Embrace Social – Or Else

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Social media is no longer the purview of newlyweds, new parents and kitten videos. It is increasingly used by retailers looking to strengthen their brands. Conversely, as mobile shopping continues to grow, social media is putting new power into the customers’ hands. Customers not only are using their mobile tools to purchase online or even in-store, but also to communicate with retailers. And the majority of them want responses. Now.

Most businesses use social as a way to promote their brand rather than as a true channel for facilitating two-way communication.  But consumers view social media differently: They see it as a way to have a dialogue with the store or brand. According to research from Sprout, 90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. Retailers are faced now with a very public airing of customer concerns. Email and telephone calls are no longer top-of-mind for the disgruntled customer. Instead, their gripe is online for all the view to see – and, potentially – agree with. Social media is the first option customers turn to when they have a problem with a product or service.

The first option.

One social media complaint can quickly turn into a disaster. Retailers, therefore, must respond quickly and publicly, because the response isn’t just aimed at the unhappy customer, it also must show potential customers and loyal shoppers alike that you care about all of their business. How quickly? Very. According to Convince and Convert, 42% of your customers will expect a response within 60 minutes, and 57% expect the same response time at night or weekends as during regular business hours. There is no rest for the socially weary.

How to respond? Be polite. Don’t try to be cute or funny in most cases, because it’s easy for that strategy to backfire. Then, simply apologize and invite the customer to private message you. Do not remove their critical comment or others’. (Trolls are different. Abusive or irrational commentary should be deleted and the poster banned.)

Once you have established a private dialogue, discover what the issue is, apologize and offer an explanation if appropriate and then come up with a plan to rectify the problem. Follow up to ensure the fix was implemented and satisfactory. The last thing you want is for a second complaint to be lodged on social media.

Unfortunately, brands generally do a poor job of responding to customer criticism. On average, brands reply to only 11% of those posts. And, to compound customers’ frustration, brands send 23 promotional messages for each response provided. That’s a recipe for louder complaints and reduced customer satisfaction.

Retailers face enough competition; they should not be fighting their own social media policies as well. By getting on top of negative posts in an honest and open fashion, they can take negative situations and turn them into positive ones. Even a service problem can be used to improve customer satisfaction, if handled promptly and in a manner in which customers feel is aimed at genuinely helping them.

 

Use Mobile In-Store To Combat Online Competition

 

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Do you have mobile technology that your associates can use to help find products in different store locations, or to order an out-of-stock selection? Great, but if that’s the only reason for the technology, you’re stuck in 2014.

To keep up with the times and the online competitors who give your shoppers ultimate control – and attract Millennial shoppers – share that technology to beef up their customer experience.

Here are 2 ways to do it.

 

1. Self-serve mobile

First off, it’s an ideal way for the shopper who’s a “loner” – the one who wants nothing to do with associates and shops online for a reason!

A retail touchscreen lets these clients self-serve entirely. Think of it as an update to kiosk technology. This is more user-friendly, mobile and definitely full featured: Customers can search for items and complete the buying process independently.

And, with permissions levels easily set by your retail IT group, you can rest secure knowing shoppers won’t accidentally wonder off into your confidential retail records.

 

2. Mobile clienteling & endless aisle

Second, mobile technology can not only be used to locate products by the salesperson, it can also be used by the customer and associate together, for some human suggestive selling.

The salesperson can use a touchscreen as a tool to share items that are in the “endless aisle,” – products available but not physically in the store. In addition, the touchscreen can be a useful aid in retail clienteling.

Although Millennials are known to be rather aloof with salespeople and prefer a do-it-yourself approach to shopping, they do share purchase decisions and seek input from friends and perceived experts when shopping.

So, an associate might find something within the “endless aisle” and share it with the customer by physically handing him or her the screen. Customers could then add the suggestion to a cart or wish list, or begin a consultative conversation with the salesperson if the product didn’t quite hit the mark. At best, it’s a sale; at worst, it’s a solid conversation starter.

 

Supporting in-house mobile technology allows retailers to adapt readily to shopping preferences of consumers accustomed to taking control over their experience with online shopping.

Many shoppers complain of overbearing associates – when those salespeople have actually been trained to do many of the behaviors the customer finds annoying. By providing a mobile option, retailers are offering an alternative that will facilitate customer engagement in-store,  yet has more of the independence many of today’s shoppers want.

 

Want to learn about mobile POS options from Retail Pro?

Learn more about Retail Pro Prism

 

 

 

It’s (Still) All About the Data

 

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This January, NRF’s Big Show hosted 35,000 attendees, 510+ exhibitors and 300+ speakers. And though there was talk of innovation and continued discussion about personalization, many of the conversations centered around data: how to gather it, how to use it, and how to protect it.

Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, talked about retail transformation, during a morning keynote. Strategic gathering of data and implementation based on that information lets retailers gain insight and predictive abilities that are new and exciting. The result is a store that can provide customers more control over product selection, special promotions, etc., while the retailer receives more data. The better the data, the more responsive a retailer can be to customers’ desires. And the most responsive retailers will be rewarded not only with more sales, but with a loyal customer base.

Virtual reality — once limited to video games — is becoming a force in retailing, Krzanich said, explaining that VR solutions can play a big role in understanding customer movements within a store, as well as predicting where they’ll go next. Intel demonstrated the use of virtual reality for store configuration and planograms in addition to shopping in a virtual version of the customer’s own home.

“You can see how in your store, your customer can have a very different experience, and you’re going to get data about what they are looking at,” Krzanich said. “What styles they like. What colors they’re looking for. What’s interesting to them. What they put into their shopping cart but then take out at the end of the day and don’t purchase. All of that data is available.”

And it’s valuable. A study by MyBuys  found that 40 percent of survey participants said they buy more from retailers that personalize their shopping experience across channels. Of course, collecting “big data,” and then using business analytics to distill it is not new. But the ways in which information is being gathered — e.g. the aforementioned virtual reality — is.

“With as many tech options as are out there to help retailers address various customer-facing elements of retail strategy, enterprise retail on the backend now has to deal with security concerns, with the increased complexity of managing all those technologies, with integrating all the data, getting maximum use out of them, etc,” noted Alexandra Firth, director of marketing, of Retail Pro.

Retail Pro provides software solutions for retailers globally, and is acutely aware of the need to provide security around all that data. Information security products and hiring consultants can be expensive, and the retailers most prone to getting hacked — small to midsize businesses — are also the ones least able to afford the investment. A few tips for SMBs:

  • Conduct a security audit. Learn where the gaps in coverage are and then hire a consultant to focus on those specific areas.
  • Train employees about the risks of phishing and viruses.
  • Determine which data is most important and then protect it. Not all information is vitally important to protect.

It’s a perfect time to focus on strengthening security, Firth added, because 2017 is shaping up to be a back-to-basics year. “Retailers are focusing on internal, structural evolution, evolving their process and procedures,” she said. “They are simplifying, streamlining — and making themselves more efficient. Simply put, they are optimizing their operations.”

NRF 2017: In-Store Personalization and Better Store Fulfillment

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In-store personalization has been slow in coming, but at this year’s NRF Big Show, vendors showcased technology that indicated the tide may be turning. And why not? Retailers are well aware that the ability to create a personalized experience for every customer could methodically lead shoppers to the point of purchase.

However, while retailers have embraced personalization techniques online, that success has not provided the impetus for similar in-store implementations. The benefits personalization offers e-commerce are known and envied by their brick and mortar counterparts. But there are myriad types of personalization – navigational and predictive, for example. Personalization can be based on third-party data, database segmentation, past purchase history, location and more. It’s complicated to start on the path to personalized selling and it doesn’t get easier.

That may change shortly, as the costs of the technology have decreased, third-party integrators are more fluent with the necessary equipment and software, and the benefits are becoming more evident. Shoppers, too, expect a unified commerce, tech-driven experience in which in-store mirrors online, and vice versa. Vendors are more motivated than ever to provide retailers with tools that will help them reflect the online experience inside a physical store. In addition, increasingly, those tools are easier to use and to integrate with existing systems.

One of the big challenges for retailers is determining how to make in-store personalization attractive to shoppers; some customers see the technology as overly intrusive. In its second annual “Creepy or Cool’ survey, RichRelevance found customers embraced personalization when it suited their needs.

“For the second year in the row, the study finds that shoppers think it is cool to get digital help finding relevant products and information – on their own terms when they choose to engage,” said Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance. “However, they are creeped out by digital capabilities that identify and track without a clear value offered in return.”

However, it’s difficult for retailers to understand exactly what shoppers’ expectations are at any given time because they are shifting and evolving. To address that, part of the focus of this year’s NRF was the underscoring of the need for retailers to get back to basics and to develop scalable, repeatable and reliable processes that support their enterprise order management capabilities. A solid foundation built on those principles is likely to be more responsive to constantly changing – and expanding – shopper expectations.

Much of the ordering technology that is currently available to retailers is focused on the flow of product from one channel to the next. Understanding and pleasing the customer, unfortunately, has until now been simply the result of having solid ordering technology. The customer experience is largely an afterthought.

Many of the vendors at NRF believe that consideration of customer satisfaction and their preferences will move to the forefront this year. While order systems must be accurate and efficient as well as cost-effective, those characteristics are no longer a differentiator in retail. Instead, they are a requirement. What will distinguish the great retailers are those that can receive orders and provide internal inventory visibility across all sales channels as well as track customer satisfaction with store fulfillment.

Although efficiency and process are obviously important to retailers, personalization offers the potential of increased sales as well as customer loyalty. People enjoy patronizing businesses that know their tastes and provide that personal touch. In addition, retailers can further improve the customer experience by providing insight into inventory and delivery, which in turn helps the customer feel empowered. As retailers continue to blend the right mix of product, service and ordering flexibility, they encourage a sense of empowerment that enhances the customer experience.

New year, new retail! 5 ways to use mobile in your stores

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Each new year comes with new excitement, new potential, new initiatives – like mobile in your stores!

Start 2017 off right – see how one fashion retailer uses mobile in their stores. Then, book your NRF meeting to talk with us in person about how Retail Pro can help you go mobile!

Book my NRF meeting now

 

How to Build Your Tech Strategy

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Technology empowers efficiency in your retail operations, so building a solid tech strategy is critical to effective execution.

See how Earthbound Trading Co is increasing operational efficiency by building their tech strategy with Retail Pro.

Then – book your NRF meeting to talk with us in person about how Retail Pro can help you optimize your retail tech strategy.

Book my NRF meeting now

 

 

How to Unify Commerce

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Last week we invited you to meet with us at NRF to discover optimized retail with Retail Pro.

Let’s count down the final weeks before NRF with tips on HOW to optimize your retail operations, in step with market trends and proven strategies of retailers using Retail Pro.

Then – book your NRF meeting to talk with us in person about how Retail Pro can help you optimize and unify your commerce profitably.

Book my NRF meeting now

 

3 Tips for Using Your Retail Data to Attract More Customers

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For retailers, much of the work that goes into making a sale is done before your customer ever sets foot in your store. Here are 3 tips for using your retail data to attract more customers.

 

1. Use outbound marketing as a targeted follow-up to inbound marketing.

Fresh, high-quality content is available to sales prospects 24/7. Whether it’s on the web, in stores, or via email, information is out there, waiting to be consumed by eager customers. Savvy retailers are using their content assets to attract customers, and it’s working: Interesting, relevant material attracts leads to a business’ site, social media presence and/or store. That content must position your company as a market leader. Valuable content that informs the customer is key. The more specific your content, the more focused you can be.

2. Collect data on your customer.

To really provide such highly focused, relevant content, you must understand customers’ interests and tastes, as well as their demographic information. Only then can you tailor both your content, which attracts customers, and the message, which will be used to close the sale. Outbound marketing only succeeds when it reaches the appropriate audience. Personalized campaigns can go a long way when you are courting a customer. Let the data you gather help inform the way you engage with customers.

3. Use predictive analytics.

Look back and use past performance to gauge future sales. Predictive analytics examines a variety of data and then systematically offers the makeup of the best leads. Big data crunching can help find those sweet spots invisible to the naked eye. In addition, sales teams knowledgeable in the science of data analytics can gain insight into purchasing triggers. Paying attention to small triggers can get your retail marketing campaigns out ahead of the competition’s.

 

 

 

Battery Life Important for mPOS Success at Holiday Time

 

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Mobile POS systems are becoming increasingly important to many retailers.

With the Christmas season just about officially starting, retailers are readying the last few tools needed to make point of sale transactions as efficient as possible. One area in need of improvement is the battery life of mobile POS devices.

Often used for “linebusting,” mPOS is a great way to ensure customers have a smooth, expedited checkout experience. It’s also a terrific means of engagement with customers on the sales floor. Many retailers have transformed the customer experience by integrating mPOS into the checkout.

But the batteries used in the tablet devices are notorious for having short lives.

Retailers with extended sale hours, for example, would need to have mobile battery packs on hand to keep devices functioning, even if it they were fully charged when doors opened. Few things are more frustrating than missing out on sales because there is no way to authorize transactions.

Larger retailers and those handling greater numbers of transactions – holiday rush, anyone? — are seeking longer battery life to reduce the need to recharge. That way, store staff can transact sales continuously for an entire shift, reducing overall recharging requirements as well as the number of devices retailers need to keep on hand.

Overall, battery life in consumer electronics is constantly being upgraded. Today, for example, laptop battery life is roughly two and a half times longer than it was in 2012. So it’s logical to assume that mPOS battery life will ultimately improve as well.

To that end, manufacturers are debuting new products that have batteries that can be swapped out easily for rapid replacement, along with docking stations that can be used to simultaneously charge not only mPOS devices but also the accompanying mobile or tablet devices.

Other improvements are on the horizon as well: Often, mass market devices are not durable enough to withstand the hazards of the sales floor. Spills and drops leave many merchants with broken devices, and software or connectivity malfunctions are sources of further frustration. Many retail merchants are therefore migrating from popular commercial hardware to more purpose-built retail solutions. Ruggedized solutions (from Panasonic, for example) are becoming popular also.

Implementing tools that can reduce line time and improve the customers’ interaction with sales associates is, of course, a move in a positive direction. Retailers need to be aware of potential pitfalls brought on by poor battery life and be ready to quickly circumvent any problems that arise.

Ironically, new technology that fails can irritate customers more than the previous “old system.” So, until improved battery life is commonly available on mPOS devices, make sure your equipment is fully charged, and you have spare battery packs or devices on hand.