After over a year of lockdowns and re-openings, retailers are finally able to open up their doors to the public again. Now, more than ever, retailers need to take more initiative in their local SEO efforts to ensure that they are visible to online shoppers.
But what is local SEO and how does it help my retail business?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This refers to marketing that helps increase the quantity and quality of visitors online that find you through organic search engine results. “Organic search engine results” is just a fancy way of saying “the top results that show up without paid advertising” in a search engine when somebody searches using certain words. Here’s an example in what an “organic result” looks like in the Google search engine, but it is similar in Bing or Yahoo.
Local SEO is just a more localized version of this – it’s the way that local businesses can show up higher in organic search engine results. An example could be a customer looking for a bag of Acana dog food in their area. When they type “Acana dog food near me,” Google matches the search to local listings in their area.
How to improve where you show up in “search results“
Have you ever thought of how results pop up on your ‘results’ pages? SEO plays a big role in that. One of the main things that affect how websites are displayed on search engines is the number of and quality of keywords in the website.
What is a keyword?
Keywords are either statements, questions, or words that people put into the search bar in a search engine. Finding the right keywords for your website and other online store listings is important because it can affect how and where you show up in search engine results.
Retailers looking to improve their local SEO should do some keyword research and take proactive efforts to make sure that their website and other listings consistently include the most popular keywords. Over time, this will help their stores rank better in local search engine results. The best way to continuously include popular keywords is to create new and relevant content such as new blog posts or website pages. At the same time, it’s important to always have some evergreen content (content that will remain relevant for the foreseeable future and can be re-shared and repurposed), suitable for the industry (e.g. petstores).
What are examples of evergreen content?
Blog posts or pages featuring clients, products or services offered, as well as their long-term benefits. The goal is to create content that presents the business as an expert within an industry in order to build trust with customers.
Why you need a mobile-friendly website
Another SEO-friendly move includes improving mobile responsiveness on your store website. “Mobile responsiveness” refers to how well your retail website looks on all different screen sizes, especially mobile smartphones. In 2020, just under half of the world’s population owned a smartphone with 63,000 Google searches performed per second. When a website cannot change to fit different screen sizes for different devices automatically, new visitors will leave the website faster as it’s not a good customer experience.
It’s already harder in mobile as statistics have shown that capturing peoples’ attention on smartphones is more difficult (a difference of 28% as compared to Desktops) due to the smaller amount of space from which you can “sell” your business. But when you add this to the fact that people are also increasingly relying on their smartphones as their main source of information and that “search” online today usually starts from a smartphone, mobile responsiveness is key to being found online today.
Targeting new keywords
Another way to increase traffic to your website is to rank for new keywords (click here to jog your memory on keywords) that target challenges or new needs of your customers. In order to know how to show up for specific terms, retail business owners need to do keyword research. One good resource is Neil Patel: his website offers free resources to check what keywords you are ranking for and how to optimize your website so that you show up in more related searches.
Optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile
Over 80% of customers go online to find more information about a store or product before ever setting foot in a store. People are getting increasingly more tech savvy, which means that retailers need to adapt to new ways of shopping. Google My Business (GMB) is one of the first stops that new customers usually make to find out details such as opening hours or reviews that past customers have left. It is important to update GMB because:
It’s a free tool that can automatically bring more exposure to your business
It helps customers learn more about your business through features such as Posts, online bookings, photo galleries and store reviews.
It helps customers find you in Google Maps.
⭐ What is SWIS (See What’s In Store)?
See What’s In Store (SWIS) helps retailers showcase their product to shoppers in their area. When shoppers search for products (such as “Acana pet food near me”) in Google, they will see a list of nearby locations that carry those products. If those stores have SWIS activated, Google will show a free product showcase highlighting exactly what products are available in store. Because this feature is most effective when the product availability is accurate, a SWIS product showcase is best when it is managed by a store POS directly linked to Google. The added benefit of SWIS is that it turns product names into keywords which helps retailers show up higher in search results.
Read more about how TAKU has helped retailers globally increase their sales?
One of the most common methods of payment in both traditional and online retail is payment by credit or debit cards. This is particularly true since the pandemic started as more and more shoppers are looking to avoid touching cash and prefer to pay with contactless payment options. After all, card-based payments are reliable and trustworthy ways to accept payments easily. But there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a new payment processor. Here’s what retailers should consider to minimize their costs when signing up with a new card processor:
Type of Payment Options
The type of retail business you have determines the way in which you take payment. There are 3 general types of payment options:
Card Terminals (EMV PIN Pads) for merchants to accept in-person payments
Virtual Terminals for merchants to manually accept payments with the card payer present (e.g. phone or fax payments)
Payment Gateways for customers to make payments themselves in the shopping cart of an online store (e.g. PayPal, Bambora, Stripe, etc.)
Each of these types of payments can be supplied by the same or differing payment processors but they each have different rates. Generally speaking, card terminals have the lowest rates and are considered the most secure because the card holder must be present and / or provide verification with a PIN code. Remember that magnetic stripe readers are not EMV compliant and only chip-and-PIN terminals protect the merchant against chargebacks.
Expert Tip: While card terminals are EMV compliant and do protect merchants against chargebacks, this is usually only for in-person payments made using chip-and-PIN. Since the pandemic started, more and more retailers are offering contactless (tap) payments. But if you do accept contactless payment as a merchant, you should always check your payment processing policy to see if tap payments have chargeback liability. Many processors do not cover tap payments and so merchants may be on the hook for any chargebacks on such payments. This is why many merchants have a tap limit and it is definitely something a merchant should check if they’re thinking of increasing their tap limit.
Virtual terminals have higher card rates than card terminals but they are still generally lower than payment gateways. Merchants should keep in mind that virtual terminals still open the merchant to chargeback liability. The best way for retailers to minimize the liability exposure is to make sure that there is a customer-signed order agreement and for the merchant to collect as much verification information as possible such as billing address, etc.
Finally, there are payment gateways. This is the payment option for e-commerce which generally has the highest fees as it’s considered the highest risk of the 3 options. Similar to virtual terminals, online payments are liable to chargebacks. Merchants selling online should always check with their gateway payment provider for their chargeback policies and how they can best protect themselves from them.
Types of Payment Processing Fees
Even when you know what payment options work for a retail business, various processors will have offer different types of processing fees:
Flat % Fee + ¢ per transaction
Interchange Plus % + monthly fees
CAD vs. Foreign Currency
Credit card processing fees often range between 1.55%-4% with variable rates from Mastercard, Visa, Discover and American Express. Some credit card processors charge more for particular credits cards (eg. American Express) because American Express relies more heavily on merchant swipe fees and annual fees rather than interest rates (that most other processors make money on).
Everything else being equal, merchants should compare different processing fees based on three factors:
The average number of transactions per month
The average dollar value of every transaction
The total value of all sales processed per month
Here’s an example of how processing fees can be dramatically different based on variations in the 3 factors above. Merchants should always compare the rates between processors before signing a new processing agreement.
Expert Tip: While Interchange Plus rates often work best for retailers with fairly high processing volume (e.g. $1M+ annually), it’s important to consider the type of clientele a merchant has. This is because Interchange Plus processing fees charge different rates based on the type of cards used (e.g. gold cards cost merchants more than standard credit cards). As such retailers who sell luxury or high-end products may be better off with a flat % monthly fee if the majority of their clients are customers with premium or foreign currency cards.
POS Payment Integration
Traditionally, merchant processing is handled separately for in-store and online payments. While this is changing now with a few all-in-one payment solutions coming out, besides the overall cost of the processing fees, the biggest cost to managing retail payments is the amount of resources required to track payments against sales.
After all, reconciling payments received is key to making sure that all funds are received and to quickly find out when there are any operational issues that need to be addressed immediately (e.g. suspicious employee behavior, high refunds, etc.)
This is why more and more retailers are looking for POS that can handle their preferred payment processor whether for online or in-store payments. Having payments automatically recorded in the POS minimizes human error and increases checkout speed which is important for stores with higher traffic.
Individual merchants will value different features but, generally speaking, the more established the retailer, the more important it is for the merchant to minimize sales-based fees that take a percentage of sales. While some software solutions have low (or even no) monthly costs, it’s usually because they charge higher than average % fees and / or restrict you from choosing other payment options by charging additional transaction fees on top of the regular payment fees. Others like TAKU Retail charge a flat monthly software fee with no additional sales-based % fees.
Other things to look out for in a retail POS is whether it allows refunds in-store regardless of where a payment is received. Many systems were designed to accept sales separately from different sales channels. As such, it can be a hassle to manage returns and accept refunds in separate systems. Systems like TAKU Retail allow merchants to manage even online returns with store-based refunds or exchanges. This allows merchants to not only encourage exchanges instead of refunds to avoid losing the entire sale, but it allows merchants to refund with lower cost payments options such as cash or debit as many payment processors charge the same rate for refunds as for sales.
Other Things to Consider
Retailers also need to be wary of other a few other factors when choosing their credit card processors to ensure that they are well-protected and aware of the real cost:
The amount of time required (withholding period) for funds to be deposited into the company bank account.
Whether processing fees are deducted upfront (Net Deposits) or at the end of every month (Gross Deposits) – net deposits can be harder for bank reconciliations as the original sales amounts won’t be on monthly statements.
Whether payment processing statements are all-in-one or separate for different sales channels.
Whether there are additional monthly fees and minimums.
Want to read more articles? You can find our latest article on retail shrinkage here
It’s no secret that retail is no longer a one-step shopping experience. Customers want the flexibility of taking their in-store experience online and vice versa. In 2020, Walmart responded to the global pandemic by improving their omnichannel experience and adding more square footage to their stores for online order fulfillment. This helped them achieve a 97% spike in e-commerce sales.
A study by First Insight showed that customers in many categories still prefer in-store shopping versus buying online. In particular, the study showed that over 70% of shoppers are more likely to make impulse purchases or buy more in store, because of the merchandising and customer experience.
It’s just that the pandemic has made it more likely that the customer journey starts online, even if the actual purchase happens in a physical store. As such, for traditional merchants, it’s not about whether customers are shopping more online or in-store. It’s about needing to serve customers across multiple channels, often at the same time. This is why the entire omnichannel shopping experience is increasingly important.
But if you’re a traditional retailer just starting out in this brave, new world, where do you start? Changing store processes to serve omnichannel shoppers isn’t something that can happen overnight. This is where “clicks-to-bricks” strategies come in.
Clicks-to-bricks simply refers to strategies that focus on using “digital storefronts” or “pre-shopping discovery” online to drive foot traffic into stores instead of encouraging customers to mainly shop online. Even if you offer delivery, there are a lot of benefits to focusing on store-driven online shopping.
Top 5 Advantages of a Clicks-to-Bricks Strategy
It maximizes local awareness of your business online. During the pandemic, a lot of businesses focused on selling online and neglected the fact that store shoppers also start their buying journey online. Whether it’s checking store hours or stock availability, being found online is key to offering a smooth customer experience. The easier it is for shoppers to find you online, the more likely they are to purchase from you as compared to some of your competitors who may not be as easy to find.
It increases sales per shopper. Shoppers buy more when shopping in store. Retailers want customers to buy in store because they are more likely to make additional impulse buys with higher margins. If store products are linked to online search with tools such as Google’s See What’s In Store (SWIS) or Local Inventory Ads (LIA), you’ll get store shoppers that walk in “ready to buy” as they already know what you carry and have on your shelves. In fact, helping customers “pre-shop” or “discover” products online can drive more traffic to both physical and online stores. This will increase overall sales per shopper as you’re able to serve shoppers in multiple channels.
It maximizes profitability. Besides bigger basket sizes, using online awareness to drive higher quality foot traffic to your store means that you’ll be spending less in marketing for higher sales. If you use omnichannel tools that link your store data with online research, you can even save on the cost of having employees or agencies manage your product information online.
It gives you useful customer insights. Connecting with customers on multiple channels means more opportunities to gather information about your customers. Whether it is an email address or a physical address, having more data increases retailers’ insights into their customers and their buying habits, making marketing easier and cheaper over time.
It gives you useful inventory insights. Knowing what sells well on which channel allows retailers to sell and target specific segments when releasing new products or product lines.
Multi-location retailers have more issues managing multiple stores because no one can be at more than one place at a time. In order to run a multi-location business, even when you are not always there, you should look at processes that have an impact on productivity and customer satisfaction. We have put together a list of things to help retailers manage their multi-location retail businesses, so that their business can run smoothly no matter where they are.
Multi-location means that you will have different people working in stores that may not interact with each other on a day-to-day basis. Managing each store effectively means standardizing and automating processes so that they all run with the same efficiency. These processes can range from onboarding new employees, delivering product knowledge, processing returns, to updating inventory.
While it’s not easy finding the resources and time to document processes, having something written down will significant speed up future training and make it much easier for staff to understand your policies and procedures. The most successful retailers are those who can a provide consistent experience to customers across all locations. After all, the experience a customer has in a store is a significant part of the brand image of a retailer.
2. Use cloud technology to centralize and streamline your business processes
Cloud technology helps sync up and organize inventory, customer history, employee performance, sales, and cashflow. This means that you can manage your entire business from a single system. Having a centralized location for all business data allows retailers to get accurate, real-time feedback into how their business is running and identify any gaps in their workflows.
One of the best parts about using cloud technology is that it gives you mobile accessibility. You’re no longer tied to a single computer and can have access to your business data on-the-go to see changes in your store as they happen. While some solutions will give you access to your sales data from anywhere, a lot of the modern, new cloud retail management systems will let you access and manage all of your business data so that you can run your store from anywhere.
Another benefit to using cloud technology is that it automatically helps you backup your business data in the cloud. Unlike older store systems which require manual backups or expose you to hardware failure, even if you lose power during a storm, all of your business information will be safely stored in the cloud. And as long as you have smartphones, you can continue to sell using mobile devices.
3. Improve retail business inventory control
It is crucial to have accurate inventory and stock data at all times. One of the major problems with running a multi-location business is that it is much harder to keep your product information in sync. This has only gotten worse since the pandemic started since more retailers are also selling online. The best retail companies are those that use technology that gives them visibility into their inventory and stock levels at every point of storage. Having products available exactly when customers want to buy them is best in an ideal world but helping customers (e.g. shipping to their home or directing them to another location) even when a product is not in stock is key to customer service and closing every sale.
Other ways to control your inventory include keeping an eye on your re-stocking schedule (which requires knowledge of lead times and seasonal availability) as well as your minimum stock levels. This is so that stores are able to re-fill stock before selling out.
4. Use a single commerce system
To make sure that store data and reports are all in-sync, retailers need a single, smart commerce system that can handle both store sales and online orders. Combining your POS and e-commerce processes into a single system helps you determine what products should be carried, which items are bestsellers across different locations or online sales channels, and which products need to be discounted or discontinued across your entire business. Using a single system also helps employees deliver the same experience to customers wherever they shop.
5. Secure your data
In order to comply with local and national privacy laws, retailers need to do their best to protect the privacy of both customers and employees. Finding the right software and hardware to manage sensitive information is key to building customer trust and keeping retail businesses healthy.
TAKU Retail stores customers data on separate databases to minimize the risk of privacy breaches. Read more about our security features here.
Want to know more about our multi-location capabilities? Read more.
The bottom line is, you want to make a profit with your business. This means selling products and services that customers want and are willing to pay for at the price you are selling. Finding that point can be confusing to many business owners: balancing margins and finding out the going market price are things to consider before releasing a new product. The wrong strategy could lead to large financial losses; we have created a pricing guide to help retailers get to the other side and find the right pricing strategy for your business.
This is the most straightforward way to determine sell prices. This method is not related to market pricing and sets prices based only on actual costs. In this case, retailers estimate all fixed (e.g. purchase cost) and a share of variable costs (e.g. overhead costs that you have to pay even without any sales such as rent, payroll or utilities) to determine the sell price of a product. This method is most commonly used in product categories that are highly competitive where market prices are relatively known. Staple products or commodities are common examples.
Instead of adding the actual overhead cost of the business, cost-plus pricing is a lot easier to calculate as it assumes a specific fixed markup percentage to a product’s purchase cost. For example, some merchants will simply multiply the cost to buy a product by a factor of 2x to 3x. This is called the price markup. While this method is much easier to use, it is important for retailers to make sure that the markup percentage is enough to meet your target rate of return (profit) and to periodically review the markup to make sure that it is still suitable.
Value or market-based pricing
This is the most common method in industries where the perceived value of a product is highly driven by emotion or lack of availability such as fashion, art, luxury cars or concessions at sporting events. Essentially, this method sets prices mainly based on the perceived or estimated value of a product or service to the customer rather than according to the cost of the product or historical prices. This is commonly used by retailers with deep understanding of brand building, market pricing, managing exclusivity and valuing the benefit to a customer versus how much she or he is willing to pay.
While market-based pricing is constantly changing, and therefore more sophisticated to manage, with newer technology, it is increasingly possible for retailers to incorporate value-based pricing into their pricing strategy to avoid “leaving money on the table.” It’s also worth pointing out that the increasing number of merchants going online has also made pricing in some categories more transparent which increases price competition and can drive pricing lower. It’s why many premium brands enforce MSRP on their online retailers (e.g. Apple) and more merchants are selling their own branded products online today as these categories are the most likely to be successful since supply can be more easily controlled and substitutes are less available.
Introducing new products into the market by lowering price is a strategy that some retailers use to introduce their products into a saturated market. This is a good chance to build brand loyalty and to get new customers to try your products.
Although it may seem intuitive to jump into the market with this strategy to gather as many customers as possible, this strategy does have some drawbacks. Raising prices (after the initial release) often leads to some reluctance from customers, so proceed with caution.
Sensitivity to price changes
All of the pricing methods above should not be applied without considering whether a product is price elastic or inelastic. Price elasticity refers to how sensitive price changes will have on the demand for a product. For some products, demand will change significantly if prices are changed and vice versa. A classic example is grocery store bread. Unless brand loyalty is strong or there is a special product feature, bread pricing tends to be elastic: as price increases, the demand will decline.
Price elasticity is useful as it gives you a sense of how much you can adjust pricing without significantly affecting the demand for your product. It’s important to remember that many products have category thresholds. This means that even if you sell an product that is price inelastic or not sensitive to price changes (e.g. luxury purses), the market will have a perception of the maximum a buyer is willing to pay.
Similarly, it is important to remember that demand sensitivity is also impacted by the availability of substitutes or competitors. So if you sell in a category that has a lot of competitors with similar alternative products, the demand for your products will most likely be more sensitive to price changes since it’s easier for your buyers to find replacements.
Want to read more on how to manage inventory effectively?
Inventory control helps retailers determine what products are selling well versus the ones that are not. Having stock control helps retailers make the most profit with their inventory. This gives retailers an indication on how much more or less stock they need. This, in turn, helps reduce operational and storage expenses.
This is especially important for brick-and-mortar retailers because controlling the amount of stock they have on hand is directly related to customer satisfaction and how much profit they make on their inventory. Understanding how to manage this is vital to a retailer’s success since inventory is the largest resource and use of cashflow for every merchant.
TAKU Retail client, Kam Wai Dim Sum, raves about TAKU’s reporting functions. Thanks to TAKU, they are now able to use their POS system to track their daily sales and know which are their best performing items. Read more here.
Maintaining a minimum stock level means stores have to keep a minimum number of products in stock to make sure they are always able to replenish their shelves easily. This is especially so with retailers during busy and uncertain seasons: this could mean extended delivery delays or stockouts. Instead of guessing or approximating, retailers need to calculate the ratio of delivery times to stock levels so that they are optimizing their inventory and lowering their operational costs.
Keeping tabs of stock levels and maintaining a healthy and lean stock level means that retailers are able allocate resources to new products to satisfy new customer wants and needs. Having a higher turnover is a positive sign for retailers because it means that they are able to sell more and make more sales.
Tips for Better Retail Inventory Control:
Using real-time retail POS software that tracks inventory movement across all channels based on actual stock levels
Using a barcode scanner to accurately track products as they are sold or received
Running inventory counts to make sure that stock levels in the POS match the quantities actually on the shelves
Tracking the sale of inventory items to know which products are bestsellers and which items don’t need to be re-stocked
By always having some stock on hand and determining your ideal reorder days, retailers do not ever have to worry about running out of certain items and long lead times. Knowing what stores have in-stock may seem straightforward with a single store location. But it is a lot more difficult for multi-location retailers to track inventory across different locations and manage returns and exchanges easily. This is especially true as retailers today often sell the products both in-store and online. TAKU Retail’s inventory management capabilities mean that retailers are able to automatically see real-time inventory levels at all times, regardless of how many locations or online sales channels they are selling in.
Learn more about TAKU Retail’s inventory management capabilities.