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How to lift retail revenue with product drops

 

 

Retailers are challenged with making their product selections more exciting, alluring and sexy than those of the competition.

Having that certain product or designer that is unique to a particular brand can make a retailer a shining star, at least for the season.

"Drop culture" is a trend that is propelling some retailers to the heights of fame and, sometimes, fortune.

 

Create urgency

Product drops are special releases that will only be available for a limited time.

Customers are excited to be a part of the "in" crowd, getting something exclusive early.

For retailers, the buzz that's created around these events promotes their brands even before the product is launched.

While it can be an opportunity to test new products quickly, product drops are really an event employed to encourage the competitive shopping mindset.

The product that’s dropped is special in some way: a limited edition, something new from a famous designer, a bleeding-edge fashion trend, etc. The value of a “drop” is therefore earned, not assigned.

 

Show scarcity

Today, many luxury products are devalued due to over-exposure in the market, which means that the most desirable items require a level of effort or cleverness to obtain.

For example, U.S. streetwear brand Anti Social Social Club (ASSC) partnered with product release app Frenzy (created by Canadian small business shopping platform Shopify ) on an event where fans had to check-in to a physical location at a designated time to buy a limited-edition sweatshirt online.

But figuring out the exact location of the drop required significant detective and riddle-solving skills. Those who solved the puzzler were automatically logged in, triggering the product to appear on-screen to purchase — but within a certain amount of time.

 

Sell them a spot in the in-crowd

Product drops take advantage of the basic human desire to be included. No one wants to miss out on being part of something special.

The excitement tends to prompt customers to make decisions faster and more impulsively than if they have time to think about the purchase.

Often, quantities are limited and therefore sell out, adding to the "limited edition" mystique.

Although more products often become available in the months following the first drop—and shoppers are well aware of that—the excitement of purchasing these items ahead of the pack is too alluring to ignore for many.

Product drops are a good way to stir up excitement especially during a lull in the shopping sales cycle — such as post-holiday.

By creating a "buzz," a retailer raises the desirability of a product, and the "lucky" purchasers can enjoy basking in the afterglow.






3 ways to invest more in shopper relationships with 160 characters or less

 

 

SMS messaging — texts — are great to get the word out to customers about special events, sales and discounts. Retailers large and small can benefit from the marketing strategy primarily used to drive sales and foot traffic.

The trouble is, the limited space for content mandates writers use extremely concise verbiage.

With a character count of around 160, it's difficult to create content that will strengthen customer relationships and drive business.

Conversations nurture relationships, and relationships can grow sales.

Texting is a great way to have conversations when your customers are not in the building or on your site, especially because 95% of Americans have cell phones.

However, to reach shoppers quickly and grab their attention enough to entice them into your store, content has to be engaging.

Your interesting offers, information, discounts and coupons were attractive enough for them to sign up to receive messages. Now it's time for them to take action.

Here are 3 tips for creating strategic content in 160 characters or less.

 

1: Determine your goal

If your texts are meant to encourage sales, they should be inviting, not demanding.

SMS texting can be rather intimate, one-to-one conversations. Let your sales team establish a position of a trusted advisor.

For example: "Hi Steve. Remember the Sky-Dweller that caught your eye? We're having a Rolex sale Saturday. Let me know if you’re interested – Leah @ Hughes Jewelry".

 

2: Offer help consistently

Texts from trusted advisors should maintain a fairly regular cadence: Not too frequent, but not "out of the blue" either. Be authentic; customers can detect insincerity a mile away.

Try basing the timing of texts on the number of times per month or week customers are actually purchasing.

For example: "Hi Renee, thanks for attending the install demo. Sound system installation is Thursday, 10/10. Sign up: xyz.com/nmk. Let me know if you have questions - Rob".

 

3: Include a call to action

While "Thank you for your business," is a polite ending, it's not the most effective use of 160 (or fewer) characters. Ending with a link or phone number shows you mean business.

For example: "Hi Fiona, the 20% discount on Natural Kat ends this week @KitsCorner. If you come in today, you’ll get a BOGO deal with this msg. Hope to see you later – Piper".

Remember, a customer can easily call you from a text message, because the SMS is generated from a cell number. So using precious character space to include a phone number may not be the best use of the space.

 

Texting after contact has been established with a prospect can help significantly improve conversion.

Sales prospects who are sent text messages convert at a rate 40% higher than those who are not sent any text messages, according to research by Velocify.

It is also a effective way to keep your brand top-of-mind and to build strong, lasting, customer relationships.






Brick-and-mortar reclaims its advantage via clienteling

 

 

A generation ago, people shopped by visiting a retailer, chatting with the salesclerk, browsing and building relationships. An associate would place a call to customers if a new shipment arrived with pieces that were "just perfect" for them.

It's that sense of a personal touch that is critical to the success of brick and mortar to this day.

 

Online retail’s forfeited advantage

Several years ago, online retailers had the advantage over brick and mortars as they could efficiently collect much more data about customers at every visit.

They knew what pages the shopper had visited, which items were of interest, and how many times they visited before they purchased items.

That amount of information would take far longer for a traditional retailer to collect, at that time.

Fast forward five years, and technology can now provide brick and mortars with deeper information than ever before.

Now brick and mortars have an advantage over their online competitors, as their stores morph into showrooms where shoppers can physically inspect products, and associates can make personal connections.

 

Building relationships in-store

Today's retailers employ clienteling strategies to build customer relationships based on data collected about their preferences, purchases, lifestyle and other behavior.

Within stores, retailers are equipping associates with customer information that lets them deliver personalized service.

Clienteling software can be used to compile customer data from different channels – from in-store purchases to online browsing history to items stored on wish lists.

The in-store shopping experience can then be tailored to fit each customer’s unique interests and desires.

Such anticipation of needs enhances the customers' in-store shopping experience and helps associates sell more effectively.

 

Staying top of mind

Clienteling data not only enhances the shopping experience for those in physical stores but is also used by associates to reach out to customers between visits.

Clienteling technology can be used to create alerts about any event that forms a customer connection.

Associates with access to customers' spouses' birthdates, for example, might place a well-timed call detailing the latest merchandise that would make a great gift.

And stock alerts can be correlated to specific customers, so contact can be made when a new shipment from a specific vendor arrives.

Such focused, one-to-one outreach is extraordinarily effective in attracting repeat customers and sales of high-margin, full-price items.

 

Machine learning drives personalized recommendations

Intelligent product recommendations aren't limited to preparing for a customer's future shopping excursions: They can also be used real-time when the customer is in the store.

Store associates can greet and engage with individual customers, anticipate their needs and function as a trusted advisor.

Software tools that incorporate machine learning transform mounds of customer data into insightful, targeted and personalized product recommendations. Machine learning digests every page view, every "like" and every purchase.

The result is increasingly smarter recommendations.

Clienteling solutions help retailers identify customers' needs efficiently and quickly, so the shopping experience is ultimately more rewarding.

Implementing clienteling tools provides retailers and their associates the necessary tools to build long-lasting, profitable and mutually beneficial relationships.






2 years later, Amazon’s retail experiment is still unmatched

 

 

Much has been written about the importance of providing customers a "frictionless" retail experience.

Providing wireless devices to associates has helped with "line busting," and advances in business analytics and operational intelligence have helped retailers predict sales trends more accurately.

But even the smoothest, most personalized experience still requires customers to slow down and pay at registers.

Except at Amazon Go.

 

The brick & mortar experiment

When Amazon opened its first brick and mortar store in Seattle in January 2017, retailers were skeptical the online behemoth could master the nuances of being a neighborhood shop.

Turns out, Amazon created a unique experience.

Rather than try to duplicate what was already entrenched in the neighborhood, it used what it already knew about shoppers — primarily, that they valued convenience and speed when shopping — and parlayed it into a successful, small grocery.

Amazon Go is equipped with technology that lets shoppers make purchases without visiting cashiers or using self-checkout stations.

Shoppers download the Amazon Go app, enter their credentials and receive a QR code, which offers access to the store.

Customers take their selections off the shelves and simply walk through the turnstile, products in-hand.

A few minutes after leaving the store, shoppers receive a notification from the app with their receipts.

 

An irreplicable experience?

Similar trials by retailers at self-service technology, however, have proven unsuccessful.

Among those issues:

  • Shrinkage: A study of 1 million transactions in the United Kingdom found losses incurred through self-service technology payment systems totaled 3.97 percent of stock, compared with just 1.47 percent traditionally.
  • Bugs: Not every item scans properly, causing delays and frustration.
  • Exceptions: Some items need a valid ID to purchase, which requires a cashier's intervention.

Faced with those types of challenges, it's no wonder that retailers are skeptical about implementing "Amazonian" shop-and-go strategies.

Some have removed self-service option altogether, eliminating the headache of shrinkage and hardware problems.

But some research suggests that offering multiple options for check out is really what customers want.

 

Amazon currently has locations in Seattle and Chicago with plans to expand in New York and San Francisco.

The company has leveraged technology to make these shoppers' lives easier.

It has taken away a good deal of friction for customers, while providing itself with reams of relevant data about its shoppers.

 






9 tactics to borrow from luxury retail’s clienteling strategy to improve your omnichannel CX

 

 

Clienteling is extremely effective for engaging with customers in a way that leads to loyalty and a better overall experience with your brand.

But outside of luxury and small retailers who have personal relationships built into their business model, clienteling is a tough tactic to pull off – especially when you throw multiple sales channels into the mix.

So how can mid-sized and chain store retailers incorporate some of the same concepts that make clienteling so effective into their customer engagement strategy?

Here are 9 ways to improve your omnichannel customer experience with clienteling tactics.

 

1: Need-based sales

Train your employees to listen for customers’ unspoken needs when they’re helping them on the sales floor. For example, if they’re looking for a home theater system, help them evaluate not only the speakers and acoustic panels, but also the wireless headphones that will recreate the experience when the baby is sleeping. Help your customer think through every detail of the occasion and get them everything that meets those needs.

2: Customer profiles

Mobile POS is your friend. It gives your sales associates quick access to a customer’s profile and shopping history so they can be better informed when making recommendations. Retail Pro POS is device-agnostic, which means your sales associates have secure access to the same powerful customer management tools, whether on small mobile devices or full-sized desktop computers.

3: Always say YES

Having an iPad or tablet accessible while engaging with customers on the sales floor means your sales associates can look up inventory at nearby store locations to see whether they have the particular size or color the customer wants. Then, complete the sale through that store with send sale capabilities in Retail Pro POS.

4: Digital lookbook

Retailers going for the clean, modern look of a lean inventory strategy can use inventory images in your mobile POS or on your website as an endless aisle lookbook to help your customer pick out and order items you don’t carry in store.

5: Now trending

Analyze the POS sales data in business intelligence and visual analytics software like Retail Pro Decisions to see micro and macro trends and take action to make the goods available to more customers. If your top shoppers are loving your newest products, extend the offer to the next tier of shoppers to bring them into your stores and spread the love!

6: Personalized service online

Use your customer data in Retail Pro to offer the same kind of personalized service on your website. Basket analyses help you see what products shoppers tend to purchase together so you can recommend similar pairings to shoppers buying only one item or the other.

7: Behavior-driven offers

For shoppers who have an account with you, use their purchase history as the basis for your recommendations. AppCard for Retail Pro integrates customers’ POS data to make it easier to personalize offers to them. Email marketing campaigns personalized with your customers’ actual shopping behavior make them more relevant and more likely end in conversion.

8: Customer nurture

Between visits to store or site, nurture shoppers by anticipating their next need and proactively contacting them via email or SMS. A customer’s purchase history in Retail Pro POS can inform the offers you make to them and helps you create personalized promotions through the AppCard for Retail Pro solution.

9: Unified experiences

A cohesive customer experience shows you know and understand shoppers’ wants, exposes them to new products they may benefit from, and makes it more convenient for them to get what they need from you. The best way to do that? Tie the purchasing journey and communications together across channels by integrating all your customer-facing tools on the Retail Pro POS platform.

 

Luxury retail sets high standards when it comes to giving shoppers a meaningful, customized customer experience. Retailers incorporating clienteling tactics into their own customer engagement strategy across channels can differentiate themselves by better, more personalized experiences at every touchpoint.

 

 






Customer survey results can be misleading

 

 

Many retailers ask customers for ratings on the service they received during a shopping trip.

Often, these requests to complete a survey are made from the associates themselves, and reinforced through a reminder on the receipt.

But exactly how valid are the results from these surveys?

At least one team of researchers say the answers aren't as truthful as retailers might hope.

 

Customers are biased in favor of employee security

This week, NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam talked on-air about a conversation he had with John Horton, a business school professor at New York University.

Horton and his colleagues had studied what the consequences were when people were asked to rate their service.

It turns out, there is bias inherent in such survey questions, because people are reluctant to give others a harsh rating: Fearing their answers may jeopardize employee jobs, respondents tend to rate service higher than it deserves.

So, even if a customer feels that an associate could have been friendlier, or more knowledgeable, he or she will give a three or four-star rating, rather than a more objective one or two-star rating.

Customers know that there are companies that will fire employees that have low ratings, and many don't want to be responsible for someone becoming unemployed simply if he or she was having "a bad day."

 

Use feedback for training

That does not mean, however, that customer feedback can never be trusted.

To obtain meaningful results, the survey must itself be constructed without bias.

Horton and his colleagues analyzed data from a large online platform with over a billion dollars in transactions.

They learned that when a rating platform informs users that the feedback is going to be private and that it won't be used to punish providers, users will provide more critical feedback.

The lesson is that even simple, one-question surveys can provide valuable feedback, as long as they don't appear to threaten the livelihood of individual who is being evaluated.

If the survey makes it clear that the feedback is used for training purposes, participants will be honest.

And then future experiences might truly be worthy of a five-star rating.

 

 






3 Ways to build better customer profiles using Retail Pro POS

The elusive omnichannel shopper: she leaves her tracks everywhere but is yet to be understood.

Shoppers’ path to purchase today beelines from your store to your website on their computer at the office (used only during breaks, of course), to your mobile site on their tablet, to your app on their smartphone, and back.

Companies with strong omnichannel engagement are able to keep 89% of their customers, compared with 33 percent of companies with weak engagement.

But how can you keep customers and improve customer experience for shoppers whose journeys you’re still struggling to pinpoint?

Learn about your shoppers

One way is to build steps into your operations that will help you learn more about your customers. Basically, train your team to build customer profiles as they interact with shoppers.

But when you can give customers good reason to share their information with you online or in stores, you are in a better position to gather accurate data that will help you draw more useful, actionable insights from your company performance.

For example, if there’s something a customer wanted that’s not in stock, retailers can turn a bad experience into a positive one by placing an order for them from the store — with free shipping — delighting the customer while gathering additional shopper data.

Answers to a small number of carefully targeted questions can have a big impact on a business, whether in survey format or simply asked by an associate at the POS itself.

Of course, the simplest way (though not always the easiest way) to learn information about shoppers is to collect it directly from the source: Ask them. Here are 3 ways to build better customer profiles using Retail Pro POS.

 

1: Get feedback at the POS

Take time to chat with customers while ringing them up at the POS, and take notes.

POS flags in Retail Pro POS allow you to add quick-action buttons or fields to take note of shopper details at the POS, which you can then analyze and use to shape more effective decision making, or for their marketing campaigns, depending on the information you choose to capture.

Because workflows in Retail Pro are entirely tailorable to yours, you can automatically prompt sales associates to ask preset questions and record the answers.

This kind of information, collected incrementally over time, will help you build a truer understanding of your customers and draw conclusions to improve their experience.

 

2: Engage with shoppers on the sales floor

Having mobile POS available for your sales associates empowers them to do build customer profiles while they’re helping them on the sales floor. Retailers with a more consultative approach to customer engagement can create quick workflows to help associates create new customer profiles and start filling in the details while they assist: shoe size, scent preferences, skin tone.

Skincare brand Aesop uses Retail Pro to track, manage, and access customer data all over the world, ensuring the same experience for a particular customer regardless of location, because every store shares the same customer and inventory details.

“Our store consultants often work cross-country but the experience of working with the software is the same. We have one consistent thread through Retail Pro, though each store is entirely different,” said head of Aesop’s ICT, Troy Smith.

Over time these profiles will help your associates continue the conversation knowledgeably, making recommendations relevant to their needs because you see them through the customer’s history in the POS.

 

3: Invite your top shoppers to VIP in-store events

Inviting your top shoppers to exclusive in-store events not only rewards them and deepens their affinity for your brand, but also gives your team opportunity to keep learning about your shoppers.

Form your guest list using Retail Pro’s built-in reports on customer KPIs like total spend or Customer Lifetime Value. Then, get to learning about your customers’ preferences as you mingle over cocktails at your new product drop.

Or, use Retail Pro POS to collect information about visitors to the launch of your new pop-up store.

Designer brand Akris uses POS flags in Retail Pro POS to capture email addresses or phone numbers of customers attending their exclusive in-store events and then contact them for future events.

 

As you take advantage of these kinds of opportunities to build customer profiles, you’ll start learning more about your customers and can then more successfully unify your operations and customer engagement to place customers’ needs at the forefront of your business strategies.

 






4 ways to use pop-ups’ popularity to boost your brick & mortar strategy

 

 

Pop-up stores are a popular way to freshen brick and mortar presence as well as to physically connect e-commerce retailers to their customers.

They have been around for a few years, but they have steadily become increasingly popular.

In fact, the recently defunct Toys R Us chain had reportedly exploring popups as a possible comeback before deciding finally to reimagine their in-store experience.

The strategy is a cost-effective way for many types of retailers to experiment in physical retail, from e-commerce giant Alibaba to brick and mortar veteran Macy's.

Here's how you can use pop-up shops' popularity to boost your profits.

 

1: Collect data

Pop-up stores that are spawned from brick and mortars tend to be much smaller and more focused than their parents.

New brands or trendy items can easily be curated and then tested in a pop-up shop.

Once inside, shoppers movements can be tracked with video cameras, allowing retailers to learn what items piqued shoppers' interests, and what didn't.

 

2: Promote your cause

Popups are a great way to illustrate the power of cause marketing.

Retailers often have "pet" charities, and popups let retailers focus on that cause.

Specific merchandise is showcased and a portion of the profits are directed to the charity.

Press coverage is often also a welcome by-product of this strategy.

Customers expect their favor stores to align with charitable causes: 86% of consumers believe that companies should take a stand for social issues.

64% of those who said it’s ‘extremely important’ for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were ‘very likely’ to purchase a product based on that commitment, according to the 2018 Shelton Group’s ‘Brands & Stands: Social Purpose is the New Black.

 

3: Connect with the neighborhood

E-commerce companies looking to form a local connection have found popups an ideal solution.

Alibaba, for example, opened 60 physical pop-up stores in 52 malls across 12 cities in China for Single's Day last year.

More than 100 brands participated, including L’Oréal, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Lego.

 

4: Test new technology

Due to their small size, popups are the equivalent of a test market.

New POS software, smart shelves, and virtual reality solutions such as the "magic mirror," which lets shoppers try on items such as sunglasses, cosmetics and apparel virtually.

Pop-up stores provide a bit of spark to brick and mortar retailers that may be unable or unwilling to shake things up inside their existing stores.

Popups' focus on trends or charitable causes is an effective method to encourage brand loyalty as well as bring in new clientele.

 






VIP experiences that build loyalty in luxury retail

 

 

Luxury shopping is an experience all its own.

Included in the unique ecosystem of retailers catering to the very wealthy are loyalty programs.

Many recent program launches come from companies realizing that they need assistance building loyalty among affluent millennials, a subset that spends north of $2 trillion annually.

While stores are focused on rewarding their VIPs, the benefits are more high-flying than discount coupons and special events.

 

High personalization

First, these top-shelf programs are highly personalized.

Customers spending thousands of dollars expect to feel valued.

These programs go the extra mile for clients who are not only big spenders but often also influencers.

One highlight of such programs include concierge services.

Concierge services are the epitome of personalization — they are dedicated to helping regular customers optimize their shopping experiences.

For a fee, customers are treated to a variety of special services, including events, personal shoppers and exclusive experiences.

These retailers are betting that this extraordinary treatment will tighten the loyalty bond between customers and stores.

For example, jewelry companies might offer concierge services to customers who have made a large purchase such as an engagement ring to help them plan the engagement party.

Luxury car dealers such as Infiniti offer the free use of a personal assistant 24/7 for four years.

Companies can easily generate brand engagement and loyalty by providing assistance with important life moments as well as more mundane daily tasks.

Brands that reach out to customers, provide enhanced delivery and after-care services create deeper relationships and long-term loyalty.

Those companies may have rarified customers, but the retailers are down to earth when it comes to understanding their market, customers and goals.

Strategy is customized in a way that might include personal concierge services or a custom loyalty program — but both make customers feel valued.
 

Cutting-edge digital experience

Technology can help make a good experience great.

Traditional concierge and loyalty services are being enhanced with cutting-edge digital services.

By integrating the latest technologies into a traditionally low-tech segment, customers receive a truly unique experience.

Creating a deep emotional connection between brand and customer drives long-term loyalty.

The stakes are higher with the luxury segment, because expectations are much greater.

Loyal customers are the holy grail and the ultimate goal of any successful business, but retailers must commit to a long-term strategy with continual updates to ultimately be successful.

 






3 realities about your Baby Boomer shoppers that will help you win them over

 

 

Baby boomers — those customers between the ages of 54 and 72 — are predicted to increase their spending by 58% to $4.74 trillion over the next 20 years.

That's far more sales growth than millennials, whose spending will grow by only 24%.

With an estimated 75.4 million baby boomers in the United States, retailers can't afford to ignore this segment of the population.

Here are 3 realities retailers often fail to recognize about their baby boomer customers.

 

1: Boomers see technology as a tool.

Technology is a clear winner when used as the means to an end: Tablets for line-busting or to check inventory are welcome.

Technology that is seen as distracting or as taking away from the customer experience is a no-no. The demographic is not digital-native, so the sales experience should be personal, with eye contact, helpful associates and relationship building, i.e., conversation.

Only 12 percent of boomers said in a Colloquy survey that they rely on family and friends to help them decide on a purchase, so social sharing before buying is fairly uncommon.

 

2: Boomers enjoy shopping in-store.

The Colloquy report found that a whopping 84% of respondents said they preferred to shop in-store.

That figure is likely tied to Boomers high expectations of personal service.

There's a tremendous opportunity for retailers that choose to invest in understanding this demographic's characteristics.

 

3: Boomers do shop online.

And in significant numbers: 66% of the segment reportedly make regular purchases using web devices, according to Immersion Active.

In the United States, 70% of disposable income is attributed to Baby Boomers.

As Boomers become more comfortable with ecommerce as well as social media-savvy, it's likely they'll be discovering and purchasing trending products online.

As they become more "omnishoppers," they may become the key to the success for many brands.

 

Retailers need to realize the importance of differentiating their demographics when implementing a sales strategy.

Groups such as millennials, Gen X and baby boomers respond to sales techniques differently.

And, while millennials might be grabbing attention with their brand awareness and focus on social media, retailers need to be aware of and cater to baby boomers‘ particular traits.

 






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