Tips and Tools for Retailers
The following article was written by David Mielach, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer, for BusinessNewsDaily.com. He offers excellent advice on the next big trend in retail and why stores need to take notice now. View his full article here.
Small business owners looking for an opportunity to distinguish their business from larger competitors may want to start thinking about creating an in-store experience.
Consumers are utilizing multiple channels and resources to accommodate their shopping needs, yet 80 percent of retailers surveyed in new study said they are not training their staff to accommodate those needs. Those companies admitted their staff lacks training on how to handle showrooming, price matching and in-store requests for pickups. Additionally, those retailers said they have not prepared their workers to deal with customers who are highly educated about the products they are purchasing.
The survey polled 35 leading retailers, half of which were publicly traded companies. Companies that fail to take advantage of omnichannel opportunities — which blend smartphones, tablets, computers and other technologies into the shopping experience — are losing out to other retailers.
Just 18 percent of retailers in the United States said they have implemented a mobile point-of-sale system across their stores. Additionally, just 29 percent of retailers said they already have an in-store pickup system, but an additional 24 percent are planning to unveil a pickup program by the end of the year. Moreover, just 10 percent of respondents said they compensate their workers for their efforts with cross-channel sales.
“The seamless customer experience and speed of change, led by pure-play e-retailers such as Amazon, is setting a high bar for retailers operating both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels,” said Antony Karabus, president of SD Retail Consulting, which conducted the research. “The pace of change to meet this high bar needs to accelerate as the pressure from these new competitors continues to grow.”
“The largest retailers must examine every customer touch point and how they play their part in creating that seamless customer experience,” he added. “For the minority of retailers who are successfully transforming their store environments, the rewards will be substantial.”
Omni-channel is future of retail and it’s time for your store to get started. MBS can help. From mobile POS devices to an e-commerce solution that allows for in-store pickup, our products and services are designed to be cross-channel. Talk with your MBS Representative to learn how we can help you stay ahead of the industry curve.
The following excerpt, from the article 5 Ways to Know What Your Customers Want Before They Do, was written by Paul J. H. Schoemaker, founder and chairman at Decision Strategies International, and published on Inc.com. We’ve selected some of Schoemaker’s points that we find most applicable to the college store industry and added our own spin on how you can translate his advice into action on your campus. View his full article for even more insight on understanding your customer.
To get close to your client, you really need to get inside his or her head. Here are five ways to do that:
Stand in your customer’s shoes.
Look beyond your core business and understand your customer’s full range of choices, as well as his or her ecosystem of suppliers, partners etc.–of which you may be part. This exercise will also deepen your understanding of competitors and help you better anticipate their moves.
College Stores Could Try: Shop around at other local competitors or visit online retail websites to see what students experience when they visit. Use that insight to improve your own process.
Staple yourself to a customer’s order.
Track key customers’ experiences as they traverse your company’s pathways and note where the experience breaks down. Some hospitals ask interns to experience the check-in process as fake patients. One client asked managers to listen in on its call center. If you can’t exactly put yourself through a customer experience, try role-playing exercises at all points of the customer’s experience with your company.
College Stores Could Try: Have a student employee shop your store as if they were strictly a customer and rate each step of their experience. Or, hire a student for a day to do the same, without any other employees knowing, for even more honest input.
Field diverse customer teams.
One bank added members of the back-office support group to its customer team, supplementing the usual customer-facing roles. IBM sends senior teams from different disciplines into the field to meet customers and develop a deep understanding of how to serve them better.
College Stores Could Try: Create a committee for store improvement, complete with members of your target audience – students! Discuss what areas your store is lacking in, what new promotions or strategies they’d like to see in place, and how you can ultimately attract continued business.
Learn together with customers.
GE invited its top customers in China, along with local executives and account managers, to a seminar on leadership and innovation. Doing so not only helped GE executives better understand the mindset of Chinese counterparts; it also helped them to influence that mindset.
College Stores Could Try: Talk with your school’s Business or Marketing department and see if you or members of yoru staff could sit in on a class or two. This will allow you to soak up the knowledge that your target audience, who are likely headed into a field similar to retail are learning, and potentially even gain their ideas on how store’s can improve service to their peers.
Lean forward and anticipate.
Focus on what customers will want tomorrow, as Steve Jobs and Richard Branson did so exquisitely. Try to envision different futures and then explore how underlying market shifts may affect your customers.
College Stores Could Try: Read and research upcoming retail trends on Foreword Online and other similar industry resources to stay ahead of the curve.
The following excerpt, from the article 5 Reasons Your Website Visitors Aren’t Buying, was written by Angela Stringfellow Consultant for SeniorHomes.com, and published on AMEX’s Open Forum. Below, you’ll find a few of Stringfellow’s suggestions that we found most relevant to college stores. Check out her full article for even more tips!
If you’re getting traffic but sales are still suffering, take a close look at these factors. The good news is that the reason your visitors aren’t converting is almost always fixable with some modifications.
Your landing page isn’t congruent with your inbound marketing efforts.
When your visitors reach your website, what are they looking for? Can they find it right away? “If visitors click on your ads, social media posts or blog links expecting to find one thing—but instead are led to a seemingly irrelevant page, they end up confused and frustrated,” says Ken Lyons of the search-engine marketing company MeasuredSEM. “You might even lose their trust in the process.”
The fix: Lyons says it’s critical to employ a cohesive strategy across all your marketing initiatives. That means making sure your keywords and landing page content are relevant and targeted to the ads and other sources that are driving visitors to your website in the first place
Your landing page has no focal point.
Landing page design is one of the most essential elements of conversion rate optimization. Your visitors need to be directed in a clear and concise manner through the necessary steps. When your landing page seems scattered, visitors are left bouncing around the page without a clear idea of what to do next.
The fix: Make use of tools such as heat maps to refine your landing page design. Users’ natural eye path tends to follow an “F” pattern, so you want to place important elements, such as your call to action, in prominent locations.
Your pages are loading too slowly.
With all the fancy scripting languages and graphics available today, it’s tempting to invest in a flashy website design to impress potential customers. But those same complex elements often take longer to load, especially in older browser versions. When you leave your visitors staring at the ever-swiveling hourglass icon, they’re going to hit the road in search of a quicker solution.
The fix: Keep it simple. Test your page load times and eliminate the elements that are bogging down your speeds without providing any major benefit.
The following excerpt, from the article The Store of the Future Has Arrived (and No, It’s not Apple), was written by Christopher Heine for Adweek. The store offers an interesting look at the evolving digital experience necessary to succeed in retail and how major brands are integrating it both into brick-and-mortar and online shopping. To see more innovative examples, read Heine’s full article.
Eighty-five-year-old Chicagoan Martin Shafron, a self-described “computer illiterate,” steps into the rotunda-like entrance of AT&T’s flagship store in the city’s high-end retail district known as the Magnificent Mile. Though Shafron doesn’t realize it, he is also smack in the middle of a retail revolution showing off its gadgetry and pageantry from here to Beijing.
As he waits for one of the iPad-wielding sales associates to assist him with his first iPhone, which he’d bought there the day before, Shafron is sprinkled with what AT&T calls “innovation sounds”—perhaps best described as raindrops going pitter-patter on a digital rooftop interspersed with wind chimes producing cyber inharmonic spectra.
The highly stylized space, which opened last fall, looks more like an art museum than a store, but it’s hardly a bore—there’s plenty of digital eye candy competing for Shafron’s attention as he waits, including an 18-foot video wall equipped with motion-sensory software on which a couple of kids are playing a game.
He, like most who walk through these doors, is seriously wowed by the space, but, he says, “More than anything, I appreciate the hands-on help.”
Call it the Appleization of brick and mortar, where retailers from Michael Kors to Staples to Pep Boys are dazzling consumers with the futuristic in-store shopping experience the House That Jobs Built gave rise to. In fact, a decade ago and just a few blocks from the AT&T flagship, Apple opened its own gleaming, digitized space on the Magnificent Mile—but Apple is no longer the coolest kid on the block. Today, that distinction belongs to AT&T—though there’s plenty of competition from the likes of Nike and Burberry, which have unveiled souped-up stores here in recent months, as well as Apple, which, buzz has it, is prepping its own overhaul.
Employing the latest technology at point of sale is nothing new—for years businesses from car rental companies to Nordstrom department stores have unhooked from the wires. But the trend has gone from merely ringing up sales via mobile devices to a deeply immersive in-store experience—fully digitized but crucially featuring that face-to-face element customers like Shafron demand.
“We want to transform the traditional website experience into the physical experience,” explains Paul Roth, president, retail at AT&T. “It’s all about creating interactions rather than just transactions.”
And interacting they are. The AT&T flagship attracts an estimated 30,000 customers per month, many drawn in by bells and whistles like that giant interactive screen, which lights up the cityscape as it also manages to circumvent a zoning restriction banning exterior signage on the Magnificent Mile. The store has only one traditional retail counter, and the cash registers are tucked away in stylish wood cabinets. Sales associates access the registers not with a key but via biometric fingerprinting software and not while standing behind the tills but, rather, while sitting on a couch face to face with the customer.
The space also features a section devoted to using music apps not only for listening to but also writing tunes. To show how Square, an AT&T partner, can be used by small businesses, there’s a display with real cupcakes and a handmade sign reading “Bake Sale.”
As if that weren’t enough to command one’s notice, a Nissan Leaf is parked in front of a huge picture window, set up to interactively demonstrate how assorted auto-based apps can be used to monitor how fast their teenagers are driving. A few feet away, another area features apps that let users track who comes and goes from their homes.
The store hosts cool events with partners as well. Chicago Blackhawks legends Bobby Hull and Eddie Olczyk showed up to take a whack—with a hockey stick, duh—at Otter’s new smartphone cases to demonstrate their durability.
“Humans remember stories,” says Christina Cheng, area manager of the AT&T store. “So explaining things with stories instead of specs is a much easier way for people to understand how technology can help them.”
The space and its collection of shiny things serve as a lab for what might be deployed elsewhere at AT&T’s 2,300 locations. “You will see six or seven elements of the Michigan Avenue design incorporated to scale with the rest of our portfolio,” says Roth.
More than merely influencing what’s to come at AT&T, the store has become an incubator for what consumers will come to expect from retailers across the board—and it’s not just tech companies that are dotting their blueprints with digital tools.
Claire Huang, CMO of JPMorgan Chase, says many more tech features are in the offing. “We’ve developed a new branch concept with an open format that gives customers options. From the traditional teller window to the advice zone and tablets to self-serve kiosks and the instant-issue credit card machines, our approach is centered around choice and making the experience better for the customer,” she says.
Some may be surprised to learn that another emerging player in this space could be e-tailing monster Amazon. Even as the company has strained the bottom line for brick-and-mortar stores, reports have Amazon now eyeing a presence on the street. Amazon already has experimented with pick-up sites in markets including New York, and one can only imagine what a full-fledged Amazon store might look like.
“Retail is under siege,” D’Arcangelo points out. “The online retailers want some kind of physical presence, and all the brick and mortars are trying to catch up with the online space. What’s going to happen is a hybrid.” That could mean a deluge of business for agencies like six-year-old Web design company Gin Lane Media, which has done innovative in-store work for the likes of J. Crew and Michael Kors. The latter erected an LED display at Macy’s Herald Square in New York that has the customer walking through a constantly changing video arch. An accompanying 32-inch touchscreen display gets some 1,000 engagements per day, says Emmett Shine, Gin Lane’s founder.
There’s more innovation on the way. In-store marketing firm Synqera is piloting a program for a major Russian retailer starting this month involving facial-recognition software that can determine a customer’s age, gender and mood. Heat-map and dwell-time analytics—longtime darling stats for Web marketers—are also coming to stores.
D’Arcangelo advises that as retailers collect still more data on consumers, “everyone is going to have to think smart, transparent, opt-in, shared ownership of the data. Retailers must be clear communicating what value customers get from sharing that data. Case in point, people love when they get a great recommendation from Amazon.”
Digitization. Appleization. What about Amazonization?
“One of my favorite comments from a recent patron to our flagship store was that it was like walking into a website,” says AT&T’s Roth.
But at what cost to the retailers? While agreeing that brick and mortar is entering a new era,Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research, wonders about the return on investment for all these digital playthings. “It’s still too early to tell,” she says.
Roth’s big digital experiment on the Magnificent Mile will ultimately succeed not on the technology alone but also on the human touch that brings in the likes of octogenarian Martin Shafron. AT&T is well aware of that fact, having enlisted some of its best and brightest from around the country to be the face of the Chicago outpost.
“There are 17 different states represented in that store,” says Roth. “Retail always depends on how good your people are.”
And increasingly, on how good they are at ringing up sales on the iPad.
The following excerpt, from the article Take the Initiative to Give Positive Feedback, was written by Don Peppers, Founding Partner of Peppers & Rogers Group at TeleTech, and published on LinkedIn. View the full article for additional information, then follow Peppers on LinkedIn for similar leadership advice.
One of my neighbors is a recently retired surgeon and one day not long ago when I happened to see him he was in a terrific mood. He told me he’d just received a phone call out of the blue, from someone he didn’t initially remember.
“Hello, is this Dr. ____?”
“Yes, this is he,” he said, “and to whom am I speaking, please?”
“My name is William _____, but I doubt you remember me.”
“No sir, I’m sorry, can’t say I do. Should I?”
“Well, Doctor, a little more than 22 years ago I nearly died from a terrible heart problem. You and your team operated on me and saved my life. Today is my 80th birthday, so I thought I ought to look you up and say ‘thanks!’”
No wonder my neighbor was in such a great mood! Wouldn’t you be?
When is the last time you took the time and trouble to give some delayed, positive feedback to someone in your organization? It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as this. (How could it be, unless you work as a medical professional, or maybe a first responder?) But even small compliments are capable of sustaining large relationships. “Hey, that was a really insightful comment you made at the meeting yesterday.” Or “I really liked the way you handled that personnel issue last week!” Or how about just “Great idea!”
Obviously, such feedback must be sincere and not just an idle compliment. But giving positive feedback can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Research has shown, for instance, that students randomly selected for positive feedback from their teachers are much more likely to excel in their studies.
In addition, positive feedback delivered the right way can dramatically boost your own spirits in addition to giving a lift to the person you’re complimenting.
More than ten years ago we hired a new manager to open one of our non-US offices at Peppers & Rogers Group. When he came on board, for all his youthful enthusiasm, I worried that he might be too brash and aggressive to be successful as a senior manager. But over the last decade I’ve watched him blossom from a shoot-first salesman into a thoughtful, caring, and wise steward of our own consultants’ talents and of our client relationships. It has been amazing to see, and the office he started up has grown into one of our best and most well-run operations.
So the other day, I did one of the most personally satisfying things I’ve done in a long time. I called him just to say “thanks.”
The following excerpt, from the article With retail at a crossroads, supply chain value is key, was written by Jennifer Overstreet and published on The NRF’s Retail’s Big Blog. The article reviews advice presented by Jim Tompkins, CEO of Tompkins International,at the NRF’s Global Supply Chain Summit, To learn more about his perspective, view the full article.
There’s no question that the current retail environment is intensely competitive and complex. Winning on price is tough, and many argue that price wars are simply a race to the bottom. Competing on selection can be difficult as well. So how will retailers distinguish themselves? Customer experience and convenience, Tompkins says. And the supply chain plays a huge role in both.
Have the wrong retail strategy or the wrong supply chain strategy, and retailers could end up going down the wrong path. But turmoil within the supply chain field will make for tough navigation. Over the last four years, retailers haven’t been addressing key challenges due to economic uncertainties, but Tompkins expects a flurry of changes and advancements in the next 18 months.
So what are the tipping points to the turmoil?
- Amazon. They can’t be ignored, so you need to understand why they’re winning.
- Online success. Your website is your front door, regardless of whether you make any money there.
- Technology. To do a buy/fulfill/return-anywhere model, you need the right tools.
- Social commerce. People don’t need to be together to shop together.
- Youth culture. Digital natives see shopping quite differently.
- Bad in-store experience. Service in the store needs to wow customers.
- Store relevance. Why should someone come to your store?
Tompkins points to the need to understand all of these in order to successfully navigate your organization. But he says the big one is undoubtedly Amazon, explaining that Amazon is winning for lots of reasons. They still run intensely like a startup, they’re persistent, they experiment and learn from their mistakes, they measure everything, and they focus on customers, not competitors. According to Tompkins, it’s very important to study Amazon.
Tompkins posed this question: What are you doing to align your supply chain with your business strategy to create supply chain value? It’s the answer that will guide you through the crossroads and on to success.
Mobile Internet use is driving a new type of commerce called M-Commerce, a fast growing phenomenon within the retail industry.
It’s changing how consumers and retailers interact and also helping to improve the consumer experience. Here are some interesting statistics:
Over the past five years, e-commerce has grown at a pace at least twice as fast as total retail sales and that trend will continue over the next five years, according to published reports. In 2012, e-commerce had a healthy 14.8 percent growth rate over 2011, easily eclipsing the total retail sales growth rate of 5.3 percent. By 2017, the Internet will account for ten percent of all U.S. retail sales when online sales will reach $370 billion, up from $231 billion this year, according to Forrester Research. Growth is coming mainly from existing customers, who are spending more money online, rather than from new shoppers.
What’s Driving Growth?
Brick and mortar retailers are getting better at multi-channel offerings. In-store pickup and store returns for items purchased online are examples of how these merchants are accommodating customer wishes. Those with good online execution are seeing their online growth outpace their store sales growth.
For online-only merchants, publishing customer reviews and presenting 360-degree product views make shoppers feel more comfortable about buying online. Personalization helps to increase sales to existing customers.
Tablets Rule M-commerce
The increased penetration of web-enabled smartphones and tablets increases the amount of time consumers spend online. While the rapid growth in purchases from mobile devices has caught both analysts and some merchants off guard, it’s clear that customers feel comfortable buying via mobile devices, especially tablets, which provide better visual experiences. Twenty percent of visits to leading e-commerce websites originate on mobile devices according to Monetate, a provider of personalization technology.
Research firm eMarketer reports that this year, 62.5 percent of all mobile commerce will come from tablets, despite the fact that they have a lower penetration rate than smartphones. That figure will rise to 71.5 percent in 2017. Mobile users’ share of U.S. retail e-commerce sales will rise from 15 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2017. And people purchasing via mobile devices tend to make higher average orders.
Trends that Have Cooled
Daily deals from companies such as Groupon and Living Social have lost their luster. Celebrity curation has also waned. Shoppers seem to trust recommendations from family and friends more than those from paid celebrities.
Subscription e-commerce is still raking in venture capital investments but there is a belief that consumers may be tiring of this business model as well and some online merchants have abandoned it.
Takeaway for E-commerce Merchants
Most people who feel comfortable purchasing online are already doing so and Forrester Research predicts only 4 million new e-commerce customers this year. Therefore, merchants should focus marketing efforts on retaining existing customers rather than trying to lure new customers. Implementing loyalty programs is a good way to minimize customer churn.
Making sure that the customer has a good mobile shopping experience is more important than ever. Merchants should consider responsive web design, a technique that renders content in a visually pleasing, usable format on any device.
The following excerpt, from the article Google finds the silver lining to showrooming, was written by and published on RetailCustomerExperience.com. View the full article for information on how to take advantage of the study’s findings.
As the number of smartphone-toting shoppers has increased, so too has the specter of showrooming. No retailer wants to think a competitor, especially a virtual retailer without the overhead of a brick-and-mortar location, has effectively set up shop in their store. But up to now, it hasn’t been clear just how big a deal showrooming really is.
It turns out it’s huge. And it also turns out that shoppers with smartphones might not be the threat retailers thought they were.
According to a new study from the Google Shopper Council, a group of shopper marketing experts, 84 percent of mobile shoppers use their phones to assist them in their shopping while in physical stores.
The council’s new report, ”Mobile In-Store Research: How in-store shoppers are using mobile devices,” said the single largest task for devices in store, as reported by 82 percent of respondents, was using mobile search to find information about products. Other activities included comparing prices (53 percent), finding offers and promotions (39 percent), finding locations of other stores (36 percent) and finding the hours of the store (35 percent).
What’s more, the Google report said that web surfing on a mobile device wasn’t just used for expensive or “high consideration” purchases. Instead, the report found that in every category, from household items to pet care, 70 percent of smartphone users consulted their devices in-store.
The Silver Lining
Even with all the reliance on smartphones while shopping, the Google Shopper report uncovered some surprising good news for retailers: the basket size, i.e., the amount of a shopper’s purchase during any one trip, was 25 to 50 percent higher for frequent smartphone users than moderate smartphone users. Whereas the average user spent $250 per trip, frequent smartphone users spent $350 per trip.
“(U)nderstanding and embracing this new retail behavior can open up new opportunities for brands to connect with customers in key consideration moments,” said Adam Grunewald, product marketing manager for mobile ads at Google, in a post on the Google Mobile Ads blog.
The following excerpt, from the article Sunnier Days Ahead for Retailers that Use Cloud Computing, was written by Vish Ganapathy, of IBM, and published on Wired.com. Ganapathy explains how cloud computing can keep your store competitive below; read the full article for an even more detailed account.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have long favored highly visible investments, such as advertising or store design over spending hard-earned income on back-office information technology. In fact, the retail industry devotes only about 1.7% of revenue to IT. Compare that with banking, which spends about 6%.
Big-box and boutique retailers alike see that e-commerce competitors continue to use technology as a means to win on price and selection, and know their customers increasingly use smartphones in-store to compare prices or search for deals.
IBM’s latest Big Data-based retail forecast suggests that some brick-and-mortar retailers are turning the tide against showrooming, a trend in which consumers look at items in a store before ultimately buying them online, usually at lower prices. In order to remain competitive and press their advantage further, brick-and-mortar stores must look to the cloud computing revolution as a way to upgrade their technology without busting their budgets.
Cloud computing involves a new way of thinking about data. In a cloud, a single server can host many virtual servers, slashing hardware costs. The virtual servers can scale on demand depending on the need for computer capacity. That’s very useful for retailers, whose businesses are notoriously seasonal. Automatically expanding capacity on Black Friday, for example, can reduce lines at checkout counters and ensure quick service.
Further, the retail industry is aided by thousands of specialty software programs that are designed for various niches and needs. The average retail chain uses about 450 such applications — far more than most other industries. Naturally, those software programs get heavy use at certain times while they are shut down at others.
The result is that retailers use only about 10% to 15% of the computer capacity in their data centers. Some 85% is sitting idle at any time. Huge economies of scale could be gained by using the same infrastructure across multiple applications in a cloud-computing architecture.
As mobile, social and e-commerce continue to explode in popularity, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers must understand and harness the benefits of cloud computing to optimize the in-store experience, market to the individual and maximize every sale. If they don’t, they risk falling behind their competition.
Want to bring your store to the cloud? Talk with your MBS Systems Sales Consultant about how we can help!