October to December marks the peak shopping season for retail stores. It’s a time when many retailers plan for an increase in shoppers. As the world moves out of the global pandemic, retailers need to be ready for customers with new shopping behaviors.
According to a Google study, 70% won’t consider purchasing something without seeing it online: whether it is an ad, browsing through a website, social media, or email newsletter. This means that retailers need to start ramping up on their online efforts early: whether it is sending weekly newsletters or updating social media on a regular basis, “online storefronts” are more important than ever to shoppers.
People often flip between discovery (window-shopping) and shopping (looking for products mainly based on functions or features) until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. Of the two, discovery is more emotional and can often override the rational thinking behind shopping. Which is why online “pre-shopping” discovery is so important to the entire shopping process now.
A Statista survey showed that up to 50% of people are planning to do their holiday shopping in-stores. This means that retailers need to be ready to showcase new merchandise and discounts online to shoppers even before they make it to the stores.
In 2020, up to 79% of people left their holiday shopping until one-week before Christmas. This is good news for retailers because they are able to push their efforts to the very last minute. The same study showed that 64% of shoppers planned to shop in-stores. After more than a year of restrictions, people are eager to get out. This is great for physical stores that are able to target shoppers when they’re nearby.
Convenience plays a huge role in purchasing decisions today. “Now near me” searches have grown 100% worldwide. Options for store-managed e-commerce have also increased a lot. Because some shoppers will always leave holiday shopping until the last minute, local stores have a major advantage. After all, everybody has experienced shipping delays given the increase in online shopping. Instead, more local shoppers are searching for ways to buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS) to avoid delays.
The key to successfully offering store pickup for online orders is inventory accuracy. This means using store operations software that offers real-time stock information in-store and online. One way to make sure that your store appears online is to use Google’s free product listings and Local Inventory Ads (LIA). Learn more about how to increase foot traffic to stores with Google here.
For last minute shoppers, retailers can offer store pickup. Not only does this avoid delivery delays, it helps encourage shoppers to purchase extra items when they come to the store for their orders. Make sure that your order pickup area is well-merchandised with suitable impulse products. And consider switching to an order pickup system that will allow staff to checkout customers. There’s nothing worse than losing sales from a in-store shopper just because a customer doesn’t want to line up again to pay.
As January rolls in, people will be more careful about money after the busiest spending months of the year. There will be a lot of returns that take place both online and in physical stores. You will need to prepare for this and find new ways to tackle loss prevention too.
Rewrite And Reconsider Different Return Policies
You need to communicate your return and exchange policies to customers both in-store and on all receipts. Make sure you have your policies posted around the store and the checkout area so that staff also understand them. Some important things to remember when writing them are being clear about:
acceptable return windows
condition of items
type of items that can be returned (eg. some stores will not allow cosmetics and intimate items to be returned), return fees, etc.
Being clear about policies can reduce stress for both staff and angry shoppers post-holidays.
Examples: Zara employees tell shoppers their return / exchange policies during checkout. The policies are also printed and circled on their receipts. Zara also offers a short window of exchange for regular-priced items so that people do not keep returning seasonal items for new releases. Having these rules in place are especially important for stores that carry seasonal items. Canadian Tire does not offer returns or exchanges on Christmas trees past December 24.
Retail tip: When processing returns, you should cross out items on shoppers’ receipts and take down their information so that you can see if there is a history of similar behavior. This will help with loss prevention.
Encourage People To Exchange Items Instead
You should minimize refunds because they are a net loss. Besides damage to the products themselves, one of the main costs of returns is bank processing fees. Banks charge fees for purchases as well as refunds by card. In other words, you end up paying twice the fees when refunding money to customers.
While you might offer refunds in your policies, you can minimize your losses by offering shoppers an exchange instead. That way, instead of losing money, you still have a chance to keep the sale or in the best case scenario, make more money.
Retail tip: Offer Buy Online Return in Store (BORIS) so that people can still shop around before they return their products. Shoppers are more likely to buy more or exchange their items in-store. This also gives you a chance to introduce new items to them or impress them with your customer service.
Automate The Process
Shoppers are more likely to return to businesses when they have a good return experience. Whether you sell in-store or omnichannel, retailers need clear return policies and systems in place to handle returns smoothly. You should also make it easy for people to return both online and in-store. This helps nudge customers back into your store in the future. Plus, since you already have their personal information, you are able to send retargeting ads and emails to them about upcoming sales and store events.
Retail tip: You need to get shoppers’ consent before sending them SMS messages or emails.
Resell Merchandise At A Discounted Price
Instead of throwing products away, stores can offer any imperfect items at a discounted price. This lets you keep selling things that would otherwise be wasted.
Example: Best Buy offers both customers the option of buying open-box and refurbished items at a discounted price. This is especially important for high-ticket items such as electronics. Amazon offers different prices for used or returned products based on their condition (used, used-good, etc.). These retailers are able to keep selling products even after the products have been returned.
Want to know more about successful inventory management?
Get shoppers through your door by displaying your seasonal merchandise (whether you plan on using an entire aisle or a single point-of-purchase display) at a prominent location. Use proper signage to lead shoppers to your Halloween-themed merchandise and displays, will also make them more likely to purchase.
Not selling Halloween-themed products? You can still decorate your store with some festive decorations and visual merchandising. Think about creating a window or point-of-purchase display that showcases products that you already sell – but with a twist. You can use spider webs, jack-o-lanterns, leaves, and fall colours (black, orange, red etc.) to spook things up.
Completely revamping your store’s website is time-consuming and in some cases, it can be expensive. But adding a Halloween touch to your website can go a long way in getting shoppers in a festive spirit. Including Halloween images on your homepage, fixing themed add-ons, and adding pop-up designs are all cost-effective and easy ways to add a spooky feel.
You can also drive more shoppers to your website by creating a separate page (a landing page) dedicated to Halloween. Here are a few tips:
Create a Halloween gift guide for your shoppers that features all of your Halloween merchandise. If you don’t sell Halloween merchandise, consider posting helpful Halloween content. Some good content or blog post ideas include: “Halloween costume ideas for children”, “Halloween decor ideas”,”DIY costumes for adults”, and “tips for hosting a Halloween party”.
Use Halloween keywords (this will help your store appear higher up in search).
Promote any seasonal discounts or promotions that you are holding.
Don’t forget to decorate your social media and email marketing campaigns for Halloween as well!
Adjust for high traffic hours: while you want to keep ads active 24/7, it is a good idea to boost ad performance during high traffic hours. This includes the hours that your store is open and when your shoppers are most likely to search.
Consider physical location: Users closest to your store (20-35 km radius) are much more likely to visit than others who are. Target local shoppers by increasing bids for users that are closest to your store.
For more information on how your retail store can easily implement Google LIAs to increase foot traffic and sales, click here.
4) Add Halloween Products
If your store doesn’t sell any Halloween merchandise, you can consider selling seasonal items to boost your store sales.
The following are some good examples of how retailers can add in popular seasonal offerings:
Thanksgiving weekend (from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday) is one of the biggest shopping events of the year. Black Friday will look different this year as more COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted. It will be a chance for shoppers to re-emerge in store to do their shopping.
This is the perfect opportunity for retailers to attract more shoppers with Black Friday marketing to increase store visits and sales. To take full advantage of the holiday weekend, retailers need to be prepared to meet shopper demand and expectations.
Black Friday Shopper Insights And Trends
Despite the impact of the pandemic, Black Friday sales in 2020 were surprisingly strong. Although brick-and-mortar stores saw a decline in foot traffic and sales, 2020 was a year for e-commerce. According to Adobe Analytics, online sales in the US went up by a whopping 21.6% from the previous year.
From the same survey, it was reported that 44% of consumers planned to shop small and support local retailers. Compared to previous months, local retailers did see a 545% increase in sales around Black Friday. This is good news for local retailers who want to take advantage of the spending season.
Keep reading to find out how you can take advantage of these trends and increase your retail sales!
6 Retail Store Marketing Tips
1) Improve Your Local Online Presence
Research shows that shoppers are looking to Google and conducting searches even more now prior to visiting physical stores. This shows that valid and accurate online information make it easier for shoppers to purchase in-store. This means that, even without an online store, it’s important to improve your online presence.
If your business cannot easily be found online, there’s a large chance that you are losing out on potential shoppers to your competitors. Here is a quick checklist that will help you review how your retail store appears online:
Check to see if you business information and holiday hours are updated on Google My Business.
You can use tools like Yext to run a scan of how your business appears on listings / online directories across the web (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc).
If you’ve moved or want to be found on more local directories, sign up for a one-time local listing service through services such as The Hoth or Fat Joe.
Encourage or even offer a small incentive to get your happy customers to leave a positive review on your Google My Business store profile. Make sure that you reply to customer reviews whether they are good or bad. You’ll want to ensure that your customers are regularly leaving reviews as 90% of customers read online reviews before visiting a business. Click here to find out how you can gather more positive reviews for your retail business.
Retailers with websites need to make sure that their websites are mobile-friendly. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test to check how easy it is for shoppers to view your website on their mobile phones.
2) Engage With Shoppers After The Holiday Weekend Is Over
This means that in order to capture this chunk of customers, retailers should build on the existing interest and run promotions or events even after the Black Friday weekend. To reach as many shoppers as possible, run email marketing campaigns possibly together with digital marketing ads to promote your unique products and deals!
By partnering with local businesses, you can provide unique deals that shoppers will have a hard time passing up. And this way, you don’t have to risk low profit margins. In fact, you can still sell products at regular price or even at a premium.
The best collaboration strategies include:
Selling products in bundles: Packaging products that complement each other in one product bundle is a great way to increase your store’s average order value. For example, pairing three lipstick shades with a skincare product or, bundling sweaters with a free bag. In order for this strategy to work, it’s obviously a good idea to partner with another retailer that sells complementary products.
Offer partner promotions / discounts: Another effective strategy includes cross-promoting. For example, shoppers will receive 10% off of total sale or free shipping at your partner’s business when they purchase $50 or more at your store. You can print promotional material on your receipts and customers can use this as a voucher.
Black Friday is a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your most loyal shoppers. After all, they are best customers and the ones most interested in your products.
By adding exclusivity to your email marketing campaigns, you increase psychological rewards like a sense of belonging and importance. This is why exclusivity makes your promotional offers appear more attractive to shoppers vs. simply pricing and encourages them to visit your store.
Remember – shoppers receive too many emails during this time of year. So make your emails stand out with:
Clear offers in the subject line (for example: Exclusive VIP Sale)
Personalized subject lines (personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened). Or, you could include the shopper’s first name in the email opening line.
A short, simple, and to the point message.
5) Promote Urgency
The majority of shoppers (92%) believe that strong deals will be offered all throughout the holiday season. And with so many competitors offering deals during the weekend, shoppers are left with a lot of decisions to make. That’s why it’s necessary to create a sense a urgency with your Black Friday marketing campaigns.
Urgency is a widely used marketing tool in retail. And for good reason – creating a sense of urgency in shoppers increases demand and ultimately leads to more purchases. Create an incentive for shoppers to take action by running your promotions for a limited time. One effective way to create time pressure is to include a countdown timer on your website or in your email campaign. Show your shoppers how many days, hours, and minutes are remaining for them to get a deal on their favorite items.
6) Highlight Stock Availability
Stock availability is a type of FOMO or “Fear Of Missing Out” that encourages shoppers to take action. It’s a good idea to emphasize that certain items are limited or low in stock in your marketing campaigns or on your e-commerce site. If you do not have an online store, it’s a good idea to run Google Local Inventory Ads and take advantage of digital marketing that helps you promote automatically based on product availability. If your POS is linked directly to these type of Google Ads, stock availability will adjust based on real-time shelf quantities and save you the hassle of manual updates.
These ads work by targeting nearby shoppers who are searching online for products that your store sells. Google LIAs are effective because they capture shopper intent at the moment that they are looking to purchase. Click here to learn how your store can easily implement Google LIAs together with your POS system to increase store sales and foot traffic.
Omnichannel Shopping Are The New Reality Of Retail
Regardless of what stage you are at, moving your retail business online, consider the strategies above to improve how well you serve your customers online this year during the all-important holiday shopping season.
For retailers, inventory planning matters. Inventory is your largest asset and has the greatest impact on your business cash flow. If you plan your inventory well, you can reduce your overhead costs and increase cashflow. This article will help you understand the essentials to inventory management for retailers.
Cashflow sitting in old or out-of-season inventory is money that could be better used elsewhere. Many successful retailers don’t carry a lot of excess stock to have the flexibility to introduce new products more quickly. This is particularly true in industries such as grocery where products can easily expire or fashion where products can be trendy. All products are worth less over time as they get “stale.” But in fast-moving sectors, products have shorter life cycles, meaning they lose their value faster. As such, carrying too much stock means an increased chance of getting stuck with products that require deep discounting to free up your cashflow. Consider this the next time your suppliers offer you better prices to buy a larger volume of product.
Remember though, keeping your inventory “lean” doesn’t only mean keeping stock levels low. If stock levels don’t match your sales demand and are kept too low, you will constantly have out-of-stock products. You want to avoid stock-outs as they are costly to retailers. They lead to lost sales, wasted marketing efforts, and unhappier customers.
There are many different inventory management methods but ultimately, it comes down to one thing, “do you have stock when you need to sell it“.
In the end, selling at any price is not the objective. To be profitable, retailers need loyal, repeat customers that don’t require expensive marketing campaigns to get them to buy. When you think of it this way, inventory is an important part of your overall customer service. Customer service is the new marketing as every touch point impacts how your customers view your business. Less stock-outs means higher sales in-store and faster fulfillment for online orders, all of which means better customer satisfaction.
What Can I Do As A Retailer To Better Manage My Inventory?
If you’re a small-to-midsize retailer and all of this sounds scary, don’t worry. Not all retailers have the resources of the big brands, and regardless of your size, there are things you can do to better plan your inventory.
1) Make Sure You Always Have Access To Real-Time Stock Levels
You can’t manage what you don’t know. With an increasing number of sales channels (e.g. e-commerce, pop-ups, etc.), a retail POS that can handle “unified commerce” with real-time stock levels is essential to inventory management in today’s market. Unified commerce is just another way of saying a total retail management platform that you can log into from anywhere 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 inventory data grows as the business and transaction complexity increases.
2) Use Minimum Stock Levels
Use minimum stock levels, also known as safety stock levels. In many retail point-of-sale systems, you can assign a minimum stock level to every product in your store which you can easily track in comparison to your actual stock level. You should also be able to easily make mass updates in your POS when you review your minimum stock levels every 3-6 months.
3) Track Inventory Stock Levels By Supplier
Track inventory stock levels by supplier so that you can consolidate purchases to minimize stock-outs, lead time, and shipping costs. This will also allow you to more easily meet supplier minimum order amounts.
4) Track Inventory Turnover
This is essential to inventory management in retail. Basically this refers to how many times a product is sold and replaced over a certain period of time. This can be tracked at a very high level (e.g. including the entire store inventory) or at the product / category level. There are different ways to calculate turnover but whatever approach you use, consider using Cost of Goods Sold instead of Sales as you will get a more accurate measure as your result will not include markup. For example:
From Jan-Mar, this company had inventory turnover of 13.33. This is calculated by taking the Sales$ for this period and dividing it by Average Stock Value$. Now you can convert this to “inventory days” by taking 365 / 13.33. So from Jan-Mar, inventory turns 13.33 times a year and is on hand for approximately 27.38 days. If you run the same calculations for Apr-Jun, inventory turns 18.33 times a year and is on hand for approximately 19.91 days.
From these two examples, the higher your turnover rate, the more efficient you are, since it means that your inventory is being sold faster and you have more cash flow in your business. A lot of people forget that the cost of inventory is not just the original purchase cost of an item. It includes the ongoing cost TO SELL that inventory. The longer it takes to sell something, the greater your real inventory cost as your money is sitting in that dead stock instead of products that are in high demand.
5) Determine Your Ideal Reorder Days
It is always a good idea to estimate the lead time required to reorder products in time for suppliers to produce OR deliver them before you are out-of-stock. For example, if you know it takes two weeks to receive orders from a particular vendor, make sure to factor that lead time into your reorder timing. In the beginning, you don’t want to cut it too close as unexpected delays can happen (e.g. snowstorms in the winter). This is especially true if you are ordering for a busy time of year such as Christmas. For some retailers, losing a week during the holidays might mean the difference between Christmas and Boxing Day pricing.
Inventory Management – Essential For All
A lot of independent retailers or businesses often think that they are not large enough to use inventory management tools and try to use spreadsheets to keep track of their goods. While this can work in the beginning, as your inventory items grow in both size and attributes, you will either overstock (to prevent stock-outs) or have constant back orders. You will also lose out on freight savings and volume discounts you might have received if you had consolidated your vendor orders more efficiently.
Start improving your operations by following the key essentials to inventory management we’ve listed above. Then when you’re ready, start to slowly automate these functions one-by-one. With the proper point-of-sale system, you will be able to spend less time managing your inventory and more time selling it.
We hope you found this article helpful! Subscribe to our blog for more helpful retail tips and strategies!
Every so often, retailers are affected by things out of their control such as recession, inflation, seasonal natural disasters and pandemics (just to name a few). One of our customers had a huge setback when a large truck crashed into their storefront because of black ice. Bottom line is, you always have to be ready for surprises. Without the right precautions in place, this could put a huge strain on your businesses and could lead to closure. In an uncertain world, we want to make sure you have the right tools to manage your store so we have put together a few tips below to help you stay resilient through any unforeseeable events.
Conduct a physical inventory count to verify inventory amounts. Record any losses of inventory that are damaged, or expired, or spoiled. You’ll want to make sure that the inventory you have counted matches stock levels in your POS or inventory management system.
Review your inventory to decide what needs to be discounted and promoted immediately to bring in cash flow and to minimize the losses from your most outdated stock.
Contact your suppliers and vendors to get an update on order lead times and ensure accurate delivery schedules. You don’t want to sell what you can’t fulfill.
Use new hiring tactics. Write engaging job descriptions, promise of more hours, and offer a rewards-based incentive program so that your staff can stay invested with the success of your store.
Review loss prevention and security policies with employees. Don’t forget to review your POS access rights to make sure the staff permissions are still accurate.
Retail Store Exterior and Interior
Regularly make sure that the storefront is clean by washing windows and doors, and cleaning high-traffic areas thoroughly.
Have the store’s new merchandising plan and products tags ready for staff. Ensure that all of your staff are informed of any new changes and are scheduled to help display stock before you open.
Place promotional signage around the store.
Retail Operations Management
Organize back office tasks: Review your fulfillment processes as cashiers need to have easy access to product or curbside orders at the front of the store to minimize their walking around the store.
Review receipt management procedures and train staff to put receipts directly into shopping bags instead of handing them to customers or ask customers if they want an email receipt instead. Remember that privacy regulations require that you get positive customer consent to save their emails for future use so an email marketing tool to capture consent that will allow customers to unsubscribe themselves.
Enable staggered pickup times. Requiring customers to make an appointment to pick up their purchases to avoid huge lineups outside of your store. E-commerce providers such as TAKU eCommerce allow customers to choose a pickup time and date at checkout. Alternatively, you can use apps such as Eventbrite, Calendly or Acuity Scheduling, many of which are free for a single store account.
Security, Technology, and Utilities
Ensure that your utilities are working properly:This includesheating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), phone, internet, electricity, and plumbing etc. If any of your utilities were disconnected while you were closed, it’s a good idea to call the utility companies to make sure they are working before you re-open.
Check all surveillance and security cameras to make sure they are working properly.
Ensure alarm systems are working and consider updating alarm codes if needed.
Verify that your retail POS system, credit card terminals, and scannersare ready to process sales. Before opening, ring in a test sale to make sure your POS is good to go.
Make sure that your payment terminal (PIN pad) is capable of accepting contactless payments. Know what your contactless limits are and increase them if you are comfortable with the higher risk (contactless “tap” payments are subject to chargebacks).
Health and Safety Measures
Appoint a health & safety representative in your team. It is important to implement rules and regulations that comply with local laws and to ensure that employees and customers feel comfortable and safe in your retail store.
Make hand-sanitizer available to customers.
Adjust your store hours:Shorten your opening hours to help staff keep up with the extra cleaning required and to give them adequate time to replenish stock.
Let people know that you take orders online – TAKU helps retailers showcase their products 24/7 online and accepts payments easily and quickly (read more here). Fulfill orders in-store and allow customers to schedule a pickup time so that customers can pop in to pick up their items without the stress of long wait times or lineups.
Update Google My Business. Update your Google My Business listing and let customers know you are open for curbside pickup or delivery. Remember to adjust your hours of operation on your listing if you decide to shorten your store hours!
Get added to local directories. Add your business to local directory listings (Bing, Yahoo etc.) to make it easier for shoppers to find you online. Support Retail is one of our favorite directories and was created during the COVID-19 pandemic as a free tool to help connect local businesses to shoppers in the area. Being featured on local directories with links to your website improves SEO which also means that you are able to have your website appear ahead of your competitors on search engines such as Google.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to add a few relevant tips for retailers that have reopened or planning to reopen soon. We understand that it might be a little overwhelming, but completing this list can help your employees and staff feel safer, and create more trust.
🚨 COVID-19 Retail Best Practices
Purchase protective equipment for employees (ex. face masks & gloves) especially if you serve a high-risk population. Sanitize doors knobs, handles, countertops, PIN pads, etc. Any areas of high touch by employees or customers will need to be sanitized repeatedly throughout the day. Consider wrapping your PIN pad with plastic wrap so that you can wipe it down with sanitizer between every customer but still protect the device. Review your fitting room policy if you are a clothing or apparel store. Many stores will no longer allowing fittings and instead relying on better descriptions or even fitting technology. Encourage “Contactless” Payments (e.g. tap or Apple Pay) and discourage the use of cash to protect your staff and customers wherever possible. Increase your “contactless” limit with your merchant processor but remember that you are liable for any potential chargebacks on “contactless” payments. Implement proper hygiene and social distances practices. Communicate health and safety procedures to staff. Ensure proper hand washing, sanitizing, and overall cleanliness. Place signs in the store to remind employees to wash their hands, sanitize, and keep at a safe distance from one another. Hang health & safety signage around the store so that customers can easily read and understand procedures. Modify your return and exchange policy: You may want to put a hold on return and exchanges for the time being given the hygiene concerns.
Want to learn more about how to be seen as the top result on Google (or other search engines)?