As a retailer, you’re bound to experience high and low seasons.
Periods of slower sales can happen for many reasons such as natural seasonality (e.g. Halloween supplies), the weather, or competitive promotions. Whatever the reason for your slump, it’s important to view your off-season or slow periods as a potential opportunity.
Low seasons are actually the perfect time for retailers to focus on their marketing efforts. With a little bit of creativity and planning, you can make it through your off-season with not only more new customers, but a larger base of followers to promote to. And who knows, you may even find a new revenue opportunity in the process!
Keep reading for 3 strategies that you can use to keep your retail business profitable during your slow periods.
Why an off-season marketing strategy is important
There is a common misconception that businesses should only invest in marketing during their high season. But this isn’t the case. Your slower seasons are actually the time when you need the sales lift from marketing!
In particular, an off-season marketing strategy is key to:
Building local and online awareness: Knowing is half the battle. Shoppers don’t know what they’ve never seen. Marketing during the off-season gives your retail business time to build online presence and brand awareness with target shoppers. You can educate customers on what your store has to offer and how you are better than your competition. This way, once your peak season hits, you will be top-of-mind with shoppers.
Minimizing your overall marketing costs: Ad spend decreases during the off-season as less competitors are bidding on ad space. This means that you can get more exposure at a lower cost versus advertising during your high season.
Getting ahead of your competitors: Besides getting new shoppers in your door, marketing during the off-season also gives you the opportunity to start building your own mailing lists or followers. This is particularly important as you need time to attract a following of people interested in what you offer. But by starting earlier than your competitors, you will be ahead of them by having a new list of potential shoppers that you can market directly to during your high season.
3 marketing strategies for the off-season
When we’re talking about marketing, we are specifically talking about digital marketing. While traditional marketing has its place, for most privately owned businesses, digital marketing offers the easiest way to promote your business, especially during your off-season. After all, today’s average shopper now spends more time with digital content than traditional media.
With so many people basing their purchasing decisions on reviews, gathering reviews should be a key marketing strategy for your business all year round. But the off-season is usually the best time to ask loyal and long term shoppers to leave a review on your Google My Business (GMB) profile, especially now that you can create a GMB shortname unique to your business. You can then use customer reviews as promotional material across all of your digital platforms including your social media and store website. By staying active online and promoting positive customer testimonials, shoppers will remember your retail business when peak season hits.
2) Consider paid marketing options
Digital marketing benefits retailers of all sizes as it is always the fastest way to cost-effectively access an incredibly targeted audience of shoppers. The advantages of digital marketing include:
Fast impact: Compared to traditional marketing, paid digital marketing will make an impact much faster. Depending on the type of campaign, you can get up and running in minutes.
Flexible and accountable: The results of digital marketing are much easier to see so you can immediately know whether a campaign is working and make changes right away. This is a major difference from traditional marketing where your investment is a one-time deal since you can’t make changes once a flyer or a radio ad is printed or produced.
Lower overall cost: A well planned out digital marketing campaign can reach a targeted audience at a much lower cost (as little as $10/day) than traditional marketing methods.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of digital marketing for retailers.
Sephora, Canadian Tire, and Williams-Sonoma are some of the big box retailers who have seen success with Google LIA. Now for the first time ever, Local Inventory Ads are also available to independent retailers who are looking to attract local shoppers. And the best part? They are available in an automated way that doesn’t require retailers to hire new staff or keep inventory stock levels updated.
To learn how you can easily implement Google LIA together with your POS system, click here.
While Google LIA has proven to be a viable marketing strategy all year round, it is particularly effective during off-season for the following reasons:
Bids are lower: As mentioned above, there are fewer competitors buying ads during off-season – which means lower ad spend is required to gain impressions.
Marketing costs are minimized: LIA only showcases in-stock product and will automatically turn off when stock runs out, reducing your marketing costs.
Get in front of local shoppers who are actually looking to purchase your products: Google LIA displays in-stock product to shoppers within a certain Km radius (you have full control over the geographical range) who are actually searching for products that your store sells.
3) Promote your business on social media
With the rise in social media and e-commerce, shoppers are closer than ever to retail businesses. Not only do you have a way to directly showcase your products and store, you can now build up your list of followers for personalized offers.
While websites are still a great way to offer a “digital window” into your store, with the rise in social commerce (e.g. Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping, etc.), it’s very important for retail stores to be active on social media.
Check out these 6 tips to help you grow your social following more quickly during your low season:
Make sure you have a verified Google My Business (GMB) account and are active on it. GMB is one of the best free online marketing tools available for small businesses today. Not only does GMB help local shoppers find you on Google Maps, it has options for you to post content (e.g. special offers or events) which improves your SEO.
Improve your content design with cost-effective graphic tools. You don’t need to be a designer to use drag-and-drop tools such as Canva that even have free versions.
Use original images for the best results as these rank better on SEO.
Don’t forget to include the links to your social media accounts on email signatures, invoices, receipts, ads and on any window displays.
Clearly display your social media links at the cash register and train your staff to encourage shoppers to sign up for special offers while they are waiting.
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Your business category on your Google My Business listing is used to describe the type of business you operate (pet store, hardware store, grocery store etc.).
It’s important to be specific when choosing your business category -the category you choose determines how local shoppers find you!
For example, if your primary category is “pet supply store”, your business will show up on Google when shoppers search for “pets”,”pet food”, or “pet supplies” in the area.
Important Things to Note
You can only select 1 primary category for your GMB listing.This is the category that people see on your business listing. It is also the most important – Google prioritizes your primary category in it’s search algorithm.
You can select up to 9 additional categories (other than your primary category) to describe your business. Focus on selecting the most relevant and specific categories for your business.
You can’t create your own category. It is best to choose a more general category if you cannot find the one that you had in mind.
Google can detect category information about your retail business from across the internet (including your own website and other mentions from across the web).
Which can be broken down into the following points:
1) Be as specific as possible when choosing a primary category. The more specific you are when choosing your primary category, the less local stores/businesses you will be competing against. For example, if you sell gift baskets, choose “gift basket store” instead of “gift store”.
2) Your primary category and additional categories should describe your retail business as a whole. Don’t add additional categories in an attempt to list all of your products, amenities, and services. For example, if you run a furniture business that also includes a pastry shop, avoid adding the category “pastry shop”. Instead, the pastry shop owner should claim their own listing and choose “pastry shop” as their primary category. Google suggests that you select categories that complete this statement: “This business IS a” rather than “this business HAS a”.
3) Try minimizing the amount of additional categories that you add. Although you may be tempted to select as many categories as possible, it’s important not to. Doing so will negatively impact your store’s local ranking. Only choose categories that directly apply to your business!
Note: Skip adding categories that seem redundant. Again, you should focus on adding the categories that are most specific to your business. Google will do the rest of the work! For example, if you choose the category “children’s furniture store”, Google will implicitly add more general categories like “furniture store” and “children’s store”.
For more information, on how to choose a business category, click here.
A point of sale system is demonstrably the most important tool you can have when running a retail business.
In fact, retail stores that invest in a strong POS system are quick to see a huge return on investment.
A retail POS can help you save time and money by streamlining repetitive tasks, maintaining business records, and reducing human error. Even better, it can even help grow your retail business with useful data and marketing integrations.
Keep reading to find out more about how your retail business can benefit from a POS system.
What is a Retail POS?
Traditionally POS stands for “point of sale” – which refers to the place where a customer transaction occurs. Or in simpler terms, the point at which a customer hands over money in exchange for a product that they’ve purchased.
For many retailers, this usually means the area surrounding the checkout line. For retailers who adopt cloud POS or mobile POS solutions, their whole store essentially becomes a point of sale.
What is a Retail POS System?
To better manage in-store checkout, retail POS systems were created. The original POS systems were a combination of hardware and software that retailers used to manage their sales operations. Because POS systems are the only source of all detailed store sales, they eventually expanded to include everything from tracking customer history and taxes reports to advanced marketing and inventory management.
Retail POS Software
Today, there are 2 main types of retail POS systems in the market: on-premise software and cloud-based subscriptions.
On-premise POS software: This type of software is installed on specific devices and usually does not rely on the Internet because the data is stored on the same devices. Because the database is stored “locally” in a specific server computer in your store, you can only access the data when you are in the store.
Cloud-based POS software: Cloud software stores data in an off-site cloud server (often hosted by a major cloud hosting service such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure) and is accessed via the Internet. You can compare it to writing a report on Google Docs. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your report from anywhere. While there may be some limitations without Internet access with cloud systems, there are major gains in remote accessibility, cost-savings and real-time data accuracy. Click here for more information on the benefits of cloud-based retail POS software
There is also a 3rd type of “hybrid” retail POS system which combines a hardwired local connection with access to data in the cloud. While this type of solution reduces the reliance on Internet, it is often a more complex system to maintain and more commonly used by larger operations. At the same time, because it is designed to allow for longer offline use, there is greater potential for issues with data quality during “synchronization” of online and offline data.
Expert Tip! It’s also important to note that offline usage and “data integrity” actually work against each other. While it is key for operations to have usable salesscreen functions (or alternative ways of processing sales) when the internet or network is down, the quality of the pooled data is lower and less accurate the more often the stations in a POS are “offline.” So if getting accurate, accessible business data from anywhere is a major priority, it’s important to consider a system which prioritizes real-time data accuracy with fast and reliable data sharing and considers offline usage for emergency scenarios only. Systems that prioritize offline capabilities over the data sharing functionality will be designed for infrequent synchronization. While this may not be a concern for certain types of businesses, the reality is that omnichannel retailers that need real-time stock quantity and even restaurants that take online orders need accurate POS data to make better operational decisions. After all, customers now expect real-time information when they intend to shop or order something. It’s another reason why smart POS is now able to automatically help merchants update correct store information or product stock levels in real-time.
Retail POS Hardware
POS hardware includes all of the physical components of your POS system. It is usually comprised of the following items:
1. POS terminal: This is the hardware or device (computer, laptop, desktop etc.) that the POS software runs on.
Traditional, on-premise systems have limitations when it comes to hardware. This is because most on-premise solutions can only operate on certain devices and operating systems (such as Windows or Mac).
To use on-premise POS software, a license must be installed on each device that a merchant wishes to operate on. At the same time, licenses are often tied to the hardware they are installed on and can be difficult or costly to transfer to other devices.
For newer, cloud-based POS software, merchants can use any device with Internet connectivity to access their data – laptops, tablets, desktops and even mobile phones. Cloud POS software does not require merchants to pay per device, rather merchants often pay per active station (or users logged in at the same time). Transferable access offers multi-channel merchants a lot more flexibility when managing store operations.
2. Cash Drawer: A cash drawer is an important yet simple part of a retail POS system. This piece of hardware provides both security and organization to retailers. It is where cash, coins, checks and credit card receipts are stored.
The receipt printer will send signals to the cash drawer, prompting it to open when necessary.
3. Barcode Scanner: Barcode scanners are an important part of most retail stores. Compared to restaurants, retailers carry a lot more inventory and need to use barcode scanners to make checkout an easier and faster process for both store employees and shoppers. Scanners use lasers to read barcode numbers unique to each SKU and enter these numbers immediately in the POS software.
While most retail POS systems should be designed specifically for barcode scanners, it is important for there to be other search methods should barcode tags get damaged or lost. Without scanners, cashiers should be able to quickly search by product codes or keyword for each item in the store.
Expert Tip! Unless a retail store has a very low number of inventory items (e.g. coffee shop), the default salesscreen mode should be designed for barcode scanners. The picture gallery touchscreen mode commonly found in tablet-based POS was traditionally designed for restaurants where the number of inventory items is very low and is generally not efficient in retail stores with more than 500 unique SKUs. While some POS providers will serve both restaurants and retailers, if the default salesscreen is designed for touchscreen picture gallery, most likely the company that developed the original software started with a restaurant POS and later retrofit it for retail.
4. Receipt Printer: Once a customer pays for the items that they have purchased, cashiers will usually hand them a receipt to confirm payment. While email receipts are increasingly popular, the majority of receipts are still printed based on the data received from the POS software.
There are three ways that credit card terminals can accept credit or debit payments:
1) Using chip & PIN cards: Where shoppers insert chip & PIN cards to make a purchase. This type of payment is EMV-compliant and the most secure of the 3 types.
2) Swiping card magstripes: Where shoppers swipe their cards in order to make a payment. This type of payment is not EMV compliant and opens the merchant up to chargebacks on all payments processed.
3) Near-field-communication (NFC): Where shoppers use their devices (Apple or Google Pay) or simply tap their cards to pay. This type of payment is the fastest of the 3. While tap is not as risky as magstripes (it is generally only allowed for individual payments of up to $100), in a busy store, this can be costly as the merchant is still fully liable for any chargebacks.
3 Reasons Why Your Retail Store Needs a POS System
Adopting a POS software that is designed for checkout speed will help speed up store operations and improve shopper satisfaction. This is especially important for busy multi-lane stores as they often deal with long line-ups.
Faster checkout is also key to increasing revenue during high season or rush periods. The longer your customers wait in line, the slower your turnover and lower your sales.
Here are some checkout features to look out for when choosing a retail POS software designed for fast checkout:
Easy navigation: Look for a software that is designed for checkout speed and minimum clicks. You shouldn’t have to leave your salescreen in order to complete a transaction.
Fast scanning speed: Retail POS software should be designed for quick barcode scanning with easy recall of your last search. Make sure that the system you’re looking at is able to handle multiple barcodes per SKU as every retail product commonly has an internal code, a shortcode, a vendor code, a manufacturer code and possibly several carton codes.
Advanced inventory search: Besides barcode scanning speed, a retail POS software designed to handle high volume inventory or a large number of transactions quickly needs to be able to have smart search functions including keyword search by description, barcode or tag should labels not be scannable, etc.
If you want more information about adopting a line busting retail POS software that is designed for checkout speed, click here.
2) Increased Mobility
Retail POS systems – cloud POS software in particular, provide retailers with more flexibility and mobility. As data is stored in the cloud, store owners can access their business information around the clock from anywhere – even if they are not physically in the store. They can view inventory levels, tax reports and sales data right from the comfort of home or even on vacation. Well-designed cloud POS software can also function on any device – from tablets, laptops to smartphones.
3) The Ability to Use the POS Data for Retail Marketing
POS data is critical to the success of any business. This is because data provides retailers with the tools to effectively manage inventory, sales, and finances.
Besides standard sales and inventory reports, modern cloud-based retail POS systems help store owners sell more using their own POS data. Because cloud POS are particularly good at integrating with other cloud solutions, real-time store data can be shared other solutions such as e-commerce platforms, shipping services or listings such as Google My Business, which help improve SEO and drive more local foot traffic to stores.
We will be posting more POS tips in the upcoming weeks.
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