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:
- The impact of e-commerce on brick and mortar retail is overstated and misunderstood, and
- The long-term outlook for retail is great.
The Best of Both Worlds
Retail 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:
Big 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.
Reduce spoilage, pilfering and stock-outs | Increase margins | Optimize staff scheduling
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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
by Casey Albert
(ENFIELD, NH | FORT COLLINS, CO) – Retail Control Systems (RCS), a leading point-of-sale solutions provider, is pleased to share that longtime client, Happy Lucky’s Teahouse (Happy Lucky’s), has opened a second location in Front Range Village, a popular southeast Fort Collins shopping center. RCS helped equip the store’s point-of-sale system, which included a NCR Counterpoint 1530 terminal and two (2) CP Mobile units – Counterpoint’s mobile POS platform. The second location officially opened in November 2016.
Happy Lucky’s is a unique specialty shop and teahouse, “serving up world change,” alongside a delicious array of baked goods and treats. Owned by Kari and George Grossman, the teahouse was originally established to provide a venue for promoting their charitable organization, Sustainable Schools International (SSI). While SSI still remains a central focus, Happy Lucky’s success has exceeded the Grossmans’ initial vision, offering the largest tea selection in Colorado and a place for people to connect.
When RCS first expanded its business to Colorado, Happy Lucky’s was the first retailer in Fort Collins to partner with RCS for a retail management solution. RCS customized an NCR Counterpoint POS system for Happy Lucky’s, including a Donation Round-up feature, which gives customers the option of rounding-up their ticket and donating the difference to help SSI establish sustainable education and further economic development in Cambodia.
“RCS has been with us from what seems like the very beginning,” states George Grossman, Co-owner of Happy Lucky’s Teahouse. “We know RCS understands our business, and we trust that their POS solutions will continue to deliver the capabilities we need to grow and succeed.”
“Happy Lucky’s is a part of our Fort Collins family and we are very proud of their success,” states Dave Albert, President of Retail Control Systems. “With NCR Counterpoint, we are able to give them a POS solution that is also capable of simultaneously managing donations – simplifying the process and allowing them to focus on growth opportunities.”
About Retail Control Systems
Founded in 1987, Retail Control Systems specializes in retail and restaurant management software and hardware solutions. RCS has built a reputation for finding specialized business management solutions that help businesses gain complete control over their operations and finances. From inventory control to daily sales management, RCS has the experience and expertise across the full-range of retail and restaurant industries to meet the unique needs of any business. RCS has been providing superior customer service, exceptional quality, and innovation to the retail and restaurant community for nearly 30 years.
To learn more about RCS, visit retailcontrolsystems.com or call 1-800-417-3030.
For more information about Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, or their products and services, visit happyluckys.com.
(ENFIELD, NH | FORT COLLINS, CO) – Retail Control Systems (RCS) is pleased to announce that they have recently moved their Fort Collins, Colorado office to a new location. RCS will now be located at 324 E. Oak Street in Old Town, Fort Collins. Restorations as well as some renovations to convert the late-Victorian style home on the property to RCS’ offices were completed earlier this October. A reception was held to celebrate the official opening of the new location on October 13th, 2016. Attendees included the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce as well as RCS staff and clients.
The property, known historically as the Mosman House or Andrews House, was purchased by RCS in February 2016. Built sometime between 1892 and 1893, the house is considered a significant example of Victorian architecture, and was the first residential property to be designated as a Fort Collins City Landmark.
“RCS did a wonderful job of restoring the historic charm of this iconic home, and we are excited to welcome them to the neighborhood,” states Kristy Wygmans of the Red Carpet Ambassadors of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to support local businesses, like RCS, that have shown a dedication to the continued growth and success of our business community.”
Originally based only out of New England, RCS made the decision to expand its operations to the Fort Collins area in early 2013. A need for more space after three years of significant growth, helped motivate RCS’ move to the Old Town district of Fort Collins. The new location also offers a closer proximity to customers and other businesses as well as a larger conference space and additional room for future growth.
“Our priority has always been, first and foremost, our customers and this move will allow us to better serve them,” states Dave Albert, President of Retail Control Systems. “We will not only be more accessible to our clients, but also able to provide larger training sessions and increased support to our Fort Collins customer-base.”
About Retail Control Systems
Founded in 1987 by President and Owner, Dave Albert, Retail Control Systems specializes in retail management software and hardware solutions. Providing superior customer service, exceptional quality, and innovation to the retail community for nearly 30 years, RCS has built a reputation for finding specialized retail management solutions that help businesses gain complete control over their operations and finances. From daily sales management to inventory control, RCS has the experience and expertise across the full-range of retail industries to meet the unique needs of any business. To learn more about RCS, visit www.retailcontrolsystems.com or call 1-800-417-3030.
Retail Control Systems is proud to announce their recent participation in the 35th Annual Prouty on July 8-9, 2016 in Hanover, NH. The Prouty is a yearly fundraising and athletic event that benefits the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC). The RCS team, RCS Steppers, raised $2,125 to help fund cancer research and patient services at NCCC.
The two-day fundraiser, which occurs every second weekend in July, consists of a variety of non-competitive athletic and sporting events. Individuals or teams have the option to participate in Cycling, Walking, Golf, Virtual or Prouty Ultimate, a 200-mile cycling challenge across New Hampshire and Vermont
A total of 14 staff-members from RCS participated in the event, both virtually and in-person. Virtual participants contributed to the team by walking or running an equivalent 20, 50, 77, 100 or 200 mile route in their current location. Team members that attended the event in-person took part in both the cycling and walking events, hosted at Richmond Middle School in Hanover, NH, as well as the 18-hole Golf Scramble on the golf course at Hanover Country Club.
“I think I speak for all us [at RCS] when I say that it’s a privilege to be able to contribute to the ongoing efforts and ground-breaking research being done at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center,” stated Dave Albert, President of Retail Control Systems and Prouty participant. “Events like The Prouty are a powerful reminder of the great potential individuals, businesses, and the larger New Hampshire community have if we join together to fight cancer or support other local causes.”
When a customer is standing at the point of sale prepared to make a purchase, the last thing a retailer wants to say (and the last thing the customer wants to hear) is “Sorry, the system is down; we can’t take credit cards right now.” Not being able to accept a credit card, just as a customer is all set to buy, is every retailer’s worst nightmare.
RCS is proud to introduce a new service that will solve many of our retailers internet connectivity issues. Cradlepoint is a service that runs on 3G/4G networks providing a secure and reliable fail-over for any internet connectivity issues, and through weeks of testing we can confidently say that this solution is perfect for our customers. Cradlepoint is easy to install, and there are options for any stores located in an enclosed building with little access to 3G/4G reception. Retailers including Pandora jewelry, Jackson Hewitt, RadioShack, along with many other businesses use Cradlepoint as either their main internet connection, or as a fail-over system. You can also use Cradlepoint anywhere, and use it as your main network connection for any off-site sales with CPMobile!
If you would like more information on what Cradlepoint can do for your business, email into firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 1-800-417-3030 x1 to talk to our sales team.