25
Feb

New Hurdles To A Great Customer Shopping Experience

images (24)Retail professionals and customers struggle with complex emotional feelings more today than ever before. The sense of unrest that penetrates American lives, tech and Internet obsessions, and that ever-fleeting-hard-to-capture personal focus are, perhaps, the greatest offenders. What can retailers do to combat the fright, fatigue, and fragile focus that plague their customers?

Safety

Americans readily admit they want a safe, comfortable environment, but they don’t want to be hindered as they go about their daily activities. They do not want an armed guard in every boutique or store they enter, but they do want a general feeling of safety. If the surrounding neighborhood is beginning to deteriorate, shoppers may feel less safe and seek out other locations to shop. A report of heightened terrorist activity may keep shoppers at home or at least away from major shopping centers. While political unrest and terrorism are out of a business owner’s control, other aspects of safety are not.

Safe environment implies safety from catastrophic events like fire, for example. Of course, you can’t prevent every disaster, but you can give your store an advantage. It is imperative that entries and exits be clean and clear at all times. Trash should be promptly removed from the store in clear plastic bags and placed inside designated waste bins. Fire and police responders listed trash removal and clear exits as needed improvements to businesses time after time. Strive to keep all the entrances and exits free from clutter. Doors designated to be locked during business hours should be kept locked (and checked from time to time throughout the day); doors designated for customers should be open and welcoming.

To combat other insecurities, work with local police and first responders in the event of an emergency. Be active, flexible and calm. The time to plan for emergencies is during calm times. Print out your disaster plan, more than one copy, and keep it handy so that no one will have to try to look for the plan or try to determine what to do or how to do it during a crisis. Include the store’s physical address and simple directions to the store so that a stressed, frightened person could read this and not be forced to recite it from memory while rattled. Have flashlights on hand. In emergencies working flashlights make people feel calmer and more in control. If you haven’t checked the batteries lately, do so now.

Computer Security

Another concern shoppers and retailers share is cyber security. Data breaches continue to erode consumer confidence and brand reputation. Any data breach poses a real risk to customer confidence and store profit. It’s worth mentioning that active security and compliance to security are not the same thing. Since PCI DSS compliance can be a long and complex procedure, many see PCI DSS compliance as active security. While compliance does improve security to some extent, compliance is obeying the law; active security denotes an active defense-a special respect for and special treatment of information be it digital or hard copy.

Actions for data defense include an up-to-date internet security program and firewall, PCI DSS compliance (as a minimum), limited access for third parties, special care with hard copy, etc.

Tech Obsession

Even though technology generally improves our lives, many Americans have become slaves to computers, cell phones, and tablets. Smartphones are almost a constant disruption. Frequent gatherings show clusters of people punching away in their virtual world while they eat or shop in close proximity, but they are not talking to each other-they are involved with their “virtual worlds.” According to PEW research, users check their smartphones an average of 110 times a day, set them beside their plates while eating, and even check them in the bathroom. A decade ago no one had a smartphone. Now 46% of smartphone users say their device is something they “can’t live without.” 93% of adults age 18 to 29 admit to using their phone to avoid being bored, and 47% say they rely on their devices to avoid talking to others and to communicate with friends.

To further muddy the waters, the shopping experience no longer begins when customers walk through the door. Now shopping begins with a Google search on a personal devise, followed for a search of product and store reviews. This is followed by posting to a social networking site to get the opinion of friends and family. When a customer walks into the store, the shopping experience may be nearing its conclusion. For store personnel, it is time to act, to close the deal.

However, store professionals are frequently viewed as the interruption to the shopping experience rather than the completion or answer phase. Picture two customers out for an afternoon of shopping, talking at each other while focused on their mobile devises. It takes well-informed, people-skilled sales professionals to insert themselves into the conversation, give assistance and close the sale. Sales personnel must be well-trained and each one needs to be interested in the customers. Their focus must be entirely on the customers or they will miss opportunities.

Social Media “Addiction”

Then there is social media. It’s become a habit for many, requiring a lion’s share of the day’s attention for others. 28% of iPhone users check their social media channels before getting out of bed in the morning. 18% of social media users say they can’t go more than a few hours without checking out what’s happening on their favorite social media sites. This would be “down time” but now micro-moments with social networking have robbed people of even those short periods of rest.

So, what can a retailer do? You have no control over how much time a customer may spend on social media but you can establish a relationship with your customers on social media. You need to be where your customers are. Ask your customers what social networking sites they frequent and be sure to post regularly. Generally, 1 or 2 posts weekly are good for Facebook. Keep it short and use pictures. Twitter requires more effort needing multiple posts per day. However, the key is consistency in whatever social sites you choose.

Shopping Experience

Finally consider your customers shopping experience. It may have begun several days before a customer visits your shop-someone wants a new something, unique and flashy. The customer performs an online search. Next they will consult with friends on social networking, get their thoughts and input, study on-line reviews of various products and stores and, finally, come to the store to touch, feel, see and hear. Your store is a stage for their enjoyment. The store needs to pop with color and feature tantalizing displays to draw the eye. Re-dress mannequins weekly pairing different items together, especially those slow moving items. Frequently customers cannot imagine how to wear something or what to partner it with; how you dress the mannequins will teach them and spur on their imaginations making your merchandise more enjoyable.

Since customers are looking for the unique, be sure that you stock some products that are less well known. Try a new vendor or 2 at market or visit a different market to increase ideas and try something different. If you carry the same choices as other local stores, you may place yourself in a price war to win customers’ attention. The independent retailer generally cannot win a price war.

Time Crunch

Shoppers and retailers alike are forced to navigate with a perceived time crunch hanging over them. Reality allows all people to have the same 24 hours in each day and 7 days in each week, but how people use their time leaves much open to interpretation. Is the time well-used or wasted? Some people always get done what they need to and enjoy leisure time. Others may feel overwhelmed with what “needs to be done” that is always left undone. However, no matter if the time stress is real or imagined, it is an interruption to shoppers that retailers must overcome.

The best way to overcome a time issue is to study the shopping experience your store offers. Is it fun? Is it easy? Do your customers feel connected to your store? Remember, your store is a stage to entertain, teach and entice. People make time for things they want to do and enjoy doing. Make your store enjoyable, an on-going party, a fun event to celebrate.

Saving Money

Since the economic recession of 2008, retailers have dealt with customers’ urgent desire to reduce debt and establish savings. Although more people are currently employed and wages are slowly increasing, the added income is not being spent at shops and boutiques, but applied to existing debt or to savings accounts. Millennials are of a different mindset from Baby Boomers-they tend to want vacations, entertainment or dining out but not things. Capitalize on this by helping with your customers’ plan for the events in their lives. Provide information on comfortable travel, vacation sites where your logo was spotted (on a cap or tee), packing advise, etc. Partner your store with a local independent restaurant. Be creative. Give your customers a reason to visit your store. Keep merchandise new and exciting. Is there new and unique merchandise for them to see each time they visit? If not, you may be losing their interest and their focus. Be sure to entice customers to visit with new merchandise, in-store events, friendly sales staff and great customer service.

Concluding Thoughts

Life is hectic and evolving. There is a constant battle being waged for customer focus and there is no quick fix, nor is there a single fix for this on-going problem. Just as each store is unique, so is each solution. If one idea doesn’t work, try something else. It is important to commit each idea to writing, either on computer, devise or paper so that you can return to think about what went wrong and what went right. Therefore, plan; then be firm, fixed and flexible.

This article was written by Linda Carter, President of The Retail Management Advisors, a retail consulting firm whose mission is to help independent retailers survive and thrive. With more than 30 years experience helping independent retailers, she has the experience to help you too.

 

24
Feb

Retailing and Mall Shopping Ain’t What It Used To Be

download (24)The US retail sector may be post peak, and with the changing demographics and online sales competition, the once popular shopping mall and Department Store may become much like the once dominant species of our pale blue dot. Like the dinosaurs, the department store model looks like it will soon be ancient history. Let’s talk, as there is more evidence than not to back up this prediction.

The Kansas City Business Journal had a piece titled: “Study: Department stores must prune mall space to bloom again,” published on April 25, 2016 which stated: “A real estate research firm says department stores must close hundreds of sites – about 20 percent of all anchor space – in U.S. malls to regain their productivity of a decade ago, The Wall Street Journal reports. For example, Sears Holdings Corp. should shutter 300 stores, or 43 percent of its total, to achieve the sales per square foot it had in 2006, according to the study by Green Street Advisors. This is so even though Sears and other retailers have closed hundreds of stores in recent years with the rise of online sales and discounters.

Meanwhile, The Louisville Business Journal had a telling article recently titled: “Major retailer plans to close all of its Louisville-area stores except one,” published on April 22, 2016, which stated: “Kmart is planning to close all but one of its stores in the Louisville area this summer. The retail chain’s parent company, Sears Holding Corp., announced Thursday that a total of 78 Kmart and Sears stores will be closing, and that number includes four Louisville-area Kmart stores, WDRB TV reports.”

And, what exactly was that Wall Street Journal piece saying in addition to all this? Well, read it for yourself; “Glut Plagues Department Stores,” by Suzanne Kapner – and the recommendation from the research firm that in the US there needs to be at least the closure of 800 anchor tenant department stores for profitability to stabilize, that would be about one-fifth of all major department stores. Can you say; Ouch!? For the Retail Sector, I think this is what all retail stock fund managers are collectively saying about now, and one would have to ask; why? Why is this happening?

Well, consider the exuberant growth over the years, and the increase in online sales, expansion of Wal-Mart superstores and the spendable income of Americans declining – due to college tuition costs, health insurance, and the increased costs of things once not heard of, but now necessities of modern life such as: smart phones, cable TV, etc. Wages and Salaries on average have been stagnant and alongside even moderate to nil inflation flat in their growth. The world is changing and the retail world must adapt or die – there is no longer a choice in the matter. Please think on this.

15
Feb

Important Things You Must Know About Retail Management Information Systems

images (23)Retail management will mean running a store where merchandise is sold. Retail management information systems will include using software, hardware and procedures in order to manage activities such as inventory control, planning, logistics, point of sale transactions, and financial management. You can use this system in your business to manage your finances, store, and inventory from one office.

If you allow information to be exchanged instantly, store managers can efficiently control profits for the entire company. It must support product management and must enable an in-depth analysis of customer data. This is a very flexible system allowing managers to set prices for different time periods based on the location of the store. This will also allow them to meet the needs of inventory and sales managers. Most importantly, it involves the use of a mobile user interface.

How It Functions?

It supports the basic functions of procurement, storage and delivery. With this system, managers can efficiently deal with customers, suppliers, inventory, and product sales. It will allow you to successfully track purchase orders as well as update inventory record with dynamism. Furthermore, it will allow you to analyse cash, credit card, and check transactions in order to reconcile information as well as enhance efficiency by examining shortages and overage to show developments which can be remedied.

Benefits

With this system, operations are sure to improve and costs will be reduced since it will facilitate the integration between inventory, payments and transactions. By efficiently tracking inventory, customer requests can be addressed in an instant. And with fast responses, you can likewise enhance service, increase your profits, and expand your customer base.

Due to the fact that you can easily have an access to data, you can easily identify opportunities to recycle materials, boost waste reduction, and select eco-friendly packaging. These strategies will surely pave the way for a very profitable business.

Types

This system can easily be customized for various industries. For instance, it can be customized for department stores, sports, furniture, supermarkets, prescription drugs or fashion. There are some systems supporting different languages, tax systems, cost structures, and currencies. With this system in place, there will be a support for various business models. It can actually accommodate consignment, franchise, online business models, and direct sales.

 

2
Feb

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a POS System

download (23)One of the most significant things a business owner must have to effectively run his business is a way to keep track of the inventory. The best way to achieve this task is to have a powerful point of sale system in place. These systems not just monitor sales, inventory, and cash flow, but manage the business as a whole. A high performance POS system helps you to improve business operations by streamlining inventory, keeping track of the most popular items, and managing reports of daily sales.

To choose the best retail management software for your business, you need to avoid these mistakes.

Not doing enough research

Most business owners who end up disappointed with their point-of-sale software are those who don’t do enough research before purchasing one. A simple Google search will give you plenty of options to choose from. You can request demos and free consultations from the ones which you have shortlisted. Based on the demos, you select a system that best suits your business needs.

Not checking references

Most of the vendors will provide you their best references, but by requesting them to provide a local reference, you can save yourself from purchasing a poor-quality product. You must visit the local restaurant/retail store, which is using the POS system of the same vendor to ensure its quality and effectiveness. Having seen the product, you will be able to choose the best product in terms of both features and quality.

Not looking for the support options

Support options are essential for any software or hardware. A reliable support system is invaluable to every pursuit in life. So, make sure that your vendor provides assisted support services to meet all your requirements.

Purchasing a system that doesn’t offer detailed sales reports

It is not enough to purchase a POS system that keeps the record of all your sales transactions. To run your business profitably, you need to have actionable insights. And, these insights are provided by the daily sales reports generated by the point of sale solution. With the help of these insights you can easily identify the top performing and least performing items in your store.

Buying Hardware First

Many business owners make the mistake of purchasing POS hardware before selecting the software system. Always remember that not all software are compatible with all hardware. The software system will have hardware and operating system requirements. Moreover, each program of the software will only work with certain types of scanners, printers and card readers. Ensure to buy your software first and then buy the recommended hardware.