Tips and Tools for Retailers
The following excerpt, from the article 5 steps to becoming “unflusterable,” was written by Michael Hess, founder and CEO of Skooba Design. and published on CBSnews.com. Hess writes about his experience at a mid-level business hotel that went out of their way to correct every issue he faced throughout his trip, even when they weren’t the cause. Read the full article to gain Hess’ insight on the experience and learn why he believes the following five steps to be indispensable to a successful business.
Being unflusterable means keeping your attitude and actions positive, without fail, no matter what comes your way. Here’s how you can achieve it:
1. Never let ‘em see you sweat. A really hard-to-please customer can test even the best service professional, but it’s a test you can and should pass with flying colors. Keep a genuine smile on your face (a fake one is worse than none at all), listen more than you talk, and never stop visualizing and telegraphing a happy conclusion.
2. Own it. Whatever “it” is — a real problem, a special request, or even a seemingly unfounded gripe. The what, why, who and when (especially the latter — the past is the past) are far less important than what you do next. So don’t look for another person or place to dump the issue — grab it and run with it. If you need help or authorization, get it, but don’t relinquish ownership of the issue.
3. Take your opinions and emotions out of the equation. Too many employees take business personally, and while there are times when a customer has a problem with a specific employee, more often she is just shooting the messenger. It’s not about you — take the bullet.
4. Let your default answer be “yes” (or “certainly,” “absolutely,” or any variation thereof). If there isn’t a really good reason to say no, don’t look for one. I’m not saying you should be a doormat or give someone $20 to break a five-dollar bill, I’m just saying that it’s always best to look for ways to say yes. Saying yes to even half of what a customer asks for has a shot at making him happy; saying no is guaranteed not to.
5. Do something, fast. Minimize the amount of time you spend discussing, explaining, debating or negotiating. The sooner you get to some positive action, the less time there is for the customer to stew, grit her teeth and think of more (increasingly legitimate) reasons to be upset. Start solving before the end of the problem even leaves her lips.
What other customer service standards does your store live by? Share them with other college stores in the comments section!
The following excerpt, from the article 5 easy ways to please your brand’s mobile audience, was written by Kevin Allen, editor for Imagination Publishing, and published on PR News Daily. View the full article for more tips to optimize your students’ mobile experience.
People are consuming our content through handheld devices, yet it’s likely that the content they’re consuming isn’t optimized for mobile consumption.
Here are a few tips to help change that:
Be much more thoughtful about when you’re posting
The average Facebook post gets 50 percent of its reach and engagement in the first 30 minutes of being posted, according to Socialbakers. It’s all downhill from there.
Start asking yourself: Where is my audience going to be in the hour or so after we post this? Is there an opportunity to capture them where they are at that moment and inspire action or tap into an emotion that you know a large number of your fans are experiencing at that time?
Don’t limit it to experimenting with when you post, either. If you have an assumption about where your audience is consuming your content (specifically, where they are on Earth), you can create some calls to action and inspire them to engage that way.
For instance, Instagram, where the mobile engagement is close to 100 percent (unless your fans are Statigr.am savvy), is great for this: “Show us what you’re doing now and how our product fits into that.”
Add value to the mobile experience—which differs from adding value to the desktop or laptop experience
The greater the distance you make your fans travel in mobile, the worse the experience becomes. No one wants to hop from one app to another—to another—to download your app that, let’s be honest, isn’t all that cool in the first place. On a desktop or laptop, people are more forgiving when it comes to bouncing around the Web. You have to be more respectful of the mobile experience.
Similarly, if you’re in the Facebook or Pinterest app and you click on a brand’s link, it’s going to send you to a website. Unless you’ve checked that link in social, you’re not 100 percent sure where you’re sending them. It might look great on your laptop, but on mobile it could look like a Geocities site and do your brand a huge disservice.
Keep your posts simple and undeniably specific to your brand.
Design for mobile first
Keep your font sizes legible on your graphics. If you’re tapping through to a photo, you don’t want to have to zoom in on something just to read it. If you’re taking the time to design an asset, make sure you’re taking the time to design it so that mobile users can read it.
The default has been to design social assets for the desktop or laptop experience and back into mobile. Reverse that. Design for mobile, and it will back into the desktop experience.
Check out more tips from Allen by viewing the full article. MBS Systems inSite includes a customizable mobile site as part of the base functionality for no additional fees. Don’t forget to talk to your MBS Client Representative about how we can make navigating your website via phone or tablet easy!
The following excerpt, from the article How one three-letter word can create a personal buying experience, was written by Chris H. Petersen, PhD, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions, and published on RetailCustomerExperience.com. Petersen offers insight into how your staff can not only greet but interact with customers by offering a value-added service that online shopping can’t recreate. Take a look at his advice below, then view the full article for more information on how he arrived at this idea.
Much has been written and continues to be written about the battle between online e-commerce and retail stores. If it is only about lowest price, game over. Online wins IF you, the consumer, already know what you want. Online retailers are really efficient at helping you find the “what” at best price. The real potential of bricks and mortar stores is being able to address “how” to help you buy a better solution. “How can I help you” is the foundation for stores to offer personalized service required for the consumer centric world of today.
Online retailers are the epitome of product-centric retailing. Pick Amazon or your favorite online retailer and go to their site. How do you shop it? Where do you start? You essentially have two choices: 1) type something in the search bar, or 2) use some of the categories of online retailer’s major categories displayed on the site.
Either way, the online retailer is totally dependent upon you having some idea of what you are searching for. The better online retailers, like Amazon, sometimes do a reasonable job of suggesting related accessories. But, you must first narrow down your choice to a product you want. Even the much touted consumer reviews on Amazon are all product, “what”-centric.
The potential power of “how” in retail stores
The addition of one simple three-letter word, “how” in a consumer greeting can change everything! How creates an “open question” that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. Opening with “how” puts you, the consumer, in the driver seat. “How can I help” doesn’t make the assumption that you are looking for a product, or even a service in the retail store. “How” opens up the opportunities for you, the consumer, to present the case or problem that you are trying to solve for even if you don’t know what to look for.
The tremendous power of “how can I help” results in two distinct possibilities
- If the associate asks “how” — you, the consumer, become more open to talking about what you are trying to do or solve for. This creates a tremendous store opportunity to truly help you and personalize the service, creating a dialog and a relationship.
- If you elect to politely decline the offer of help for now, the “how” greeting still has a powerful impact. If “how” is delivered sincerely, you will more likely feel that the retailer cares about you, opening the potential for dialog and a future relationship.
Regardless of the consumer answer to “how can I help you,” the power of adding “how” is the potential to create interaction, and the potential of a relationship based on personalizing solutions and services. “How” focuses on engagement and building trust in relationships.
Retail paradox: Are retailers selling you or helping find what’s best?
I’m a big proponent of focusing on results that count. But when you focus only on retail metrics like increasing retail sales, margin or profitability, it can quickly become a slippery slope of “selling more things to our consumers.” In traditional product-centric retailing, “can we help you” too often gets translated to “can we sell you.”
I don’t know about you, but I have never gone into a retail store looking to “be sold.” Consumers want help with problems. They are looking for assistance on how they can buy the right things that fit their lifestyle. Adding the three simple letters of “how” changes the balance to be consumer focused. It literally changes the relationship to: “how can I help you buy what you need today … and how can I earn your business relationship long-term.”
The power of HOW can’t be faked — It also requires execution
As difficult as it is to get store associates to ask the “how can I help you” question, retail stores cannot afford to not deliver on the “how.” Simply pointing you to the right aisle or even escorting you to products is no better than product search on Amazon.
If retailers truly want to compete with online and differentiate their value, they need to have the staffing, who have the skills and training to help us “average” consumers find answers, and personalize the way WE want to do it. It is no longer enough to sell us a device; we want to be able to personalize it within our lifestyle and circle of other devices.
The future success of retail stores will be not be dependent upon their ability to sell products at a low price, but rather their ability to help consumers buy a personal solution today, and then upgrade it again and again to fit their lifestyle
The following excerpt, from the article How JC Penney is using iPod Touches to revamp customer service in 1,100 stores, was written by Todd R. Weiss and published on CiteWorld.com. View the full article for more information on how JC Penney is using their mobile technology and their future plans for the POS option.
Before they begin their work shifts selling merchandise each day, sales associates in J.C. Penney’s 1,100 stores across the United States now have to be sure that they head onto the sales floor with a work-issued Apple iPod Touch on their belt.
They’re not carrying the devices for their music and entertainment value, of course. Instead, since November 2012, J.C. Penney has been giving salespeople the devices so they can help shoppers anywhere inside the stores.
“It’s a customer service initiative,” said Kate Coultas, a spokesperson for the 111-year-old retailer. “We want to make the process of shopping at J.C. Penney as easy and seamless as possible.”
“Our associates want to be able to be out on the floor helping customers,” said Coultas. “It doesn’t help if they are stuck behind the registers. Now, if you are on the floor, you need to have an iPod Touch with you.”
The iPods were first distributed back in November and are in about one-quarter of Penney stores. The full rollout to all of the stores is expected to be completed by the end of this month, said Coultas.
So far, the devices have been a big hit with the company’s salespeople, she said.
“Some have nicknamed them ‘Libby,’ for ‘Libby the Liberator’ because they can be assisting customers without being chained down to a register,” said Coultas.
Penney’s salespeople can scan purchases and check them out using their iPod Touch. The devices are equipped in a special plastic case that incorporates a UPC code scanner and a credit card swiping device, so customers never have to go to a cash register counter. Customers can “sign” their purchases using their fingertip on the screen.
“This is great because it’s an easy way for them to check-out and because they don’t have to wait in line,” said Coultas. “It was definitely a great success for us on Black Friday last year. On Black Friday, associates would just walk up to people in line and say, ‘hey, I can check you out right now.’ Customers loved it.”
While the cash registers will never disappear entirely, the iPod Touch devices are a wave of the future for Penney’s as the company moves to introduce the new mobile check-out option to consumers, said Coultas.
In some of the specialty shops being built inside some Penney’s stores, such as Levi’s shops, the company is also experiminting with Apple iPad tablets for customer interactions, she said.
Overall, the program so far has been a smash-hit, said Coultas. “The issue was delivering better customer service and we were able to do that through this initiative.”
Mobile POS isn’t only available to big name brands like JC Penney. MBS can help your store go mobile with three unique options including one that operates through the iPod Touch! Talk with your Systems Representative for more details.
The following excerpt is from the article Seven tips to get a grip on YouTube SEO and written by Artemis Berry, Senior Director of Content and Community for Shop.org. Take a look at a few of his tips below, and then view the full article for even more insight on how to optimize SEO through video platforms.
As the second-largest search engine (with more search queries than Bing and Yahoo), a fully optimized YouTube channel is an important component to successful SEO. Here are a few tips on how to drive web traffic by utilizing the power of YouTube:
It’s time to post video content. If you don’t have anything – how are you going to rank? My own disclaimer: You have a lot to compete with. Every second, one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. For my fellow analytics junkies out there, YouTube even has a dedicated website to help put the numbers in perspective.
Track your rankings. As with just about anything in our world of digital marketing, you cannot (generally) improve what you are not measuring. Not sure how to do that? Spencer recommended an online optimization tracker for video (still in beta) called Voot to start documenting these stats.
Optimize your video thumbnails. Choosing a better thumbnail of your video is a proven way to achieve a higher click-through rate. And, apparently, it’s even more important than the lists on your search engine results page.
Transcripts are searchable – make sure they are correct. YouTube makes machine transcriptions, but they aren’t perfect. To help enhance your search optimization you can override the automated transcript with one that matches the content perfectly.
SEO is a critical piece of the digital marketing strategy for just about anyone who does business. In our highly competitive retail landscape some things are on the must-do list, and YouTube optimization is just a start. But the primary takeaway from these tips is clear: companies must focus on natural search optimization tactics to drive traffic – and hopefully conversion – for their websites.
The following excerpt is from the article, How To Distinguish Your Business From The Competition, which was written by Yosef Martin, founder and President of Merchandize Liquidators, and published on Forbes.com. Although the article refers to entrepreneurs, it can offer great insight into identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your competition as a college store, as well. Take a look at three of the beginning steps Martin suggests taking below, and then view the full article for additional information.
When envisioning and establishing my business, I focused on both short- and long-term goals. Market competition can create a battleground and my goal was to win the war. This mindset might be controversial, but many businesses have failed because they did not capitalize on their competitors’ faults. I built my business from modest beginnings to achieve multimillion-dollar revenues by distinguishing my venture from others like it. Here’s how:
- Analyze the industry. Studying the competition allows you to find weaknesses in their organizations. Begin by subscribing to their newsletters. Approach a competitor as an interested customer so you can see what its sales and customer service processes are like. I was able to gain invaluable information by simply buying a product and noting the logistics of the sales process. You can take it further and visiting the business’ location, which allows you to speak to managers or even the owner. To your benefit, many of these leaders will brag about how they started their businesses — or their own accomplishments. Take note and begin to brainstorm ideas for setting your business apart.
- Outshine the competition. Now that you’ve gained knowledge about your competitors, put it to use. Create a more professional, user-friendly website. If applicable, outbid your competitors and secure exclusive contracts with your clients. Work to take your competitors out of the picture. By limiting their market appeal, you can increase your own. Your goal is to provide the most effective and efficient service or product from the start so customers recognize the quality of your company as well as its integrity.
- Focus on customer service. Do this by assembling the best team possible. After all, your business is only as good as your employees — they’re the face of your company. Positive and resourceful customer service helps set your venture apart at the outset, since larger companies are simply not as hungry for new customers. Aim to create the best shopping experience for your customers and do not compromise on the quality of your employees. Seek out intelligent and independent individuals who share your passion and vision. Regular communication about business priorities and strategies is crucial to professional and monetary growth.
While a magic formula to benefit from the competition’s weaknesses — and boost your business — doesn’t exist, conducting extensive research is the key to see how your business can better connect with customers. Learn the final phases suggested by Martin by viewing his full article.
- Most customers understand that things can and will go wrong. What they don’t understand, accept, or find interesting are excuses. For example, they don’t care about your org chart: Your mentioning that a problem originated in a different department is of no interest to them.
- Don’t panic. With most customers and in most situations, customers’ sense of trust and camaraderie increases after a problem is successfully resolved, compared to if you had never had the problem in the first place. This makes sense, since you now have a shared experience: You have solved something by working closely together.
- Avoid assuming you know what solution a customer wants or ‘‘should’’ want. Ask. And if a customer makes a request that sounds extreme or absurd, don’t rush to dismiss it. Even if it seems on its face impossible, there may be a creative way to make the requested solution, or something a lot like it, happen.
- Don’t imagine you’re doing something special for a customer by making things how they should have been in the first place. Time cannot be given back—it’s gone. So re-creating how things should have been is just a first step. You need to then give the customer something extra. If you aren’t sure which ‘‘extra’’ to offer a particular customer, just make it clear you want to offer something. If the customer doesn’t like red lollipops or doesn’t eat sugar, she’ll let you know. Then you can decide together on a different treat.
Although dealing with unhappy customers can be difficult, it can result in a positive experience for your store and the shopper. Does your store use any additional strategies? Share them with others in the comments section!
The following is an excerpt from the article Master the Art of Customer Loyalty written by Victor Ho, CEO and Co-Founder of FiveStars, and published on Inc.com. View the full article to see more tips on developing loyalty with your customers.
For many small businesses, loyalty marketing may be the only marketing they need, because it builds upon their greatest asset: their most satisfied customers. Bain & Company famously wrote that it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Though you probably can’t invest in loyalty like a Fortune 500 company would, there are steps small businesses can take to begin loyalty marketing.
First, invest in service. Zappos pioneered the mantra that customer service is the new marketing. An American Express study showed that 70 percent of Americans would spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. Service is the strength of most small businesses, so you should be able to do this well immediately.
Second, build a robust loyalty program that:
- Increases Customer Visits. Remember the first time you joined an airline frequent flyer program? Initially you were probably comfortable spreading your miles across a few airlines, but as you neared a reward in one, you started to stick with your preferred airline. And then once you experienced the benefits of airline status, you were hooked. When you build your loyalty program, make the first reward easily attainable, so customers experience the thrill of getting a reward early on. Then add additional tiers to earn even more memorable rewards and maybe bonuses after a certain number of visits. Even if you use a simple punch card, you should be able to launch this kind of program. Companies that implement simple visit-based loyalty programs can increase customer visits by 30 percent with very little cost.
- Increases Spend Per Visit. As a second step, consider rewarding customers not just based on visits but spend. For example, if you are a restaurant, give a point for every $5 in spend. This encourages customers to not only come more frequently but also spend more per visit. This has a multiplicative impact on sales.
- Increases Revenue from Promotions. Fortune 500 companies love loyalty program signups because you are no longer just an anonymous customer to them. Once you’ve joined, they have your contact info and can reach you with promotions. Do you collect emails when you sign up customers to your loyalty program? It’s a small step that will give you an additional revenue stream when you send them relevant promotions on holidays or special events.
Does your store offer a loyalty program? If so, what structure do you use to reward customers? Share your experiences in the comments section.
College students have a voracious appetite for mobile apps that help them socialize and communicate. And a November 2012 online survey of 689 US college students conducted by Study Breaks and Campus2Careers finds that they are also committed mobile deal hunters.
Nine out of 10 respondents reported using their phones to scour for deals, coupons and specials; just 10% said they “never” did so. Moreover, 20% of surveyed college students were self-professed mobile deal addicts, saying they “always” checked their phones for the latest deals—another 31% checked their phones for deals “often.” In other words, over half of college students, 51%, were committed mobile deal aficionados.
As one might expect, the large numbers of students looking for purchases with phones in hand translates to large numbers of students making purchases through their phones. The study found that 70% of sampled college students made mobile purchases, and 52% did so at least once a month.
Additionally, college students are using mobile phones increasingly for classwork, a sign that the devices really have penetrated nearly every aspect of student life. Over half of respondents said they used their mobile phone for school-related tasks every day.
Make it easy for students to find deals at your store with our customizable mobile app. On The Go allows students to search your merchandise for information on everything from buyback values to textbook prices. Talk to your MBS Systems Sales Consultant about how On The Go can help your store capture more sales.
The following is an excerpt from the article, Top six retail loss prevention trends for 2013, written by Jennifer Overstreet and published on Retail’s Big Blog. To learn three more loss prevention trends, view the full article.
Dealing with everything from shoplifting to extreme weather, the retail loss prevention profession requires constant vigilance in order to protect employees, customers and assets.
While the range of threats is far-reaching, a few continuing and evolving trends are shaping the industry in profound ways. To explain the retail loss prevention landscape, we asked Rosamaria Sostilio, Senior Vice President of Asset Protection at Saks Incorporated and Vice Chair of NRF’s LP Advisory Council, to share her observations about what to watch this year.
Emphasis on emergency response plans
Retailers and other property managers struggling to develop comprehensive emergency response plans and training that can be quickly and effectively executed during shooting incidents in and around retail centers. Business continuity and recovery plans are also in the spotlight after the number and severity of recent storms caught some businesses off guard.
“Retailers are realizing that not only do they need a great emergency response plan, but that it needs to be rehearsed and communicated down the chain appropriately. The key is to get all the appropriate business partners – from media relations to operations and stores – in a room to talk about what could happen and what the company’s response would be in the situation. Then, the cascading of that communication and rehearsal of the plan is essential, so that employees have some sort of comfort level with it. The same is true for business continuity and recovery plans. Retailers are now beginning to step up these efforts.”
Incorporating emerging technologies
New technologies introduce new opportunities as well as new threats, and loss prevention professionals will be spending more time with senior leadership evaluating advancing technologies along with the effect social media is having on the profession.
“Video analytics, facial recognition software and mobile POS are all hot new technologies out there being tested in the community right now. And while the growth of social media can be a liability and make our jobs a little more difficult, we’re also using it more and more as an investigative tool. One other area where retailers are stepping up is deploying business analytics programs that focus on point of sale and returns in conjunction with enhanced video surveillance. These programs not only help the LP teams but they can help manage the overall business strategies, efficiencies and control fraud.”
Developing background screening practices
Developing practical and effective background screening practices in light of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines released in April 2012 continues to be a challenge for retailers and other organizations.
“When it comes to employment pre-screenings, a lot of companies are assessing what policies work and what the EEOC guidelines mean for them. Those interested in how these legislative issues are impacting the industry should get involved in our LP Legislative Committee and share their insights and possible solutions.”