The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

E-commerce, Just for Fun, News, Retail, Web Tips

The Future of Retail isn’t Digital, it’s Omnichannel

Play to Win.

By John Garvey

It’s funny how in business a single headline, data point or catchphrase can overshadow the big picture. We’re talking about the Retail Apocalypse, but we’re talking more specifically about the impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail.

Contrary to the impression news headlines can create, many sectors of traditional retail are thriving. The number of store closings in recent years, however, may be costing you sleep regardless of how your business is faring. For all the turmoil, this is actually a time of great opportunity for traditional retailers. In fact, Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur and others have maintained the perspective that:

  1. The impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail is overstated and misunderstood, and
  2. The long-term outlook for retail is great.

The Best of Both Worlds

Woman online with dog in bedRetail chains that have continued to prosper through the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” are those that “understand the biggest advantage e-commerce retailers have is their ability to collect and leverage insights into consumer behaviors gained by technological innovations like big data,” according to Forbes Technology Council Lucas Roh. “They are adopting technology and processes to achieve the same advantage and adapt to today’s retail landscape.”

Roh boldly and bluntly states that “The Retail Apocalypse Is Not Happening,” and he’s not alone in that belief. But nobody’s saying we’re not in the midst of a seismic shift.

“The real impact e-commerce has on the retail industry is in consumer expectations,” Roh continues. “Consumers now expect a more convenient, tailored omnichannel shopping experience, whether they are online or in-store.”

This all points to at least one key lesson:

Four people gathered around looking at a guys cell phoneBig Data, customer analytics and online marketing are no longer competitive advantages.

Yesterday’s advantages are today’s necessities. That may sound stressful at first, but we’re excited about how these can benefit retailers and consumers.

That’s because today’s solutions address issues that have plagued retail for generations. They can make your life easier and your business more profitable. Even mom and pop retailers can now use business intelligence tools to reduce spoilage, pilfering, and stock-outs; enjoy higher margins; and optimize staff scheduling.

NCR Counterpoint—which RCS has used for decades— can now integrate data across multiple departments and generate over 40 reports. Among other things, these help forecast inventory, flag suspicious transactions and optimize pricing.

Instead of thinking of this as a David vs. Goliath thing, think of e-commerce style capabilities as ways brick and mortar retailers can solve problems that were around long before Amazon.

Omnichannel, not digital, is the face of the future

Companies that provide customers flexible purchasing options understand that decades from now there will still be thriving brick and mortar stores with e-commerce integrations. We’re not moving to an e-commerce model; we’re moving to a hybrid model. Why else would the kingpin of e-commerce be opening brick and mortar grocery and book stores? Why would Amazon have acquired Whole Foods if brick and mortar were tanking?

“Brick and mortar retailers no longer have to feel that they’re staring up helplessly at the giants of e-commerce,” writes Jia Wert, CEO of the fashion brand Studio 15 in Forbes.

E-commerce firms, it turns out, need a physical presence to build brand recognition and achieve their long-term business objectives. More to the point, traditional retailers who make use of the digital economy’s capabilities can not only survive but prosper with the help of modern inventory, marketing, and point of sale platforms.

Contact Retail Control Systems

Learn how we can optimize your ominichannel marketing, inventory management and sales.

Reduce spoilage, pilfering and stock-outs | Increase margins | Optimize staff scheduling

Customer Spotlight: Your Healthy Pet

Customer Spotlight: Your Healthy Pet

RCS Payments, Retail

Customer Spotlight: Your Healthy Pet

by John Garvey

A family-owned pet food and supply store in Newtown, Connecticut with a focus on high-quality food and treats, Your Healthy Pet has had a clear sense of purpose from day 1.
Dog food at Your Healthy Pet

“We’ve always had pets, always loved them and we always wanted our own business,” states founder Tom Novak. “I had been in I.T. for 20-plus years and it was the Great Recession about nine years ago and my company closed down. And I didn’t want to relocate so we decided to try our dream and see what happened.”

Prior to opening Your Healthy Pet, Tom lost a beloved cat at the young age of six or seven (all their pets are rescues, so their birthdays are rarely known). Based on his research he believes the cat’s diet was likely a major contributing factor. It’s one reason quality pet nutrition is such a call to arms for him.

“When we first opened, 70 percent of the people walking in the door were asking for food we would not sell,” Tom recalls, “We’re called Your Healthy Pet and we mean it. We won’t sell food unless we’re convinced it’s a healthy food. We don’t sell any of these horrible flea and tick control products with ingredients that are known to cause cancer.”

“There’s not a food in here that has corn, wheat, byproducts or dyes in it. They’re all four- and five-star rated foods.”

Partnering with RCS

After Your Healthy Pet had been in business for about eight years, Tom knew he needed a point of sale system with better support and credit card processing, as well as more up-to-date purchasing, sales and inventory management features.

“Our old system was getting obsolete and was sort of a small company with one or two support people,” Tom recalls. “It didn’t integrate well with a lot of the new credit card processing machines or anything like that.”

It quickly became apparent that Your Healthy Pet and Retail Control Systems were a good match, but some unexpected challenges cropped up.

Per Tom’s interpretation of the contract with his credit card processing company it was near expiration, and we recognized that switching vendors could save his business money on processing fees.

He had a rude awakening, however, when they tried to stick his business with a 12-thousand dollar fee to exit the contract. Tom strikes me as an easygoing guy but you can hear the tension in his voice as he describes the event:

“I’m stuck with a contract that’s going to cost me a lot of money to pull out of and it doesn’t work if I stay with it. … Believe me, this was eating me up. I mean, we’re a small business. A 12-thousand dollar fee is a lot of money.”

Going to bat

Pet leashes and collars at Your Healthy PetIt might have made sense to fold and keep the same vendor, but the problem wasn’t just fees. Having the wrong credit card processing company can be a long-term drag on your business when it doesn’t integrate well with your other systems or provide good customer support. We went to bat with Stu Kehler, our Merchant Services Advisors at RCS Payments.

Stu spent many innings going back and forth between different parties in the ensuing weeks. He was ultimately instrumental in getting the credit card processing company to drop those charges.

“Stu was a bulldog,” Tom states. “He just didn’t give up. If there was a setback he’d keep going and finally, [the vendor] dropped the charges. So I’m just a happy camper.”

“I was just really happy with the way Retail Control Systems really kept at this and got this all worked out. I’m really happy with the system itself, too.”

Front of House

“Once we teamed up with Retail Control Systems, the up-front part—scanning of items, ringing customers out, the printing of receipts—became a whole lot faster,” Tom says. “The front end of the system is really easy to learn, easy to use.”

“We have a treat bar, for instance, and there’s no UPC codes on the treats. So we used to have a piece of paper with the UPC code and you’d have to find a piece of paper and scan it. With NCR Counterpoint, you could create buttons. The button could say ‘Treat Bar’ and you click on the button and see, ‘Bully sticks, 6 inches,’ ‘Bully sticks, 12 inches,’ ‘pigs ears,’ ‘tendons,’ whatever you want.”

Much like other features in our POS system, NCR Counterpoint, the ability to add buttons to front-of-house touchscreen devices saves a lot of time and hassle.

We’ve discussed the advantages of Counterpoint’s POS features in greater detail here.

Inventory and Purchasing Tracking

Dog treats and toys at Your Healthy PetTom estimates that his business saves three to four hours a week on manual data entry thanks to our inventory management system, which helps track purchases and deliveries as well as preventing stock-outs and spoilage.

“We get deliveries every week—a lot of deliveries. How easy is it to get into the system? You certainly don’t want to have to scan each individual item and type in the amounts. You want to get the invoice into a format that we can just format into retail Control Systems.”

“So instead of taking an hour and a half or two hours to scan everything we can do it in five minutes. That’s a big benefit.”

Margins

If you have a lot of SKUs to manage and don’t have the means to closely monitor price changes on individual items, your business can be severely harmed.

“This system makes it easy to see what’s underpriced,” Tom explains. “It looks at what it costs us, what our margin is and what that equals for our sales price.”

With NCR Counterpoint, you can set your desired margins and the system will take the guesswork out of pricing based on cost of goods. So to hell with manually updating everything in Excel.

“We got into this business to try to keep pets healthy.”

“There’s a whole lot of natural products out there that you can use but you have to look for them,” Tom states.

“We have a great customer base and we spend a lot of time educating them about the value of nutrition. If a new customer comes in we could spend 15, 20, 25 minutes talking to them about why we don’t sell the food they came in to buy and why we won’t sell it.

“We got into this business to try to keep pets healthy. What you see on TV, the advertisements you see are usually the worst foods made. And all you have to do is look at the back and read the ingredients to find that out.”

What else lights you up?

Tom’s household includes two dogs and a cat—all of them rescues.

“We work with a lot of rescue groups. There’s a lot of puppy mills out there that people don’t know about and there’s plenty of dogs and cats that need a home without buying them and supporting puppy mills.”

Shorter Buying Cycles. Fewer Stockouts. Less Surplus Inventory.

Our services can help you with security, digital marketing, inventory management and other needs.

10 Ways FoyerLive Digital Displays Improve Life for Retail Associates, Managers and Customers

10 Ways FoyerLive Digital Displays Improve Life for Retail Associates, Managers and Customers

E-commerce, Gift Stores, Museums Attractions, Retail, Specialty Retail, Sporting Goods

by John Garvey

Saving time, ease of locating products, greater product variety and selection, and avoiding checkout lines are among the reasons people turn to ecommerce rather than shopping in-store. FoyerLive offers solutions to each of those issues, providing a better customer experience and addressing major causes of lost sales.

FoyerLive isn’t just a solution for brick and mortar retailers. It also makes it easy to integrate ecommerce and brick and mortar operations. Their endless aisle digital kiosks bring many of the conveniences of ecommerce to brick and mortar shopping, empowering retailers to create a nearly seamless shopping experience as well as a more personalized one.

Here are a few examples of FoyerLive applications that solve everyday problems for retail associates, managers and customers.

1. Ease of exploring product features and reviews.

For technically complex products, the information on the box or print display isn’t enough to go by. If you’ve ever browsed product information on your phone from a store you’ve probably sensed that there’s a better way of doing things. Now there is.

FoyerLive’s interactive kiosks allow customers to view product descriptions, comparisons, demos and reviews on attractive touchscreen displays. If they’re just getting started they can search by category and add items to a cart.

One perceived advantage of ecommerce for shoppers is access to customer reviews. People can be hesitant to buy products without seeing how they’ve measured up to other consumers’ expectations. If your customers aren’t looking at these reviews in store, odds are they have in advance. Facilitating that can increase sales and reduce product returns.

FoyerLive displays at Hurley surf event.
Click to enlarge

2. Eliminate stress and guesswork.

With FoyerLive’s capabilities, retail associates don’t have to memorize as much product information as they otherwise would. If they can’t answer a question off hand they can easily access product information using digital kiosks. The employee and customer are viewing the same information on the same screen and the employee can fill in where he or she has specialized knowledge. This is especially valuable if your store has complex products or a large number of SKUs.

And it builds trust.

3. Reduce lost sales from out of stock items.

If you don’t have the right color or size in store, no problem! FoyerLive gives you ominchannel fulfilment options, allowing customers to order out-of-stock items for home delivery. Customers don’t have to make inconvenient return trips to get what they want. For retailers, that amounts to fewer sales lost to online competitors.

4. No more yelling over the changing room door.

Even if delegated to a retail associate, going back and forth between a dressing room and clothing racks is time-consuming. Some people dread this aspect of clothes shopping. Digital displays in changing rooms allow the customer to order additional sizes and colors without leaving the changing room or verbally communicating detailed information to a frazzled associate.

5. Queue Management: Reduce or eliminate lines.

With FoyerLive you can give customers a self-checkout option if that’s appropriate to your business. That means your associates are available to help customers with needs other than sales transactions. Ergo you can provide a more personalized experience as well as greater convenience.

Alternatively or additionally, customers can order products from anywhere in the store so they’ll be waiting when it’s time to go up front and pay.

6. No more scrounging for products on crowded shelves.

FoyerLive’s touchscreen navigators free customers from meandering through aisles in a long and potentially fruitless search. Guests can now request products or find them with digital item locators. Since they can order physical products from the back of the store with touch screens there’s less need to keep them all up front. The additional space creates a more pleasant all around experience.

Nike, for instance, uses FoyerLive digital displays to allow customers to pick shoe and clothing styles, colors and sizes. Employees collect the requested products and bring them to customers to try on at pop-up stores and in store.

FoyerLive Nike display.
Click to enlarge

7. Choose the right vintage.

Most dinner hosts don’t harbor sky-high expectations as far as their guests’ beer or wine contributions go, but it’s nice to make a good impression. What goes well with tri-tip steak? How about scallops, quesadillas, BBQ chicken, or samosas? I have no idea and there’s a good chance even a well-trained clerk at a liquor store doesn’t either.

Digital kiosks provide educational tools for both staff and customers for just this kind of situation. This functionality makes up-selling easier as well as educational. People are happy to pay more when they’re confident that they’ve chosen the right product.

8. Effectively multiply your sales associates.

Many of the above applications allow associates to get more done, better manage peak hours and provide more individualized service. Whether you’re a garden center, liquor store, boutique clothing retailer, a fireworks seller or the storefront for a major brand, these solutions free employees from busy work. They’ll be happier and so will your customers.

9. Make products tangible to customers.

Digital displays, by allowing customers to view how products actually work, make them more engaged and confident selecting products that suit their needs. Fireworks stores, for instance, use digital displays which allow customers to see what artillery shells, roman candles and other goodies look like in action.

This list of applications is by no means exhaustive. The sky’s the limit.

10. A final note: Cost, functionality and integration.

The cost and functionality of digital displays have improved a lot over the last five years. Historically setting up a video wall was exorbitantly expensive. Now you can get a decent-sized, touchscreen, commercial device and targeted, customizable digital display for less than a thousand dollars.

In-store digital displays used to be stand-alone products. They’re now integrated with websites, and because FoyerLive is in the cloud, managers can control kiosks and display screens from anywhere. Displays can also be automated by time of day and special promos offered in real time.

Integration.

FoyerLive is designed to integrate seamlessly with other enterprise-level retail solutions such as NCR Counterpiont, so if you like what you’re using there’s no need for a complete overhaul. Many of our clients use multiple systems which compliment one another.

In sum, FoyerLive is a diverse, customizable tool that different businesses can use in the ways that most benefit them. It brings many of the advantages of ecommerce to brick and mortar retail, while also facilitating ecommerce for those who do both. It provides convenience and assurance to customers who want to make the right choice and don’t have all day to do it.

Contact Retail Control Systems for more product information or a free FoyerLive demo. We’ll help you find the best solutions for your store.

Bennington Museum Draws Visitors from Around the World to a Small Town in Vermont

Bennington Museum Draws Visitors from Around the World to a Small Town in Vermont

Museums Attractions

by John Garvey

Jasen Frederickson has been working at Bennington Museum for five of its 165 years, but you can tell by talking with him that he feels deeply connected to it. I hadn’t heard of the museum until a couple weeks ago, but reviewing the exhibits online and talking with Jasen—whose voice rings with enthusiasm when he talks about it—left me itching to visit the place.

“Growing up in this area, Bennington Museum has always been part of my life,” he tells me. Jasen, a Bennington native notes that he visited the museum on field trips as a kid and you can tell he liked it. His passion and initiative as the Visitor Center Coordinator has helped nearly double the store’s gross income in the last three years.

Quintessential New England Art

“We have 14 galleries in total and it ranges from the first settler all the way through midcentury modern, all connected to Bennington College,” Jasen tells me.

The largest collecting institution in the region, Bennington Museum “connects you with real objects, challenges you with intriguing ideas, and excites your imagination,” states the website. The museum has the largest collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world as well as galleries devoted to Gilded Age art, pottery, Modernism and special exhibitions to boot.

Museum interior“Our goal is to always tell a story through various forms.”

“Something that’s very distinct about our museum is that we put objects as well as art together,” Jasen explains. “So an object is actually a piece of art. It’s not like things are just two dimensional, which is how a lot of museums are when they’re just focused on art. We have historical objects in the same space—like a car with a Tiffany lamp as well as furniture and portraits and so forth.”

Pairing art with historical items as part of a storytelling focus is part of the secret sauce that makes a visit to Bennington Museum so memorable. The Early Vermont Gallery, for instance, transports you into another era using trunks with furnishings and household items that early settlers would have arrived with.

Visitors from near and far

Asked what lights him up about his work at Bennington Museum, Jasen tells me that every day is different and exciting. A lot of things account for that, but none more than the visitors.

“It’s being able to meet people from across the country as well as globally,” Jasen says. “And everybody in the museum is excited and happy to see us, you know, they’re always happy.”

Summer is especially exciting here. Bennington Museum hosts author talks, two summer camps and other events including a gallery opening just the other day. Here’s something especially impressive Jasen told me:

“Two years ago I got heavy into analyzing our zip code data. We had 15 countries (not including Canada because I consider them our neighbor) and every single state represented in our visitor numbers. In little Bennington, Vermont.”

Vermont trees and hills“I have never worked a single day of retail outside of this job.”

Jasen spent 14 years in hotel management before joining Bennington Museum and eventually taking over most of its retail management.

“RCS has been instrumental in assisting me in understanding how retail management works,” he tells me. “Given that I have an unlimited support contract, I use it a lot for just silly questions and also desperate needs. Having that is a great help.

“Everybody within the RCS team is just so happy to be able to help and guide, you know, in the learning side of it and not just pressing issues.”

Jasen has brought the store online as well since taking over the gift shop three years ago. RCS helped him navigate that challenge.

“I did not want to manage two separate sets of inventory because that’s just craziness. … I have about 1600 SKUs and right now we have about 400 SKUs online. So we’re a good way there.

“Having an option that was a 100 percent integrated was a key factor. And so RCS helped me create that using Modern Retail  as an integrator and Shopify  as a platform. And so basically that’s what our web store runs on.”

Counterpoint also helps Bennington Museum manage its entire operating budget. Every dollar of income, including grant funding, memberships, donations and other revenue, goes through the system. Jasen describes Counterpoint as “a one-stop shop for a museum,” with the minor qualification that it doesn’t include CRM specific to membership and member services. However, RCS does partner with some great companies that can provide these types of services, check out all the awesome partners.

In the last three years, Bennington Museum has seen 45 percent year-over-year growth in visitor numbers. In the same time period the store’s gross income has increased from $68 thousand to $124 thousand. Not bad for someone with no retail experience, right?

“You don’t see those increases in a typical retail environment,” Jasen acknowledges. “So I’ve made all my decisions based upon historical things that worked and didn’t work. If I didn’t have RCS to walk me through that and help me with it, those numbers wouldn’t have been able to increase to what we have now.”

Feeling Uninspired? Take a Glimpse of Goodwill Industries’ Social Impact

Feeling Uninspired? Take a Glimpse of Goodwill Industries’ Social Impact

Awards & Recognition, Clothing & Apparel, Events, Retail

by John Garvey

Edward on a computer at GoodwillAt a glance, Edward Smith’s past didn’t bode well for his future. A felony conviction and prison sentence tend to limit a person’s career options.

“When I was incarcerated I realized all the barriers that I had against me,” Edward recalls. “And I said to myself that I have to be willing to do three times the work as the average person in order to be on an equal playing field.” So that’s what he did at Goodwill Denver.

“And in doing that, it’s propelling me towards my greatest potential. And to me it means the world. Goodwill gave me an opportunity based off of the mission of the company and also me putting my effort and my intellect towards that. On one hand, they give you a platform but on another hand you have to be willing to step up and utilize that platform to build upon it.”

Edward began working at Goodwill as a Donation Attendant, an important but unglamorous role. His strong work ethic, poise and kindness were immediately evident to his supervisors. And he wasn’t working for an ordinary company. Goodwill was more interested in his character than his past, which allowed him to assume greater leadership and responsibility over a relatively short time.

Now a Certification and Compliance Specialist, Edward leads a team with extensive responsibilities in the electronics department at Goodwill Denver. He’s also pursuing a masters degree and recently received the prestigious Goodwill Opportunity Award.

Goodwill Industries isn’t exactly a retailer. It’s a nonprofit organization whose call to arms is helping disadvantaged people find meaningful, long-term employment. See what they have accomplished in their hundred year history.

Goodwill’s programs assist people with diverse needs, including at-risk students, people with disabilities, individuals like Edward striving to overcome their past, farmers and ranchers, and anyone who wants the dignity of work. Each program is unique, but shares a common denominator: The Power of Work.

Goodwill Industries Impact Summary
(Click Image for Larger View)

“Our programs are all workforce-oriented, so all of our mission programs are geared toward getting people back to work, making sure that they have the training and the skills that they need to succeed in the workforce,” explains Jessica Hudgins Smith, PR & Digital Media Manager at Goodwill Denver. “Our mission is to spread the Power of Work and help these individuals reach dignity and self-sufficiency. That’s what Goodwill is all about really”.

“We have these retail stores that exist so that we can provide these workforce development programs.”

Goodwill Denver’s largest program is currently the Youth Career Development Program, which serves close to 16 thousand students a year.

“Those programs are geared toward making sure those students have the tools they need to graduate, but also to either enter the workforce right after high school or to succeed in college and beyond,” Jessica states.

“And that programming can be anything from one-on-one mentoring to job shadows. It can be apprenticeships. We do mock scholarship interviews and a variety of different mentoring groups for those students.”

Edward’s role is to ensure that electronics are recycled responsibly. This requires thorough due diligence over multiple parties and an astute understanding of environmental and workplace safety regulations.

Edward holding a Goodwill sign“You have to perform your due diligence so that you can remain a good steward for the environment,” he explains.

“It’s way bigger than your business. You have to consider your global impact. … And that’s my job to go through my downstream vendors. Their ratings, their environmental permits, the individuals that they’re doing business with, making sure that they’re following EPA regulations and OSHA regulations, making sure that they have safety programs in place for their employees as well and making sure that they have an environmental health and safety policy that’s beneficial for the company.”

Retail Control Systems has partnered with Goodwill Industries of Denver since 2014, as well as several other Goodwill chapters. Without reliable point-of-sale and business support systems, Goodwill wouldn’t be empowering people like Edward.

“I personally have worked with Retail Control Systems for the last three years,” states Cherie Bardsley, Goodwill Denver’s Retail Operations Business Analyst. “They’re a great company to work with; they do a really good job of supporting us on the point of sale system side and we’re happy with them.”

The Goodwill locations we partner with use NCR Counterpoint, one of the specialty retail point-of-sale systems we provide. “We work together really well and our combined goal—both mine and theirs—is to make sure that when we implement something that it’s flawless,” notes Cherie, “And I think we do a pretty good job at doing that.”

Needless to say, it makes us feel good to be working with Goodwill. Several of our team members attended the recent Power of Work Luncheon in Denver, which Edward was recognized at. We’re also enthusiastically looking forward to the upcoming Goodwill Industries Summer Conference.

Edward’s optimism about his own future comes across loud and clear through his language and demeanor.

“Because the fact is I have a felony on my record, and there’s no escaping that,” he acknowledges, “but people are trusting me enough based off of the role that I’m modeling to put me in charge of different things. So it means a lot to be able to demonstrate that as an employee. And as a dad, to have my son watching me and having a positive role model in his life—a role model that I didn’t have in my life.”

Make a Financial Donation to Goodwill Denver

Find a Goodwill Near You

Give a Gift to Goodwill Industries

Contact Retail Control Systems for a free NCR Counterpoint Demo

Shorter buying cycles, fewer stockouts, less surplus inventory.

8 Proven Tips to Keep your Customers Coming Back

8 Proven Tips to Keep your Customers Coming Back

Just for Fun, News, Retail, Technical Tip

By John Garvey

There are several reasons you should prioritize retention over new customer acquisition. Harvard Business Review reports that “acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one,” citing research from Bain & Company. The same, oft-cited research suggests that improving customer retention by five percent results in a 25 to 95 percent increase in profits.

Focusing first on your existing customers, assuming they’re profitable, is less work and often makes customer acquisition easier to boot. If you retain customers and create exceptional experiences for them, they’ll also become your best advocates.

Male customer talking to paint specialist woman in a store
  1. Time-limited offers. Harvard professor, best-selling author and persuasion expert Robert Cialdini named scarcity as one of his 6 Principles of Influence. In a business setting, one way of harnessing this is time-limited offers. Prospects are more likely to act on an email marketing offer, for instance, when it’s time-limited.

“When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available, and we experience an increased desire for it,” states Cialdini in the modern classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. “However, we rarely recognize that psychological reactance has caused us to want the item more; all we know is that we want it. Still, we need to make sense of our desire for the item, so we begin to assign it positive qualities to justify the desire.”

  1. Customer surveys. As we’ve noted before, for every customer who complains directly, there are about two dozen customers who are quietly dissatisfied with some aspect of your service. In addition to identifying areas for improvement, surveys can generate testimonials and keep customers engaged.

Customer surveys are often focused on identifying problem areas. While that’s important if you value repeat business, a Harvard Business Review article, The Power of Positive Surveying, suggests that a more positive slant can improve customer satisfaction and retention.

“Beginning a survey with what the researchers call ‘open-ended positive solicitations’ seems to be an easy, low-cost way to increase satisfaction and spending.”

By getting customers to recall and relate positive experiences, you increase their sense of well-being and make them more likely to return. While customers should have an outlet to vent (ideally not Yelp!), surveys that focus too much on uncovering problem areas can backfire.

“Companies should look at the customer feedback process not only as a chance to listen but also as an opportunity to subtly influence customer perceptions.”

  1. Ambience. Every introvert has walked out of a cafe, restaurant or store because of excessively loud or grating music, too much ambient noise or overcaffeinated staff. A lot of retail settings are geared toward extroverts because of the perception of the giddy shopaholic, but a third to a half of us are introverts. The reverse can also be true, of course. Lighting and music geared towards one kind of customer risks driving off another, potentially larger group of customers.

Music should also be attuned to your customers. This may seem like common sense, but individual employees may enjoy country music or electronica, which people tend to either love or hate. It may seem like micromanaging to dictate which genres or stations employees can choose, but in many cases it’s good business sense.

Ambience was one of the keys to Starbucks’ success. When Howard Schultz took over the company, he was inspired by the Italian cafe scene. Much like the English pub, these were uplifting social spaces conducive to exchanging news and sharing ideas. Coffee stopped being a commodity and became more of an experience.

Two women talking in a coffee shop
  1. Be ultra-responsive to online reviews … the good and the bad. We discussed this in our March blog, Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews. Responding to a positive shout out–even a trivial one–reaffirms that you value your customers. Not responding to a negative review–even if it’s petty–validates the complaint.
  2. Personalization. This begins with understanding your customer personas: their aspirations, their pains, preferred methods of communication and social media habits. Focus on the channels that matter most. If you have someone in charge of social media or email marketing, it may even be good to have that person sign off on messages using his or her first name (under the company label, of course). This can make you stand out regardless of what size your business is.

Telling customer stories is another great way to do this. While beyond the scope of this blog, there are a variety of great ways to do this including social media, case studies and video blogs.

One emotional and vivid customer story is far more persuasive than a data dump in 85 PowerPoint slides. – Carmine Gallo, The Storyteller’s Secret

  1. Email marketing (Yes, it still pays). Hubspot and Search Engine Journal state that email marketing has an average ROI of 4300% – but that’s obviously quality dependent. Email marketing keeps you top of mind and can help personalize your brand. A point of sale (POS) system with email marketing integrated can segment customers by purchasing history and preferences, allowing you to deliver relevant, individualized offers. Organized customer data is a prerequisite to effective marketing and systems like NCR Counterpoint, which we offer, make it easy.

Electronic receipts delivered by email, another feature built into our POS systems, also allow businesses to send customer feedback surveys and additional offers with ease.

Male and female customers paying a merchants with a credit card
  1. Rewards programs and exclusive offers. Again, the better your customer data is, the more you can tailor offers to entice customers. It’s a truism that loyalty programs make people feel valued, but also consider throwing out the occasional surprise reward. These can coincide with birthdays or be completely random.

Incidentally, this is another example of Cialdini’s scarcity principle at work. An offer available to few people will be perceived as having greater value than one available to the masses.

  1. Understand your mission and communicate it across channels. Know your “Why” and weave it into every aspect of your business. Use it to galvanize employees and communicate the value of what you do. This can be a social mission or it can simply be exceptional commitment to satisfying a market need. One of our partners in Fort Collins, Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, has a close affiliation with Sustainable Schools International, a nonprofit supporting education in Cambodia. A portion of every sale goes to SSI and customers have the option to “round up” their payment to the nearest dollar. This provides further financial support as well as generating awareness for their cause.

Have anything to add to the conversation? We’d love to hear from you!

9 Sustainability Tips to Reduce Waste, Save Money and Enhance Your Business’s Public Image

9 Sustainability Tips to Reduce Waste, Save Money and Enhance Your Business’s Public Image

Just for Fun, Restaurant, Retail

By John Garvey

We’re going to be real candid here. Most things marketed as “sustainability” efforts are more accurately “waste reduction” initiatives.

What’s wrong with waste reduction, you ask? Nothing whatsoever—it’s great! What follows are some proven insights on how to reduce waste, adopt more sustainable business practices, boost your bottom line and win customers. While progress towards sustainability and cost savings may seem at odds, there are plenty of win-wins. Some of the following tips apply mainly to retailers, others to restaurant managers, but many are flex options that apply to various industries.

1) Adopt a paperless documentation system

M&E painting in Fort Collins recently rolled out a paperless documentation system. While this saves hundreds of pounds of paper, the more impressive benefit is saved time.

Off the cuff, M&E Founder Matt Shoup estimates that M&E’s new paperless documentation system saves each team member a couple hours a week. While the new system was challenging to implement, he expects it to pay for itself many times over.

“It’s been received really well,” notes Shoup.

“The other thing that it did was it freed up a lot of physical space in our office where we were storing paper and filing cabinets,” he adds.

Stack of paper cups in a coffee shop2) Default to waste reduction options with day-to-day customer service

When was the last time you ordered a drink at a coffee shop, fully intending to enjoy it there, and were given a to-go cup complete with a plastic lid and sleeve? Yesterday? Last week? Conversely, when was the last time you came home with carry-out and said, “Great! I don’t have to borrow silverware from my neighbor because they put plastic utensils in my to-go bag!”

You get the picture. Giving out single-use, throw away items usually isn’t the best practice to default to from a business perspective. Changing that default is a quick win, saving money and reducing waste without compromising your customers’ experience.

Additionally, compostable utensils, cups, napkins and to-go boxes are now affordable for most businesses, thanks to industry leader Eco-Products and other companies.

3) Identify low-hanging fruits for energy savings

LED lighting and other commercially-available, affordable technologies cut utilities bills substantially. LED bulbs cost more than conventional bulbs, but they pay for themselves several times over in the form of lower utilities bills and much longer life cycles. If your frame of reference on pricing or quality isn’t current, take a fresh look: The Department of Energy reports that the price of LED bulbs fell 85 percent from 2008 to 2013, and is still dropping. Their light quality and longevity have improved over the same period. Yay LEDs!
Various light bulbs hanging
Still not sure? Check out this resource: Philips LED savings calculator to help make informed decisions on building upgrades.

If you own the building you conduct business out of, or if you’re responsible for utilities on a long-term lease, consider an energy audit and retrofit. With a deep energy retrofit, a company such as Efficiency Matters, here in Fort Collins, first takes a thorough look at your building to identify the most cost-effective ways to improve its efficiency. They then retrofit the building, strategically insulating key portions of it, sealing leaky areas, changing out incandescent light bulbs and, in some cases, replacing windows.

These deep energy retrofits may have a long financial payment period in terms of utilities savings, but they have an immediate payback in terms of comfort. Perhaps more enticing to a landlord or property manager, studies show that energy-efficient buildings have lower vacancy rates and less frequent turnover than conventional buildings.

If you have an open-minded landlord, he may be willing to assume the cost of these upgrades. The building owner is really the long-term beneficiary here because buildings that have low operating costs, good indoor air quality, minimal ambient noise and minimal temperature fluctuations attract better tenants. That’s property management 101.

Red bike parked in front of an office4) Incentivize alternative transportation

If you’re in a multi-tenant building you may be able to renegotiate your lease to unbundle on-site parking. Encouraging employees to bike, carpool or use public transportation is easy in places like Colorado’s Front Range, but admittedly not everywhere. That said, if you can save a couple hundred dollars a month by freeing up a couple parking spaces, why not try?

You wouldn’t be the first to do this. Every lease at Boulder Commons, a Net Zero Energy office building in Boulder, has parking and office space unbundled. The fewer parking spots your employees take up, the more your business saves.

Installing bike racks in front of your store is another way to encourage biking to work that can also attract clients. This is both because of the signal it sends and because of the convenience.

Orange tire hung on brick wall as planter5) Use drought-resistant landscaping

Next time you’re giving your landscaping a face lift, using indigenous plants can cut back on water bills. If your business has minimal or incomplete landscaping this is also a good investment. Why? Views of nature increase productivity and reduce sick days, studies show. Potted plants or, if you’re really ambitious, a living wall may also improve indoor air quality, which improves mental focus, self-reported happiness and employee health.

6) Purchase renewable energy credits to offset energy use

Many businesses that don’t have the wherewithal to generate all their own energy with renewables opt to buy renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset their energy use. The Rio, New Belgium, Odell Brewing and dozens of businesses in Northern Colorado do this. Buying wind energy or supporting a solar energy cooperative costs somewhat more than conventionally-sourced electricity, but whether an end in itself or a means of attracting eco-conscious customers it can be an affordable and sound decision.

7) “Gamify” your waste reduction efforts

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Challenging your team to reduce waste by measuring and charting how much you’re hauling makes waste reduction efforts tangible. This can also be done with energy consumed, total commuting miles by car and anything else that will galvanize employees without seeming overbearing. With a little flair, tracking waste reduction can be fun and morale-boosting.

8) Restaurateurs: Compost when feasible

Hands holding dirtCase in point: Happy Lucky’s Teahouse

Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, one of our partners in Fort Collins, quickly became a downtown staple after opening in 2009. In fact, my first visit to Happy Lucky’s completely changed my conception of what tea is supposed to taste like. I’ve been back many times.

“Our biggest waste reduction, started when Happy Lucky’s Teahouse opened in 2009, is composting our used tea leaves,” notes owner and “Chief Leafster” George Grossman. “Through the years different customers have brought in five gallon buckets which we fill with our spent tea leaves.

“Composting tea leaves happens fairly quickly even in our relatively dry Colorado climate. My worms in the basement love them too. Composted tea leaves smell great and can help any garden.”

Depending on they kind of organic waste your business disposes of, different composting methods (basic composting or commercial/industrial composting) may be used. Industrial composting “is financially advantageous over landfill-bound waste hauling in areas where a compost facility is within 50 miles,” notes CBRE Sustainability Manager Emily Willson, writing for GreenBiz.com.

One man’s waste is another (cow’s) treasure

If you’re in, or near, an agrarian community, livestock can take a lot of food waste off your hands, saving you hauling fees and eliminating a major source of atmospheric pollution. To touch on that second point: food breaking down in landfills it produces methane, which has over 25 times the greenhouse effect as CO2. You may even get a modest additional source of revenue if you’re a brewery or cidery because leftover apple pomace mash and spent brewers grains are nutrient-rich (and livestock love them). Here in Fort Collins, Summit Hard Cider, New Belgium, Horse and Dragon Brewery and several other beverage makers do this. It’s a win-win.

That said, food waste is a bear. Different composting processes are required for different types of food waste. If not contained and hauled promptly it can also become an odor hazard. Companies like A-1 Organics that specialize in industrial food waste composting may be able to serve you affordably if your business isn’t far away. The U.S. Composting Council website is a great resource for restauranteurs interested in implementing a composting program.

Case in point: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

“With compost in particular, there’ve been issues with finding people to haul it,” discloses Erich Whisenhunt, the Director of Food and Beverage for Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (“The Rio”).

Whisenhunt lives on a small farm and gives food waste from the kitchen prep line (vegetable trimmings and the like) to his pigs.

“For restaurants on a small scale, that’s a pretty good solution,” he states.

During Whisenhunt’s tenure as Kitchen Manager, he oversaw various waste diversion efforts including glass-to-glass recycling, food waste composting and vegetable oil recycling for biofuels.

9) Finally, make sure you take rebates into account if you’re looking into ROI

Rebates vary by state and locality, but they can often nudge a waste reduction effort from a “no-go” to a “go” by shortening the payback period of certain sustainability initiatives. If you’re on the fence about a lighting retrofit or food waste composting plan, double-check with the relevant local, state and federal offices. Yes, some rebates distort incentives, steering people to the less beneficial of two initiatives, but we’re here to help you run a business, not critique policy.

While some sustainability investments are a values call, many have a decent bottom-line justification. In other words, environmental stewardship and sound business judgement are often one and the same.

Going back to the point we opened with, however, make sure you’re walking the talk. You don’t have to obsess over sustainability to run a good, admirable business, but if your behavior is out of sync with your public voice it’s likely to be labeled as “greenwashing.”

We’d love to hear from you if you choose to implement any of these ideas, wish to add to the discussion or even disagree with anything.

Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews

Best Practices for Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews

Technical Tip

By John Garvey

Whether you’re a retailer, restaurateur, tour guide or museum director, your first negative review can make you feel like a donkey kicked you in the stomach. Don’t go all Chicken Little on us, though—The sky is not falling! Before we get to how to deal with negative customer reviews, we’ll point out a few benefits (yes, benefits) of negative reviews:

Man in Suit giving thumbs-up

Despair not!

According to Hubspot, five times as many buyers seek out bad reviews as good reviews. That’s because they want to make an informed purchase, weighing the credibility of negative and positive reviews. Rarely are they looking for reasons not to buy.

In fact, Reevoo, a brand management and market research firm, reports that 19 out of 20 customers become suspicious when they see only positive reviews. An occasional negative review lends credibility to your positive reviews by showing that you aren’t gaming the system.

A mature, helpful response to a negative review that shows you aren’t squeamish about negative feedback boosts your credibility and may generate sympathy for your brand.

Finally, “Customers who have their complaints satisfactorily resolved tell an average of five people” according to Colorado State University marketing professor Douglas Hoffman. If you win over a dissatisfied customer, they’ll be a stronger advocate than a customer who was happy all along. That’s because, done right, resolving a complaint shows an unusual level of commitment and maturity.

In short, a negative review creates the chance to turn a small loss into a big win.

Hopefully, having provided some positive perspective on negative reviews, we’ll turn our attention to how to manage negative online and offline reviews. There are four cornerstones: Initiative, Vigilance, Empathy and Process.

We’ll end with a few SEO tips so hang with us!

Initiative: Be proactive.

The most important foundation of managing negative reviews is taking specific, customer-centric measures to prevent them in the first place. There’s no foolproof method to stop all bad online reviews, but there are established ways to reduce their likelihood.

  1. Convenient sounding boards. First, make sure there’s a convenient resource such as a physical or online “comment card” available to customers to voice complaints and provide testimonials. It’s far better for them to complain directly to you than to many prospects via social media. Customers given a convenient sounding board will often be more candid, focusing on the substance of their complaints rather than speculating about the “why,” which may amount to an unwarranted attack on your business culture and motives.
  2. Follow up quickly on offline complaints. If not acted upon promptly, offline complaints become public. A slow, inadequate or non-response adds to a customer’s frustration, making it more likely that he’ll flame you on Yelp, Facebook, OpenTable or Google.
  3. Email tags. Every employee using a company email should have links to your site and social media accounts below her signature, not only to grow your social presence but to make it easier for customers to post reviews.
  4. Soliciting testimonials. Finally, remember that the point of sale, when the customer is excited about a new purchase, is the best moment to solicit reviews. A simple URL on the bottom of a physical receipt, a link to a super-short survey on a mobile or email receipt, or even a physical comment card will generate more reviews than a suggestion that they visit Yelp or TripAdvisor.

Vigilance: Keep your ear to the ground.

  1. “Social never sleeps” is an unofficial mantra in social media marketing and public relations. Make the rounds regularly: Yelp, Facebook, Google, Zomato (previously UrbanSpoon), OpenTable, Twitter, Glassdoor and so on. Know the most important review sites for your industry and pay lots of attention.
  2. Set up a Google Alert for your business so that when it’s mentioned online you receive a timely notification in your email.

Empathy: Feel their pain.

  1. Own it. Own up to your mistakes, even when it’s uncertain where the blame lies. A non-response to a negative review will compound the problem almost every time. It shows apathy. It shows that you aren’t on top of your game. In one way or another it validates the complaint.
  2. Civility. Even a justifiably defensive response to an unfair review will be perceived negatively by customers, who may sympathize with you privately but still be put off by drama. If it’s a case of a false statement, be candid yet civil.
  3. Judgement. On a similar note, use good business judgement. Don’t be overzealous when appeasing upset customers with compensations and never throw your employees under the bus.
  4. Authenticity. Why are authentic apologies necessary? Consider the following:
    • According to Lee Resources, a consulting firm, one complaint implies there are another 26 quietly dissatisfied customers (who are likely complaining to other people).
    • According to Bain & Company, one of the big three consulting firms, customer acquisition is 6 – 7 times as costly as customer retention. So try not to lose ‘em.

Woman writing in a notebook

Process: Have a checklist of things to do and avoid.

  1. Make it easy for customers to deliver feedback and testimonials. Encourage candor by not requiring them to provide more personal information than absolutely necessary to follow up, and by expressing your commitment to customer service with words and actions.
  2. Run each response by a trusted colleague with some emotional detachment before posting.
  3. In your response, make sure you direct the customer to someone who can help them resolve their complaint. Make it a direct line or email rather than a generic address like “Service@XYZCorp.com.” While easy to overlook, this detail can help bring about a speedier resolution and may result in the customer amending their review to a more positive rating.

What other lessons can you bring to the table based on experience? We’d love to hear your stories.

Bonus: SEO Tips!

  • When responding to a negative review, don’t use the name of your business or search keywords. Doing this will improve the search engine ranking of the review itself. With positive reviews, the same principle applies in reverse. Use your company name and relevant keywords to bolster the review’s ranking.
  • Freshness is one factor in how Google ranks content, so all things equal, new content outranks old content. The wake of a negative review is a good time to put up positive or helpful content you already have in the pipeline, or to increase your content marketing efforts.
Questions to ask when shopping for a POS system

Questions to ask when shopping for a POS system

Technical Tip

by John Garvey
shaking hands
What does the term “point of sale system” mean to you? For many, it may simply mean payment processing, but if you’re a merchant you have a lot more on your mind. You don’t just want a one-trick pony. For instance, in addition to fast and reliable credit card processing, you probably wouldn’t mind a POS system that streamlines inventory management and your check out process. Would you?

There are many POS systems out there with varying features. The overriding consideration is that the POS system you use should allow you flexibility and accommodate your business—not the other way around.

It’s a business partnership, not a product.

People on laptop
What kind of training and support does your retail solutions provider offer?

Will they provide you meaningful help getting up to snuff on their platform?

How responsive is your provider?

Consider the quality of tech support offered. Some offer 24/7 tech support, but don’t advertise long wait times and poorly-trained technicians. Retail Control Systems offers a level of responsiveness and helpfulness that’s unsurpassed with a well-trained staff. That’s part of why we’ve been the # 1 NCR Counterpoint reseller for nearly 20 years!

It’s also why we have so many positive testimonials.

What kind of hardware does your retail solutions/POS provider offer?

NCR Customer and Merchant
Hardware should be intended to last. We’re talking commercial grade as opposed to consumer grade hardware. The NCR register is drop tested, warrantied, dust- and water-resistant and built to carry out millions of transactions over its lifespan.

What can you expect if contingencies occur?

Business Continuity

As a customer, have you ever not been able to complete a purchase because the POS system was down and you didn’t have cash? Probably. This is disappointing when you’re fiending for something specific, like pizza, and have to go three doors down for a salad. (The memory has me choking back tears!)

If your internet service provider bonks, that doesn’t mean your business should. NCR Counterpoint maintains full functionality in offline mode. With some other POS platforms, that isn’t the case.

Security

It is technically a requirement for POS systems to meet PCI Security Standards, but compliance is also a moving target and small providers sometimes fly under the radar. NCR Counterpoint keeps on top of it, enabling you to do so as well.

Happy Lucky's Tea House Register

While compliance is ultimately up to the merchant, a compliant provider is indispensable. RCS helps keep your business data secure and protects you from liability. We also keep our accounts separate. That means even if the guy down the street gets hacked, you’re safe because we don’t group you with other customers.

Our business systems can also flag things like large discounts, excessive “no sale” transactions, voided tickets and other red flags that may indicate theft or pilfering.

Ask your prospective POS system provider what they do in terms of backing up and securing your data. With RCS, a little more money gets you a lot more security.

What features do you need beyond payment processing?

Order Fulfillment – Your POS system should enable omnichannel sales—that is, online, in-store and mobile.

Inventory Management – A quality POS system helps merchants manage layaways, special orders and accounts receivable. Specialized reports can track sales data, monitor margins and eliminate guesswork.

Gift Card and Loyalty Programs – In many cases, gift cards and loyalty programs involve transactional or monthly fees. Avoid these if you can (hint: You can with RCS).

Marketing Support – Any POS system should help you organize customer data. A good one has email marketing integrations and other marketing-related features. These include collecting customer feedback surveys and segmenting customers by purchasing history to deliver relevant, individualized marketing for email or mobile.

Integration with Other Business Systems – A POS system should have the ability to interface with other platforms including accounting software, reservation systems and online stores. You don’t want to have to overhaul a system you’re familiar and satisfied with to onboard a new POS system. This is one of NCR Counterpoint’s strengths. For instance, Counterpoint interfaces smoothly with QuickBooks and Outbound Reservation Software.

When shopping around for a POS system, consider your budget, but remember that spending an extra dollar in the right place can save you three dollars down the road.

If you have questions relating to advanced features, integration, marketing or anything else, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

How to Ride Out Seasonal Revenue Fluctuations

How to Ride Out Seasonal Revenue Fluctuations

Specialty Retail

by John Garvey

Open sign on shop windowRetailers face unique challenges and opportunities each holiday shopping season. Ditto for other peak buying times, as well as cyclical retail sales slumps. Both challenges and opportunities are enhanced by digital marketing, social media and e-commerce. We’ve got to take our hats off to brick and mortar retailers who are putting in extra hours this time of year. For many, key decisions related to hiring, expansion, downsizing, and adapting online sales channels hang in the balance.

Fortunately, there are new resources available to brick and mortar retail managers. These include new point-of-sale (POS) software features, digital advertising platforms (such as AdWords) with transparent practices, and better inventory tracking systems.

We’ll point you to some of those resources and offer some valuable ideas in the following post.

Omni-Channel Fulfillment and Marketing

Order fulfillment

Retailers need to “consider more flexible fulfillment options such as buy online, pickup in store,” states the National Retail Federation (NRF). Purchases finalized in a store are increasingly being reserved online as well, as are after hours buying and delivery features. Consumers are also doing their product research on mobile devices. The ability to get reliable product insights and place items on hold for pickup is a convenience factor that gets more people in the door. Once there, they may make unrelated purchases.

NCR Counterpoint assists with all these things and more. We’d love to talk with you about the software’s many helpful features anytime.

Generous return policies

“The tradition of giving and receiving unwanted gifts is a reliable part of the holiday season; thus, return policies play a critical role in holiday purchases,” states the NRF in its 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook. The humor of that statement may not have been deliberate, but it’s true.

Face it: You’re likely to give or receive an unwanted gift this year. “Generous and transparent” return policies that de-risk purchases also make sales more likely.

Promotions

Sign on sidewalk, awesome to the right and less awesome to the leftGet your marketing ducks in a row well before the holidays. Make sure there’s a convenient, online catalog on your site for pre-shoppers and advertise promotions well in advance. According to NRF, more than half of all customers begin researching holiday purchases in October or earlier. Including links to review sites with your product descriptions will help guide the customer to a decision and make sales more likely.

Time-limited promos are an especially effective way to entice sales. Promote them through multiple channels including social media, segmented email marketing lists and even, in some cases, print marketing. Direct mail still works if it’s targeted. Segmented email marketing lists result in a double-digit increase in open rates compared to non-segmented lists.

Stay top-of-mind using the social media platforms most popular with your customers. That varies by demographic, so know whether your customers’ platform of choice is Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. Then focus your efforts proportionately.

Wish lists

The majority of holiday shoppers now report wanting wish lists, modeled after wedding and baby registries, to help with holiday gift buying. More and more retailers are following suit. As with other marketing practices like transparent return policies and conveniently linking products to consumer review sites, this makes people more confident in their purchases.

These practices collectively make sales more likely by reducing demands on the customer’s time and attention.

Modern, Cloud-based Point-of-Sale Systems will Soon be Indispensable—if they aren’t already

Customer patience is relatively low when seasonal shopping peaks. It follows that anything that makes the purchasing process seamless becomes super important at those times. A reliable POS system with short credit card processing times, streamlined receipt tracking and good inventory planning to avoid stock outs will make your life better if you’re in retail management.

Tracking sales data to guide future decisions can be tedious, even exhausting when you add it to the laundry list of other responsibilities: ensuring solid customer service, retail marketing, maintaining storefront displays, payroll, etc. Fortunately, POS and inventory tracking software such as NCR Counterpoint helps you do all that and more.

Inventory is cash. Having too much cash tied up as excess inventory can cripple a retailer’s profitability. Cash flow issues aside, poor planning due to incomplete data may force you to offer excessive markdowns to offload soft-selling items. While proactive markdowns allow you to clear shelf space for hot items, reactive markdowns hurt margins.

How do markdowns tie into the discussion of POS software?

Smart alert on a cell phoneNCR Counterpoint offers dozens of Smart Alerts, such as low inventory warnings, cash on hand, and real-time sales data for each product line. Because it’s cloud-based, you can choose which ones are most relevant to your business and keep an eye on things remotely.

Daily or weekly sales reports will help you adjust future receipts up or down as new sales data roles in. So you can avoid the twin menace of inventory overstock and stock outs. Counterpoint’s inventory management capabilities also allow retailers to easily transfer merchandise between stocking locations and roll out flexible pricing. Counterpoint offers over 40 inventory reports, allowing managers to opt in to the most important ones.

A good point-of-sale software system will make purchasing and pricing decisions easier with sales analytics and inventory reports. That, in turn, keeps margins healthy.

Attract Customers with Targeted, Enticing Digital Marketing

Digital marketing, including mobile marketing, allows retailers to take a more highly-targeted approach than ever before, and to accurately measure ROI of different ad campaigns. Smartphone commerce is indispensable as consumers increasingly use smartphones to price compare, browse products and place orders.

If you don’t have a mobile-optimized site, you’re losing business. Guaranteed.

“65% of consumers have a mobile shopping app on their smartphone and have made a purchase using it.”
Forbes, 28 Nov 2017

“Geofencing is helping retailers compete more effectively with online shopping experiences while customers receive a highly targeted, more relevant shopping experience.”
Inc., 7  Dec 2017

The first thing to do is make sure your site is mobile-friendly, fast, and easy to navigate with appropriately-sized font and images. Similarly, geofencing, or location-based marketing using resources like Google AdWords, will get people’s attention when they’re most likely to follow through on a purchase.

As we’ve stated in previous posts, email marketing is also very much alive and very effective when done right. Don’t neglect it, and remember to segment email lists for different types of customers. Segmentation results in a double-digit increase in open and click through rates.

Finally, marketers report that video content is increasingly important during ultra-competitive season. Again, according to Forbes,

51.9% of marketers report that video delivers the best ROI and that their customers have a preference for video over other types of content. And at least half of shoppers will search for a product video before visiting an online store.

Finally, Remember What You’ve Always Done Well

“While the shopping process is becoming more complex, the best competitive advantage remains in old-fashioned retail principles of serving the customer what they want, where they want it, at the price they desire — and with exceptional customer service. Technology may be changing the surface of the retail game, but the underlying strategies to win remain the same.”
National Retail Federation

Is there anything else you would add? We’d love to hear from you!

Give your Business a Shot in the Arm

Request a demo of NCR Counterpoint or, for restauranteurs, NCR Silver Pro.