With summer coming to an end, retailers are beginning to prepare for the most important sales period of the year – the holiday season.
Each year, the holidays usually present retailers with the same set of challenges – increased demand, in-store and online traffic surges, higher rates of retail crime, and supply chain pressures etc.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 holiday season is going to be different. The looming threat of a second wave this upcoming winter means that merchants face new obstacles after arguably the toughest retail season in recent history. From physical distancing restrictions to changing consumer behaviour and a deepening recession, the next few months are full of uncertainty.
Supply chain disruptions are inevitable: factors related to COVID-19 are expected to constrain shipping capacity, resulting in delivery delays.
Shoppers are now looking for safer, digitized ways to shop in-store which means that retailers need to rely on digital strategies in order to stay relevant to their customers. Below, we discuss key trends and how retailers can respond and plan for a successful holiday season.
How Retailers can Prepare for the 2020 Holiday Season
Whether you’re just starting out or have been selling online for a while now, you need to invest in your “Digital Storefront”. But what is a digital storefront? Your digital storefront is how your business is represented online. Sometimes it is referred to as “online presence” or “web presence”. It’s very similar to the concept of a real storefront in the physical world – the way people walking by your store would see your signage out front, or where you are located in the neighbourhood. A digital storefront is the electronic representation of your business on the internet. While some might combine digital storefronts with e-commerce, we deliberately keep it separate because there are multiple stages to “being online”.
Many businesses are worried about digitizing as they are worried about the amount of time it will take to start going online. But it’s important to remember that “digitization” can actually be broken down into 5 steps and it’s possible for merchants to move online one-step at a time.
Invest in your Digital Storefront
With the potential of pandemic-related restrictions, it is crucial for retailers to be discoverable online this holiday season. Given the likelihood that the growing customer preference for shopping locally will continue into the holidays, retailers should take advantage of digital marketing strategies that target nearby shoppers.
Google My Business: The first step of going online isn’t about selling online immediately. It’s about making sure that your business can be found online by local shoppers. Make sure that you take full advantage of all available foot traffic by keeping up-to-date store hours and contact details online. You can keep this updated yourself manually or manage it directly in an integrated point-of-sale solution.
Google Retail Listings: Even if you’re not selling online yet, you can show potential shoppers what you carry in-store. Consider using an integrated all-in-one retail management platform such as TAKU to show what’s on your shelves with automated product feeds that show exactly what’s in stock without any extra work. And if you’re in an area that already offers it, integrated merchants can unlock valuable free advertising with free Google Retail Listings that show up based on what nearby shoppers search for online.
Invest in your Online Store
Being found by local shoppers is half the battle. But the pandemic has more people shopping online for the first time for products that they would normally buy in-store. Of course, depending on the type of store you have, starting an online store may not be that easy. Common issues faced by physical stores looking to sell online include:
Lack of funds, resources or skills to manage an e-commerce store
Heavy, fragile or regulated products that are unsuitable for shipping
Uncompetitive pricing and offers compared to large retailers such as Amazon
Inaccurate inventory quantities
Lack of store POS integration options
Yet according to Google, 1 in 4 shoppers went online during the lockdown to purchase something they would normally buy in-store. As a result, some retailers experienced holiday-like traffic and sales via online channels during the first quarter of 2020.
This indicates that during the pandemic – and likely once it’s over – if your store doesn’t offer online checkout, you will lose access to an increasing number of online shoppers.
At TAKU, the founders have all worked in retail and support retailers every day. We understand the struggles of trying to operate while understaffed. But just as there are ways to more easily manage your digital storefront, there are things that every retailer can do to start selling online step-by-step including:
Expect to launch with fewer products and add new items over time to build your full online product line. Many traditional merchants think that selling online is the same as loading the shelves of a physical store. And so, many of them will hold back from launching their online stores until all of their products are properly loaded with great images. If you’re running an established business, you know how long it took to build your existing product listing. So naturally, it can take a much longer time than expected to prepare product information for an online store. But in comparison to a physical store, it’s perfectly reasonable to launch with several hundred products and add new ones every day. In fact, telling customers that “NEW items are being added daily!” can be a great way to remind them to keep coming back.
Selling online doesn’t equal delivery. E-commerce is often associated with online orders for shipment but e-commerce can just be used as a way to take orders online. Delivery to local customers can be expensive (the cost of packing orders, shipping costs and the risk of damages) and a poor experience for the customer (packages frequently delayed in transit during the pandemic). Shipping online orders can also be a hassle for busy stores when you don’t have store space and materials to pack orders. This is why we often recommend that merchants start with curbside or in-store pick-up in the beginning if they don’t have the resources to handle packing, shipping issues or even local delivery.
Use e-commerce to drive store traffic. Many of our customers are established stores that have a great local customer base. Don’t encourage customers to ship products at the expense of your physical store. Encourage them to visit the store or pickup so that you can offer customer service and showcase impulse items to increase your margins.
Retailers looking to prepare for the surge in online traffic this holiday season should focus on their omnichannel strategy. This means:
having a flexible and scalable solution that will help provide shoppers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels – from online and social media to in-store.
increasing ecommerce site performance – 91% of shoppers leave an ecommerce site if the pages are too slow to load.
moving legacy systems to the cloud to accommodate higher traffic and generate higher sales. Cloud retail POS software gives retailers the flexibility to scale their operations up or down with demand peaks. And they can do so without costly upfront investments or software updates that often come with traditional legacy systems.
Optimizing website performance by focusing on the customer experience.
Improve Inventory Visibility Across all Channels
The customer journey has become increasingly omni-channel due to the pandemic. Shoppers are now using more devices to browse and are expecting contactless ways to purchase and receive their products. Specifically, the COVID-19 outbreak has given rise to new fulfillment methods such as curbside pickup, in-store appointments, contactless local delivery, and “click-and-reserve”.
With the rise in new fulfillment methods and omni-channel shopping, retailers need to improve their inventory visibility. Earlier this year, stock-outs of high demand products caused searches for “in-stock” products to grow globally by 70%. This means that customers are looking for real-time updates on store product availability.
Modern cloud software can provide real-time updates on stock levels across all channels, improving inventory accuracy and helping retailers avoid the risk of stock-outs and excess merchandise.
Prepare for Traditional Delivery Providers to Exceed Capacity
Retail experts are predicting that the ability for products to arrive on time this holiday season will be constrained by factors related to COVID-19. These factors include a surge in online orders and the implementation of social distancing measures in distribution centers.
As we saw earlier in the pandemic, surges in ecommerce impacted shipping capacity and delivery windows, creating big supply chain disruptions. Retailers need to prepare for this possibility as to not risk customer aggravation with gifts not arriving in time for the holidays.
Store owners can prepare for delivery issues by doing the following:
Providing real-time inventory visibility across all channels, as discussed earlier.
Use stores as fulfillment centres. Train employees to be fulfillment gurus – this includes training them to both pack and deliver parcels locally.
Incentivize customers to use contactless fulfillment options rather than shipping. Make sure to communicate with customers about alternative fulfillment options early on and pass on cost savings.
The unprecedented nature of this year is expected to produce a holiday season unlike the past. Retailers can prepare by adapting to new consumer channels and shopping habits, as outlined in this post.
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With most businesses back on their feet and not just relying on online sales to keep them afloat, retailers can start thinking of ways to drive foot traffic back to their stores.
Having said that, traditional methods of driving foot traffic may not be as effective as before. With safety and cleanliness being the main concern of most shoppers, experience-based strategies such as in-store events and classes are no longer practical as they once were pre-pandemic.
That’s why we’ve put together 5 strategies to help store owners drive foot traffic in a post-COVID-19 retail environment. Check them out below.
1. Focus on Health & Safety
Shoppers don’t want to feel at risk of contracting COVID-19 when they enter your store. So if you want more customers to shop at your physical store, you need to make them feel like it is safe to do so.
You can build trust with shoppers by visibly cleaning and sanitizing your shop, providing staff (and if possible customers) with masks, and placing hand sanitizer throughout the store. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of shoppers allowed inside at a given time. Consider placing social distancing markers or decals on the floor. This will help ensure that customers are following social distancing guidelines once they enter your store.
For more information on how to implement health & safety measures post-COVID-19, download our checklist here. Depending on the demographics (e.g. a lot of your customers are seniors) in your area and the space available in your store for people to socially-distance themselves while shopping, you may want to consider a mandatory mask policy. These can be controversial and must be implemented and managed carefully to minimize potential friction. Learn more about how to manage and implement mask policies in your store.
Don’t forget to take advantage of digital channels (social media, SMS, email) to communicate with shoppers. This way, customers will be aware of the health and safety measures you have in place and will be more comfortable coming to your store.
Remember – generating store foot traffic during the pandemic is not just about being the trendiest, cheapest, or most unique brand, it is about appearing safe.
2. Double-down on Google
Hundreds of millions of shoppers use Google everyday to start their product searches, making it the ideal place to list your merchandise.
Merchants in the U.S. can now access this feature for free while an international rollout is expected by the end of the year.
TAKU Retail POS has partnered with Google to make it easier for retailers to automatically sync and optimize their product listings. With TAKU, merchants can choose to send their existing POS product information with the built-in feature to unlock the free product listings. Because this is a built-in integration right in the POS, there’s no data entry required. To learn more, click here.
TAKU’s integration with Google also allows you to display your product catalogue online through Google’s “See what’s in store,” a free showcase directly below your Google store listing. SWIS lets you display your store’s stock and products online with real-time stock updates, attracting nearby shoppers to your store.
As the saying goes, showing up is half the battle. Shoppers need to know when your store is actually open. A shopper that shows up to a closed store because the opening hours listed for your business on Google Maps are outdated likely won’t be back. Make sure you have a verified Google My Business (GMB) store listing and keep your store hours up-to-date. If you’re not using GMB yet, do it right away as it’s the best free online marketing tool available to small businesses. For more information, check out our blog post about why retailers need Google My Business.
Contactless payments are not only convenient, they also provide retailers with a safe and secure way to take payments in-store. Throughout the pandemic, contactless transactions have increased and even become a preferred payment method among consumers. Offering contactless payment will help customers feel safer when purchasing as they don’t have to touch high contact surfaces such as PIN pads or checkout counters.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for contactless payment and pickup methods has significantly increased and stores that offer them will be more attractive to customers when they’re choosing where to shop.
One thing to remember though, is that contactless payments may not be EMV and therefore you may be liable for chargebacks. Prior to the pandemic, merchants would generally set their contactless limits at $50 to $100 per card per day but since March, many retailers have opted to increase the limit to make it easier for customers to buy more when they are in-store. But higher tap limits will increase the chance that those merchants will be responsible for higher-value chargebacks. Make sure to check with your merchant processor regarding liability and what you can do to protect yourself if you ever need to appeal a chargeback (e.g. getting signatures, installing CCTV cameras, etc.) if you are considering adding contactless for the first time or increasing your contactless daily limits.
4. Buy Online, Pickup In-store
For customers that are not comfortable shopping in-store, you can create a contactless retail experience with buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) or pickup at curbside. Shoppers can use your website to browse items, pay online and simply drive to your location when their order is ready for pickup. Once it is safe to offer in-store pickup in a safe, efficient manner, this is always our recommended fulfillment option for retailers that have physical stores. In-store pickups are not only more cost-effective (e.g. no packing or shipping costs), they generally have lower return rates since people can check products prior to pickup and, most importantly, they can lead to higher-margin impulse buys when shoppers see other products they might want to purchase once they are in your store. This is why it is important for retailers to plan carefully where they will place their pickup location in-store. It should be a location that allows shoppers to feel safe (e.g. allows enough space for social distancing) while making it convenient for them to see and pick up additional items quickly.
To make it easier for their staff, retailers should consider enabling staggered pickup times at checkout. This way, long lines and crowds can be avoided as customers must make an appointment to pick up their purchases. All-in-one sales platforms such as TAKU have a built-in function in their online store builder to allow shoppers to choose a pickup date and time at checkout.
5. Exclusive In-store Promotions
Running in-store promotions is a tried and tested way to drive foot traffic. However, retailers need to be strategic about how they run promotions so that they can maximize profitability. Using promotions to generate foot traffic can be done by creating exclusive in-store offers which incentivize customers to come to your store rather than shop online.
The following are some promotional strategies retailers can use:
Exclusivity with Private In-store Appointments – this strategy works particularly well if you are selling higher-value products that can benefit from having a sales associate involved to answer any questions
Exclusivity with In-Store Promotions – use your email marketing lists and social media posts to promote special offers to your best customers with limited time/quantity in-store only promotions specifically for them
In-Store Bundle Discounts – this strategy is particularly useful when you have excess stock you are looking to get rid of but want to ensure a minimum basket size in-store
Surprise In-Store Markdowns – random markdowns such as “score of the week” are effective in attracting both new and returning customers. These promotions are usually less risky as you know exactly how the discount will affect your margins. A smart POS system can analyze in-store promotions, allowing store owners to see trends and margins.
Conditional In-Store Offers – examples include spend a certain amount and get a free item, buy a certain item and save a percentage off your entire order etc.
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The Coronavirus pandemic – and the shift in the way consumers shop, work, and live – has drastically changed how things are done across different sectors of the economy.
And retail is no exception. Due to the pandemic, there has been a 15-30% increase in consumers who purchase online. Consumers have also increased their use of different sales methods such as contactless payment, curbside pickup, virtual consultations, and even social commerce (purchasing products through social media). According to retail experts and shopper surveys, this new behaviour is here to stay.
To survive the pandemic and meet the new expectations of shoppers today, merchants need to use modern POS technology that will allow them to quickly adapt to market changes (e.g. future lockdowns) and easily sell both in-store and online. The need for flexibility is why retailers today are increasingly relying on cloud POS technology.
What is a Cloud POS solution?
A cloud POS system is a point-of-sale solution that doesn’t need to be installed anywhere. Instead of maintaining a server computer in your physical store, cloud POS companies host your information on secure third-party services such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure. This is in contrast to traditional POS systems which can only be installed and/or used on specific devices.
At first glance, having your information stored elsewhere might seem scary. But cloud-based systems have a lot of major advantages in the current shopper environment when compared to installed software. In particular, they are a lot more cost-effective and flexible. These characteristics make a huge difference during these uncertain times and are key reasons why more merchants are switching to cloud-based systems than ever before.
Our team has been supporting and building software solutions for retailers for a long-time now. Until the pandemic started, multi-location retailers were the businesses most likely to look at cloud-based POS. This makes a lot of sense since the sharing of information between different stores is much harder with traditional POS systems. But today, the pandemic has significantly increased the demand for online sales options across all sectors. This means that, to survive, even a retailer with only a single physical store needs to manage sales, customers and inventory between in-store and online sales channels.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main benefits of replacing your traditional retail POS with a cloud-based system.
The Benefits of Cloud Technology for Retailers Post-COVID-19
As traditional shoppers are increasingly buying online for delivery or pick-up, retailers need to keep track of inventory in ever more places. This is a major headache for many retailers as online sales channels are often handled separately with traditional POS systems. But keeping track of inventory history and stock levels everywhere you sell is critical as stock-outs mean upset customers and lost sales.
A lot of traditional POS solutions have “cloud” options but many of these are clunky, remote workarounds that don’t sync inventory across storefronts in real-time, often break down or require expensive third-party tools and technical support to fix.
With demand levels fluctuating throughout the pandemic, managing inventory using traditional systems that are separate or sync on a timer can be a serious drain on resources and finances. And the pandemic has made it even harder for merchants to afford the staff necessary to manually manage inventory or check stock levels because the numbers in the system can’t be relied upon.
With a modern cloud-based retail POS platform, today’s retailers have the ability to do all of the following within a single software:
share the same products across all locations and digital channels
split the same product stock quantities by store, website or warehouse
easily create new stores or stock splits to re-allocate inventory at any time
give staff the ability to check all locations for real-time product availability
control exactly how much access staff have to see costs and inventory details
fulfill sales across all channels quickly and with ease
minimize stock-outs because you can quickly adjust purchasing or move stock quantities around as sales happen, not after the fact
A cloud-based retail system provides greater mobility which basically means that retailers can sell from anywhere inside the store, outside the store or online 24/7. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that retailers need this kind of flexibility in their business. During the recent lockdowns, retailers with access to their POS systems from anywhere were able to immediately work from home or take payments outside of their stores to offer curbside pickup.
Modern systems such as TAKU Retail can function on any device which makes it even more cost-effective for retailers to adopt. True cloud systems are not tied to any specific device. Where earlier cloud systems are limited to only a single type of hardware (e.g. iPads), the latest cloud POS systems allow retailers to use any existing web-enabled devices (e.g. Windows or Mac computers, Android or Apple smart devices) together. This type of flexibility helps merchants reduce the overall cost of hardware, even as they grow, since almost any existing device can be turned into a station.
And accessibility doesn’t refer only to selling or accessing reports. While older installed or cloud systems only give retailers access to specific functions, true cloud systems give you full access to all of the features in the software so you can run your business from anywhere. Accessibility also includes managing access rights all from one dashboard. If you’re a larger retailer, you should be able to quickly manage (or revise) the access rights for each staff member across all devices wherever you happen to be working.
3. Manage shoppers from every channel in one dashboard
While the Coronavirus pandemic will pass, changes in consumer shopping habits are here to stay. Retail consumers are now shopping locally, cost-consciously, and digitally. Being there for your customers wherever they are is often called “omnichannel” retail or “unified commerce”. And shoppers that are using multiple sales channels are likely to continue to do so.
What’s important to remember is that being omnichannel is about more than simply taking sales in all channels. It’s about providing a consistent experience for shoppers across all touchpoints. It means making it easier for shoppers to find you, buy from you or even bring something back to you. There’s no doubt that taking orders online is important to the survival of a lot of retailers during the pandemic. Similar to the value behind impulse buying in-store, the average order size of omnichannel customers are often higher because you have more opportunities to engage with your shoppers across different channels.
Another thing to keep in mind is that online sales naturally come with higher return rates as shoppers make mistakes or shipments are damaged. Being able to manage all of your sales and returns across all channels in one place is important to minimize returns and to minimize the costs of these returns – e.g. by offering in-store returns or exchanges to avoid losing sales or paying double the processing fees.
Many retailers experienced significant growth in online sales and curbside pickup during the pandemic. In fact, in some essential sectors, traditional stores were unable to keep up with the demand as they struggled to handle the sudden boost in traffic.
As your business grows and becomes more complex, your retail management system must be able to accommodate new stores, new sales channels, new employees, and new product lines without any limitations. A flexible unified commerce system will have the built-in options required for you to adapt as your business grows. This includes functions such as unlimited physical stores, unlimited back office users, unlimited stock quantity allocations and customizable tax rules. With customizable settings, fast onboarding support and transparent pricing, modern cloud systems offer retail owners a flexible tailored solution that can easily scale without hidden costs.
With shopping behaviour shifting constantly throughout the pandemic, being able to track, manage, and engage with customers across all channels is key for long-term success. An all-in-one retail sales system such as TAKU Retail allows you to handle all of your touchpoints from in-store shopping and curbside pickup to local delivery, all in one platform. It allows retailers to be flexible with their business processes and adapt quickly when the environment changes.
With traditional systems, data is isolated between the different sales channels. In comparison, cloud-based systems give merchants access to consolidated retail data which makes it significantly easier for them to see trends as they happen in real-time.
Built with next-generation technology, modern cloud platforms are even able to help retailers leverage their own retail data to attract more shoppers. As the first POS company to be a Trusted Google Partner, TAKU is the first platform in the industry to automatically help retailers be found online by people searching nearby for what they sell. And so, not only can cloud POS systems increase sales when shoppers are engaged, they can now help retailers get in front of shoppers before they even leave their homes.
Make sure you’re using retail technology that can keep up with the rapidly changing market. Make the switch to cloud today – it’s easier than you think. Whether you prefer to set up everything yourself or would like to work with migration experts, leading cloud systems today have modern tools to make data migration and training faster than ever.
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If you are a retail store owner, and you’re looking to purchase a new POS system, you’re going to have to decide between a cloud-based or an on-premise software. A new POS system is a significant investment of both time and money which is why it is so important to do research to find the best option for your retail business.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between the two types of software and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
What is a Traditional POS System?
Traditional POS systems, also known as legacy or on-premise POS, store data on a local database. You can think of it in the same way as storing a report or document on your desktop computer – you can’t access it from anywhere else.
What is a Cloud-based POS System? What is SaaS?
On the other hand, cloud POS systems store data in the cloud, meaning you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. For example, think about using applications like Google Drive or Dropbox to store your data.
While “cloud” and “SaaS” are often used interchangeably, it’s important to remember that there are hybrid cloud solutions which are not 100% cloud-hosted. This is different from SaaS systems which are true cloud native applications – software that is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. This central hosting is what makes SaaS so cost-effective and easier to maintain compared to hybrid solutions.
Comparison of Traditional and Cloud-based POS Systems
Accessibility: As mentioned above, on-premise POS solutions have disadvantages compared to cloud-based POS when it comes to data accessibility. Since data is stored on a local server, you can only access data if you are on-site/in-store. In comparison, because you can access data anywhere with a cloud-based POS, you don’t have to be in-store to make changes to inventory, check sales reports, etc.
Cost: On-premise POS systems require a high upfront investment. If you add maintenance, hardware, and re-installation costs on top of the upfront fees, on-premise software can be quite expensive unless you are able to use it for an extended period of time.
Cloud point-of-sale software usually requires very little upfront investment – instead, you pay a monthly subscription fee. Since updates are automatic and handled by the POS provider, there are no maintenance fees required either.
However, cloud POS providers charge based on a variety of factors including number of stores, employees, and inventory. That means that a cloud POS system can be quite costly as well if it is not built to scale with your retail store. If you are leaning towards signing up with a cloud POS software, it is a good idea to choose a POS that can grow with you.
Updates: Traditional POS systems need to be manually updated and may require on-site technical support. Not only does this take up time and money, it can be disruptive as the POS system cannot be used while the update is being done. In comparison, cloud POS software comes with the added benefit of real-time updates which are usually run off-hours. Not only does this reduce maintenance costs and help ensure that your software is always up to date, it makes your software “future-proof” as your solution will keep improving over time.
Hardware: With on-premise POS software, it is likely that you will be tied to specific hardware devices. This is due to the fact that you must pay a licensing fee for every device you wish to operate on. The more devices you have, the more costly it will be for your retail business to implement an on-premise solution.
Alternatively, with cloud POS software, you will not be tied to specific operating devices. Innovative cloud POS technology can function perfectly on any device from touchscreen monitors and iPads to mobile phones.
Data: Since traditional POS systems store data on a local server, there is a risk of losing all of your data if your system crashes, there is a software bug, or there is a disaster (e.g. fire, flood etc.). On the other hand, since cloud POS software automatically stores data in the cloud, your data will be safe in the instances above. At the same time, reliable POS providers will always use reputable cloud hosting service providers such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure to host their applications for both security and world-class reliability.
According to the National Retail Federation, losses due to organized retail crime, theft, and vendor fraud, etc. have continued to grow over the past few years. In 2019, shrinkage reached $61.7 billion, up from $50.6 billion in 2018.
Now the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for retailers when it comes to loss prevention.
History has shown that retail theft increases after global events that have major economic impact. Following events such as 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008, there was a notable increase in shoplifting.
Retail experts are predicting that COVID-19 could lead to even greater increases in retail crime as factors such as unemployment, uncertainty, and financial pressure make people more likely to steal and purchase stolen goods. Additionally, thieves are likely to take advantage of masking policies to get away with shoplifting and organized retail crime.
Let’s take a look at how retail owners can mitigate the risk of increased retail theft post-pandemic.
Post-COVID-19 loss prevention tips
Limit the number of shoppers in-store
Limiting the amount of shoppers allowed inside at a given time will prevent your retail store from becoming too crowded. Not only is this an important health & safety measure post-COVID-19, it is also critical in deterring retail theft.
A limited number of shoppers in-store will make it easier for staff to spot any suspicious activity. Remember, alert employees are the best defense against shoplifters. Attentive customer service and eye contact are key. Thieves hate attention and are less likely to act if they are in plain sight of store employees. So, if employees suspect a shopper is likely to commit a crime, teach them to engage the shopper in conversation.
Since many retailers have had to decrease the number of staff per shift to accommodate social distancing guidelines, limiting shoppers in store will also help to ensure adequate staff oversight. This way, store owners can be confident that there are enough employees keeping an eye on the sales floor.
Use cameras and mirrors
No matter how alert you and your employees are, it’s difficult to constantly monitor what is going on in your store. This is why security cameras, mirrors, and closed-circuit television cameras are great assets. When you are busy assisting shoppers or if you get momentarily distracted, video surveillance ensures that you are still covered in case of a crime or theft. And with retail theft expected to rise and a limited amount of staff allowed per shift post-COVID-19, you may want to consider installing more cameras and mirrors. It can be as simple as wifi cameras with recording functions or advanced AI surveillance software such as NoLeak Defense which uses technology to flag when a person’s body language is suspicious.
For smaller retailers, mirrors are a cost effective way to make a significant impact for both monitoring and deterrence. It’s a good idea to place them in the “blind spots” and corners of your store. This will make it easier for staff to see the whole store and at the same time, can make the perceived size of your store bigger.
Signage to prevent theft
Another cost-effective way to minimize opportunities for thieves to steal is the use of signage. Similar to how an at-home security system would deter burglars, anti-theft signs can act as a means to ward off potential retail crime.
Here are a few best practices when it comes to maximizing the impact of loss-prevention signage:
Place signs near your storefront or your front door to make it clear that your retail store is being monitored. This is often the first place that shoppers look and helps to minimize any privacy concerns.
Make sure your signage is placed high up where shoplifters would look for cameras/mirrors.
Consider featuring a set of eyes or list the consequences of committing retail crime (fines, jail time etc.) on the signage. Research has shown that this increases the likelihood of compliance.
Go cashless for security
Unfortunately a significant amount of shrinkage is internal. After all, employees are more likely to understand how your operations work and how products or money can be taken without being noticed. And so, with the increase in shoplifting, experts are also predicting a spike in employee theft post-pandemic.
If you accept cash, you won’t be able to run your retail business without giving employees access to your cash drawer. At the same time, balancing your cash drawer every day is time consuming. In the words of small business expert Michael Philippou, “take away cash and you take away the problem”. If it is necessary for you to accept cash, it’s important for you to use a retail POS system that has proper cash management and “cashout” controls including payment breakdown by tender type, the ability to hide system or +/- figures, etc. These types of functions will make it more difficult for employees to adjust closing figures as only users with the higher access rights would be able to see the comparisons.
To reduce the risk of internal theft, you should consider joining other retailers in going cashless, even if only temporarily. Yes there are costs associated with electronic payments but when you consider the risks in terms of employee theft and the extra administration costs, it is likely more cost-effective for you to go cashless. COVID-19 has only increased the risks and is the key reason why many retailers (and even government support such EBT programs) are increasingly digital these days. And if you are a fast-moving retailer, taking integrated electronic payments with your POS can also help increase your sales as you can significantly increase your checkout speed and accuracy.
Use a unified retail software
Before the pandemic, many merchants looked at “omnichannel,” “harmonized” or “unified” retail as a nice-to-have. Since the pandemic started, retailers are now looking at omnichannel as a must-have. So what do all of these terms actually mean?
While the terms have slight differences, they basically refer to a single system or piece of software that allows you to connect all of your inventory and customer data from all sales channels. So whether you make a sale online or in-store, you can track every order, payment, refund or inventory change in one software. Separate or poorly linked systems make it much harder for store managers to know how much inventory there is. Naturally, this creates opportunities for would-be thieves to more easily steal products – as nobody will notice that system quantities don’t match what’s available until they actually check what’s in stock!
While it’s possible for traditional POS software to offer some of these functions, a cloud-based system will be much better at handling this as the data in a true cloud system is managed in a central database online. This is particularly true if you manage inventory over multiple physical locations within one or many stores. During uncertain times, the flexibility and accessibility of cloud-based systems from anywhere makes it a lot easier for store managers and owners to:
More easily identify and trace suspicious activity all from a single system
Know what total inventory is in-stock vs. available to sell across all of your locations and sales channels.
Have better visibility into all transactions and inventory activity from wherever they are working (e.g. when they are working from home)
Have proper employee controls based on their access rights regardless of what device they are using and wherever they log in (e.g. no more remote access!)
Revise your store layout
There is a lot to consider when it comes to retail design in a post-pandemic environment. Retailers need to re-organize their store layouts to help shoppers and employees feel safe and comfortable. But at the same time, their store design and set up needs to be organized in the best possible way to prevent theft.
Below are some tips to consider when revising your store layout post-COVID-19:
Place shelves and displays 6 ft. apart so employees have maximum visibility. This also helps to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines.
Have elevated sales counters for better staff visibility of the shop floor.
Place small high-touch and high-value items near the checkout counter or in locked displays.
Install mirrors and cameras to eliminate blind spots.
Make sure there is adequate lighting in all areas.
Avoid large or clustered displays by reducing your selection. Many retailers including mainstream grocery stores are doing this now as fewer SKUs means less re-stocking and better visibility on suspicious behaviour.
Keep your store organized; a disorganized store attracts shoplifters and makes it easier for them to operate.
Install sensors that notify you when shoppers enter or exit the store. This is particularly important if you are trying to control the number shoppers in your store to maintain social distancing.
Have an employee stationed near the front of the store to greet customers as they enter and exit the store. Make sure that this employee is trained to handle customers with mask-related issues or to explain your store safety policies, etc. Personable, engaged employees help deter would-be thieves who are more likely to target stores where they can enter and leave undetected.
Partner with law enforcement
Working closely with law enforcement is a key factor in the fight against organized retail crime and theft. In the U.S., many federal, state, and local governments have established agencies that work with retailers to combat organized retail crime. To find out more about ORC associations in Canada, click here.
It’s a good idea to contact your local police station or retail association for advice on how to report organized retail crime, shoplifting, and internal theft in your area. Authorities can redirect you to local community resources and even provide important loss prevention tips.
Prepare your employees
With post-pandemic employee fraud expected to increase, retailers need to take preventive action. Besides some of the payment and system options mentioned earlier, here a few others steps that retailers can take to protect against internal shrinkage:
Send a clear message to all employees that detecting fraud is still a priority and will not slip under the radar. With sales down, layoffs and the addition of preventive health & safety measures, some employees may sense the company’s attention is elsewhere and believe there is an opportunity for theft.
Fraud training for senior employees, visible management of anti-fraud efforts, and the promotion of transparency should still be a priority for retail owners and managers.
Do random inventory counts. It is not necessary to check the entire store – many stores often do partial counts by section – but make sure that the counts are unscheduled so that employees cannot anticipate them.
Increase POS data analysis and auditing frequency to be familiar with employee activity and be alert to possible fraud activity when there are unusual patterns.
Use a modern POS system to make it easier to manage discrepancies in inventory and have a clear overview of your entire business across all locations and sales channels.
Ensure your POS system has strong user permissions. These permissions allow store owners and managers to restrict staff members from accessing certain features (such as sales reports and refunds without receipts, etc.).
Run background checks when hiring new employees.
Ensure employees are well trained to prevent accidental loss. Whether it’s entering inventory incorrectly or entering the wrong discount, accidental losses can add up. A POS system with built-in training tools can help ensure that your employees are well-trained on store policies and procedures.
We hope you found this article useful.
If you are a Toronto retailer, you can also download the following PDF for step-by-step instructions on how to report a retail crime.