The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new reality for retailers and consumers alike. Now more than ever, consumers are spending their time searching online and browsing the internet. As a result, it has become increasingly important for retailers to move their physical stores online.
But going digital doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s very possible to grow your business using the internet without actually selling anything online.
While we always encourage merchants to take orders online, and an e-commerce site can be an effective way to build an online presence, it is not the only way of doing things. Whether or not you have an online store, it will be extremely helpful for you to drive more foot traffic, more sales, and brand awareness using the internet.
So even if you aren’t ready to start selling online tomorrow, you can approach the process step-by-step. The entire 5-step process will be covered in this blog and video series.
Step 1: Be Found Online
Oftentimes, the first place that a customer learns about your business is the internet. Whether they’re searching on Google or discover you through an Instagram ad, your store’s digital storefront allows customers to interact with your business (calls, visits, or purchases etc.) even before they’re in your store.
What is a Digital Storefront?
A digital storefront is everything that a customer can find about your business online, including the following components:
Your Google My Business listing(s) in search results (and if your listings are complete and optimized)
Online customer reviews
Social media profiles
Your website (with or without an e-commerce component)
If your website is optimized for mobile devices (also called mobile responsiveness)
Visual elements of your business including photos and videos
How Your Digital Storefront Impacts your Retail Business
Online and in-store shopping were once seen as separate channels, competing for traffic and sales. But this is no longer the case. In fact, the future of retail relies on the two working together to deliver a seamless and complete customer experience, otherwise known as omnichannel retail.
Even though moving towards omnichannel requires change and investment across a retailer’s business operations (technology, processes, staff etc.), it can be done in a step-by-step process. Below, we’ve outlined the necessary steps that are involved in becoming an omnichannel retailer.
The following are some tools you can use to help your business be found online:
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a free online listing tool that helps retailers manage how their business appears on both Google Search and Maps. By verifying and optimizing your business listing, you can help local shoppers find you. Retailers can start by adding basic information such as address, phone number, store hours, and website URL. Then add details such as store and product photos, store description, and services etc. It’s also a good idea to get added to other local directory listings such as Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo, Foursquare etc.
To learn more about Google My Business and the steps you can take to optimize your listing, download our ebook here.
When shoppers search for businesses on the web, online reviews from sites such as Yelp often appear. These customer reviews (if they are positive) can help drive more people to visit your store. On the other hand, negative reviews are likely to drive them away – which is why it’s important to monitor them carefully to maintain a good image.
It’s crucial for retailers to respond to all of their customer reviews – both negative and positive. In fact, even if you receive a negative review, a quick response helps to highlight good customer service to potential customers. To learn more about how to manage online customer reviews, click here.
If you want your retail business to sell more, it’s good to collect more customer reviews. Find out how to get more customer reviews here.
Social media can be a very effective platform for increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers. However, you need to know where your customers are digitally (e.g. which social platforms they hang around) before you can begin using social media to try and attract customers.
For example, if your target audience is an older demographic (50+), you have a better chance at success if you’re using Facebook rather than Instagram.
Retailers are advised to do research and figure out the top social platform(s) that their target demographic spends time on. From there, you can figure out the best practices for marketing on that platform. Remember – it may be tempting to be on every single platform, but by focusing on one, you have a better chance of learning it thoroughly and having success.
Your website has a major impact on how shoppers feel about your retail business. From the design, site speed, and product showcase, your store’s website is often the first impression customers have of your business. Remember – an e-commerce component is not a requirement for having a website. Sure, your customers may want it or expect it (especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdowns) but the purpose of any website is to drive traffic, sales, and awareness. Merchants should not let the fear of e-commerce prevent them from setting up at least an informational website.
The point is, building a website is an incredibly important step in establishing your store’s digital storefront. There are millions of local searches that take place everyday on Google and your business will show up higher in search results if you have a website which will drive more foot traffic to your store. In fact, 88% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a related store within a week. So, do your part by setting up your website and give potential customers a better chance to find you online before your competitors.
A website can also serve as a starting point for you to add new retail tech into your operations. For example, while customers may not be able to purchase directly from your website (if you don’t have e-commerce yet), they can still use it to browse through your merchandise. Or, you can use live chat software to answer customer questions and offer customer service in real-time.
If you would like to learn more about how to easily set up a website for your retail business, click here.
To learn more about the next steps to getting your physical store online, keep an eye out for the rest of our blog and video series.
Whether you sell online or in-store, returns are an inevitable cost in the retail industry. And they can be tricky – they can increase rapidly, aggressively cut into profit margins and cause logistics issues.
According to a recent study, the overall value of returned merchandise in the US during the past year was $309 billion, with online purchases accounting for $41 billion of that total. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the issue of returns even more.
While it is an increasing problem, how retailers deal with returns can help differentiate them from competitors, reduce return costs, and even make them more profitable.
Along with higher return rates, the pandemic has exacerbated certain return challenges and created new ones altogether, for example:
Given the challenges associated with returning products to stores, retailers are having to offer extended return windows.
Increased health and safety policies require stores to set aside returned merchandise for 24 hours to reduce COVID-19 transmission. For some retailers, thorough steam cleaning has become a popular sanitation measure.
Retailers must find additional retail space and assign labour costs to their sanitation processes.
Retailers face higher consumer expectations when it comes to the efficiency of the return process and free online returns. However, the pandemic has caused reduced staffing across warehouses, delaying return processes for many stores.
Understaffed stores must find additional resources to restock returned merchandise back on the sales floor.
The overhead associated with receiving and repacking merchandise for resale along with the disposal of unsaleable merchandise is increasingly cutting into profit margins.
The good news is that retailers can take a number of steps to both reduce return rates and make the overall process more efficient and less costly.
How to Reduce the Cost of Returns
1. Clearly communicate your pre-purchasereturn policy
Establishing standard operating procedures for handling returns will make the process more efficient and less costly for your business.
Aclearly communicated return policy will enable you to treat each return the same so you can avoid treating requests on a case by case basis. Processing every return manually can be expensive and overwhelm your staff, ultimately preventing you from scaling your business.
While policies are going to vary depending on the industry and the type of retailer, every policy should include certain elements. To find out more about writing a return policy and the basics you should cover, click here.
Once you have written up your policy, you need to make sure that customers see it before they buy. This means including links to your policy in hard to miss places on your website or e-commerce site, and near checkout tills in your physical stores. Clearly outlining your return policy will help set the right expectations before purchase, reducing hours spent on customer service.
2. Accurate online product information
If you’re selling online, one way to reduce the likelihood of returns is by providing your customers with accurate product information. Depending on the type of merchandise that you sell, this could mean in-depth size guides, diagrams, or photos that clearly showcase the appearance of your products. Doing so will give your customers a better idea of what they are purchasing and they’ll end up more satisfied with their decision.
Make sure that the information you provide on a certain page pertains to that particular product, category, and brand. For example, you don’t want to provide clothing size guides on a footwear product page.
If you sell internationally, it’s suggested that you include links to international conversion charts or images of such charts on product pages as well as both metric and imperial measurements.
Retailers with physical stores may also want to provide the same product information in-store, especially if COVID-19 has impacted a customer’s ability to interact with products (e.g. if changing rooms are closed).
3. Customer reviews
Featuring customer reviews and ratings on your website can play an important role in reducing returns. In fact, online reviews carry a lot of weight during a consumer’s path to purchase. According to Google, 88% of shoppers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Giving shoppers access to helpful, relevant reviews can give them a better understanding of the products they are considering and can help set expectations about functionality, quality, and usability. And by learning about others’ experiences with the product, shoppers can easily discern if it is right for them.
Customer reviews are a way for merchants to have a finger on the pulse of their business as they provide valuable shopper feedback that can be used to proactively reduce returns. For instance, reviews provide important insight about customer preferences (e.g. what type of shopper buys certain products and how they use them) as well as product flaws. Store owners should constantly be analyzing and reading customer feedback to identify ways that they can improve product quality and services.
Some retailers even use reviews to make important purchasing decisions – e.g. the number of inventory items that should be bought, whether or not to continue selling certain products etc. If specific products have an overwhelming amount of negative reviews, it is time to review the products or work with the supplier.
4. Use technology to optimize the handling of returned items
Many traditional retailers aren’t using systems designed to handle online returns which have increased a lot due to the recent boost in online shopping.
For many, the issue is managing returns once they reach a retail store or shipping facility. Most traditional stores are still new to handling online returns which can include everything from where to put inventory back into stock to processing refunds for online sales in-store. And returns can get even more complicated with multi-location retailers selling on different online channels.
For example, processing returns manually will require a lot more staff hours than returns handled by a system that properly restocks returned products based on the order status. This is a flaw with many retail sales systems as the focus is often on selling as many items as possible, and less thought is put into how to handle costly back office processes such as returns which can really cut into profit margins when not managed effectively.
While some systems will utilize 3rd party apps to manage returns, a complete retail platform will include built-in return features such as:
Return Control Settings such as requiring receipts for returns, requiring return reasons that are tracked by users or a separate return screen to minimize the potential for employee theft.
User Access Controls for Returns such as restricting access to return functions.
In-Store Refunds for Online Sales at the physical location where returned products are actually inspected prior to refunds.
Omnichannel Stock Control that puts returned products back into available stock in all online sales channels and at the location where they are returned immediately once the return order is finalized.
Besides making the process smoother for shoppers, directing returns to physical stores helps retailers save on:
1) The cost of packing materials and staff time to pack orders securely.
2) The shipping fees of returns which are commonly expected by shoppers today with online returns yet doubles the shipping costs for merchants.
3) The cost of damages or lost packages during transit. Even if a merchant has insurance, there are administrative costs to making constant claims.
4) The cost of compensating unhappy customers with additional or future discounts when shipments or refunds are delayed.
5) The higher payment fees charged by processors for online refunds vs. PCI compliant in-person refunds with EMV PIN pads.
But more importantly, returns in-store are more likely to increase the chance of converting a potential refund into an exchange, or even better, a larger sale if the shopper buys more than the original order.
In this way, even though returns can be costly, they can also be a way for a retailer to really differentiate and highlight their customer service. After all, according to Metapack:
92% of customers who receive a good return experience make repeat purchases
So optimizing how you handle returns can be a chance to interact with customers, provide them with a great shopping experience, and capture their loyalty for the long-term.
6. Offer buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS)
While there have been innovative strides taken in the retail industry to bridge the online and brick & mortar experience, even the best technology cannot replicate the in-store environment where customers can see and interact with products in person.
Oftentimes, returns are a result of customers not liking the product or the product not fitting properly. This can be reduced by providing a way for customers to touch or see the product in person before an order is complete. The ideal way to do this is with BOPIS which is also known as Click & Collect in some industries. For shoppers, it provides a convenient way for them to buy as well as return their purchases.
By offering a Buy Online Pickup In-store option, retailers provide their shoppers the convenience of online shopping with the interactive experience of purchasing in-store. And, of course, during the pandemic, this is a safer way for shoppers to buy yet still check their orders before taking them home.
Since the pandemic started this year, BOPIS orders are 275 percent higher than pre-COVID-19, even after stores reopened from lockdowns. Now that shoppers have been using store pickup for an extended period of time, studies show that consumers are unlikely to stop using BOPIS, even after the pandemic. This means that retailers need to find cost-effective ways to offer the service permanently with an omnichannel store system that can handle both sales and returns effectively based on the way people shop today.
Dealing with product returns is never fun, especially now with the complications brought on by COVID-19. However, when properly dealt with, retailers have the opportunity to minimize and even capitalize on returns. We hope our article outlined some of the ways to do so.
What are you doing to minimize returns in-store? Let us know in the comment section below.
Whether you’re a long time merchant or you’re just starting out in retail, having the right POS system in place is crucial for your success.
A retail Point-Of-Sale system helps you simplify and manage all aspects of your business operations including sales, inventory, and customers. Even better, today’s innovative POS software is data-driven and includes marketing integrations designed to help you increase your revenue.
In this article, we’ll take you through the key aspects that you should consider when choosing a retail POS system.
4 Things to Consider when Purchasing a New Retail POS System
Cloud vs On-Premise: First, you must decide whether you want to use a cloud-based or an on-premise retail POS system. The main difference between the two softwares has to do with how data is stored.
On-premise software is installed on specific devices and data from your POS is stored on a local database (e.g. a device in your store). Because the data is stored on a specific computer or device in your store, you can only access data if you are physically in the store. For example, you can compare it to having data (e.g. a document or report) stored on your computer at home – it cannot be accessed from anywhere else.
On the other hand, cloud software stores data on a cloud server – meaning that it can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. A simple example for this would be using Dropbox or Google Drive – as long as you have an internet connection, your data can be accessed from anywhere.
When deciding between the two types of POS software, you must consider which one is a better fit for your retail business. Click here for an in-depth comparison that will help you better understand the type of software that will best suit your operational needs.
2. Device Compatibility: It’s important to note that not all POS software works on all devices. So you must also consider compatibility with your existing devices when selecting a new POS software. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest a considerable amount of money (and time) in new hardware devices.
When narrowing down your POS options, look for compatibility with existing devices and hardware such as your POS terminals, credit card terminals, barcode scanners, etc.
Expert Tip! An important point to note is that just because a software is cloud-based, does not mean that it is compatible on any device!
3. Training and Onboarding Costs: While you may be tempted to choose the cheapest POS software option, it’s important to look at cost of onboarding the solution into the overall ROI (return on investment) of investing in new POS technology.
A POS system that is inexpensive but difficult to use can cost you a lot in the long term. This is especially true for high-traffic retailers that deal with peak periods and long lineups. It is also important for retailers with high turnover rates or seasonal peaks. If you are constantly training new staff members, you need to consider a solution with built-in training tools.
A user-friendly software that is easy to operate will speed up store operations and make for happier, more productive employees. This means a faster onboarding process and lower training costs for you!
4. Scalability: Many retailers make the mistake of choosing a POS without thinking about business growth. While you may only have one retail location with minimal inventory now, there’s no way to know how quickly your retail operations will grow. That’s why it’s important to make a decision about a new POS with the goal of growing your retail business.
This means that your POS software should be able to scale with you. Look out for the following features when selecting a retail POS software:
the ability to handle high transaction and inventory volume
unlimited stores, selling zones, and stock allocations
the ability to hand multi-currency and multi-language
automated tax calculations based on geographical location
Many retail POS providers restrict the amount of stores and inventory amounts that can be used – meaning that you have to invest a substantial amount of money upgrading your POS plan or investing in a new POS altogether. So rather than wasting resources switching to a new POS provider, choose a POS software that supports store growth.
Considering everything that is going on with the Coronavirus outbreak, Mother’s Day 2020 is taking place at an unusual time. But even though consumer shopping habits and behaviour have changed dramatically since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, shoppers are still planning to celebrate.
So make your merchandise stand out by putting a spotlight on Mother’s Day. You can do so by featuring Mother’s Day related products on the homepage of your e-commerce store.
Many e-commerce providers, including TAKU eCommerce, allow merchants to highlight specific merchandise by adding featured products to their store homepage. Featured products help retailers attract customer attention to certain items in their store and sell them faster. Here are a few tips when it comes to highlighting your merchandise:
Leveraging social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram that allow you to sell products directly, can help boost Mother’s Day exposure and sales. Here are a few things to keep in mind when promoting on social media:
Sell on Instagram and Facebook Shop: with billions of monthly active users, it is guaranteed that your customers are already on Facebook and Instagram. You can take advantage of their popularity to reach more customers and boost sales. Providing a way for them to browse and buy your products directly also increases the likelihood that they will make a purchase. All shoppers have to do is click on the “Shop” or “Store” tab to view your products. To find out how you can set up Facebook Shop in a few easy steps, click here . For more information on how to sell on Instagram, click here.
Here are a few ways you can provide your shoppers with convenience this Mother’s Day:
Offer contactless pickup and delivery options: With stores closed, shoppers still want a way to give something special to their moms. Offering the safety and convenience of contactless curbside pickup or delivery makes shopping easier for customers, gives them more flexibility, and helps them save on shipping costs. In turn, this boosts customer loyalty while strengthening your brand image. If you would like to learn how to set up curbside pickup in a few simple steps on TAKU eCommerce, click here.
Be helpful: try to be helpful instead of salesy in your Mother’s Day marketing campaign. Consider creating a Mother’s Day gift guide on your website or offer DIY gift ideas etc.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, many small business owners and brick & mortar retailers have been forced to close their doors. Here at TAKU Retail, we’re responding quickly with tips and new product features that will help retail owners navigate through these difficult times.
This quick tutorial will go over how you can continue to sell safely and conveniently by offering scheduled curbside pickup, even when your physical store is closed.
What is “curbside pickup” or “Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS)”?
Curbside pickup or BOPIS allows shoppers to purchase products online and come to your storefront to pick the items up. This option can benefit your business in a number of ways:
Minimizes human interaction by eliminating the need for checkout inside the store
Avoids the risk of no-shows as customers have already paid in advance
Eliminates the need to buy packaging materials, the time and labor required to pack orders and any shipping fees
Minimizes the labor and time needed to process orders manually
Extends your “shop hours” as you can take orders 24/7 online without shoppers needing to wait to get through to somebody to take their orders.
Allows for better staff management, particularly with scheduled pickup, as you can see exactly when customers are expected and when orders need to be prepared.
How to set up scheduled pickup in TAKU eCommerce
In order to set up scheduled curbside pickup in your TAKU eCommerce store, follow these steps:
From your TAKU eCommerce dashboard, click on “Shipping & Pickup”
Scroll down to the “Add a new shipping method” section.
Click “+ Add Pickup” beside “Self Pickup”
4. Set a name for the pickup option – your customers will see this name at checkout.
5. Add “Detailed instructions for customers”. This is where you would describe how, where, and when customers can pick up their orders. Keep the instructions as simple as possible and remember to add your phone number so shoppers can call you when they arrive. You may also want to place a sign on your front door with pickup instructions and your phone number in case a customer arrives unexpectedly.
Please pull up to the front of the store or the designated parking spot. Please show us a copy of your invoice through your car window and one of our employees will place your order in your car trunk. Please stay inside your vehicle.
Note: If you would like to require your customers to leave their phone number at checkout, please follow these steps:
1. Go to your store dashboard
2. Hover over “Settings” under “Configuration”
3. Click on “General”
4. Click on “Cart & Checkout” at the top of the page
5. Scroll down and enable “Require phone number at checkout”
6. Optional step: enable the “Ask for pickup date and time at checkout” if you would like your customers to specify when they are going to pick up their orders.
Once you enable this feature, they will be required to set a pickup date and time when they place the order. To use this feature, you must specify your business hours (the days and times that you are open throughout the week) during the setup process.
7. You must also set your order fulfillment time. This refers to the amount of time it takes for you to prepare an order for pickup. The application will take your fulfillment time into consideration when offering pickup dates and times to your customers (e.g. if you need 24 hours to prepare an order, your customer will only be offered time slots (based on your business hours) starting at least 24 hours after the time of your order.)
8. If you have multiple pickup locations, repeat the steps above for each.
What does your customer see during online checkout?
We hope you found this article helpful. Keep an eye out on our blog for more e-commerce tips and tutorials.
Let’s face it, no-one likes long line-ups. In fact, a slow checkout process is almost guaranteed to result in frustrated shoppers, poor customer satisfaction, and a whole lot of lost sales in the process.
So, while the brick-and-mortar checkout experience has long since evolved from the standard cash register, shopper expectations have also risen along with it. Used to the convenience that e-commerce provides, today’s retail shoppers expect a similarly fast and easy checkout experience.
That’s why we’ve put together the following tips to help you speed up your in-store checkout. Keep reading to find out how you can provide a frictionless experience that will keep your shoppers smiling while you ring in more sales!
1) Accept different payment methods
Nowadays, shoppers pay with a lot more than just cash or card. That’s why accommodating different payment methods can go a long way in reducing lineups and speeding up the checkout process. In fact, the more payment options you accommodate, the easier it is for shoppers to check out efficiently.
To speed up your checkout process, consider enabling the payment types below.
Contactless Payments: Contactless payments are a faster alternative to chip and pin transactions. In fact, tap-and-pay technology has been adopted by many major credit card companies – becoming a popular payment option for in-store shoppers.
Expert Tip! Check your processing contract to see if you are liable for any chargebacks on contactless payments. While the increase in speed may still be worth the risk of possible chargebacks, you will want to minimize your exposure by encouraging the use of digital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) which have secondary authentication. You can also consider having CCTV coverage in your checkout area to deter would-be fraudulent shoppers.
2) Offer a buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) option
And what better way to provide immediate shopper convenience than a BOPIS option? After all, a great deal of retail continues to happen in nearby physical stores as shoppers are looking for something for immediate usage and they can’t wait for delivery. BOPIS solves several problems that have increasingly discouraged today’s customers from shopping in-store by:
Optimizing the customer experience by ensuring that shoppers are never disappointed (e.g. products are out of stock) when they get to the store.
Saving shoppers time when they are in the store – everything is already ready for pick-up. Retailers can streamline the process even further by dedicating certain checkout lines and POS stations to BOPIS shoppers. Don’t forget to merchandise around these areas with high-margin “snackable” products to capture any last minute impulse purchases!
At the same time, BOPIS also boosts sales and profitability for merchants by improving cashflow with prepaid orders, encouraging more impulse buys in-store, reducing overall delivery costs and minimizing returns compared to e-commerce.
It’s important to remember that BOPIS is most effective when used with a retail POS that can handle “unified commerce” as real-time stock levels are key to product availability. Unified commerce is just another way of saying a total retail management platform that offers a single view of inventory, sales, and customer data across an entire business in real time. As expected, the need for real-time data grows as sales volume and transaction complexity increases.
3) Upgrade to a line-busting POS
Perhaps the most important decision you can make to speed up your checkout process is to choose the right POS system. With so many different options out there on the market, it’s best to choose a POS that is designed for checkout speed. Particularly, look out for the following features in your POS software:
Cross-platform capabilities that let you turn any device into a station. You’ll want to ensure that your POS is mobile-friendly and that it can be run from any device. This will allow you to ring in sales from anywhere in your store when lineups get too long. Which means you can speed up the checkout process for your shoppers based on real-time demand.
Easy to navigate salescreen. Look for a POS software that is user friendly and designed for minimum clicks. Ideally, cashiers shouldn’t have to leave the salescreen in order to complete a transaction.
Fast barcode scanning. To ensure a fast checkout process, it’s necessary to choose a POS system that is designed for fast scanning speed. It’s also important that your POS software can handle multiple barcodes per SKU.
Advanced inventory search. In addition to the features mentioned above, your retail POS needs to have smart search functions and the ability to quickly recall your last search. This will give you and your employees the ability to search products by keyword, description, or tag in case labels fall off or barcodes are not scannable.
4) Train your staff effectively
Having the right POS technology and hardware in place is not enough. Retailers need to consider the people who are actually operating the technology a.k.a their sales associates!
Staff are a crucial part of checkout optimization. Which is why store owners must devote the time and resources to adequately train them. To make things easier, think about adopting a POS system with built-in training tools. This will boost employee productivity and encourage self-service while significantly reducing training costs and time.
5) Email Receipts
While digital receipts are environmentally friendly, they’re also useful in cutting checkout lines. For one, shoppers won’t have to wait for their receipt to print out. And your employees won’t have to waste time refilling the receipt printer – risking the chance of aggravating customers who are already waiting in line.
In addition to streamlining the checkout process, digital receipts also come with significant business benefits, including:
Giving retailers an easier way to build email lists and gather customer data
Helping reduce fraudulent returns
Decreasing overhead costs by eliminating printed receipts
Driving future interaction when you include links to the store website and social media
Allowing retailers to include personalized marketing message on receipts boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty
Expert Tip! Privacy is an increasingly important customer expectation. If you are collecting email lists, make sure that your POS system gives you the ability to legally collect consent for marketing directly from your customers.
We hope you found this article helpful!
Join our beta waitlist here. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our blog for more helpful retail tips and strategies!