Recessionary shoppers: convenience over experience?

Image: Andrea Piacquadio

For the past several years, retailers have seen two types of customers.

The first are those who, after living through a number of recessions, have determined they must protect their money at all costs.

They are experts on value, seeking deals, discounts and saving; they are coupon clippers.

The second have also weathered a number of economic slumps, but they see life as short and because money can disappear in the blink of an eye, time is more valuable than frugality.

That group is focused on convenience, and the motivation behind their spending money is to save time.

Both groups are important to retailers, and many shoppers today have traits of both types of consumers: They want to spend thoughtfully, not frivolously, and they are focused on efficiency.

Retailers that can demonstrate value for products or services that make customer lives easier or more fulfilling will therefore attract more loyal customers.

Value: the “Right” price or the “lowest” price?

Image: Artem Beliaikin

People always want a good value.

It’s not only those living on fixed incomes or those living on minimum wage but also professionals who are bargain hunters.

Off-price stores such as Nordstrom’s Rack and Saks Off Fifth boast customers from every economic strata—proof that savvy shopping does not discriminate.

However, the “right” price does not have to be the “lowest” price.

A strong value proposition that focuses on the benefits of the product or service may help nudge a cost-conscious customer to spring for the purchase now, rather than wait a few weeks or even months.

Buying time

Image: Jeffrey Paa Kwesi Opare

When value is coupled with the idea that a purchase could make one’s life easier, retailers have a winning strategy.

For example, buying a $400 robotic vacuum cleaner is less expensive than hiring a housekeeper, and also frees up time to spend time in a more pleasurable way.

In 2017, a study from the University of British Columbia not only found that people who bought time-saving products were happier, but that the findings were the same despite the respondent’s socioeconomic standing.

“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” said UBC psychology professor and the study’s senior author Elizabeth Dunn, in a release about the research. “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.”

Outsourcing the work of getting products

Image: Sunyu Kim

Convenience really matters. Many people are looking for something that simplifies their busy lives while delivering a positive experience.

A 2019 report from Deloitte found that customers want to “outsource” the work of getting products.

Their focus has turned from focusing on the act of purchasing products to the act of using them.

Retailers that understand how to curate the “just right” selection of products will have a competitive advantage. For those stores, enabling convenience is baked into their foundation.

Other retailers, however, might find offer convenience more difficult.

From experience to efficiency

Many shops have invested in providing an entire experience around the act of shopping.

If these stores’ customers no longer consider the store the destination in and of itself and prefer a more efficient shopping experience, they will have to reassess the way they do business.

Convenience must be woven into the fabric of the retailer to provide a cohesive, integrated shopping experience, rather than a tacked-on, haphazard one, or, worse, one that is viewed as not genuine. Most importantly, retailers should view convenience as constantly evolving: People’s tastes change rapidly and what may be considered convenient today may tomorrow seem as dated as ornament beards.


Reopening your stores: optimize these 5 areas first

Stores are starting to reopen across the world, and we are watching this very, very carefully. 

We’re learning a ton of new things while watching what they are doing, because some of these stores are doing excellent business. 

In some cases, they are exceeding last year’s numbers!  Let’s take a look at what the most successful retailers are doing to make this happen. 

Overall, you have to approach opening as if you were opening for the first time. 

It has to have that level of excitement, that level of enthusiasm. 

So my first, best advice to you is to get super pumped up about opening! 

1. Store Presentation and Layout

This is the perfect time to reassess your store’s layout and shop-ability. 

You certainly want to organize your store so your shoppers can maintain the proper social distance from each other and still see all the great merchandise you have in stock. 

Here are some tips you can apply:

  • Start at the front door, and look inside your store as if you’re visiting for the first time.  Can you see all the way to the back wall? Can you identify key areas that you want to go to to see the merchandise?
  • The most important real estate in your store is the immediate right. Do we have some of our best merchandise there?
  • Many stores are putting markers on the floor that direct people through the store, creating a path to follow, much like grocery stores or Ikea have done. The benefit of this is that when your shoppers walk the path, they can see merchandise they might not have seen.  This is creating add-on sales!
  • As you walk the store, make sure your displays make people want to stop and check out the merchandise. Make the displays compelling with cross-merchandising, props, bundles, and multiple levels.
  • From each display that causes a shopper to linger, where will they go next? Merchandise your displays that lead the customer through the store, directing their eyes to the next great display of merchandise.
  • Signage is super important. Yes, you want to have signs that remind people to obey social distancing, but they don’t have to be negative or serious. A western apparel store put up signs that say, “There should be a cow’s distance between us!” Another store posted a sign that said, “If you can read the label on my jeans, then you’re too close!” Make it fun!
  • This is also a time to ensure you have excellent lighting that shows off and spotlights your great products.

2. Marketing

For many years, I have said that marketing should have a two-word definition, which is “Creating Demand.”

That means that any messaging you send out, whether it be by email, social media, or texting, should first be checked to see if the message makes anyone want to come to the store or the website, or to find out more.

If it doesn’t, rework it until it does.

  • I think the best messaging for reopening is, “We are back, we are safe, and we are ready for you!” Customers need to feel like you are welcoming a long, lost friend to the store.
  • Show them in your videos (you ARE doing videos, right?) and posts how you are working hard to keep the store clean, safe, and fun. 
  • There is a lot more activity in social media and emails now. More retail stores have had to quickly open up e-commerce sites, and the only way to promote those was to send out tons of social media posts and videos, and emails. So it’s noisier out there, and to compete you have to generate as much activity as everyone else. That means 2-3 emails per week, multiple posts on social media every day, and at least a couple of videos.
  • While I’m talking about videos, did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine on the planet?  That means that you need to have your own YouTube channel, post all your videos on there, and make sure you tag them properly so people can find and watch them, and want to come to your store.

I have to confess that up until recently, I was not doing much with hashtags in social media. 

But I have come to learn that they are the best, most direct path to getting more customers to follow you. 

That said, they have to be the RIGHT hash tags – in other words, “#clothing” is not going to help you, but “#darkwashskinnydenim” will. 

Look at other stores and brands that you admire and take a look at their hashtags. 

Incorporate those into your posts and see if they get you more likes and followers. 

3. Staff

As you open your business, you’ll also need to give careful consideration to your staff’s needs and your personnel needs as well. 

  • Keep in mind that with social distancing, you may not need as many people on the floor as you did previously. Also, your store may have different hours now. So first, consider what you really need in terms of floor coverage, and then deal with any employee issues.
  • Some of your staff may be reluctant to come back. It may be that they are scared of the virus and don’t want to return. It may also be that they are enjoying the extra money they’re getting while on unemployment. This is all understandable, but you cannot be held hostage this way. Retailers who have faced this have had to get new staff, and you may have to do the same. 
  • The ones that do come back will need some additional training. First, they need to learn some new procedures in the store, especially regarding cleaning. We need to show customers that our stores are clean and safe, and so your employees will need to know how to clean and which areas to clean. Of special concern for apparel retailers is the dressing room. It needs to be cleaned between visitors, and I would recommend posting a log inside the dressing room that shows how often the dressing has been cleaned. 
  • Staff will also need to be trained on how to sell from 6 feet away. How do they still engage with customers, make recommendations, and lead them to the purchase?  Certainly, one of the things I think they’ll need to work on is how to move the conversation from the awfulness of this pandemic, to positive things. It’s something they need to drill before you open.

4. Selling

The politics of salesmanship are yet another challenge we have to get past. 

Scroll through social media for 2 minutes and you’ll see tons of divergent opinions about how this whole situation should be handled. 

  • Some of your customers are going to be worried about being out. Make sure they feel warmly welcomed, and make sure they see that you are cleaning the store, that you are safe, and that it’s OK to be there.
  • Other customers will want to completely ignore that there is a virus at all. Be careful about any customers who do not obey social distancing, for this reason only: you could freak out other customers who see it, and that could get you a nasty scene on the sales floor, or a nasty online review.
  • Lots of stores are stepping up sales by setting appointments to visit the store. An appointment is almost a guaranteed sale, because you wouldn’t make an appointment unless you had a strong interest in buying product, right? 
  • Products that are touched by customers need to be cleaned. Garments that have been tried on need to be steamed, and everything needs to get looked at to ensure safety. This is part of what your employees need to show customers on the floor – that we are safe, and the merchandise can and should be touched!

We are seeing a large variety of methods of selling right now. It’s a broad topic and way beyond the scope of this post.

The most important thing I can tell you is that we’re all learning how to sell in this new era, and there will be lots of tips and tricks coming. 

5. Merchandise

Frankly, the absolute most important thing in this blog post is a discussion of your merchandise.

Having the right merchandise is the key to your survival.

  • First, look at your Spring merchandise. We think Spring will be extended by a month or so, since people have not seen a lot of the merchandise you received when then lockdowns started. Look carefully at what you have and what’s on order. Talk to your vendors and find out if they still have goods and negotiate for discounts on whatever they have left, but only if your Open to Buy plan (you do have one of those, right?) tells you that you need it.
  • Fall goods could be tricky. We’re already hearing that many manufacturers are not able to produce their typical Fall production because of the shutdown. Start talking to your vendors about Fall and see who can and cannot ship, and how that will affect your assortment plan.
  • Most importantly, you need a sales plan that you believe in, coupled with an inventory plan that enables you to turn goods even faster than you ever have. In all of our merchandise planning and open to buy planning, we are putting together models that ensure positive cash flow through proper sales forecasting using algorithms and artificial intelligence. Cash was always king, but now, it’s super-king. Make sure you have a solid plan to get you through the rest of this year!

One last thing, which is really, really from my heart. I believe in independent retail. I believe in you. Every politician says that small business is the backbone of our economy, and that’s true. 

That said, small businesses are the people who build communities, who take leadership roles to give everyone a better life.

To that degree, you are more than the backbone of the economy, you are the backbone of society itself.

As such, your survival is hugely important! 

And you can do it, if you apply these first tips that I’ve listed here. 

So go for it. Make it happen, for you, your family, your community, and for the future for all of us. 

We all stand with you, and we’re cheering you on!

Get the retail reopening checklist

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Guest author: Dan Jablons
Management One
Retail Smart Guys

3 Ways to keep customers from feeling ‘distant’ during COVID-19

The current economic lockdown has exacerbated challenges many retailers have faced during the past several years, as decreasing foot traffic and increasing online competition has chipped away at margins.

Even as local governments consider when retailers’ doors can and should reopen, many customers will remain wary of running non-essential errands.

However, a vast majority of retailers already have employed successful strategies to compete with online merchants, and now they are redoubling their efforts to keep customers happy and satisfied.

For many retailers, that means continuing to invest in the online portion of their businesses to remain viable.

Current circumstances have forced them to offer new services — including some “out of the box” solutions — that may become permanent additions to their business strategies.

Here are 3 ideas that retailers large and small are using to meet, and even exceed, customer expectations during COVID-19.

1: Social media engagement

Topping the list of retailers’ worries is figuring out how maintain and possibly even increase customer relationships with their customer bases digitally.

These are strategies that are not only imperative when in-person engagement is impossible or reduced, but important also when competition from online merchants seems overwhelming.

Social media marketing via Facebook and Instagram are perfect tools for the task, as is direct-to-consumer email marketing.

Customer relationships can be nurtured, and clients can still feel the strength of their loyalty and engagement with brands using social media as well as personalized emails.

These can be targeted to specific sets of customers, and might herald the introduction of a new offering, or provide a unique service.

2: Unique offerings

Customers engage online with retailers that provide unique services online.

Offering an online class or special event can offer a much-needed “social” activity, while encouraging staying in the privacy of one’s own home.

Tying the online presentation to products for sale with handy links boosts sales as well as the retailers’ reputation.

Any retailer can offer a relevant online class, including flower arranging, lawn care, golf instruction, cooking lessons, makeup application, etc.

3: Expanding online and delivery options

Retailers that offer more stock online will reap more sales, and appeal to a broader customer base that may stick around long after social distancing mandates have disappeared.

Expanding the breadth of online offerings, including gift cards, lets customers support businesses 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

If shipping is a problem, curbside pickup has become one innovation that is likely to become part of everyday shopping. The convenience of calling ahead and picking up without leaving the car is addicting.

In addition, it may actually require some retailers to hire “runners” specifically to satisfy those customers.

Omnichannel or online retailers are well-positioned to deal with restrictive store hours but should always be alert to maintaining the best experience for customers.

The website experience should be straightforward and welcoming, so customers can shop and engage in a frictionless, easy way.

Engage the whole supply chain

The retailer-vendor relationship is also crucial during these uncertain times.

All of the supply chain is in uncharted territory, so continuous partner engagement is critical.

All links in the chain should be encouraged to provide the best customer experience for their customers, in ways that can be mutually beneficially for all partners, such as passing along special offers through finance partners or working with distributors to provide free shipping.

Those relationships will become particularly important as customers return to in-store shopping, as retailers rebuild their customer loyal bases and engage the newer customers who were attracted by the retailers’ digital presence.

Millennials: the force driving thrifting’s upsurge

 

 

What’s old is new again.

Need proof? One look at the resale market—particularly in clothing — makes it abundantly clear that a change in market dynamics is happening.

A few months ago, GlobalData and online clothing retailer ThredUP released a study that estimated that the U.S. second-hand apparel market was worth $24 billion in 2018. Within 10 years, by 2028, the used-fashion market in the United States could explode, reaching $64 billion, an increase of 166 percent.

Goodwill stores and their ilk – church thrift shops, charity donation centers, etc. – have been around for years. That hasn’t changed.

But their ability to use technology to help categorize, price and display goods has exponentially increased. That, coupled with a burgeoning online presence has helped the segment grow.

But what has really made it popular is the millennial generation.

 

Millennials: today’s social conscience – and it shows in retail

Millennials are particularly attuned to being stewards of the planet.

As a result, the idea of using natural resources to create new products when used goods serve the purpose perfectly is anathema to these young adults.

Buying hand me-downs has a significantly smaller ecological footprint than purchasing new: According to thebalance.com, the annual environmental impact of a household’s clothing is equivalent to the water needed to fill 1,000 bathtubs and the carbon emissions from driving an average modern car for 6,000 miles.

Millennials also are extremely interested in supporting brands that share their personal values and tend to support purpose-driven companies.

So, buying clothing from a charity that supports low-income communities is a win-win for millennial shoppers.

 

Quality and value don’t have to be mutually exclusive

This generation is also focused on quality and value.

Buying a winter coat at a discounter may be the least expensive option, but its material quality is likely to be poor.

A better option might be a coat made of high-quality materials, but the price could be quadruple that of a big box competitor.

The best option, therefore, for these shoppers, would be a gently used coat from a high-quality brand.

Pricing will be drastically lower, with minimal degradation in quality.

For example, Patagonia’s Worn Wear program encourages customers to bring in their old clothing to local stores for resale, in exchange for a gift card.

Many of those also include a note describing how the item was worn.

That creates a very special connection among the item, the seller, and the buyer.

Patagonia’s mission: “To build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

The cost and quality of new items can never match the value proposition of cost and quality of used.

For example, a new dress shirt bought at a big-box discount retailer may cost the same as a used luxury brand, but the latter will last longer because of its quality construction. It may even be re-thrifted.

In addition, for truly vintage items, there is not only the appeal of “the hunt” for the piece, but also of its uniqueness.

For example, finding and wearing a Levi’s red tab, sherpa-lined denim jacket from the 1980s has a special appeal.

 

Impact of ignoring the millennial mindset

Andy Ruben, a former global strategy exec at Walmart and founder of Yerdle, was a recent featured speaker on The Tony Robbins Podcast.

He warned of significant ramifications for retailers that did not recognize this Millennial mindset.

Retailers that ignore the customers’ dedication to sustainability and their intense focus on value, as well as bespoke-type items, could result in a significant erosion of their customer base.

Recent studies report that sales of resold clothing will surpass the revenue of “fast-fashion” retailers, such as H&M, Forever XXI, etc.

In response, struggling department store chains could follow Patagonia’s model and allow clothing “trade-ins.”

Or, they could open a thrift-mart for luxury items, where customers could buy used items of highly desirable brands.

It’s the same business model as that of a new car dealer that also owns a used car lot on the same property.

Another related concept that brick and mortar retail could adopt is one successfully launched by Rent the Runway, in which a woman can rent a designer outfit for a special occasion, spending far less money than if she’d bought the clothing.

Millennials are surpassing Baby Boomers in population; there are roughly 73 million in each group.

As a result, retailers’ focus must evolve to take into consideration this generation’s unique characteristics, including millennial’s inclination to gravitate toward brands that are an expression of their personality.

Thrifting is environmentally conscious, budget-friendly and provides an opportunity to hunt for the just-right, uncommon item, which speaks directly to how millennials want to spend their money.

Knowing your customers and winning their loyalty: correlation or causation?

 

 

Customer retention is a huge challenge for retailers.

The cost of acquiring new customers is far greater —some studies suggest as much as seven times more — than keeping existing ones.

Creating a customer experience that is satisfying is a much more cost-effective strategy than constant prospecting.

Many find stopping customer churn to be a serious challenge but recognize the advantages of cultivating a base of customers: a 5% increase in customer loyalty can increase the average profit per customer, according to experts.

Retention can boost the average profit per customer by 25% to 100%, according to fitsmallbusiness.com.

Nurturing the emotional connection to your brand

Existing customers feel valued when they can participate in loyalty programs.

The programs foster a sense that they are getting a deal in appreciation for their repeat business.

Some businesses assume that by simply rewarding customers with discounts, shoppers will become more loyal.

However, cultivating a strong emotional bond between a brand and its customers is what makes it more likely that a customer will visit the store in the future.

For example, offering a sales discount as part of a birthday recognition personalizes the rewards experience to every member, making each feel special and recognized for being a loyalty club member.

Winning loyalty with new customers & millennials

While well-run loyalty programs that deliver customer satisfaction clearly improve retention rates, they can also be a means to attract new customers.

First-time shoppers can easily recognize a program that makes customers a priority and that anticipates and exceeds their needs as soon as they join.

Having a well-designed loyalty program not only keeps returning customers happy, but it also grows the retailer’s customer base.

Millennials are the largest group of shoppers in the current market, and as a demographic, they are very brand loyal.

However, they are particular about what they are looking for in a loyalty program.

No punch cards for this generation — or trading stamps.

The key to success with millennials is building a relationship, and that’s done through offering special experiences rather than coupons.

For example, a credit card that offers advance ticket purchasing for popular events; a coffee shop that gives members a heads up to seasonal drinks or a makeup line that provides VIP access to a celebrity Q&A on a social network are ways to make a customer feel special and want to be part of a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs are important to retain customers and attract new shoppers, as well as to help retailers forge deeper, richer, customer connections.

Happy customers spread the word, and prospective customers generally trust friends’ feedback more than advertisements or other types of marketing.

Loyalty programs help polish a retailer’s image.

Humans want to feel known, and loyalty programs help retailers provide that experience.

By doing so, retailers reap the benefits of repeat customers while attracting new ones — and enhancing their brand’s reputation.

 

Bespoke is the new black

Luxury retail has always catered to the one-of-a-kind purchase: that piece of jewelry made expressly for her, that suit tailored just for him.

Today, that desire has filtered down to more everyday shopping.

Millennials are driving the bespoke movement — a trend that can differentiate retailers looking to stand out in customer service.

 

Super-charged customization

 

Bespoke is something made “just for you.”

It is the shirt made on Savile Row, from the material selected by the customer and personally tailored for the perfect fit.

It is “super-charged” customization.

Today, bespoke suits are still prized, but today’s workplace often has a casual style.

Millennials are leading the charge for a more dressed down look, while looking for clothing and accessories that allow them to stand apart from the crowd.

In addition, they are not expecting to pay luxe prices and are not as brand conscious as other generations, although they do consider brand “promise,” or what they consider the brand stands for.

For example, NikeID offers a relatively inexpensive way to customize pairs of sneakers online and has an agreeable brand promise to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete/body in the world.

Levi’s also offers a bespoke experience to rival that of Saville Row.

Customers can choose from organic cottons, canvas and chino-cottons, as well as different weights of denim from 8 oz to 22 oz.

Shoppers can select rivets and special accommodations, such as removal of belt loops.

The bespoke service is available in the Champs Elysées Levi’s store in Paris, London, New York and San Francisco.

Being unique takes time, however; the wait time for jeans in London is roughly 14 weeks, including one fitting.

The price: Approximately $610 for the first pair, with every subsequent pair in the same style $550.

 

Revenue potential

 

Offering bespoke products is increasingly seen as a profitable means of brand extension for both affordable brands such as Nike and Levis, as well as luxury brands such as Gucci DIY and Burberry Bespoke.

Research by Deloitte in 2017 found that 71.4% of U.S. millennial consumers were ready to pay a premium to get a product in some way personalized to them, indicating a huge market potential.

Another benefit to retailers is the ability to learn what trends may be coming, based on the bespoke items being requested.

Discovering trends from these unique items can help provide market research for brands’ future offerings.

 

Growing demand for bespoke

 

Bespoke is not new, but the growing demand for everyday brands to offer some interpretation of it is.

That push, driven by Millennials but embraced by other generations as well, is likely to motivate marketers to offer more customization in their products.

As retailers escalate their data collection efforts by adopting artificial intelligence and leading-edge business analytics, personalization will become increasingly granular.

Items that may not currently be offered as bespoke may be identified as not only possible but also as desired.

Buying off-the-shelf, customized and bespoke may one day be just a few choices of several purchasing options, even at the department store in the local mall. 
 
 

Is your omnichannel meeting customers’ expectations?

 


 
Today’s customers often want a fast, efficient shopping experience, and retailers are increasingly providing omnichannel experiences that are refined to meet those needs.

While retailers hope to gain revenue and gain efficiencies in marketing, what do customers view as a successful omnichannel experience?
 

Origin of omnichannel

 
Ten years ago, a retailer might offer an online as well as a brick and mortar experience, hoping to catch shoppers who couldn’t make it to the store.

In essence, e-commerce began as a way retailers could extend their shopping hours.

Today, for many, e-commerce has evolved into a preferred means of shopping for many common items, but it doesn’t replace traditional shopping entirely.

That’s where a strong omni-channel strategy comes into play.

Clothing, electronics, furnishings — those are items that customers typically want to see in-person before buying.

They may not want to purchase them in-person, however.

Additionally, shoppers often want opinions of their friends before committing to those types of purchases.

Best-in-class omnichannel retailing serves shoppers through multiple sales channels—primarily online, in-store and social media — in a way that is presented cohesively, no matter how or where the customer journey began.
 

The reality today

 
From the customer’s point of view, most businesses currently provide a multi-channel experience.

There is a brick and mortar store, a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and, perhaps, a blog.

Those platforms engage and connect with customers, but rarely as a cohesive unit.

In most cases, there is no seamless experience or consistent messaging across channels.

Many times, “buy online, pickup in store,” or BOPIS, is unavailable, because inventory systems are disparate.
 

What it takes to do omnichannel well

 
A successful strategy should build a coherent, aligned experience across multiple platforms and involve stakeholders including the product, marketing, sales, customer support and customer journey teams.

Each shopping channel should work concurrently to provide a truly powerful experience through many shopping touch points.

Among the most important areas to align include:

  • Inventory: Online reflects in-store stock
  • Rewards programs: Use and earn points online and in-store
  • Shipping and delivery: Delivery status can be checked in-store or online

While the biggest changes have come primarily from the largest retailers, many smaller companies have actually driven the customer experience crusade, using social media platforms to engage directly with shoppers.

Start-up retailers generally have omni-channel “baked in” as a foundation, leaving larger companies challenged to compete.

Retail consultant McKinsey notes that an omni-channel transformation is the only way for a company to address rising complexity, provide an excellent customer experience, and manage operations costs.

A true omni-channel strategy improves communication within the retailer itself, because different departments are routinely updating statuses that are then reflected throughout the internal supply chain.

As a result, the strategy better meets the needs of today’s customer.

Innovating millennial loyalty

 

 

Regular customers appreciate being recognized and rewarded for their repeat business, and loyalty programs typically offer discounts or exclusive deals to a retailer’s regular customers.

Many programs pretty much follow the same tried-and-true script: Make a purchase, get a reward.

Generally, those rewards are points that can be accumulated and spent or applied as a discount.

The oldest loyalty program is Betty Crocker’s box top program, which debuted in 1929, and laid the foundation for today’s loyalty programs.

But the times they are achangin’, and brands know that the loyalty rewards programs of yesterday may not have what it takes to compete today.

 

Easier to earn, more fun to spend

 

Innovation is key to attracting and retaining customers, especially millennials, with rewards programs.

The hospitality segment has several creative programs.

For example, the Marriott Rewards program gives guests opportunity to earn loyalty points just by posting about their visits on Twitter, checking in on Facebook, or posting a picture on Instagram using a predefined hashtag.

Hotel chain Citizen M offers extras such as free on-demand movies, 10 percent-off each booking, free Wi-Fi and drink tickets which can be exchanged for free libations at the lobby bar.

 

Changing consumer sentiment

 

Whereas earlier generations may have had patience for collecting Betty Crocker’s box tops, a majority of millennials do not.

Kobie Marketing’s report, Loyalty in the Age of the Connected Consumer found that 4% of millennials won’t join a loyalty program if they consider the enrollment process for a loyalty program too time consuming.

They also want to reap the benefits quickly.

Accenture estimates the generation spends $600 billion annually, so crafting a loyalty program that appeals to millennials could indeed be profitable.

Traditionally, these programs have regarded customers with discounts.

But today, brands are learning that millennials prefer “experiences” to a discount punchcard.

Exclusive events or promotions are particularly attractive to young adults and is what drives successful loyalty programs such as Starbucks.

The coffee purveyor delights shoppers with music downloads, games, exclusive deals, advance notice of seasonal products and, of course, the occasional free coffee.

The variety and frequency of rewards encourages repeat customers.

 

Future of loyalty

 

Loyalty programs have enjoyed a long, rich history primarily because retailers have recognized shifting customer priorities and have adapted their rewards as appropriate.

While loyalty programs of the past have been viewed as a system to reward shoppers for simply making a purchase, the loyalty programs of the future leverage historical customer shopping patterns to entice repeat purchases and increase ticket values.

For many Millennials and Gen Z customers, even that won’t be enough.

These customers have been exposed to social media, streaming digital media, and online shopping for nearly their entire lives.

With this comes an expectation to not only receive offers, rewards, and content personalized to them, but also that these offers be delivered via their preferred touch points (i.e. email, text message, social media, etc.)

Brands that want to continue to grow and include the millennial shopper will expand their loyalty strategies that highlight engagement, personalization and convenience.

 
 

2019 Holiday game plan: 3 ways to help shoppers find the perfect gift and get on with their holiday parties – faster

 

 

Let’s face it – even if you’re someone’s absolute FAVORITE retailer, they still don’t want to spend their holiday season with you.

What your customers want most is to find fun gifts for friends and family fast – and get on with the white elephant and ugly sweater parties.

Don’t be offended. You know the feeling is mutual.

So this holiday season, give your shoppers the gift that matters most to them: time.

Here are 3 ways to help your customers find what they need and get on with the festivities – faster.

 

1. Send gift ideas and personalized offers

 

The biggest challenge in holiday shopping is actually deciding what to buy – so use your data resources to help your shoppers out.

Their past purchases will give you an idea of their unique style and will help you extrapolate from those qualities to tie in with the new items you’re carrying for the holiday season.

AI-powered personalized marketing and loyalty platform AppCard for Retail Pro listens to your transaction data for you, watching for trends for each individual shopper.

Use it to send personalized offers tailored to your shopper’s style so it piques their interest and brings them into your store to find that perfect gift.

The offers will help you get your customers in the store, and their purchase will get them more loyalty points.

It’s a win-win!

 

2. Give them all the options with endless aisle

How about those shoppers who just walked in your store and don’t have a shopping history with you?

Show ‘em everything you’ve got with an endless aisle!

You’ve already got full visibility into inventory at each location in Retail Pro, and you have the inventory pictures, so make it available for shoppers to see your full collection.

Give shoppers free reign to browse and find what they’ll love on a secure touchscreen tablet or kiosk in your stores.

With an easy to use interface, customizable workflows, and detailed permissions settings, you can control the experience to ensure customers find what they need – without finding POS screens not intended for their use.

Plus, sales associates can be on hand to answer questions, offer suggestions, or for help navigating for first-time users.

 

3. Get them out faster with efficient mobile checkout

Shoppers can spend all evening browsing your store but once they’re in the checkout line, they want out.

Get them through the queue faster by setting up extra points of sale on mobile tablets.

Sales associates can be available anywhere your customers are on the sales floor to help them find what they need and wrap up the conversation right there by completing the transaction on a mobile POS.

Because Retail Pro is browser-based software, you can access it on any mobile or desktop device, so you can ramp up more points of sale for the holidays to keep lines short and customers happy.

Don’t have time this season to invest in mobile printers and accessories for mobile POS?

Send email receipts!

Or, for customers who prefer paper receipts, you can ring up all the items while clienteling and hold the transaction for associates at an express counter to pick up and finish off to get customers on their merry way faster.

 

This holiday season, help your shoppers find gifts for every person on their list – and then just let them enjoy the holidays.

Your customers probably won’t thank you for it.

But they’ll be back in January to redeem their loyalty points, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

 

7 Ways to get your store tech and staff ready for the holiday rush with Retail Pro POS

 

 

Holidays are fast approaching. With them the masses flock to your stores and website.

Every retailer’s goal is, of course, to capitalize on the increase in foot traffic and do whatever it takes to be in the black by New Year’s Eve.

The pressure is on – especially given the retail industry’s globally lackluster YTD performance.

But the happy increase in foot traffic to your stores and sales opportunities inevitably brings with it a not-so-favorable descent in chaos and disorder, even to the sharpest of managers.

Entropy at its finest.

But a little preparation goes a long way in combat against chaos. It’s in finetuning the details that you’ll find compounding efficiency gains, and a little sanity in the staff goes a long way toward keeping up good customer experiences.

So here’s a quick checklist of ways to get your store tech and staff armed and in shape for the holiday rush.

 

1. Think through your POS workflows

Tighten up your POS workflow for faster, more efficient checkout. Shave off critical seconds from each transaction by getting rid of unnecessary clicks and integrating steps you need for smoother returns with tracking for return reasons, easier customer and inventory lookup, and faster loyalty enrollment.

In Retail Pro POS, you can use HTML files to customize your workflows in the user interface to mirror the workflows your staff would use in real life. Tailor both the transaction workflow and pop up prompts for your staff to hit all the points on your customers engagement check list at checkout.

 See documentation: Customize workflows with HTML files | My Retail Pro 

 

2. Ramp up employee training for faster checkout experiences

Build up employee product knowledge so they can be quicker at looking up items by their alternate names or numbers at the POS.

Retail Pro Prism gives sales associates flexibility to look up inventory using not only the SKU but by description as well.

 

 

This will help associates save time and find the product in the system if a barcode is missing, rather than having everyone wait while another sales associate finds the product on the sales floor.

 Watch video: Advanced Item Lookup | My Retail Pro 

 

3. Train employees to collect customer emails

Incentivize your employees to collect emails for in-season and post-holiday deals. Now is the time to capitalize on the increased foot traffic to build connections with customers and invite them back for more after the holidays.

You can train your associates to a workflow that includes taking down a customer’s number in the integrated AppCard for Retail Pro loyalty and personalized marketing platform.

 

 

Because the technology is integrated, your staff won’t need to navigate between applications to enroll customers, saving time for your team and for everyone else in line.

 Watch video: POS flags setup | My Retail Pro 

 

4. Simplify inventory lookup on the sales floor

During the holidays the store fluctuates daily between chaos and order, so having a centralized inventory system that keeps detailed accounts of what is on the sales floor, in the back room, or in transit will help associates get customers what they need.

They can easily look up what the customer needs and place an order for them if the item isn’t in stock. You’ll save the sale and your customer will go home with one more person checked off on their holiday gift list.

 Watch video: Checking On-Hand Quantity | My Retail Pro 

 

5. Set up stations for self-serve inventory lookup and send sales

Set up a mobile POS station for self-serve or staff-assisted inventory lookup and send sale. If a customer needs something you don’t have in store, help them find and order it on your website or at a different location.

Send sale functionality in Retail Pro lets your sales associates send the sale (just like it sounds) to a nearby store that has what your customer needs in stock, so that item is put aside for them when they come to pick it up.

 Watch video: Creating and Fulfilling Send Sales | My Retail Pro 

 

6. Get your best staff on mobile POS for clienteling & line busting

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

Help customers find what they need faster and finish the transaction on the spot, without waiting in line. You can email receipts to decrease the need for ancillary mobile hardware like receipt printers.

And when checkout lines start to wrap around through the store, ramp up more points of sale on mobile to ring up transactions faster and get customers on their way before frustrations rise.

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

 Get whitepaper: Is Mobile POS Right for Your Enterprise?

 

7. Track sales performance with KPI reporting

Use real-time KPI reports to stay on target and ramp up sales efforts when you’re falling behind. With Retail Pro Decisions, powered by the Targit BI and visual analytics platform, you can analyze your data from every angle based on KPIs important to your strategy.

And with Retail Pro Reports, you can pull the data you need to monitor performance on the go. With clear dashboards and easy filtering, you’ll have an on-the-minute update whenever you need it, so you can keep your finger on the pulse and make sure you’re hitting targets.

 Read blog: What are the Most Important KPIs for Retail?

 Get whitepaper: From KPIs to Profit 

Yes, there’s very little time left, and more to do than there are scheduled hours to do them. Focus on implementing a handful of optimizations that will help your team most to work more efficiently and ring in more sales.

They might not thank you for it, but your bottom line will.

 

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Need access to the My Retail Pro user portal?

As part of an active Retail Pro Software Assurance plan, you have full access to all training, documentation, and knowledgebase resources available on the My Retail Pro user portal. Get access from your company MRP administrator or contact mrprequest@retailpro.com

Not current on Software Assurance? Contact your Retail Pro Business Partner for a quote today, or email in to customercare@retailpro.com to get connected with your Business Partner.