Archive for July, 2012
The MBS Systems Users Symposium is a one-of-a-kind event and we want to make sure you are in attendance! Our travel grants give you the opportunity to see all that Symposium has to offer without breaking your budget.
By joining our business partners, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, Paymetric, and Verba Software, we will again be awarding 100 travel grants in the amount of $500 to assist customers whose budget constraints might otherwise prevent them from participating.
There’s still time to apply for a travel grant, but hurry; you only have until August 10. Simply visit our website to find all the details and complete the application. Grants will be awarded on a store by store basis, as opposed to individual basis, so you need only apply once. We’ll see you at Symposium!
“I encourage all of my staff to participate in professional training. The travel grant is great because it allows me to send two people to Symposium. It really helps with the travel arrangements!”
–Karen Katt, Blue Colt Bookstore
When it comes to choosing the most affordable course materials, students are often confused. For years, Rusty Weldon, assistant director at Auburn University Bookstore, had tried to verbally communicate his expertise on the topic to students and their families. Dedicated to saving his customers the most money, however, he decided it was time to show them instead.
“Buying course materials has become a lot more complicated than it used to be, and I wanted to streamline that for our students,” he explained. “At times, it’s been difficult for us, as a store, to determine whether we should buy or rent certain titles, and we’ve learned a lot through the process. It’s important for us to share that knowledge with our students from an expert point of view.”
Based on their past experiences, Rusty and other members of the Auburn University Bookstore staff worked together to compile their knowledge into an organized marketing piece.
“I recruited two of my student employees to determine the content,” he described. “They have eight years of experience in the store between them, so it was neat to get their perspective and hear what they thought of the book buying process.”
Through their collaboration, the store produced a textbook buying guide organized into various sections with tabs that made it easy to locate information on several topics. Answering questions on everything from rentals to buyback, the informative guide was designed to walk students through the process of buying their textbooks.
“My student employees ultimately decided what information to include and how to present it in a way that their peers would find relevant,” he added. “The fact that it took on a student voice made it come across as authoritative without being heavy-handed.”
To debut the new buying guide, the store handed them out to new students and their families during several freshmen orientation sessions.
“It was a good place to start the conversation because they’ve never gone through the book buying process before,” Weldon said.
This approach proved to be much more successful than the materials they had relied upon in the past.
“Before, we handed out a brochure but, because of its size, it wasn’t very detailed,” he explained. “As a result, we struggled to convey the information verbally by trying to squeeze a 30 minute conversation into two minutes.”
“The new format, however, is detailed enough that families can take it home and find the information they need to purchase textbooks right at their fingertips,” he added. “It resonates so much further.”
Weldon wasn’t the only one who found the new format to be more effective. Students and their families were impressed with the extensive information and appreciated the store’s effort.
“It’s been absolutely wildly popular!” he described. “We distributed over 1000 after just three orientation sessions, and both mom and dad walking away with them in many cases. We’ve also seen a better reception of our course materials than ever before; it’s been great.”
In fact, the new promotion is reaching further than Weldon or his staff ever anticipated.
“It really opened the door for us with staff and administration,” he explained. “After seeing all the information included in the buying guide, they agreed that course materials are complex enough a subject that we should be able to present to students about it during orientation. That’s something we’ve been working toward for 10 years, so it’s very exciting!”
The store’s commitment to helping Auburn students doesn’t end with this marketing piece, however. They continue to implement countless initiatives to save their customers money, including price comparison and rental textbooks, and are working to spread the word.
For example, the store saved students $859,000 on textbooks last year, alone. So, during orientation, they hung a huge banner outside the store, asking new students how much they could save them.
“It was a great head turner and conversation starter,” he said. “We’ve done a lot to ensure that we’re a low cost leader when it comes to course materials and concrete numbers help us prove that. Then, we’re able to follow up with our buying guide which shows them how shopping with us will save them money, too.”
Beyond the tangible benefits, Weldon believes the guide will also create an enhanced perception.
“Overall, I think it will help strengthen our brand. By positioning ourselves as an expert resource, we can establish trust with our students,” he explained. “We truly care about saving our students money and hopefully this will help them see that they have someone on their side; that we’re more than a just store, we’re a friend.”
Although the store unveiled the guide at freshmen orientation, Weldon and his staff don’t plan to stop there.
“We’ve already added an electronic version to our website because so many students are now purchasing textbooks from our online price comparison site; we’ll continue to spread the word to existing students during Fall rush, too” he said. “We’re hoping it’s a piece that has a lot of legs and reaches a lot of students.”
With the hustle and bustle of textbook rush quickly approaching, we thought this feel-good piece was a timely reminder that, no matter how stressful our day, we all need to slow down and take a moment to appreciate the positives. Happy Friday!
I’m utterly convinced that the key to lifelong success is the regular exercise of a single emotional muscle: gratitude.
People who approach life with a sense of gratitude are constantly aware of what’s wonderful in their life. Because they enjoy the fruits of their successes, they seek out more success. And when things don’t go as planned, people who are grateful can put failure into perspective.
By contrast, people who lack gratitude are never truly happy. If they succeed at a task, they don’t enjoy it. For them, a string of successes is like trying to fill a bucket with a huge leak in the bottom. And failure invariably makes them bitter, angry, and discouraged.
Therefore, if you want to be successful, you need to feel more gratitude. Fortunately, gratitude, like most emotions, is like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger and more resilient it becomes.
The best time to exercise gratitude is just before bed. Take out your tablet (electronic or otherwise) and record the events of the day that created positive emotions, either in you or in those around you.
Did you help somebody solve a problem? Write it down. Did you connect with a colleague or friend? Write it down. Did you make somebody smile? Write it down.
What you’re doing is “programming your brain” to view your day more positively. You’re throwing mental focus on what worked well, and shrugging off what didn’t. As a result, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll wake up more refreshed.
Reprogramming Your Brain
More important, you’re also programming your brain to notice even more reasons to feel gratitude. You’ll quickly discover that even a “bad day” is full of moments that are worthy of gratitude. Success becomes sweeter; failure, less sour.
The more regularly you practice this exercise, the stronger its effects.
Over time, your “gratitude muscle” will become so strong that you’ll attract more success into your life, not to mention greater numbers of successful (i.e., grateful) people. You’ll also find yourself thanking people more often. That’s good for you and for them, too.
This method works. If you don’t believe me, try it for at least a week. You’ll be amazed at what a huge difference it makes.
If you have a company profile page on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or LinkedIn, you’ve taken a step in the right direction by leading the conversation about your brand and engaging with your customers. But what do you do when some of those customers don’t want to play nice? While your first instinct might be to block a customer who writes a negative comment—or worse, write them a huffy response with a few choice words of your own, we’d encourage you to stop for a moment and step away from the keyboard. Although blocking them or retaliating may make you feel better short-term, long-term, you just lost a customer—and you did it in front of your audience. So before you let it all out, take all the information in and read on to find out how you can turn a negative situation into a positive one that will increase your customer’s loyalty to your brand.
Has the perfect comeback ever come to you about three hours after you actually needed it? We know the feeling. No one likes being caught off-guard, especially when it comes to confrontation. That’s why we advise companies to plan ahead. Based on your industry, think of five to 10 of the most common issues customers might complain about, such as the amount of time a service takes to be completed. You may even want to ask other team members who work with customers on a daily basis to weigh in on complaints that they hear. From there, write a response to each of the criticisms that addresses the concern in a professional manner and offers a next step or plan of action to resolve the problem. Be very cautious about offering free services, products or discounts in your public responses to an unhappy customer, as it may invite unwarranted complaints from other customers just looking for something for free. And you don’t want to be giving out complementary dinners to everyone just because they say their soda was flat the last time they ate at your restaurant.
Respond in a Timely Manner
There is nothing more embarrassing then a negative comment left up on a company’s profile page for days, with no response. Not only does that make it appear like the company doesn’t care about its customers’ concerns, it also may lead a potential customer to believe that the negative statement is valid, and it may not be. In addition, if an outdated negative comment is the first thing a potential customer sees when looking at your company profile page, they might be discouraged from using your services or products in the first place. If possible, a response time of less than 24 hours is ideal, which means that someone must regularly monitor your social media platforms for new activity. On the same token, don’t limit your responses to negative comments only. Reward the positive comments by “Liking” them or responding with a positive comment of your own. Sometimes simply thanking them for their business in response will suffice.
Handle Public Grievances Privately
When someone airs their grievances on a public platform, such as Facebook or Twitter, it’s good to respond to their post or comment once publically so that customers can see that your company did address the issue and try to resolve it. In your response, always give the customer a phone number or email where they can reach someone on your team who can discuss their issues and concerns with them further to reach a resolution. Don’t try to hash it out in back and forth posts on your profile page, always take it behind the scenes after your initial public response. If you’ve responded to the unhappy customer and they still proceed to post negative comments regularly or they use inappropriate language, then you can delete the comments or take it to the next level and block them as a user with a clear conscious.
The most important message to convey with your responses to negative feedback on social media is that your brand handles conflict professionally, addresses the actual problem, tries to resolve it, and is still the best choice for that particular product or service at the end of the day.
There are only three ways you can drive sales in your stores: (1) encourage more prospects to visit your store; (2) increase your average ticket and (3) increase your conversion rate –that is, sell to more of the prospects already visiting your stores. These are the folks who visit your store but don’t buy.
Driving more prospects into your stores usually requires an advertising or promotional investment of some kind, and increasing average ticket, well let’s just say that most retailers have been and continue to focus on this one – but what about conversion rate? Driving conversion rate is the third trick every retailer needs to learn – it’s another source of sales opportunity that most retailers today completely overlook.
Before I get into the ways you can drive conversion, I need to confirm that you actually track traffic and calculate conversion rate in your stores. First, you need to actually track prospect traffic. This is not the same as transaction counts. Lots of retailers are confused about this. Transaction counts represent the number of people who made a purchase; traffic counts represent the total number of people who came to the store including buyers and non-buyers. Conversion rate is simply calculated by dividing sales transactions by gross traffic counts. For example, if you logged 500 traffic counts in your store and there were 200 sales transactions for the day, your conversion rate would be 40 percent (i.e. 200/500).
The fact is, if you don’t track traffic in your stores, you can’t calculate conversion rate. If you can’t calculate conversion rate, well, you can’t improve it. So for the roughly 35 percent of retailers who actually track traffic and conversion rates, here are five ways you can improve conversion rates in your stores.
Understand why people don’t buy: One of the most important things a retailer can do to improve conversion rates is to understand why people don’t buy. Long lines, can’t find sales help, out-of-stocks, poor merchandising, the list goes on. There are reasons why people visit your store and don’t buy and you need to understand it. Every store manager should spend some time observing visitors in his/her store. Resist the temptation to help; just observe their behaviors. Watch customers as they move through your store, and it won’t take long for you to identify some actions you can take to turn more visitors into buyers.
Align your staff to traffic, not transactions: Sounds simple enough, but many retailers overlook this. Staff scheduling is tricky at the best of times, but aligning your staff resources to when prospects are in your store will help you maximize your chances of converting more of them into buyers. Pay particular attention to lunch time, when store traffic can be way up, but staff lunch breaks can seriously drag down conversion rates. Associates need to eat, but customers need to be served. Matching staff schedules to traffic volume and timing in your store will help improve your chances of converting more.
Look for conversion leaks and plug the holes: Traffic volume and conversion rates tend to be inversely related. That is, when traffic is high, conversion tends to go down or sag. When traffic levels are low, conversion rates tend to go up. It’s not hard to understand why this happens. When the store is busy, lines are longer and it’s harder to get help from an associate. The opposite is true when the store isn’t as busy. So, if you want to improve conversion rates, look at the traffic and conversion patterns in your store by day of week and by hour to look for when conversion rates are sagging – these sags represent the times when sales are being lost.
Set conversion targets by store: Having goals and targets are important if you want to improve results. If you don’t have a conversion target for your store, you need to set one. It’s important to remember that every store is unique and conversion targets should be set uniquely by store. One store might be doing well with a 15 percent conversion rate, while another may be under-performing even though it has a 30 percent conversion rate. The trick is to move your own conversion rate up relative to your store’s performance.
Make conversion a team sport: It takes the collective effort of all staff to help turn prospects into buyers. From the cashiers and sales associates to the merchandisers – everyone in the store plays a role. So don’t think of conversion as merely some business metric, but rather a simple measure of how well the whole store is doing at helping people buy. A good way to help improve conversion is to ensure all your staff understands what conversion is and that each of them helps influence it. Ask your staff about why they think people don’t buy and what the store can do to improve conversion rate. Discuss targets, get them to buy-in and share results. Get them excited about moving the conversion needle and you will significantly improve your chances of actually doing it.
Everyday, prospects visit your stores with the intent to buy, but leave without making a purchase. Getting your store to capture even a few more of these lost sales can have a significant impact on overall sales results. Improving your in-store conversion rate is not hard to do, but it does take focus and attention – the suggestions above will help you drive conversion in your stores.
If you don’t track traffic or measure conversion rate in all your stores today, simply put, you are missing out on an entirely new way to drive sales. You can’t improve conversion if you don’t measure it. The retailers who are focused on driving conversion rate have a significant advantage over those who do not.
Sustainability is important to many across the U.S., and the citizens of Duluth, Minnesota are certainly no exception. Recognizing that the community feels passionately about living a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle, UMD Stores collaborates with both the University of Minnesota-Duluth and other local businesses to support several initiatives that are making campus even greener.
For example, the stores have sponsored a local Farmer’s Market on campus for the past seven years. Hosted from mid May to the end of September, the weekly event known as UMD Market Day in the Plaza unites local vendors who offer everything from fresh vegetables to beautiful flowers.
“Wednesdays are a big Farmer’s Market Day in Duluth,” explained Teri Glembin, UMD Stores Marketing Coordinator. “There’s a city-wide market down the hill from campus which is open until noon, so we thought it would be great to continue the event on campus during the afternoon. It makes for a full day of business for our Farmers and even more opportunity to shop for our community; it’s really a win-win.”
Because the community believes so strongly in supporting sustainable living, the on-campus market accepts a variety of payment methods, including an EBT program.
“We want everyone to have access to fresh and healthy options, so that is very important to us,” Glembin added.
The event also offers space to vendors who sell their locally-made arts and crafts products.
“We have a wonderful art community in Duluth and, as a result, there are so many unique creations at Market Day each week,” she said. “I’ve seen everything from handmade soap to jewelry.”
Adding to the event, many of the artists put on a show for attendees by demonstrating their craft of choice.
“We’ve had a vendor come out and do glass blowing, another who was weaving on her loom, someone spinning pottery and so much more; it’s so interesting to watch!”
With an average of 25 vendors in attendance each week, Glembin says Market Day has become a way for new businesses in town to network with potential customers and expand their reach.
“Most vendors seek us out on their own, which is great,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way for them to mingle with the community and get their name out there.”
Vendors include much more than just community members, however. During the school year, students get involved by selling or promoting their on-campus groups’ products and events.
“For instance, the Multicultural group comes by every year to sell items that represent their ethnicity or heritage but that have been made using locally-produced supplies,” she explained. “It’s a great way for them to support their organization.”
Live music featuring a different local musician each week creates a unique and entertaining atmosphere. UMD Stores partners with their campus’ Student Life department to provide a variety of artists who specialize in different musical genres and styles.
“We’ve had some big names play here in the past, and it definitely draws a crowd. But, we also have some great talent right here on campus,” she explained. “For example, Jimi Cooper who teaches in the Music department has performed in the past, Dan Burrows from our IT department plays beautiful guitar, and one of our own bookstore employees who goes by DJ Mouse played at Market Day. We get a real mix of music, and attendees love that.”
Further promoting sustainability, the event often partners with other eco-friendly initiatives to show support. For example, UMD Market Day in the Plaza teamed up with the Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity by hosting the launch of their Habitat 500 Bike Ride, an event in which dedicated cyclists ride 500 miles in support of Habitat for Humanity.
“Riders from the Twin Ports Habitat 500 Team were at Market Day and they sold t-shirts with all proceeds going to the local Habitat projects,” she said. “A local bicycle shop, Twin Ports Cyclery, also stopped by and offered free bike tune ups. It’s always really nice to bring together companies, organizations, and the community for one great cause.”
By providing discounts, UMD Stores gets involved in Market Day, too. Every Wednesday during the event, they offer 20% off one regularly priced item when customers bring in a reusable bag as well as half price fountain pop and hot beverages.
Because the store is located at the front of campus, it makes an ideal backdrop for the weekly event.
“After we remodeled and became a street-level store, our new location was a link between campus and the residence halls,” Glembin described. “The city bus stop is right out front, too, so we have plenty of traffic coming from the surrounding community. It was the perfect hot spot to bring everyone together and welcome them to Market Day.”
Although Market Day does promote traffic in the stores, Glembin believes the biggest benefit is the connection that they’ve been able to develop with the campus and community as a result.
“It’s become a very well respected event and people appreciate all that we do to support local businesses, farmers, organizations and the city as a whole,” she said. “It’s exciting, fun, fresh, and very friendly; everyone looks forward to it because there’s always something new. The fact that our stores can have a part in providing that experience is really invaluable.”
As for the future, Glembin believes Market Day in the Plaza will continue to thrive for years to come.
“It’s grown so much over the years and become such a unique event,” she said. “Our attendees range in age from children to senior citizens and everyone in between. It just goes to show that our community really believes in this healthy lifestyle and that’s something I don’t think will go away anytime soon.”
How does your store support sustainability? Share your strategies in the comment section below!
The 8th Annual MBS Systems Users Symposium is just around the corner! Our one-of-a-kind event offers new skills and strategies all geared to help you maximize your market share and become an even more competitive retailer. This year, we’ve added exciting new training sessions, guest speakers and topics, plus brought back your favorites from years past!
It’s your Symposium and it’s sure to be the best yet; check out the official website to register and find the latest details on our:
- Travel grant applications
- Training sessions
- Guest speakers
- Exciting schedule of events
Register now – it’s easy!
Visit the ‘Registration’ section of the Symposium website, complete the required information, and then select the ‘Register’ button. Once you’ve successfully registered, you can start building your custom schedule. Click the ‘Get Started’ button to build your schedule right away, or log back in at any time using your email address.
The following excerpt is from the article, My Starbucks Ideas Boost Customer Loyalty, Profits, and Employee Engagement That U.S. Restaurant Chains Can’t Afford to Ignore, and was written by Barbara Farfan for About.com’s Retail Industry section. View the full article.
In my e-mail yesterday was a message from Starbucks about the newest ideas that have been implemented in Starbucks stores as a result of its My Starbucks Idea website. Starbucks wasn’t promoting anything, trying to sell me anything, or trying to persuade me to take any kind of action. They just wanted me to know that they care what their customers and partners (employees) think, and as proof of that care, they take action on the feedback they receive.
Message received. Loyalty reinforced.
The My Starbucks Idea system is a formidable best practice that creates customer loyalty, employee engagement, and profits that the U.S. restaurant industry can’t really afford to ignore.
The ideas that are being implemented because of the My Starbucks Idea system are neither small nor insignificant. It probably took Starbucks user AB523 about 10 minutes to type out a very detailed and thoughtful suggestion about how to accept mobile payments at the Starbucks drive-thru windows. But for Starbucks to implement that idea effectively, it took a significant investment of time, talent, and capital.
Sourcing the technology, installing the hardware, and deploying the training necessary for a drive-thru mobile payments solution that is both customer friendly and operationally sound is no small task. First and foremost it took a commitment by Starbucks leadership to care about improving the Starbucks customer experience.
Truth be told, the idea of accepting mobile payments at the drive-thru had probably been discussed by more than one Starbucks executive prior to the posting by AB523 on the My Starbucks Idea website. But providing the forum for ideas to organically emerge from the customer community helps the Starbucks leadership team to get a genuine read on the urgency and priority for improvement projects. When the Starbucks customer community makes it clear that something is important, then the Starbucks management team clearly knows what should be important to them as well. Nothing is more annoying to customers than to see a bunch of changes being implemented that nobody cares about while the “important” things are left unchanged.
Ask customers what they want and then find a way to give it to them. It seems like such an obvious retailing formula, it’s difficult to understand why every retail company in the world is not more aggressively focused on doing it. Who would have better ideas and suggestions than the consumers of your products and services anyway?
That question is not completely rhetorical. The people who might have even better ideas for your business than your customers is your employees. When I observed a fast food manager barely listen and then do nothing with a customer’s suggestion (Customer Satisfaction Ratings May 20, 2012), it was a strong indication that there was either no formal system available to employees for communicating suggestions, or if an idea processing system did exist, there was little motivation for employees to use it.
The partner suggestions that have been implemented through the My Starbucks idea system, seem to be not nearly as complex to implement as most of the customer ideas have been. Requesting smaller steaming pitchers, hand lotion, and pocket-sized training cards are not big-deal employee suggestions. And that’s exactly why Starbucks should (and did) implement them – because they are no big deal, but they help eliminate employee hassles.
What is big about collecting and responding to employee suggestions is the care, respect and appreciation that it demonstrates. Engaging the minds of your employee team in making your business better creates a level of employee ownership that has value beyond any number that could be included on any balance sheet.
“Ownership” is another concept that seems nice, but is often difficult for retail leaders to fully imagine. Here is one great example of ownership that I observed just yesterday.
Sitting in the lobby of a privately-owned boutique hotel, I observed the owner interacting with the guests as they were checking out. With each departing guest Tony went through the necessary check-out procedure and before sending his guests on their way he asked one additional nice-but-not-necessary question… “Where are you headed today?”
In each case when that question was asked, a friendly exchange followed, during which Tony had the opportunity to offer a suggestion, a brochure, an added piece of advice, or a solicited opinion about whether a certain destination was “worth it.” In each case when that extra few minutes of conversation was concluded, the guests walked away with smiles and obvious feelings of appreciation. It was a brilliantly simple way to make a positive last impression.
I shared how impressed I was with what I had observed with Tony, and his response demonstrated his clear and conscious commitment to creating an excellent customer experience. He told me that he saw his role not as providing lodging facilities, but rather as contributing positively to the traveling experience of the person in front of him. Specifically his goal is to “make a substantial contribution” to the quality of each person’s trip and when he had made every effort to do that, it was a successful transaction.
Tony and his wife built the hotel from the ground up, so obviously his ownership stake is inherently high. But as Starbucks has demonstrated, a “partner” that is truly treated like a partner can have a sense of ownership that is just as high.
Leaders create the engagement, employees with ownership create engaging customer experiences, loyal customers create profits. Sometimes retail success is much simpler than we allow it to be.
Have a question about social media? Now’s your chance to get an answer! We have a brand new training session on social media at this year’s Symposium, featuring Warren Hoover, founder of social media marketing agency Dubtizzle. Because it’s your Symposium, Warren wants to answer your questions! To gear up for the exciting event, he’ll respond to a few lucky people’s questions in a video series our Facebook Page over the next few weeks.
So, tell us: what do you want to know about social media? Feel free to ask about functionality, best practices, or another important aspect that has you stumped. Submit your question by commenting below, posting to our Facebook page or emailing SSchaefer@MBSbooks.com.
Odds are you’ve heard of Pinterest over the past few months. The social bookmarking site, where users collect and share photos of their favorite events, interests and hobbies, has become one of the fastest growing social networks online! In fact, it’s the third-largest such network behind only Facebook and Twitter.
Are you on Pinterest? We are, too! Follow us to get a behind-the-scenes look at MBS, find pins that promote your store to share with students, learn the latest campus trends and more!
- Interesting Infographics
- To Share with Students
- Rush Motivation
- The Many Uses of Used Books
- For the Love of Reading
- Around MBS
- Campus Life