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.

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