliminates most of the trial and error necessary to perfect the first generation offering. Any costs that are saved in the initial manufacturing process also cuts down on costs to retailers, which in turn cuts down on costs to consumers. Additive manufacturing makes it easier than ever for retailers to offer limited editions, smaller seasonal batches or even personalized or exclusive branded items at a reasonable cost.

5. VR and AR Improve the Shopping Experience

While Tesla dealerships have long been a shopping mall staple thanks to their smaller offerings and inventory compared to traditional car dealers, Audi may soon make the car buying process an entirely VR experience. Other more traditional retailers may not be far behind. Clothing stores in particular struggle with the challenges of keeping a wide enough selection of clothing in stock to meet the needs of all the many different body types of their shoppers.

This generally leads to oceans of racks, which takes up thousands of square feet of expensive retail space. In addition, trying on multiple items of clothing is a time-consuming experience for shoppers, not to mention frequently damaging to the merchandise. Soon, clothing stores may consist of nothing but seating areas with virtual reality (VR) goggles that shoppers can load their avatars into to try on clothing virtually. When they find something they like, an assistant (or even a robot) can bring it out for them from a back storage room.

Retail businesses are already seeing some initial promise of all that Industry 4.0 has to offer. In truth, however, what is currently available to even large chains is merely the tip of the iceberg. Contrary to many long-held fears about technology, human jobs are not in jeopardy. Technology does not take away jobs, it merely takes on tasks that humans generally find distasteful anyway, allowing them to focus on more complicated tasks like problem-solving and innovating. As smart as artificial intelligence may be, it can only do what it is programmed to do. It takes human intelligence to make leaps artificial intelligence never will.

About the writer: Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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Today’s retail market is filled with a wide array of different brands, operating within dozens of industry segments and niches. It’s not easy to fight through all that competition in order to reach your potential customers, especially when you take into consideration the sheer number of similar products and services that don’t look too different to a regular shopper. Marketing strategies like emailing, video advertising, and social network engagement can only take you so far, however. To really put your brand on top of thousands of potential competitors, you need to make your brand unique and offer unparalleled value to your shoppers and customers.

The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is an old marketing concept dating back to 1940s which represents the sum of everything your brand stands for and the value your products hold for your target audience. Simply put it’s everything your company and products have to offer but one can’t find with any other company. Depending on the type of product or services you provide, highlighting unique benefits could represent a challenge. This is why I’ve decided to create a kind of tutorial which will guide you through a process that will enable you to create and promote a USP you can rely on to bring your ROI to the next level.

Define your target audience

The world is a large place and there are more than 7 billion people living in it, all of them with their individual interests, aspirations, plans, and needs. Offering your product to everyone is a simple waste of money, as it’s highly unlikely that your product is intended for all the people in the world (unless your selling water, then the whole world is your customer). In order to define your target audience, you should utilize all available data like website analytics, current customer base information, competition, and virtually any other source of data that will draw a clear picture of your average shopper.

Look through the eyes of your shoppers and customers

As a creator, it’s unlikely one can stay unbiased and make an neutral evaluation of a brand or product value to shoppers and customers. It’s important to think like a member of your target audience and look for things your shoppers look for in a product or a shopping experience. One of the ways you can this is setting up a test group that will examine your products before you even launch them and make a judgment of the most unique features your products have to offer. Look for answers with unique benefits or arguments that prove your products stand out from the competition. Furthermore, test groups allow you to notice some weak spots which you can fix before the products hit the store shelves.

Get to know your shoppers’ needs and desires

In order to sell a product, you need to know what triggers your shoppers so they decide to buy your product. If you are selling ice cream, your clients could be motivated by choice of flavors, quality of service, location, price range, and all kinds of different motivators. Therefore, it’s not enough to simply know the basic target audience demographics, rather look into the people’s hearts to find out their desires. The research suggests that harnessing the power of desire is an important step in enhancing your chances of a sale.

Conduct surveys

Another important step on your road to creating the best possible USP is conducting a survey that allows you to find out why your existing customers use your products or services. Make sure you draft a survey that will provide you the insight into reasons people choose your brand instead of opting for your competition. The distinctions your customers make are probably the best brand features you can use to promote your business and the products your business has to offer.

Create compelling content

Once you have all your facts in a line, it’s time to create a unique selling proposition that’s original, clearly highlights your advantage over competitors, and offers benefits that are not provided by your competitors. Sometimes, you won’t have too many unique benefits, especially if your product is not a rare commodity on the market. Nevertheless, even if you have to go with a single advantage, it’s still one step ahead of your competition, which gives you a marketing edge.

Creating quality content is a challenging task and requires a lot of experience and creativity. If you don’t feel fit to handle the writing process on your own, you can look for online assignment help services like EssayMama or any other that you see fit.

Conclusion

Although it’s an aged concept, USP is far from obsolete. The reason why USP still works is that it gives shoppers a specific reason to visit your brand and buy your products, and creates an open relationship by telling everyone what they can expect from your brand. All these factors are the building blocks of your future sales,and overall company growth.

About the writer: Justin Osborne is a blogger from Leicester, England, UK. When not teaching his little students and rooting for Leicester FC, he loves to share his thoughts and opinions about education, writing for custom thesis writing service and blogging with other people on different blogs and forums. Follow Justin on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the #retail, #SmartStore & #ConnectedJourney conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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