October to December marks the peak shopping season for retail stores. It’s a time when many retailers plan for an increase in shoppers. As the world moves out of the global pandemic, retailers need to be ready for customers with new shopping behaviors.
According to a Google study, 70% won’t consider purchasing something without seeing it online: whether it is an ad, browsing through a website, social media, or email newsletter. This means that retailers need to start ramping up on their online efforts early: whether it is sending weekly newsletters or updating social media on a regular basis, “online storefronts” are more important than ever to shoppers.
People often flip between discovery (window-shopping) and shopping (looking for products mainly based on functions or features) until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. Of the two, discovery is more emotional and can often override the rational thinking behind shopping. Which is why online “pre-shopping” discovery is so important to the entire shopping process now.
A Statista survey showed that up to 50% of people are planning to do their holiday shopping in-stores. This means that retailers need to be ready to showcase new merchandise and discounts online to shoppers even before they make it to the stores.
In 2020, up to 79% of people left their holiday shopping until one-week before Christmas. This is good news for retailers because they are able to push their efforts to the very last minute. The same study showed that 64% of shoppers planned to shop in-stores. After more than a year of restrictions, people are eager to get out. This is great for physical stores that are able to target shoppers when they’re nearby.
Convenience plays a huge role in purchasing decisions today. “Now near me” searches have grown 100% worldwide. Options for store-managed e-commerce have also increased a lot. Because some shoppers will always leave holiday shopping until the last minute, local stores have a major advantage. After all, everybody has experienced shipping delays given the increase in online shopping. Instead, more local shoppers are searching for ways to buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS) to avoid delays.
The key to successfully offering store pickup for online orders is inventory accuracy. This means using store operations software that offers real-time stock information in-store and online. One way to make sure that your store appears online is to use Google’s free product listings and Local Inventory Ads (LIA). Learn more about how to increase foot traffic to stores with Google here.
For last minute shoppers, retailers can offer store pickup. Not only does this avoid delivery delays, it helps encourage shoppers to purchase extra items when they come to the store for their orders. Make sure that your order pickup area is well-merchandised with suitable impulse products. And consider switching to an order pickup system that will allow staff to checkout customers. There’s nothing worse than losing sales from a in-store shopper just because a customer doesn’t want to line up again to pay.
As January rolls in, people will be more careful about money after the busiest spending months of the year. There will be a lot of returns that take place both online and in physical stores. You will need to prepare for this and find new ways to tackle loss prevention too.
Rewrite And Reconsider Different Return Policies
You need to communicate your return and exchange policies to customers both in-store and on all receipts. Make sure you have your policies posted around the store and the checkout area so that staff also understand them. Some important things to remember when writing them are being clear about:
acceptable return windows
condition of items
type of items that can be returned (eg. some stores will not allow cosmetics and intimate items to be returned), return fees, etc.
Being clear about policies can reduce stress for both staff and angry shoppers post-holidays.
Examples: Zara employees tell shoppers their return / exchange policies during checkout. The policies are also printed and circled on their receipts. Zara also offers a short window of exchange for regular-priced items so that people do not keep returning seasonal items for new releases. Having these rules in place are especially important for stores that carry seasonal items. Canadian Tire does not offer returns or exchanges on Christmas trees past December 24.
Retail tip: When processing returns, you should cross out items on shoppers’ receipts and take down their information so that you can see if there is a history of similar behavior. This will help with loss prevention.
Encourage People To Exchange Items Instead
You should minimize refunds because they are a net loss. Besides damage to the products themselves, one of the main costs of returns is bank processing fees. Banks charge fees for purchases as well as refunds by card. In other words, you end up paying twice the fees when refunding money to customers.
While you might offer refunds in your policies, you can minimize your losses by offering shoppers an exchange instead. That way, instead of losing money, you still have a chance to keep the sale or in the best case scenario, make more money.
Retail tip: Offer Buy Online Return in Store (BORIS) so that people can still shop around before they return their products. Shoppers are more likely to buy more or exchange their items in-store. This also gives you a chance to introduce new items to them or impress them with your customer service.
Automate The Process
Shoppers are more likely to return to businesses when they have a good return experience. Whether you sell in-store or omnichannel, retailers need clear return policies and systems in place to handle returns smoothly. You should also make it easy for people to return both online and in-store. This helps nudge customers back into your store in the future. Plus, since you already have their personal information, you are able to send retargeting ads and emails to them about upcoming sales and store events.
Retail tip: You need to get shoppers’ consent before sending them SMS messages or emails.
Resell Merchandise At A Discounted Price
Instead of throwing products away, stores can offer any imperfect items at a discounted price. This lets you keep selling things that would otherwise be wasted.
Example: Best Buy offers both customers the option of buying open-box and refurbished items at a discounted price. This is especially important for high-ticket items such as electronics. Amazon offers different prices for used or returned products based on their condition (used, used-good, etc.). These retailers are able to keep selling products even after the products have been returned.
Want to know more about successful inventory management?
After over a year of lockdowns and re-openings, retailers are finally able to open up their doors to the public again. Now, more than ever, retailers need to take more initiative in their local SEO efforts to ensure that they are visible to online shoppers.
But what is local SEO and how does it help my retail business?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This refers to marketing that helps increase the quantity and quality of visitors online that find you through organic search engine results. “Organic search engine results” is just a fancy way of saying “the top results that show up without paid advertising” in a search engine when somebody searches using certain words. Here’s an example in what an “organic result” looks like in the Google search engine, but it is similar in Bing or Yahoo.
Local SEO is just a more localized version of this – it’s the way that local businesses can show up higher in organic search engine results. An example could be a customer looking for a bag of Acana dog food in their area. When they type “Acana dog food near me,” Google matches the search to local listings in their area.
How to improve where you show up in “search results“
Have you ever thought of how results pop up on your ‘results’ pages? SEO plays a big role in that. One of the main things that affect how websites are displayed on search engines is the number of and quality of keywords in the website.
What is a keyword?
Keywords are either statements, questions, or words that people put into the search bar in a search engine. Finding the right keywords for your website and other online store listings is important because it can affect how and where you show up in search engine results.
Retailers looking to improve their local SEO should do some keyword research and take proactive efforts to make sure that their website and other listings consistently include the most popular keywords. Over time, this will help their stores rank better in local search engine results. The best way to continuously include popular keywords is to create new and relevant content such as new blog posts or website pages. At the same time, it’s important to always have some evergreen content (content that will remain relevant for the foreseeable future and can be re-shared and repurposed), suitable for the industry (e.g. petstores).
What are examples of evergreen content?
Blog posts or pages featuring clients, products or services offered, as well as their long-term benefits. The goal is to create content that presents the business as an expert within an industry in order to build trust with customers.
Why you need a mobile-friendly website
Another SEO-friendly move includes improving mobile responsiveness on your store website. “Mobile responsiveness” refers to how well your retail website looks on all different screen sizes, especially mobile smartphones. In 2020, just under half of the world’s population owned a smartphone with 63,000 Google searches performed per second. When a website cannot change to fit different screen sizes for different devices automatically, new visitors will leave the website faster as it’s not a good customer experience.
It’s already harder in mobile as statistics have shown that capturing peoples’ attention on smartphones is more difficult (a difference of 28% as compared to Desktops) due to the smaller amount of space from which you can “sell” your business. But when you add this to the fact that people are also increasingly relying on their smartphones as their main source of information and that “search” online today usually starts from a smartphone, mobile responsiveness is key to being found online today.
Targeting new keywords
Another way to increase traffic to your website is to rank for new keywords (click here to jog your memory on keywords) that target challenges or new needs of your customers. In order to know how to show up for specific terms, retail business owners need to do keyword research. One good resource is Neil Patel: his website offers free resources to check what keywords you are ranking for and how to optimize your website so that you show up in more related searches.
Optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile
Over 80% of customers go online to find more information about a store or product before ever setting foot in a store. People are getting increasingly more tech savvy, which means that retailers need to adapt to new ways of shopping. Google My Business (GMB) is one of the first stops that new customers usually make to find out details such as opening hours or reviews that past customers have left. It is important to update GMB because:
It’s a free tool that can automatically bring more exposure to your business
It helps customers learn more about your business through features such as Posts, online bookings, photo galleries and store reviews.
It helps customers find you in Google Maps.
⭐ What is SWIS (See What’s In Store)?
See What’s In Store (SWIS) helps retailers showcase their product to shoppers in their area. When shoppers search for products (such as “Acana pet food near me”) in Google, they will see a list of nearby locations that carry those products. If those stores have SWIS activated, Google will show a free product showcase highlighting exactly what products are available in store. Because this feature is most effective when the product availability is accurate, a SWIS product showcase is best when it is managed by a store POS directly linked to Google. The added benefit of SWIS is that it turns product names into keywords which helps retailers show up higher in search results.
Read more about how TAKU has helped retailers globally increase their sales?
It’s no secret that retail is no longer a one-step shopping experience. Customers want the flexibility of taking their in-store experience online and vice versa. In 2020, Walmart responded to the global pandemic by improving their omnichannel experience and adding more square footage to their stores for online order fulfillment. This helped them achieve a 97% spike in e-commerce sales.
A study by First Insight showed that customers in many categories still prefer in-store shopping versus buying online. In particular, the study showed that over 70% of shoppers are more likely to make impulse purchases or buy more in store, because of the merchandising and customer experience.
It’s just that the pandemic has made it more likely that the customer journey starts online, even if the actual purchase happens in a physical store. As such, for traditional merchants, it’s not about whether customers are shopping more online or in-store. It’s about needing to serve customers across multiple channels, often at the same time. This is why the entire omnichannel shopping experience is increasingly important.
But if you’re a traditional retailer just starting out in this brave, new world, where do you start? Changing store processes to serve omnichannel shoppers isn’t something that can happen overnight. This is where “clicks-to-bricks” strategies come in.
Clicks-to-bricks simply refers to strategies that focus on using “digital storefronts” or “pre-shopping discovery” online to drive foot traffic into stores instead of encouraging customers to mainly shop online. Even if you offer delivery, there are a lot of benefits to focusing on store-driven online shopping.
Top 5 Advantages of a Clicks-to-Bricks Strategy
It maximizes local awareness of your business online. During the pandemic, a lot of businesses focused on selling online and neglected the fact that store shoppers also start their buying journey online. Whether it’s checking store hours or stock availability, being found online is key to offering a smooth customer experience. The easier it is for shoppers to find you online, the more likely they are to purchase from you as compared to some of your competitors who may not be as easy to find.
It increases sales per shopper. Shoppers buy more when shopping in store. Retailers want customers to buy in store because they are more likely to make additional impulse buys with higher margins. If store products are linked to online search with tools such as Google’s See What’s In Store (SWIS) or Local Inventory Ads (LIA), you’ll get store shoppers that walk in “ready to buy” as they already know what you carry and have on your shelves. In fact, helping customers “pre-shop” or “discover” products online can drive more traffic to both physical and online stores. This will increase overall sales per shopper as you’re able to serve shoppers in multiple channels.
It maximizes profitability. Besides bigger basket sizes, using online awareness to drive higher quality foot traffic to your store means that you’ll be spending less in marketing for higher sales. If you use omnichannel tools that link your store data with online research, you can even save on the cost of having employees or agencies manage your product information online.
It gives you useful customer insights. Connecting with customers on multiple channels means more opportunities to gather information about your customers. Whether it is an email address or a physical address, having more data increases retailers’ insights into their customers and their buying habits, making marketing easier and cheaper over time.
It gives you useful inventory insights. Knowing what sells well on which channel allows retailers to sell and target specific segments when releasing new products or product lines.
Multi-location retailers have more issues managing multiple stores because no one can be at more than one place at a time. In order to run a multi-location business, even when you are not always there, you should look at processes that have an impact on productivity and customer satisfaction. We have put together a list of things to help retailers manage their multi-location retail businesses, so that their business can run smoothly no matter where they are.
Multi-location means that you will have different people working in stores that may not interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. Managing each store effectively means standardizing and automating processes so that they all run with the same efficiency. These processes can range from onboarding new employees, delivering product knowledge, processing returns, to updating inventory.
While it’s not easy finding the resources and time to document processes, having something written down will significant speed up future training and make it much easier for staff to understand your policies and procedures. The most successful retailers are those who can a provide consistent experience to customers across all locations. After all, the experience a customer has in a store is a significant part of the brand image of a retailer.
2. Use cloud technology to centralize and streamline your business processes
Cloud technology helps sync up and organize inventory, customer history, employee performance, sales, and cashflow. This means that you can manage your entire business from a single system. Having a centralized location for all business data allows retailers to get accurate, real-time feedback into how their business is running and identify any gaps in their workflows.
One of the best parts about using cloud technology is that it gives you mobile accessibility. You’re no longer tied to a single computer and can have access to your business data on-the-go to see changes in your store as they happen. While some solutions will give you access to your sales data from anywhere, a lot of the modern, new cloud retail management systems will let you access and manage all of your business data so that you can run your store from anywhere.
Another benefit to using cloud technology is that it automatically helps you backup your business data in the cloud. Unlike older store systems which require manual backups or expose you to hardware failure, even if you lose power during a storm, all of your business information will be safely stored in the cloud. And as long as you have smartphones, you can continue to sell using mobile devices.
3. Improve retail business inventory control
It is crucial to have accurate inventory and stock data at all times. One of the major problems with running a multi-location business is that it is much harder to keep your product information in sync. This has only gotten worse since the pandemic started since more retailers are also selling online. The best retail companies are those that use technology that gives them visibility into their inventory and stock levels at every point of storage. Having products available exactly when customers want to buy them is best in an ideal world but helping customers (e.g. shipping to their home or directing them to another location) even when a product is not in stock is key to customer service and closing every sale.
Other ways to control your inventory include keeping an eye on your re-stocking schedule (which requires knowledge of lead times and seasonal availability) as well as your minimum stock levels. This is so that stores are able to re-fill stock before selling out.
4. Use a single commerce system
To make sure that store data and reports are all in-sync, retailers need a single, smart commerce system that can handle both store sales and online orders. Combining your POS and e-commerce processes into a single system helps you determine what products should be carried, which items are bestsellers across different locations or online sales channels, and which products need to be discounted or discontinued across your entire business. Using a single system also helps employees deliver the same experience to customers wherever they shop.
5. Secure your data
In order to comply with local and national privacy laws, retailers need to do their best to protect the privacy of both customers and employees. Finding the right software and hardware to manage sensitive information is key to building customer trust and keeping retail businesses healthy.
TAKU Retail stores customers data on separate databases to minimize the risk of privacy breaches. Read more about our security features here.
Want to know more about our multi-location capabilities? Read more.
Inventory control helps retailers determine what products are selling well versus the ones that are not. Having stock control helps retailers make the most profit with their inventory. This gives retailers an indication on how much more or less stock they need. This, in turn, helps reduce operational and storage expenses.
This is especially important for brick-and-mortar retailers because controlling the amount of stock they have on hand is directly related to customer satisfaction and how much profit they make on their inventory. Understanding how to manage this is vital to a retailer’s success since inventory is the largest resource and use of cashflow for every merchant.
TAKU Retail client, Kam Wai Dim Sum, raves about TAKU’s reporting functions. Thanks to TAKU, they are now able to use their POS system to track their daily sales and know which are their best performing items. Read more here.
Maintaining a minimum stock level means stores have to keep a minimum number of products in stock to make sure they are always able to replenish their shelves easily. This is especially so with retailers during busy and uncertain seasons: this could mean extended delivery delays or stockouts. Instead of guessing or approximating, retailers need to calculate the ratio of delivery times to stock levels so that they are optimizing their inventory and lowering their operational costs.
Keeping tabs of stock levels and maintaining a healthy and lean stock level means that retailers are able allocate resources to new products to satisfy new customer wants and needs. Having a higher turnover is a positive sign for retailers because it means that they are able to sell more and make more sales.
Tips for Better Retail Inventory Control:
Using real-time retail POS software that tracks inventory movement across all channels based on actual stock levels
Using a barcode scanner to accurately track products as they are sold or received
Running inventory counts to make sure that stock levels in the POS match the quantities actually on the shelves
Tracking the sale of inventory items to know which products are bestsellers and which items don’t need to be re-stocked
By always having some stock on hand and determining your ideal reorder days, retailers do not ever have to worry about running out of certain items and long lead times. Knowing what stores have in-stock may seem straightforward with a single store location. But it is a lot more difficult for multi-location retailers to track inventory across different locations and manage returns and exchanges easily. This is especially true as retailers today often sell the products both in-store and online. TAKU Retail’s inventory management capabilities mean that retailers are able to automatically see real-time inventory levels at all times, regardless of how many locations or online sales channels they are selling in.
Learn more about TAKU Retail’s inventory management capabilities.