4 Tips for Keeping Your Seasonal Business Healthy All Year Long

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  3. February

zejiukzcd8c-luis-llerenaOperating a seasonal business is not without its challenges. The gap between peak and shoulder seasons can be overwhelming. Get a head start on creating a healthy year-round business with these four tips.

Get to Know Your Industry Sales Cycles and Master Money Management

Do some research on the typical sales cycles that characterize your particular industry. This will help you understand what to expect in terms of the ebbs and flows of your seasonal business. Implementing people counters into your business will also assist with this. People counting data will take the guess work out of understanding foot traffic patterns. When preparing future sales projections, be sure to sample from a minimum of two or three years of past data for the most robust and realistic results.

Running a successful seasonal business means getting a firm handle on your money. Cash may be pouring in for three months but trickling in for the rest of the year. Become a smart saver and stash away as much as possible when business is booming so that you’re in good shape for the shoulder season.

Reallocate Resources

During your off season, take a critical eye to your business in order to run lean operations. People counting technology makes this easy as not only can you easily identify true peak and slow traffic periods, and prepare accordingly. This can mean everything from trimming your workforce and reducing your marketing activities to reviewing supplier contracts and service agreements to secure a more favorable rate. By streamlining operational expenses where possible, your seasonal business will be primed to continue running smoothly until the next busy period arrives.

Identify Alternative Income Streams and Offer a New Product

Innovative seasonal business owners have learned that developing new, alternative streams of income make a significant difference in evening out the “lean” months. Be creative in identifying ways to drum up new sources of revenue. One simple approach could be incentivizing customers to book their stay at your ski lodge as early as possible, perhaps by offering an attractive discount. Or if your seasonal business is in wedding planning, consider branching out into general event planning to keep money flowing in beyond the peak summer bridal season. Complementary businesses are a great way to turn your seasonal operation into a year-round enterprise.

If your business relies on expensive equipment, consider ways to monetize that machinery during the shoulder season; lease it out, sell it or think of other services that you can provide with it.

Some seasonal business owners have found success with offering new products to continue attracting customers during the off season. A beachside ice cream shop might want to add a coffee menu, and especially coffee-ice cream mashups such as the delicious affogato dessert, to draw in the locals once the vacationers have packed up and gone.

Keep in Touch With Customers

Your customers may not need your goods or services at the moment, but it doesn’t hurt to stay in touch in order to keep your seasonal business front and center in their minds. Social media is a great way to keep your name out there without being overly promotional. Also consider sending out a newsletter, perhaps quarterly or bimonthly, so that customers know what you’ve been up to and what exciting things to look forward to when peak season rolls around. Instead of simply dropping off during the shoulder season, keeping in touch with customers can cement their relationship with your business and keep sales strong.

Grow your seasonal business by being creative and savvy with your resources. With a few good ideas and a bit of hard work, your seasonal set-up can blossom into a cash-generating business for all 12 months of the year.

The Future of Retail in 2017

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  2. 2017
  3. February

future of retailWhat does the future of retail hold? A seismic shift in the market is underway, and retailers are racing to ensure they’re able to meet the needs of demanding shoppers.

Fast, Faster, Fastest

You might be tired of hearing it, but Amazon has changed the game in terms of consumer expectations of delivery speed. With two-day shipping a standard perk of Amazon’s Prime membership, more than 54 million Americans who have signed up for the e-commerce giant’s $99-a-year plan are now accustomed to receiving their orders in a mere 48 hours.

The future of retail in the near term means instant gratification is inching closer to reality. You want something? With the click of an Amazon Dash button, or simple voice command to Alexa or Echo, it’s as good as yours. In-store pick-up is already growing in popularity, and now curbside and drive-through order collection are becoming a reality as consumers demand more convenient options for their hectic lives.

Your sales associates may be feeling the time crunch, too. Regardless of how busy a shift is, customers still want fast, efficient service. Make sure your store is adequately staffed to meet demand. Using people counting data can help you anticipate the days, seasons, and times your store has the most traffic and make sure the right number of sales associates are scheduled so customers don’t have to wait.

Make It Personal

A few decades ago, conformity was king (remember when Abercrombie tees were the de facto cool-kid uniform?). Today, however, each consumer wants to be known for the unique individual that he or she is, which explains why recent history has brought an explosion in made-to-measure apparel companies (Indochino, eShakti), custom footwear (Shoes of Prey, Nike ID), personalized style subscription services (Stitch Fix, Dia&Co) and myriad other tailor-made or carefully curated goods and services.

In the future of retail, merchants will be marketing to an audience of one — many times over. Sending the right offer to the right consumer at the right time — instead of blasting a general message to everyone — can drum up conversions and sales and strengthen the customer’s brand affinity.

In your store, it’s not always possible to identify each shopper via their smartphone, but you can measure the effectiveness of displays and digital signage with people counting data. Place a people counting solution in each section of your store to track where shoppers walk to determine what captures their attention, helping you to understand your customers’ preferences better and deliver what they want.

Take My Money

When it comes to making payments as painless as possible, for many consumers the future of retail is already here. Tap-to-pay is integrated at thousands, if not millions, of points of sales across the country, enabling consumers to complete a transaction simply by waving their NFC-equipped smartphones. As tech-happy millennials increase in age — and in buying power — offering these kinds of simplified card- and cash-free payments solutions will only become more important.

The Future Is Mobile

Consumers’ adoption of mobile technology in nearly every facet of their lives continues to grow by the day. According to research by the National Retail Federation and Forrester, 54 percent of retailers say investing in mobile is a top priority this year. The report also found that smartphones, on average, accounted for 30 percent of digital sales and 47 percent of online traffic, and sales made on smartphones jumped an average of 65 percent year-over-year. To capture consumer interest in mobile shopping activities, whether it’s looking up store hours and product info or actually making a purchase, retailers must ensure they have a dedicated app or user-friendly mobile-optimized website.

What’s more, mobility is transforming the physical store experience, and in some cases ending the checkout queue as mobile POS enables transactions away from the traditional cash wrap. Mobile technology, when deployed wisely, will elevate the future of retail, especially in stores.

The Rise of Experience-Driven Retail

Changes in consumer behavior have compelled retailers to reimagine the in-store experience. Shoppers no longer are satisfied with stores acting simply as points of transaction. Instead, consumers want exciting, memorable experiences when they choose to make the trip to a brick-and-mortar store. That’s why the newest Nike stores, including the flagship in New York City and a weeks-old Miami location, feature basketball courts and soccer turf where shoppers can try out footwear and show off their skills. In short, the future of retail will be less about pushing products and more about enabling experiences.

Sam Cooke sang it best: a change is gonna come. Changes already are rippling through the industry and retailers that invest in future-proofing today will be prepared for success tomorrow.