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Sell more: 5 retail merchandising mistakes to avoid in-store

Sell more: 5 retail merchandising mistakes to avoid in-store

This article was originally published on the ACE POS Blog.

For many retailers, this is the time to run summer sales to make space in your store for next season’s products. It’s also a great time for retailers to review their store set-up and make improvements to be able to maximize their sales potential during the upcoming holiday season. If you plan to refresh your store, make sure you avoid these 5 pitfalls to improve customer experience, reduce theft and sell more!

1) Making customers guess where products are in your store. While this may seem counter-intuitive to the idea of the “treasure hunt” approach that retailers such as Costco have used successfully, it’s important to remember that today’s rushed shoppers don’t have a lot of patience. Shoppers that visit a store, often have an objective in mind. While shoppers may look around after they’ve found what they’re looking for, if it takes them too long to find specific products, they may give up in frustration.

Make it easier for shoppers to find your products

You should always have an overall plan of how traffic will move through your store. For larger retailers, this means having posted store maps, product locators or professional signage visible from the entrance area to help customers quickly find what they need. Smaller stores can hang a bulletin board near the front door (preferably on the right-hand side) with a store map, weekly sale items, events calendar, etc. For staff, it’s “obvious” where products can be found but have you looked at your store layout with “fresh eyes” recently? Do incoming customers frequently ask to locate certain products? If so, it’s likely that your sales staff are spending more time directing customers than selling. Remember that the first 10 seconds a customer is in the store sets the tone for their entire shopping experience. What first impression is your store giving? Review this regularly.

Remember that you don’t have to group products by category. You can group products by brand, by use (e.g. all items related to brewing and drinking coffee) or even by supplier. Many suppliers have products that are meant to be sold together. This is often the case with fashion retailers where suppliers have seasonal lines. You will want to display such products together to have a stronger impact when you start merchandising them.

Traffic patterns in your store

If you have a lot of regular customers, “loss leader” pricing on popular bulky products still works. This is the long-standing in-store pricing tactic whereby certain products are offered for sale below its minimum profit margin – not necessarily below cost – and is intended to “lead” to the subsequent sale of other (ideally higher margin) items. If your store size will allow it, place your loss leader products at the back of the store. If you’re a grocery store, it’s best to use bulky staples such as toilet paper or large soda packs. Place baskets or carts near these items to slow down your customers when they walk to the checkout. Make sure that you train floor staff to get a basket for customers when they are carrying products. Studies have shown that customers spend up to 15 minutes longer in a store and purchase 25% more on impulse buys when their hands are free.

Store lighting can impact your sales

2) Not having a merchandising plan in place. Now that you’ve reviewed your signage and layout, you’re all set right? Unfortunately, you’ve only just begun. Every store needs a retail merchandising plan to increase sell-through. According to industry strategists such as Bob Phibbs, a basic merchandising plan will include the following:

  • A department plan that changes with the seasons and holidays.
  • A budget for store fixtures, props, lighting, and signage.
  • A merchandise planning system which will help maximize turn, limit out-of-stocks, increase margins, and minimize markdowns.

To paraphrase what Nicole Reyhle and Jason Prescott highlight in their industry guide Retail 101, your sales floor and displays require constant reinvention as even great displays will inevitably become stale. Some of the key areas they suggest paying special attention to include:

  • In-store lighting: The lighting in a store can serve multiple purposes. It can be used to lead customers to certain areas of your store or entice customers to engage with products at key displays. It can also be used in the grey area of fitting room stagecraft exemplified by the use of soft, amber lighting to flatter shoppers.
  • Store windows: Storefront windows offer a chance for you to highlight or tell a story with your store inventory. As you can imagine, these are one of the most frequently rotated displays in a retail store. For general retailers, a good rule of thumb is to change up your window displays at least every 2-3 weeks.
  • Decompression zone: The immediate zone inside your front entrance is a great location to quickly engage and entice customers to explore further into your store. You don’t want customers to stop too long but it’s an ideal place to highlight new must-have items, special events, store maps, weekly promotions, etc.
  • Speed bumps: These are tabletop product displays spread throughout your store to keep customers engaged and, if possible, allow them to interact with the product. Ideally, you will want to have some height with your speed bump and enough products so that customers can pick up or buy products without ruining your display. Naturally, you will not want to include any fragile products in your speed bumps. Also, make sure your speed bumps are not in the decompression zone but start just beyond that area to invite customers to explore further. If you have the budget for it, it’s always a good idea to use accent lighting and display stands with lockable wheels to make it easier for you to move things around frequently without a lot of effort. In Retail 101, it’s recommended that you have about 5 speed bumps for every 500 square feet of retail space.
  • Sale section or end features: Whether you have the space for a sale or you have aisles with end features, these areas are meant to display promotional items, not regular merchandise. While some retailers will have a dedicated sale section to move end-of-season products (at the back of the store, naturally), others will use their end features to showcase fun, seasonal wares. Moving a product from its regular shelf location to a featured end cap can increase average sales by up to 25%, so try to switch up your displays at least every two weeks to keep things fresh and customers coming back for more. If you don’t have any new items, even rotating the location of the end features will give regular customers the impression of a treasure hunt to locate your latest promotions, similar to what Costco does in their warehouses.
Take advantage of valuable promotional space on your receipts

3) Under-utilizing the check-out area. Remember, you will already have a major advantage by the time customers are in this zone. When people are ready to check-out, they have already made the decision to purchase from you! Make sure that you leverage this during check-out by:

  • Using the wall behind the check-out area to display new items, bestsellers or high-margin products.
  • Making sure store policies are visible and professionally done to show that you stand behind your products.
  • Offering small add-on products for customers to peruse while lining up. Keep your impulse products lower in price so that customers don’t need to think much about the decision. Make sure that your selection and pricing reflect your target market and compliment your general store assortment.
Take advantage of your checkout area

4) Not utilizing mirrors strategically. Mirrors are a great tool in-store to modify perception and change behavior. Many retailers use them to:

  • Improve customer behavior: Mirror the wall behind your check-out staff so that customers who approach the counter will see themselves. This has been shown to lower the chance of customers being rude or acting irrationally as they can see how their behavior appears to others.
  • Create flattering fitting rooms: While some believe it is misleading, it’s fairly common practice for clothing retailers to install mirrors with a slight outward tilt at the bottom to produce the illusion of appearing longer and leaner.
  • Reduce shoplifting: Thieves are less likely to try to steal products if there is a greater chance that they will be seen. Besides digital security systems, smaller businesses can add outward-facing mirrors in strategic locations near high-value products. If you have narrow checkout aisles, add mirrors to ensure that the underside of carts are visible. Remember to be discreet with mirrors at the checkout though. Customers will get the wrong impression if you only install waist-level mirrors behind them!
  • Make smaller spaces look larger: This is an age-old design trick used by home-owners that works just as well in retail store design.

5) Not reviewing the performance of your store traffic and displays on a regular basis. In-store merchandising is only as good as its ability to increase sell-through. While there isn’t a right or wrong approach to merchandising, it is definitely something that can be tracked. Make sure that you monitor your inventory levels and sales performance weekly. A good retail point-of-sale system should give you access to well-designed sales and inventory reports so that you can easily track your performance. Not only will this allow you to better manage your stock levels, it will give you greater insight on which tactics are working, who your customers are, how best to plan your staffing and, most importantly, why they are buying from you.

Good Luck and Happy Retailing!

#merchandising #retail #smallretailers #independentstores #smallbusiness #retailmarketing #tipstosellmore #takuretail #builtforretail

5 reasons why small retailers need loyalty programs

This article was originally published on the ACE POS Blog.

why small retailers need loyalty programs

With many large retailers offering loyalty programs, it’s easy to think that there isn’t value for small retailers to develop their own programs. But there are a number of reasons as to why this isn’t true:

how to build loyal customers
  1. Lower Cost of Acquisition. Even if you take into account the cost of offering loyalty benefits, with a carefully-designed program, repeat program customers will pay out over time as the cost of their business is much lower to acquire vs. new customers. While it’s expected for direct cost of goods to be carefully tracked, it’s still easy to forget how expensive the indirect costs of business development are — marketing, free shipping, etc.
  2. Make Customers Sticky. By rewarding repeat customers for their business, you are making it harder for your competitors to make inroads as there is a cost for your customers to stop buying from you.
  3. Store Data. Store Data. Store Data. Many retailers work on razor-thin profit margins. Inventory is the largest asset for retailers. It makes sense for you to have a clear idea of what products your most loyal customers want to buy. The data from loyalty programs often pays for itself if it is utilized to optimize supply and demand in your store. Minimizing stock-outs and overstock will reduce how much ongoing inventory you need to carry and ultimately, improve your cashflow.
  4. Channel for Direct-Customer Engagement. Loyalty programs are an easy way for retailers to get permission to market to customers. Essentially you are offering program benefits in exchange for authorization to communicate with customers. Remember that customer engagement is often a two-way street nowadays. Customers appreciate businesses that also value their opinions.
  5. Profiling for Personalization. Loyalty programs are a great way for retailers to collect quality product feedback or actionable service improvements that will improve your customer engagement and save you money in the long-term. Because customers volunteer their profile and demographics details to become a loyalty member, you are able to deliver higher personalization to create a more unique (and hopefully more profitable) engagement.

How do I Implement a Loyalty Program?

how do I implement a retail loyalty program?

Have I convinced you to implement a loyalty reward program yet for your small business? If so, there are a few things you can do to run your program more cost-effectively and successfully:

Don’t focus exclusively on discounts. You want to rewards shoppers, not encourage your best customers to only buy on discount. While special offers are expected with most loyalty programs, it’s more effective in the long-term to offer a range of benefits such as:

  • Special Events: book signings, wine & cheese meet and greets, launch partie
  • Exclusive Access: limited edition new products, members only early access
  • Free Gifts: exclusives for volume purchase, samples from manufacturers
  • Free Services: alternations for purchases, wifi access (e.g. free wifi with data collection from companies such as Purple, etc.)

Birchbox email list offer

Don’t constantly hard sell. Shoppers are marketed to in nearly every medium today — from TV to social media. Studies show that consumers, especially Millennials, are jaded from relentless hard selling. Today’s buyers are increasingly looking for retailers that offer discounts or experiences. As the retail expert, Steven Dennis, quoted in one of his recent articles for Forbes magazine:

…engage in a discounting fueled race to the bottom or seek to do what is unique, intensely customer relevant and truly remarkable, where price is not the determining factor in the customer’s decision.

Be careful when setting up the terms of your loyalty reward program. This cannot be stressed enough as it can be costly (financially and in terms of goodwill) to change a loyalty reward program once it is in place. As companies such as Waitrose in the UK have learned, there is an art to even giving away free coffee or tea. It’s important for retailers to consider everything from affordability, running costs, how to minimize program abuse, whether the benefits match the values of your target market, whether to have caps or expiry on benefits, etc.

Offer a sign-up incentive. An easy way for you to increase engagement and sign-up for your loyalty reward program is by offering a free gift or a limited time offer with purchase. Offering low profit-margin stock or manufacturer samples is a common practice but remember that program members should feel that they are getting a gift of value, not simply a throw away product.

Promote your loyalty reward program in-store. Merchandising your retail store on a budget includes having displays in-store to encourage customers to sign-up for your loyalty program or to showcase your latest reward benefit. If you have the budget, digital signage will make it easier to make updates over time without having to re-print display materials as new benefits or offers are launched. Having in-store displays will also help your staff as it encourages shoppers to ask about joining during check-out.

training staff

Training of check-out staff. It doesn’t help a business to offer a loyalty reward program if the check-out staff give shoppers the impression that those who use them are a nuisance or thrifty. Make sure to train your check-out staff to ask if paying shoppers are members, and if they are not, whether they would like to join. Offering a loyalty reward program without bothering to train staff about program details or by discouraging its usage will only come across as insincere by savvy shoppers in today’s competitive retail environment. This is especially true if you plan to have tiers in your loyalty program. The backlash against Sephora’s famous Beauty Insider program is a prime example of how retailers can lose sight of the purpose of their programs and how to execute them.

Loyalty reward programs are a great way in which to build a following of repeat customers or even influencers over time. Consider the tips above to make sure you are offering a successful program that adds long-term value to your bottom line.

Good Luck and Happy Retailing.

I’m Karen Wong, contact me if you’d like to connect. Follow me on LinkedIn.

#loyaltyprogram #customerloyalty #retailmarketing #retail #pointofsale #takuretail #builtforretail

4 Ways to Merchandise your Retail Store on a Budget

4 Ways to Merchandise your Retail Store on a Budget

This article was originally published on the ACE POS Blog.

Attract Consumer Attention In-Store

In spite of the rise of online shopping, studies show that the majority of shoppers still prefer to make their purchases at physical stores. But with the endless choices available to consumers today, how do you hold the attention of shoppers and encourage them to make purchases in your store?

Aside from running endless promotions, with a little creativity, even small retailers can create powerful merchandising displays for in-store marketing that will draw shoppers to the tills.

Here are some examples of how retailers can better merchandise their stores without breaking the bank:


1) Drive traffic to the back of your store with Point-of-Purchase displays

Besides window signage, it’s important to always have clear Point-of-Purchase in-store displays, especially if you are running promotions. Place your promotional items deep within your store to encourage customers to walk through but always remember to have signage that is visible from the entrance to drive that traffic.

Loss leaders at back of store

2) Group new & exciting products together to encourage impulse purchases

Highlight market trends by showcasing your latest products together with your best-selling SKUs in an attractive raised display near your entrance or check-out area. If you know certain items are popular, running group promotions together will encourage customers to top-up or impulse buy.

Impulse purchase displays at checkout

3) Inspire gift-giving with beautiful packaging or tags

If you sell commonly gifted goods, you can offer gift tags or have a display of beautifully gift-wrapped products to inspire customers. For small businesses, offer to pack gifts in plain brown paper bags with tissue paper. Not only is that more convenient for the average customer, it’s more cost-effective than buying branded bags in small volumes and reduces waste since customers won’t generally gift with a store bag.

Beautiful packaging or gift tags

4) Promote your Rewards Program

If you have a popular rewards program, have displays to encourage customers to sign-up or showcase your latest reward benefit. Besides allowing you to better track customers’ sales habits, a well-designed rewards program will give you a way to promote special offers and new products directly to customers. Having store displays about your program will also help your staff as it encourages customers to mention their membership or ask about joining during check-out.

Retail Loyalty Programs

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#retail #merchandising #independentstores #smallretailers #smallbusiness #pointofsale #retailmarketing