4 Indicators That It’s Time to Upgrade Your Salon POS System

Salons and spas require special point of sale (POS) features like walk-in management, appointment schedulers, customer relationship management (CRM), loyalty functions, reminders, online booking, payment processing and more. It doesn’t matter if you own a hair or nail salon, blow-out bar or a full-service spa, salon POS systems aren’t a “one and done” investment—they require upgrades to keep up with your industry and new client demands and expectations.

Do you have a fast salon POS system that engages clients at checkout, tracks clients via CRM, accepts any form of payment, facilitates loyalty programs and accepts appointments online? If they can’t do these things and extra seconds are adding up to longer wait times, then it’s time for an upgrade. Here are four signs it’s time for a refresh:

  1. Hardware is outdated and no longer compatible with new software

New functionalities designed to enhance customer service become available regularly, so your hardware needs to support these platforms. Watch for the signs that a hardware failure is imminent:  crashing, inexplicable component malfunctions, or software running slowly. Don’t wait until the system is offline, which means work slowdowns, data loss and longer wait times. Obviously, if your hardware is so old it can’t run new software, it’s time for a replacement. Set a regular schedule for evaluating salon POS system hardware to make sure all components are running well.

  1. Your existing system is not scalable

If growth and additional locations is your goal, it’s important to have a scalable system that allows you to easily add terminals and locations to your network. Scalability is also important if you need more checkouts temporarily, because once the terminal is added to the network, the device will be running the same solution with the same data accessibility. If your current solution isn’t scalable or you’ve been putting it off because it’s a hassle, it’s time for an upgrade.

  1. Your POS system doesn’t provide actionable data and analytics

A salon POS system should be a workhorse that makes your life easier. A few clicks should give you comprehensive reports that allow you to view sales, customer information, appointments and inventory data in real time. These systems also include a variety of reporting options that give you comprehensive intelligence by the shift, hour, day, week, month or year. Without this information, it’s impossible to optimize employee scheduling, see what products are in stock, what’s selling out and what’s ready for markdown. Without actionable data and analytics, you can’t make changes that will improve your business or maximize efficiency.

  1. Customer service is less than stellar

Constantly apologizing to customers because “the system is slow today” or making them wait to checkout is a poor finish to a relaxing massage, exciting new haircut or a fresh manicure. Your salon POS system should empower you to give each client personalized attention by tracking customer purchases and preferences and offering coupons, based on their buying habits. It should also facilitate loyalty programs, marketing initiatives and engage the customer during their final moments in the salon. However, if a fast (or slow, depending on your hardware) checkout is all you have to offer before your clients leave, then it’s time for an upgrade.

Even though there are other business changes you’d probably prefer to finance, your salon POS system needs regular TLC. In fact, not keeping your POS system current will cost you money and time and customer service will suffer. Don’t get caught off guard—monitor your salon POS system for signs of failure and address them right away.

5 Things That Make a Good Promotion

Successfully selling products is the ultimate goal for a small business. However, in order to sell those products, whatever they may be, the business must entice customers to make a purchase. Promotions are the backbone of creating a sense of urgency to take initiative and purchase a product.

But, what makes a good promotion? How do you create the perfect promotion that encourages buyers? Here are five ways to successfully promote to your customers!

  1. Run a Targeted Promotion

Promotions are used in a multitude of ways, whether it is to gain new customers, sell products, or steer them away from competition. However, one promotion cannot reach every point in your promotional plan. Therefore, it is crucial to determine your promotion’s target efforts:

  • Do you want to entice more purchases either through greater frequency or volume?
  • Advertise to new customers?
  • Repair your relationships with previous customers?
  • Advertise your business during slow months?
  1. Know Your Incentives

Once you have determined the purpose of your promotion, you have to create an incentive for your promotion to draw your customers in. Here are some examples:

  • Discounts/Coupons
  • Samples/Trial Offers
  • Events
  1. Set a Goal

Although this may seem obvious, always have a goal for your promotions in mind. Know what you want to achieve. For instance:

  • What is your sales target?
  • How many new customers do you want to gain?
  • How much revenue do you want to bring in for the quarter?

Having a determined goal for your promotions will help to keep your business on track an aid in your its success.

  1. Choose a Promotional Strategy

Once your goal is determined, you will need a strategy for your promotion. That is, how will you best reach your customers? There are many effective ways to successfully advertise to your customers.

  • Social Media
  • Contests
  • Mail Order Marketing
  • Giveaways
  • Customer Surveys
  • Charity
  • Customer Appreciation Gifts
  1. Know Your Promotional Techniques

It is important to have an understanding of the many promotional techniques that can be offered. Like incentives, these techniques can be used to draw in your customers and lead to an increase in sales and loyalty:

  • Free samples, trials, and gifts
  • Special Pricing
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Digital Marketing

To Discover Star Micronics Newest Value-Added Service PromoPRNT

How Retail Stores Can Create Customer Centric Experiences

By Sarah Jane Callender

 

The retail sector is facing huge changes. It is no longer enough for retailers to simply sell their products. With big, online and retail giants like Amazon, Apple, and Zappos, your retail store has to offer something which these corporations cannot; this is tangible, physical, and emotional experiences.
So, here are some tips on the best ways to do it:

1. Excellent Customer Service is Priority

Customers are number one. Making your customer feel welcome and happy in your store is essential. Any choices you make for your business should include the consumer at the heart of the discussion. It all starts with your employees. There is a linear relationship between in-person interaction and customer experience. When hiring new members of staff, consider focusing on their attitude as well as their skills and experience. Although work experience is important, stores generally perform better when their associates have a natural service-based character than when an experienced associate has the right skills but the wrong attitude.

2. Create a Company Culture

Retailers must balance operational efficiencies with customer experience. This can be achieved by creating a strong and clear company culture. The problem when a retail store focuses solely on operational efficiency is that the business starts to function like an assembly line, where worth is determined by a worker’s productivity. This means there is little room for incentives to go beyond the task and focus on the customer.

A great way to counter this is by creating and investing in your company’s culture, focusing on talent, capital, and training. The businesses that are best at this spend time and energy motivating, inspiring, and rewarding their team. This provides incentives where employees want to work smarter in your store, both for the reward, and because they are invested in your company’s culture.

3. Display Reviews and Consumer Feedback

The most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust.
Displaying little reviews and phrases from consumers next to your products, or having a review or consumer feedback box in-store, as well as on your website, can really boost sales and enhance the customer experience. Not only does this make your retail store seem more trustworthy, it also shows how good and reliable your products and company are. It shows that you value the consumer.  Why not include social media as part of this marketing strategy as well? Social media is a fantastic way to reach out to wider audiences, and to advertise and market to your existing and potential customers.

4. Improve the In-Store Experience

Late last year, one study found 44% of retail executives in Germany, Japan, the U.K, and the U.S. claiming that improving in-store experiences was a strategic priority for the year.
As brick and mortar stores struggle to stay afloat, we must consider what differentiates the physical store from what is online and capitalize on this.

Retailers should provide their employees with the technologies, tools, and information so that they can add value to the in-store shopper. The brick and mortar store can offer physical in-store experiences and demonstrations. For example, Dyson’s London store allows customers to try their vacuums; Apple allows consumers to try their latest gadgets and holds regular demonstrations; Lush lets their consumers try their hand creams, body lotions, and face masks. Whatever your retail store, there is always a way to connect with your clients and make an emotional impact.

5. Connect Physical and Digital Experiences

Retailers must now realize that the customer journey is no longer linear, but involves a series of backward and forward decisions.

For example, it is important to consider your online content and how it inspires and informs store shopping. Brands should aim to create a seamless experience that connects their online and social media content with their brick and mortar shopping experience.

How can you achieve this? You could start by analyzing your customer journey, working out how customers interact with your web content compared with their in-store experience. Data drives this. By analyzing your consumer buying decisions and what channels are involved, you can create a tailored service perfect for each customer to promote in-store foot traffic.

6. Make it Personal

Personalising your communications and marketing material can go a long way with your customer. It makes them feel valued and a part of your brand.

You can maximize this approach in store by explaining or including signage of why your products are ideal for a particular customer. For example, if you’re retail store targets young women, use signage, feedback from customers, or create events specifically targeted at your consumers, and personally advise your shopper exactly why your products are perfect for them.

7. Build a Community

Everyone wants to be a part of something and this goes for shoppers as well.
One way to do this is by rewarding your customers. Include discounts for loyal consumers or have a customer loyalty program, such as ‘buy 10 drinks and get the eleventh for free’. This will strengthen the relationship between your retail store and your shoppers.

Social media can help with this too. Twitter campaigning or creating hashtags are fantastic ways to advertise and build excitement for a product or an event in your store.

Other ways include sending a bi-weekly newsletter to subscribers and loyal customers, or giving shoppers a gift card, or exclusive discounts for your store.

PromoPRNT is a fantastic way to do just this. PromoPRNT allows retailers to automatically create printed promotions to print after the paper receipt. These incentives and bonuses will be delivered directly to shoppers’ hands, boosting customer retention and notifying customers of new deals and promotions. Check it out here.


Overall, it is becoming increasingly important that retailers know how to embrace change. Retail brands should be open to embracing new technologies to meet their consumer expectations and challenge their online competitors. As the brick and mortar store becomes increasingly threatened, the retailers that survive will be those that find ways to improve shopper experiences and provide customers with the most satisfying post-purchase and loyalty-building relationships.

The lesson here is clear: differentiate yourself based on the experiences you deliver to customers, not on the products you sell.

Everything Grocery Retailers Need to Know About Scale Integration

Grocery retailers sell a variety of items by weight, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cold cuts, bulk bin dry goods, and more. Whether people are buying a bag of sweet treats or a pound of sliced cheese, you rely on grocery scales to measure the weight of items and calculate the prices. Although it seems easy to lay products on the scale and print the tags, there’s a battery of scientific tests and several government agencies dedicated to calculating weights and prices correctly.

Proper scale integration for your point of sale (POS) system can take some research. First, grocery retailers should check to see if the scale is NTEP certified for legal use.

What is NTEP? How does it work?

The National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) is facilitated by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. NTEP standards cover every aspect of a scale’s use, including:

  • Capacity
  • Accuracy
  • Appearance
  • Effects of temperature and humidity changes

The standards are developed by a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce called the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST. Every device is tested in a lab setting to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations.

An NTEP Certificate of Conformance (CoC) means the scale is legal for trade and can be used in a commercial setting to sell products by weight. Every NTEP-approved scale will have a CoC number that an inspector can use to verify that the scale meets the agency’s rigorous testing standards and is legal for use.

Why is NTEP important?

Grocery retailers that buy, sell, or determine prices by weight are required by law to use a NTEP certified scale. NTEP scale certification isn’t optional — never purchase a scale that doesn’t have a CoC. Only NTEP-certified devices, when properly inspected and calibrated, can legally determine the weight of products. A grocery retailer with a non-NTEP-certified scale integration may be subject to civil penalties, seizure of the illegal device, or stop-work orders.

Does it matter if my scale is off by a little?

Simply put — yes, it matters. Every state has its own agencies and departments that monitor scales and inspect them for accuracy. Customers trust that their grocery retailer is charging them accurately for the products they buy, so imagine the public relations nightmare if it was reported that your store was caught overcharging customers for items sold by weight. The bad publicity alone isn’t worth the risk to your business, even if it was unintentional. Don’t be cavalier about following the calibration and compliance laws, which help prevent fraud at the scale.

In addition, choose a scale that’s the correct accuracy class. A grocery retailer needs a scale that’s accurate, but doesn’t need the same type of scale used for medicinal or pharmaceutical purposes.

I’ve chosen a NTEP-certified scale, now what?

NTEP-certification doesn’t mean you can plug in the scale and start using it right away. Before using the scale, contact your local regulatory authority to find out what you need to do before processing any sales by weight. You’ll likely have to register the device for inspection prior to scale integration and participate in regular inspections.  A local weights and measures official will use NIST standards when inspecting your scale and certifying it for use.

Grocery retailers who charge for items by weight need a scale to conduct business legally. Look for a scale that is NTEP certified, and legal for use or trade, and be sure to consult your local laws and regulatory agency regarding its set up and use. Always maintain properly calibrated devices, to avoid overcharging customers or shorting your business.

Back-of-the-House vs. Front-of-the-House Receipt Printers for Restaurants

Restaurants are busy work environments where mistakes can quickly snowball into kitchen backups and long wait times for tables. A restaurant POS system with both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house printers reduces the need for staff to decipher someone’s handwriting —which can mean fewer mistakes, quicker service, shorter lines, and more table turns.

However, restaurant printers are only effective if you choose the right ones. Receipt printers for restaurants aren’t usually “one size fits all.” The best printer for your kitchen might be different than the printer that sits on the counter in the dining room.

Back-of-the-House Printers: Impact Printers

The back-of-the-house is where heat, spills, particles, and steam can damage a printer to the point where it stops working—causing work to slow down or, even worse, forcing staff to handwrite tickets.

Choose an impact printer that uses bond paper that can withstand the hazards of a busy kitchen. Impact printers are designed so a printhead makes impact with an ink ribbon, transferring the message onto the receipt paper. The advantage of the ribbon is that two colors can be used, black for orders and red for modifiers. Bond paper will withstand humidity and the extreme temperatures found in hot kitchens and freezing cold storage. In addition, impact printers are loud and help to notify cooks when orders are coming in a rowdy kitchen environment.

In modern kitchens where heat and oil are well-controlled, direct thermal printers can also be used. However, they also need some very specific features, such as splash resistance, warning buzzers, and an insect-proof design, as well as some other, more optional features.

Star Micronics’ impact printer recommended for all your back-of-the-house needs includes:

  • SP700: This fast, two-color printer is built to withstand heat and humidity while offering clear and crisp type, clamshell design for easy paper loading and an embedded power supply for space efficiency. The SP700 BTi supports iPad®, iPhone®, and iPod touch® devices in addition to Android™ and Windows devices.

 

 

 

 

Front-of-the-House Printers: Thermal Printers

In the front-of-the-house, aesthetics are important and the hazards are fewer.  Thermal printers are sleekly designed and have a compact footprint, so they don’t look like electronic clutter sitting out in the open. A thermal printer is quiet and uses a printhead to apply heat that transfers characters and images to receipt paper and labels.

These receipt printers for restaurants are perfectly suited for front-of-house printing needs like customer receipts, because they have a higher resolution than impact printers, so they print crisp, clear images. For restaurants that want a nicer looking receipt, or want to print coupons and marketing information, thermal printers are the right choice.

For the front-of-the-house, Star Micronics recommends:

  • TSP100III printer line: High-speed printing of 250 mm/second and a guillotine auto cutter helps your staff do their jobs as quickly as possible. The printers are easy to set up, are Cloud Ready, and compatible with AllReceipts, and they includes the futurePRNT Receipt Enhancement Tool.

 

 

 

 

  • TSP654II and TSP654IIResto: Easy to set-up and extremely fast, the TSP654II is extremely reliable, offers drop-in-and-print paper loading, and prints 300 mm/second. The TSP654II-Resto version is certified by “Revenu Quebec” to comply with the tax laws in the Canadian province. The TSP654II is available with WebPRNT for printing from web-based  applications and, it comes equipped for online ordering applications with cloudPRNT.

 

 

 

Front-of-the-House and Back-of-the-House

Star Micronics has created a state-of-the-art thermal printer recommended for all your front- and back-of-the-house needs.

  • mC-Print3: This fast, front-loading and front-exiting printer is one of the smallest printers in its class. It is the perfect solution for any restaurant. It comes with multiple connectivity options such as USB, Lightning USB, Bluetooth, and Ethernet, allowing it to connect to any PC, tablet or cloud-based software application.

In addition to its flat top design, it also includes a splash-proof enclosure to protect the printer from hazards such as water, debris, or insects when used in harsh environments or outdoors. Gain all of the benefits of a thermal receipt printer in the back-of-the-house with the mC-Print3.

 

 

 

Selecting a receipt printer for the front- vs. back-of-the-house restaurant environment doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. Typically, for restaurant kitchens and environments with extreme heat or cold, look for an impact printer built to withstand spills, humidity, dust particles and more. Unless, of course, you’re purchasing a Star Micronics mC-Print3, a versatile, sleek, and fast little printer that will handle both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house applications with ease. For more information, please visit www.starmicronics.com.

Top 5 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail

Written By Michael K. Spencer

 

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, over 50% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail within the first five years. For local retailers, this is important. To determine how to succeed, first, know why small businesses typically fail. In this article, we’re going to be exploring this issue for would-be retail entrepreneurs and new small businesses who power local economies.

To start a small business and sustain it at the beginning and scale and grow the business isn’t easy. You need a combo of management skills, business savvy, product-market fit, and access to the proper capitalization. You need to be agile and learn as you go, especially if you are new to the industry.

We know from startup lore that about 7 out of 10 businesses fail after ten years. The harsh reality of businesses is a survival of the fittest. If you think a tech startup is harsh, try being a retail startup — not all glamour and customers to be sure, however well worth the challenge!

Even surviving your first year of operation makes you a success story as a retail startup and retail entrepreneur. But it’s true for all new businesses, the beginning is the hardest part.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this has less to do with the economic climate, but numbers do vary according to different industries. The economic climate in the U.S. has been in decent recently, and this is leading to new retail startups coming into being in both cities and local areas. What does it take not only to survive but to thrive?

First, we must look at the most common reasons for failure.

1. Poor Management

Retail is a complex industry. Growing a small businesses doesn’t just take guts, it takes business smarts, organizational skills, time management skills, and a talent for dealing with people, product, and marketing. As a manager, you cannot just lead, but inspire customers, employees, partners, and possibly even investors that your brand has a unique value and what you are bringing to the world is truly exceptional.

Not everyone possesses these rare talents or passion that’s contagious and attracts profitability. Not everyone is able to grow their business fast enough to make the margins that are required to stay in business. Give the idea time to bloom in the real world.

2. Failure to Optimize Conversions

If about 50% of businesses with employees will survive their fifth year in business, they did a lot of things right but they may not be growing fast enough.

This means they aren’t converting their existing customers into better customers. They aren’t doing a stellar job of bringing back customers to their store or location. Customer growth is often a problem of building customer engagement and converting new customers into regular ones and regular ones into high-value customers.

Business sustainability is about targeting the right customers and converting them into high-value customers successfully. Retail entrepreneurs especially need to create an elevated brand and market it to the right customer by having a deep knowledge of the product-market fit and the culture of their target customer. Optimizing conversions, in this case, is all about bringing a new customer back to the store, re-targeting them in campaigns, and using loyalty and discount tactics to attract them once again.

3. Lack of Product-Market Fit

Business is all about bringing something to market that’s in high demand or that can fit a valuable niche. For small businesses and retail stores, this is especially true. Knowing your competitors and doing better is essential, as well as providing a unique selling point that’s irresistible to your audience.

Even with a great brand and great products, small businesses still need to create an effective sales funnel and customer acquisition strategy. The customer experience must resonate with the audience and stand-out as memorable. The business plan has to embody the unique value of the culture and offer exceptional products with a strategy and marketing plan that ensures that the product and the market sync in the best possible way. This requires constant pivoting and not every business will be able to do it successfully. It requires listening to customers obsessively, tweaking details, optimizing experiences, reducing friction, and enabling staff to succeed.

However retail entrepreneurs can do everything right and still might find that the brand simply doesn’t have enough product-market fit to survive. There are intangibles, trends, and shifting customer preferences that could change things overnight or competitors that rise to the occasion, taking market share. Retail entrepreneurs must do an incredible amount of research before they start their business, to make sure they have the right product-market fit to risk starting the business in the first place.

4. Failure to Innovate and Be Agile to Changes

Onward, about 30% of businesses will survive their 10th year in business. Retail entrepreneurs need to be especially sensitive to changing consumer preferences. Small businesses need to implement technology and best practices that ensure they are responsive to customers at every level.

As entrepreneurs, we can’t do it all. We have a tendency to overgeneralize and become biased in our frame of reference. To keep growing our businesses and an SMB into something more requires that we remain agile to the marketplace. This includes an ability to control expenses, manage inventory, track key KPIs and remain customer-centric with evergreen branding and a fine-tuned flexibility to your audience.

As a founder of a small business, you need to be open to implementing technology and being data-centric in order to ground your business, automate tasks, and deliver incredible results where your business is a fine-tuned machine that balances people, customer experiences, and technology that empowers your business model and boosts your profits.

5. Failure to Build a Tribe

A small business today requires community. This is an often overlooked point. A tribe of loyal customers and devoted employees is essential for sustaining growth and the ups and downs of being a retail entrepreneur or founding a small business. A tribe means you have reached people on a fundamental level, not just as a brand or for discounts or products, but as a message to the local community — we bring value to your life.

Building a tribe means establishing a brand and doing all the little things in marketing right that can help scale your business, so it can adapt to changes in the market or the economy or the location of your physical store or business. Building a tribe means so many things in the value you bring to your local community: events, partnerships, charities, in-store happenings, connecting people together at your business — that is great for word-of-mouth. Being a leader in your community and inspiring your audience with your products.

Building a tribe is easier said than done. If you started your business for the right reasons, it will also be easier to build a tribe that resonates with people authentically. 42% of small businesses fail because there’s no market need for their services or products. If you build a tribe effectively, you can create a market need; that’s the power of local businesses fueling economies and inspiring entrepreneurship.

 

Why Shoppers Prefer Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Oro — Singapore.

Written by Michael K. Spencer

 

While in parts of Asia e-commerce is really catching on, in North America especially, brick-and-mortar shopping experiences still dominate. However consumers have new expectations regarding convenience, discounts, personalization in retail, and in particular, the interactions at the POS like mobile payments and offers on receipts.

As stores are learning the kinds of experiences their audience enjoys, physical retailers are getting better at adapting and boosting store traffic and engaging with their customers in contemporary and complementary ways. Enabling a better experience is key by marrying the human with the technology.

  1. Cater to experiences.
  2. Create human-interaction that’s educational and fun.
  3. Do seasonal campaigns better, promote community, and leverage unique product, lifestyle and cultural niches.

We live in an era where online sales are booming and a lot of retail growth occurs online, however, the majority of shoppers still prefer visiting stores in person. Why is that?

Local retailers provide a grass-roots way to connect with the community, culture, and vibe of a neighborhood, culture, and social life of a district. Retail and the marketplace is about connecting with our roots.

It’s Not Just About Convenience

While online shopping has never been easier, in a mobile-addicted world, younger consumers are showing a preference to experiences over the acquisition of stuff, goods, and material products.

Many younger consumers live in an era of discount shopping, price-wars, and comparative shopping impacted by the likes of mobile search, causing them to make different kinds of choices that retailers are still discovering in efforts to keep up with.

Smart small businesses and independent and local retailers are leveraging this to create a whole new retail culture around their products, staff, and locations. At Star Micronics, we’re creating products that reflect this. Sleek POS hardware at the cutting-edge of reliability and innovation.

We Are a Species of Touchers and Feelers

The more mobile is starting to impact every aspect of our lives, the more, as consumers, we crave tactile, human, intimate, empowering, and genuine interactions with local retailers. Human beings thrive not just with good customer service, but with customer experiences tailored to them in-person.

Small Businesses Are Learning to “Hack” The Experience Economy

Fostering the “experience economy” that has been related to Millennials (shoppers under 40) means how small business retailers engage with their audience through education, classes, in-person local influencers, events, and creating social relevance of their locations in the community, is a huge deal!

If the modern shopper associates the big-box retailers with price, speed, and fulfillment, what then are the equivalent characteristics of their favorite SMB local retailers? Small business-love and shopping local as trends, it can be argued, are at all-time highs. Consumers want to support family-owned businesses and retailers they consider more like them and in sync with their own values.

Men and Women Shop Differently — Why it Matters

According to Retail Dive, the way men and women approach shopping experiences might be different.

In particular, female shoppers overwhelmingly want to see, touch and feel products before buying them. Males, on the other hand, skew more toward the immediate satisfaction of taking items home with them.

If this is true, in-store enhancements that are design-orientated are catering to Millennials, including digital influence that is good for the planet such as Star’s Micro Receipt that saves paper on receipts. In fact, when stores show they care about sustainability and corporate social responsibility, their female customers gravitate more to them, showing how valuable from a loyalty and marketing perspective CSR and sustainability is for stores to embed in customer journeys.

How we Do Customer Experience is Changing

The way we do customer experience is shifting to the preferences of the new consumer. Retail tech must shift to being customer-centric, giving more choice and augmenting a store’s ability to connect with their customers on the most human basic emotional level.

With more than a third of consumers shopping online at least once a week, physical retailers and small business owners need to find ways to be more personable, unique, and offer better customer service than ever before. For these are the true differentiators that will build a loyalty customer base that generates revenue and improves margins.

Brick-and-mortar stores are beginning to incorporate mobile technology that humanizes their retail brands, such as Instagram stories, mobile coupons, digital receipts, and QR code-based technology. This technology marries the human with the resonating digital influence that is starting to permeate our society that can no longer be seen as separate from the emotional experience of our love of shopping in stores.

Physical stores are going through a wonderful transformation and a retail renaissance, and are still at the core, the center of our urban commercial experiences. This is even more true for small towns and local communities. Shoppers prefer trips to stores since they deliver experiences and not just stuff.

 

 

 

10 Ways to Increase Foot Traffic for Small Businesses

Written By Michael K. Spencer

 

Getting customers in the door is a challenge for most brick and mortar retailers. Customers aren’t going to leave their homes to visit a physical store unless the company is offering them something they can’t get online. And that something needs to be relevant to the customer’s lifestyle and shopping patterns. In fact, relevance is the most overlooked component to success in retailer efforts to increase foot traffic. The following 10 tips will help your store increase foot traffic by catering offerings to customer demand

1. Add a personal touch

Why do you think fine dining chefs walk around and introduce themselves to everyone at the restaurant? People want to connect with the person behind the scenes. Connecting to your customers will humanize your brand, but it needn’t always be done in person. Respond to Instagram photos and customer posts on social media to connect with your customers in a time efficient way. Also, regularly post photos of your offerings that portray the lifestyle marketed by your brand, and offer prizes for the best customer photos of your product.

2. Get that local flavor

Make products relevant to customer locales is pivotal to boosting foot traffic in your store. Make a calendar of major music, culture, and sporting events near your store and narrow the list down by which local events cater to your customer base. In other words, a sporting goods store probably shouldn’t throw an event based on a ballet production, but could definitely increase visibility by sponsoring the local 5k. From there, pick a few events to use as focal points for your store’s philanthropy, store events, or promotions.

3. Seasonal Marketing

Seasonal marketing is an easy way to personalize your offerings for your customer base. Whether your store is exposed to all four seasons or the temperature only drops 10 degrees during the cold months, there’s opportunity to connect with your customers through shared experience via signage and promotions. Offer fun seasonal discounts, such as, “10 percent off if you come wearing earmuffs,” or “free coffee to anyone who shows us their umbrella!”

 Photo: Thirdshelf

4. Keep ’em coming back

Customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. No matter the size of your store, some sort of loyalty reward program is imperative to show your customers that you value their business. Customer relationship management software (CRM), similar to the loyalty program builder and communications automation technology offered by Thirdshelf, can help to track and identify the results of your loyalty programs to maximize the traction of your marketing spend. This shows you areas that are working and areas where you can to improve.

5. Throw in freebies

If you feed them they will come and if you give them something for free they will spend. Time Magazine lists 5 reasons why customers spend more when you give stuff away. The list includes when customers get something for free they’ll pay more for it later, and that people talk about freebies more than anything else. Whether you’re offering samples of your newest hand lotion or free appetizers at a store event, giveaways immediately increase foot traffic and make a lasting impact on your customers.

6. Create an experience

Since millennials value experiences over things, it follows that to sell things to millennials, retailers need to tap into experience. In 2015, more than 3 out of 4 millennials said they would rather spend money on an experience than accruing more things. With that said, even the most frugal shopper will make a purchase as a reminder of a one-of-a-kind in-store experience.

7. Be Disruptive

You can only create foot traffic in a market of breakneck retail evolution by adopting a business model that’s as disruptive as the market itself. Fashion trucks and pop-up shops generate enthusiasm due to their transient nature. The “get it before it’s gone” mentality generates the excitement that most customers find lacking in traditional department stores. Social media marketing is huge for mobile retail, so customers know where to find you and a bit about your offerings. And if you think big companies can’t pull off a disruptive retail model, check out what Zappos is doing with their “Friends With Benefits” roadshow.

8. Build a community

Most retailers cater to consumers with a shared interest, whether you are a home goods store with customers who love to cook, or you sell apparel to Instagram-obsessed teens, there’s an opportunity to bring your customers together over a shared interest. By offering your customers relaxing social spaces and online forums to voice share their experiences, you can create a community in which a love for your brand is the unifying thread.

9. Teach your customers

Shared interest can also be utilized to create foot traffic by offering your customers classes or seminars on topics related to your products. For instance, outdoor retailer REI is famous for the hiking and camping events they facilitate for their customers. Once you realize what lifestyle you’re selling with your inventory, you’ll have a better understanding of what type of education you can offer customers to get them in the door.

10. It comes down to people

Of course, the most thoughtful marketing initiatives don’t count for anything if your customers are greeted by a rude or poorly-trained staff. Know your employees’ strengths and weakness. If you aren’t able to spend much time at your store’s physical locations, invest in a staff augmentation platform like the insights you can get from Dor for hour by hour data that will help you make informed staffing decisions.

The US Census Bureau reported that e-commerce counted for only 8.3% of total retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. Since most purchases still take place in brick and mortar stores, it’s imperative that retailers cater promotions and marketing to individual customers to boost foot traffic and maximize marketing spend.

 

How Back to School is Bigger than Ever for Retail

Back to School Marketing Tips for SMBs

By Michael Spencer

 

This year it seems like Amazon’s Prime Day sent parents and kids back to school with early special back-to-school deals. According to Deloitte, parents are set to spend $510 per household during back-to-school shopping and most will be in stores, reports CNBC.

How big is the retail season now? Bigger than you might think. The back-to-school season now runs between July and September, during which time American households are projected to spend $27.6 billion. This means it ranks second only to holiday shopping.

According to Daphne Howland of Retail Dive, it turns out most parents and kids dread this kind of shopping. Most American parents (75%) and teens (73%) say back-to-school shopping causes tension, including which brands to buy. Predictably, fully half of parents find shopping for clothing and shoes a particular problem, while 30% of teens most dread shopping for school supplies.

Here is where brick-and-mortar shopping really shines, where over 50% of the money will be spent at malls and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, more than double the amount parents expect to spend online. In on the fun are many local SMB retailers as well.

Back to School Marketing Tips for SMBs

As for marketing tips for small businesses, the likes of POS leader Vend and Shopify have some great suggestions. The bulk of this will be spent on clothing, electronics, shoes and school supplies in that order.

The National Retail Federation was bull in their analysis of this seasonal sale, where total back-to-school spending has grown 55% over the past 10 years. For GenZ college students, the amount spent moves up to an average of $942.17 each.

So what can SMBs do to compete in this incredible opportunity to increase retail sales? Clothing and apparel, as well as footwear, are good verticals that could show growth here.

Weirdly, the fastest growing retail chain in America is actually an Irish discount retailer you’ve never heard of, called Primemark. The low-cost European apparel chain is making its mark on American soil and plans to quickly expand. It took first overall as the fastest-growing retailer in the United States, according to a report from the National Retail Federation’s Stores magazine, which used sales data from Kantar Consulting.

According to Francesca Nicasio, Vend’s content marketing lead writer, here are some ways retailers can keep up:

1. Make Marketing Promotion Sync with the Hottest Trends

  • Hone in on GenZ trends to build opt-in and increase demand.
  • Start with the right products that are most likely to sell during this season.
  • Showcase merchandise in school scenarios to increase the first impression

2. Make Campaigns More Kids & College Student Friendly

  • Base promotions on surveys of kids and teens in your local area.
  • Get kids and GenZ to be as involved as possible with UGC campaigns and contests.
  • Create promotions that are made by GenZ for GenZ. Target even got kids to write and produce promos and it turned out well for them.

Shopify also identifies apparel as the key vertical SMBs can get in on. According to the NRF survey, back-to-school shoppers heading to elementary and high school plan to spend the most on clothing ($236.90). That’s a good range of clothing items.

3. Leverage Social Media Differently to Target GenZ as Compared to Millennials

Retail brands and marketers must understand GenZ are more video native and have a lower attention span as compared to Millennials. Shopify, therefore, recommends the following strategies:

  • Generate buzz through giveaways
  • Partner with GenZ influencers
  • Retailers need to leverage mobile to better reach GenZ
  • Focus on trending verticals of apparel such as Athletic Wear & footwear

4. Leverage Niche Items to Can’t-Miss Products

With consumer sentiment high, SMBs can also leverage niche items that GenZ might not need but instead want. Shopify suggests for college-age GenZ, these could be:

  • Multifunctional pieces for dorm rooms
  • Personal care and grooming items
  • The “Marble Theme” on dorm furnishings like pillows and throw blankets.
  • Fancy water bottles and pencil case supplies

Whatever your strategy has been since June, you have just a few days left to make sure 2018 is your best back-to-school season ever. It’s a big year for retail sales in this segment.

With the economy doing well, this year back to school means back to shopping and that “old school” trend coincides with the reputation of GenZ as loving physical shopping. There are more GenZ than there are Millennials and their impact on family spending is considerable. As more of them enter their 20s, the apparel sector is a good opportunity in good hands.

 

The Future of Blockchain in Retail

Written by: Michael K. Spencer

 

According to leading Retail news publication, Retail Dive, Blockchain will drive $164 Billion in efficiencies for retail by 2030. The press release by IHS Markit defines business value as the cost savings and efficiencies resulting from incorporating blockchain into business strategies.

According to a Spring 2018 report by Deloitte, blockchain’s adoption in retail will also be at a tipping-point in the next five years. Deloitte sees this occurring especially in three main pillars of adoption:

  • Consumer — Improving and protecting the consumer experience
  • Supply-chain — Improving process efficiencies across the supply chain
  • Payments and contracts — Improving transaction processes and ensuring the validity and implementation of contracts

While this provides a nice overview of mainstream adoption, it doesn’t take into consideration all the specialized blockchain startups that are seeking to impact a particular niche.

Recently, a corporate startup called Bakkt was announced where the likes of even Starbucks is a major partner. This has the retail and crypto community buzzing over if we’ll be able to pay for a Starbucks drink with cryptocurrencies such as ETH (Ethereum), XLM (Stellar), XRP (Ripple) or another crypto.

What makes this news noteworthy is since Bakkt is being formed by Intercontinental Exchange — the trading colossus that owns the New York Stock Exchange and other global marketplaces, namely Jeffrey Sprecher and his partner Kelly Loeffler. With the likes of Microsoft and Boston Consulting Group involved, the retail applications here could be enormous.

This could be a “Bakkt to the future” story for crypto in retail, where Starbucks on ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) combine forces. However, for blockchain in retail, the patents are where the real action is occurring, where the likes of Alibaba (the e-commerce giant) is a leader for blockchain patents with long-term implications in retail.

Deloitte’s report suggests that for blockchain’s future in retail, before 2020 many large retailers and businesses are quickly determining what value blockchain might hold for them, and have —or will begin—testing it soon, to benefit greatly while others will surely miss out and fall behind. Major retail chains now need not only to think about e-commerce, but the next layer of the internet, blockchain.

According to the forecast by IHS Markit, in the worst “downside” case scenario for the future of blockchain in retail, still sees this value increasing to $49 billion by 2030. To put this figure in perspective, the business value of blockchain in 2017 for retail and e-commerce was only $38 million.

Bakkt’s CEO describes it as the following:

“Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant, and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security, and utility.”

Merchant and consumer participation definitely sounds like retail. Many analysts believe Bakkt is an example of—and which the ICE can offer— something the crypto world currently lacks and that many crypto enthusiasts steadfastly reject: a trusted third party. How cryptocurrencies might integrate into retail will require these trusted and centralized businesses to get involved to help spur innovation in the space.

This signals Wall St. and larger investors that are starting to enter the cryptocurrency and blockchain landscape and while retail has been slow to follow; in the 2020s this movement could accelerate considerably as more use cases come into being including IBM’s private blockchain consortium. In 2018 a rapid rise of crypto funds and Wall St.’s more active involvement means it will spur on the retail sector to integrate with blockchain solutions that ultimately won’t just decrease costs and improve efficiencies, but improve customer experiences.