The Top Two Benefits of Omnichannel Retailing

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To stay current, brick-and-mortar stores are redefining the in-store experience to make it a more convenient one. Today’s consumers are used to being online all the time, engaged in several different channels at once – like watching TV while browsing Facebook on their iPad or smartphone. Channels are starting to run together.

Consumers expect brick-and-mortar stores to keep up, offering the same kind of integration in the shopping experience. They expect to be able to order items online, have them shipped to their house and return them in the store – a seamless experience between online and brick-and-mortar. Retailers must make sure that they meet these expectations, because if they don’t, shoppers can easily find another store that does. This seamless shopping experience is called omnichannel retailing.

1.        Collecting customer information for targeted marketing tactics.

In the past, retailers have asked customers for their email address and zip code at the point of sale. However, they have no way of knowing which customers they have already asked, so they ask every customer every time – which can become bothersome. Instead, omnichannel strategies allow customers to enter their own information at their own will, which they are often more comfortable with.

For example, in-store kiosks allow customers to enter their email address rather than giving it to the cashier. Also, online stores and social media pages provide outlets for retailers to collect customer information in a less aggressive way, like simply inviting them to sign up for email alerts. They can choose to give their first and/or last name in addition to their email address, allowing retailers to send personalized emails.

In addition to name and email address, retailers can gain insight into what their customers have been shopping for online. With this information, they can make specific offers about customers’ favorite products. For example: “Dear Mrs. Smith, We’ve noticed you have been looking for jeans lately. We would like to offer you 30 percent off of your next pair! Enter the promotion code ‘JEANS’ to redeem your exclusive offer.” This provides them with even more motivation to make a purchase.

2.        Making more sales in more places.

With omnichannel retailing in place, shoppers can make purchases from wherever they please. It gives retailers inventory visibility and availability in the customer’s preferred channel. For customers, shopping is more convenient than ever and for retailers, there are more buying opportunities than ever. Shoppers have a wider selection and multiple means of accessing that selection. Here are a few examples of how retailers can leverage the omnichannel:

Online ordering: For example, a shopper who is snowed in can browse shoes and Christmas items online instead of having to dig out her car and drive to the mall. She can order items straight from the store’s website and have them shipped to her house. You can offer style tips and size guides for exceptional online customer service.

Encouraged showrooming: Ever found the perfect pair of jeans only to realize there weren’t any left in your size? Omnichannel retailing allows customers to browse items in the store that may be of limited quantity and then shop for additional size and color options online. That way, they can see the item and try it on before purchasing it online. They can either have the item shipped and delivered to their house or shipped to the store for pick up. Retailers could also set up a kiosk, so customers can place an order for their preferred size and color while they are still in the store.

Social media sharing: Posting products and gift ideas on your social media profiles allows users to send them to their friends and share them on their own pages. Users can give opinions and recommendations to their friends, allowing word of your products to spread. Offering coupons and deals on your social media profiles will inspire users to visit your online store to redeem their exclusive offer.

The omnichannel is a beautiful thing. It allows retailers to get closer to their customers and make customized offers. It allows customers to enjoy the convenience of their preferred channel, a wider selection of items and a wealth of buying opportunities. It blurs the lines between online, brick-and-mortar, smartphones and social media for a five-star seamless shopping experience.

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3 Steps to Designing a Successful Shopping Experience

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The shopping experience is what is keeping the brick-and-mortar retail sector alive. Without a more-than-satisfactory experience, shoppers will surely turn to showrooming and online shopping.

Window Shopping

Here’s how to shape your shoppers’ experience:

1. Make a good first impression

The shopping experience begins before shoppers have even entered the store – with advertising, branding, competitor research and social media campaigns. These are all important assets in shaping a positive shopping experience, as they make up future customers’ first impression of your store. According to researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form their first impression of your brand.

So make sure your website, web store, mobile apps and social media profiles promote your mission and message as clearly as possible, because these assets are meant to give consumers an idea of what to expect upon entering the store. To make sure that you meet these expectations, you must engage with consumers via social media and other channels will give you an idea of how to design the experience according to their needs and wants.

Here’s a hint: In this digital day and age, shoppers not only expect to be able to find information about a store online before or after their physical visit, they also expect access to coupons, deals and promotions in exchange for interacting with your brand. According to HubSpot, research shows that 58 percent of Facebook users expect exclusive offers from business pages. They often expect a first-time customer discount by checking in on location-based applications, a text or email service that notifies them of upcoming sales and a customer loyalty point system.

2. Understand expectations, define the experience

After you have gotten an understanding of their expectations upon entering the store, the most important part of designing the shopping experience is not only meeting but exceeding their expectations. Doing so will either maintain, reinforce or improve the impression they formed initially.

Do they expect a sale rack? Do they expect additional sizing options? Do they expect the latest styles or latest technology? Consider these kinds of questions. A shopper isn’t going to recommend your store to their friends for simply meeting their expectations. In the shopping experience, the retailer must not only meet, but exceed customer needs enough to inspire him or her to take further action – recommend your store to a friend, like the store page on Facebook, make more purchases, etc.

Also, what are their personas? Who is your target audience? Even if you sell to an especially narrow market, it is useful to consider the other kinds of shoppers you see in your store. Think about what they want to accomplish, as well as what their problems, needs and desires are.

3. Leverage assets accordingly

After you have identified and evaluated your customers’ expectations of a successful shopping experience, you need to ensure that each aspect of your store is in alignment. Think about your employee performance, labor allocation, inventory, store layout, marketing efforts and social media presence. Think about how each asset and aspect contribute to the overall experience. This will enable you to smooth out any inconsistencies.

Business analytics are another crucial step in designing the shopping experience as they provide you with the knowledge to apply the process in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. A people counting system will allow you to optimize these aspects in accordance to the amount of shoppers who enter your store on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis. With access to detailed traffic reports and conversion rates, you can identify your peak shopping hours and make sure you exhibit an optimal shopping experience during those hours. You can also gain insight into how many employees are needed to adequately serve the amount of shoppers in the store in a given time frame, for example.

Carefully designing the shopping experience ensures that you can meet their needs by having the assistance and options to accommodate to what they expect. It also allows you to exceed their expectations by offering additional service or opportunities.


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Why Retailers Need Analytics to Drive Business Decisions

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retail shoppingAs the retail sector grows and the economy stays the same, it is becoming increasingly important for retailers to use metrics to make smart business decisions. Aberdeen’s 2012 Human Capital Management Trends study found that the most common pressures driving human capital management efforts are economic certain uncertainty requiring greater efficiency – cited by 46 percent of respondents – and the need to support organic growth – cited by 38 percent.

The reason

Because of this trend, retailers are aiming to increase their productivity, improve cost management and improve employee performance by optimizing their operations. Optimization is most easily achieved through the automation of operations and the analyzing of business analytics. The study held that the best-in-class organizations of 2012 were able to overcome these challenges by providing managers and leaders with access to relevant workforce data.

Although this sentiment rang true across all industries, it is especially relevant to the retail industry as brick-and-mortar stores need this information on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis. With analytics and workforce data, retailers can connect the dots between peak hours, conversion rates, promotions, advertisements, customer service and employee performance and see how they affect both the business and the customers.

The tools

Web stores have access to advanced analytics, like site traffic counters and email clicker reports, so it is especially important for brick-and-mortar stores to implement tools that can provide them with the same data. They need to do so in order to stay afloat in the state of the economy and the steady rise in online shopping. With work, enjoy the revolutionary statistics that you get from your online store. You can know how many visitors they get in a given minute, hour, day or week.

People counting systems are one source of workforce data that seem to be especially useful in the retail industry, because they take into consideration the number of sales opportunities that a retail store started out with and then lets them know many of those opportunities turned into paying customers.

This means that people counting systems can provide a wealth of knowledge for stores that don’t have guaranteed sales, such as clothing or jewelry stores, where customers are likely to walk in, browse for a while and leave empty-handed. These stores make up a big chunk of the retail sector. This is in comparison to stores like Wal-Mart, where just about everyone who walks in walks out with at least one item in-hand. They have high conversion rates, close to 100 percent, and therefore don’t need to know the amount of people who are browsing without buying.

The results

The layout of a store plays an important role in the buying process, especially in a large store. The placement of a product affects not only its visibility but its desirability. Thermal or video-based people counters can determine the areas of the store that are the most traveled. By comparing that information with transaction history, store owners can determine the success of certain shelves, displays or areas of the store.

Knowing difference in success between Shelf A and Shelf B is not only a good gauge for product placement, but is also the secret to scoring your in-store marketing campaigns. You can determine which areas are the best to place posters, kiosks or coupons. And by analyzing in-store traffic reports and sales transactions, you can see how many people responded to a promotion and what percentage of those people made purchases. These metrics give your advertising efforts a leg to stand on.

These metrics could also be combined with those of other channels to maximize insight. For example, retailers with both online and brick-and-mortar stores could compare traffic counts between the two and analyze their respective success. They could also launch similar campaigns in both channels to see which had the higher conversion rate, or let one act as the control.

These tools are invaluable to today’s brick-and-mortar retailers. This data allows them to stay on top as the United States slowly recovers from the recession and as online retailers continue to gain access to advanced capabilities.

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How Retailers Can Leverage Social Marketing and Branding

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Social marketing and branding allow existing and future customers to see your brand more often and in more places. If the only place that they are engaging with your brand is in your brick-and-mortar store, then your items will be out of sight and out of mind.

By the numbers:

  • According to the American Marketing Association, there are 3.3 billion brand mentions in 2.2 billion brand-related conversations in the United States every day.
  • A typical American mentions a brand in online and offline conversations 60 times a week.
  • Fifty-four percent of purchasing decisions are influenced by word of mouth, according to the AMA. Additionally, 66 percent of brand conversations are mostly positive.

Social Media

Hint: This could mean that retailers have a pretty good chance of increasing brand popularity and buying opportunities through the omnichannel. Here are a few suggestions for how to leverage social marketing and branding to your benefit.

From outside in:

  1. People often watch television while also being on their smartphone or laptop. Businesses can incorporate social marketing and branding into their traditional ads to encourage customers to interact with them. It could be as simple as singing up for text alerts of store sales. A TV commercial could encourage them to text a certain number for free updates, and they can do it right then and there on their smartphone – which is undoubtedly right next to them on the couch, if not in their hands. Using a people counte, retailers can then determine whether or not those efforts helped them to spread the word and increase their in-store traffic during sales.
  2. With social marketing and branding, retailers could also promote brick-and-mortar exclusives on a banner ad on their web store or a social media post. By using a people counter to determine the in-store traffic gained from the sale or promotion, store owners and managers could compare that number to their web traffic. This would provide them with insight into the success of their brick-and-mortar store vs. their online presence.

From inside out:

  1. Another easy way is to place marketing materials on check-out counters or near displays to encourage social media interaction with customers. The possibilities are endless. It could be as simple as signs that say “like us on Facebook” or “follow us on Pinterest” – or as high-tech as a tablet kiosk that allows shoppers to create a product wish list or take photobooth pictures and upload them to the store’s Instagram… whatever will make them want to mention your brand.
  2. Retailers could place QR codes on shelf tags, providing customers with a quick and easy way to find these products online, read reviews, view and order additional colors or sizes or access coupons. They could also place QR codes in email promotions so that recipients can open the message on their smartphone and scan the code to receive discounts in store. QR codes are not only a quick and easy way for customers to gain access to additional resources, they are also a relatively new technology that will be exciting for them to use. The use of new technology, in general, puts your brand a cut above the rest.
  3. By offering discounts to people who check-in to the store using location-based apps like FourSquare, retailers can encourage first-time customers to not only visit their store but also immediately make a satisfying purchase. They may have already heard about your brand on social media, but first-time check-in discounts are an incentive for them to take the next step in the buying process and make the trip to your brick-and-mortar store. By advertising these promotions online or in the store’s window display, visitors will know upon entering that they have an exciting opportunity waiting for them inside.

Are you paying attention to what your customers are saying about your brand in each channel, and – better yet – interacting with them? Your brand mentions provide invaluable information about each marketing channel and about your business as a whole. Moral of the story: it is in your best interest to incorporate those mentions into your marketing efforts.

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How to Use a People Counting System to Justify Your Requests

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Justify requestsPeople counting technology is crucial for justifying requests because it answers questions that a POS system cannot. This is especially true in the case of nonprofit organizations and learning facilities like public libraries, museums and university centers. People counting data provides insight into the amount of people being serviced by these facilities and the amount of people using their resources.

Additional technology requests
Requests for additional technology resources like computer labs, iPads® or printers are often hard to swing due to their expensive nature. Buildings like libraries, museums and student unions need several of each unit to serve waves of visitors and students. They often need to replenish their existing resources or request additional resources as their technology is used by thousands of people and used thousands of times. Also, as technology continues to advance and educational resources become increasingly digitized, it is in the best interest of these learning environments to keep their equipment up-to-date to better serve their communities.

Librarians, museum curators and university boards can install people counters near each exit, area or floor of their buildings to gain information about their heavy and light traffic areas. By comparing the traffic numbers of different areas, they can understand the best and most easily accessed areas to place computer labs, printing stations, interactive exhibits that utilize iPads® or tablets or any other type of technology that would benefit the facility and its users. They can also compare areas that house existing technology to determine which resources visitors use most often or find most useful.

And with their people counting data, these facilities can make cases to their administration for these resources. By proving that you are a valuable resource for a large amount people in your school or community, you can justify requests for an increased budget with hard numbers and metrics that prove the necessity for new technology.

To upgrade current technology, the process is the same. By knowing the amount of people that use your technology on a daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, you can prove the legitimacy of their wear and tear or prove the necessity of upgrades and replacements.

Staffing requests
In today’s economy, budgets for nonprofits, libraries and universities have tightened. Historically, they have been forced to make reductions to their staff and hours of operation. However, as funds decrease, the amount of people who visit these facilities stays the same. Communities and campuses still have the same amount of people to service, and therefore need the same amount of staff members and operating hours.

With people counting data, these facilities can prove the necessity of their existing staff or the need for additional staff members. A people counting system can provide information about a facility that cannot be gained from a POS system – the amount of students or community members who enter the building without making a transaction. People who do not make purchases still need access to service and resources, and oftentimes they cannot gain that access without an employee. Providing traffic numbers can prove to administration or school boards that usage of the facility has increased, even if circulation or sales transactions are down.

Fight budget cuts and closings
Libraries, student unions and museums – in light of the digital takeover of media, education budget cuts and the rough state of the economy, respectively – might have to fight to stay open or keep their resources. However, a decrease in resources or funds does not necessarily mean a decrease in visitors. While these facilities typically don’t generate much (if any) revenue, people counting systems can produce reports that prove that these facilities are used and valued by a large number of people and staying open would be in the best interest of the students or the community. It can help facilities to ensure they don’t get the axe when budget cuts are made.

You know that your facility, services and resources are useful to the community, but people counting systems allow you to make sure that others know, too. Leveraging people counting data to justify requests can prove to be a much more powerful method than petitioning or providing sales history