3 Important Differentiators for Retail Brands to Stay Ahead of the Competition

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The retail markets across the globe are becoming increasingly competitive for 2 major reasons. On the one hand technology has disrupted the industry in multiple ways and on the other hand customers shopping behaviors have changed dramatically. Additionally, both these factors are influencing each other to further pose more challenges and create opportunities for retail businesses. In this intensely competitive scenario, retail brands need to differentiate themselves so that they emerge winners.

Below are 3 important factors that can help retail brands differentiate themselves:

Supply chain – Simply put, getting the customer what they want and where they want it is a serious concerns for most retailers as the complexity of processes and operations increase with the different channels and random ways the customer goes about shopping and ordering products. New omni-channel fulfillment options such as click and collect or BOPIS, endless aisles, reserve online and pick-up in-store, and a few other combinations have emerged over the last couple of years. Moreover, same day delivery, drone delivery, collection from preferred location, anywhere returns, and so on, have also come to the fore lately. Offering these fulfillment options requires retailers to have a solid supply chain system that can reduce the chances of stock-outs, damages and other potential risks. Thus it is important for retailers to focus on the supply chain and use technology to optimize it so that there is a smooth flow of the product from manufacturing to the consumer.

Customer relationship – As stated earlier, technology has influenced the shopper. Customers today are more informed and demanding than about a decade ago. In addition to that, they are spoilt for choice thanks to the variety in products, different channels of shopping, payment methods and accessibility to information. The customers are on the driving seats and retail brands need to be ready to fulfill the demands of the customer on their terms. This will be possible only if companies keep their customers at the focal point in the business. They will have to build deep and long lasting relationships with the customer and take appropriate efforts to understand and know their customers’ preferences. Using technology to capture and analyze customer related data and with proper customer segmentation and profiling, retailers will be able to design and create tailored offerings to the customers in terms of products and related services.

Marketing and branding – It is a no brainer that if retailers are not able to get their marketing right, they won’t be able to click. Retail companies are pumping in huge investments and efforts into their marketing and branding strategies and execution. But with so much noise around it is difficult to get noticed. In order to stand out, retail brands must adopt for a unity in diversity approach. Firstly have uniform branding and messaging, secondly identify platforms where their customers are most likely to be and thirdly promoting the brand message across these platforms will help retailers reach the desired audience with higher chance of conversions. Taking this to the next level by designing and creating offers and promotions that are hyper personalized, localized and unique will have customers wanting for more. As customer attention spans are small, retailers need to get their act together and render the maximum impact in a short time.

Why do you need a franchise management software?

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To begin with, franchising is a retail business model that involves two parties – the franchiser and franchisee. The franchiser permits the franchisee to use its brand name and business model, based on certain terms, conditions and clauses involving revenue that are agreed upon. Franchising is a very popular business model especially in regions where foreign brands use franchisees to expand their presence in the market.

Since this business model involves 2 parties, complications and issues are bound to arise due to the involvement of separate entities collaborating over a business. Further, since the franchiser is the owner of the business and is allowing the usage of his brand and products, he would definitely want to have an overview and manage the franchisees. This could be tricky if not tackled the right way. Enter – franchise management software.

Let’s dive deeper into how can a franchise management software fit into the franchise model of a retail business.

A franchise management software can be perceived to be a platform that facilitates collaboration between franchisers and franchisees, as well as assists in increasing engagement between the two parties regarding various aspects of the business such as marketing, sales, branding, CRM, inventory management, reporting, operations, and so on. The software essentially establishes business rules and processes in mutual agreement between the two parties. Using these processes and business rules as a base, franchisers can look to grow their business further by hiring more franchisees. Moreover, the software with preset rules and processes allows the franchiser to monitor performance based on real-time analytics, and streamlining operations as well as exercise control over the franchisees, and also capture and store market data and trends for further analysis and bench-marking. The franchisees on the other hand can use the software to automate their business operations and also keep track of their business performance and provide necessary reports to the franchiser. Also, the franchise management software can help to connect multiple franchise sites through integrated communications.

Here are some aspects where a franchise management software can benefit your retail business:

Inventory and supply chain management: A good franchise management software generally enables access to inventory data to help you in forecasting the inventory levels. Purchase orders can then be placed to replenish stock. The software could help the business keep track of the supply chain process from order placement to stock replenishment, allowing to foresee and mitigate risks/issues that can arise in the process.

Customer management: Customer loyalty and retention is extremely important for every retail business and it is dependent on the quality of customer service in your franchisee outlets. A solid franchise management software aids customer relationship management by providing capabilities such as customer registration, loyalty programs, customer information look-up, inventory look-up, customer feedback, and so on that enable you to attract and retain customers in the long run.

Process management: A good franchise management software helps in the inspection of your franchise outlets following certain industry audit standards and checklists. By having capabilities of storing historical information of your outlets, you can use the information as a benchmark for performance tracking and inspection. Moreover, tracking sales data, employee data and performance, inventory data, and other important information, you can map out any discrepancies as well as keep a tight control on the processes and operations.

Moving from E-commerce to Omni-channel – Top 3 Challenges

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Changing customer expectations, advent of multiple channels of shopping and infusion of technology in retail have given rise to a new breed of shoppers today commonly known as ‘omni-channel shoppers’. These modern day retail shoppers are tech savvy and highly demanding, spoilt for choice and seek value for their money. And they will not want to associate with single channel retail brands as they constantly look for convenience and speed. So not only brick and mortar retail companies but online only e-commerce retail brands also have no choice but to migrate to omni-channel. However with e-commerce companies going for an omni-channel approach that integrates both offline and online retail, there are some challenges that these retailers need to be ready for.

Online-offline integration;
There are basically, two main channels for retail – online (which includes e-commerce, mobile, social media) and offline (which includes brick and mortar store, pop up stores). While integrating the online channels to work seamlessly would seem to be achievable due to similar nature of functionality, adding offline to this mix and looking to achieve a seamless integration can prove to be a daunting task as this calls for necessarily aligning every process and operation of the business to meet the omni-channel objective of unified customer experience. However, the good news is, by employing the right omni-channel for e-commerce software, retailers can achieve a seamless transition from a single channel and holistic omni-channel integration.

Customer and inventory management;
Online retailers generally provide the ‘buy online and ship to home’ fulfillment. However, when looking to go completely omni-channel from e-commerce, there are new fulfillment options that can be added such as buy online pick up in store, endless aisle, and so on. This calls for a seamless and accurate flow of customer and inventory information across all channels. Having a unified view of the inventory and single view of the customer across channel is necessary to handle multiple fulfillment options as well as planning and executing promotion campaigns and loyalty programs for customers across channels. Having a solid omni-channel retail software with CRM, promotions and inventory management capabilities can allow retailers to offer a unified omni-channel customer experience.

Supply chain and logistics management;
Moving from e-commerce to omni-channel though has benefits, it also poses multiple supply chain and logistics challenges. One of the biggest challenge for retailers while implementing an omni-channel process is ensuring product availability at the right channel at the right time and the right price. This is necessary for handling different engulfment options, so that customers can get gratification of their purchases as per their terms. Another challenge which is a necessity in this omni-channel age is reducing delivery time-frames. This again can be tackled by having the right product at the right place so that fulfillment centers are not too far away from the customers’ preferences of where they want to receive their purchases. With the help of a robust omni-channel retail solution encompassing supply chain management can ensure retailers succeed in their omni-channel business.

Tips to transform your in-store customer experience

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Customer experience is the ‘be all and end all’ for retail businesses today. Every retailer is vying to gain the biggest share of the customers’ attention and wallet in order to succeed; and delivering a superior customer experience is the best way retailers can achieve their goals. Therefore, they need to compete in this intense ‘customer experience’ battle ground. Moreover, for brick and mortar retail companies, the competition gets even stiffer as they have to tackle additional contention from e-commerce retail players. With all this competition and other internal & external constraints, offering a fantastic shopping experience for in-store customers is a challenge for your retail business. However, below are a few simple tips that can help you transform your in-store customer experience.

  1. Offering unique and personalized experience

Knowing and understanding customers not only by the demographic characteristics and buying history, but also following their individual shopping journey. This will enable you to go beyond the usual conventions of customer experience and drive you to innovate ways by which you can make the customer experience unique and personalized. Something as basic as knowing that a customer has visited the store on her birthday and presenting her tailored offers can leave a positive impact. Similar kind of unique and personalized experiences need to be created and delivered. This will set you apart in the perception of the customer.

  1. Channelizing store employees

An important element that stores have over e-commerce is the personal touch factor. Store employees can be the brand ambassadors for your business and can thus influence the customers purchase decisions as well as enhance their experience. Therefore you need to mobilize and channelize your store employees and harness their potential to deliver a superior shopping experience. Investing in training your store employees is essential to the success of your brand.

  1. Providing value added services

More is less in the new retail mantra. The modern day customers are demanding and how. They seek more channels for shopping, more choices of products and expect more value for the money they spend. Though this seems to be a challenging situation, you can convert it into an opportunity by incentivizing your customers with value added services for purchasing from the store. This is like an extra layer of customer service that will go a long way in compelling customers to come back to the store. Simple service options like offering to home deliver apparel after alteration or offering to take old stuff and providing cash coupons for purchasing at the store, are some techniques than can be implemented.

  1. Tendering convenience and reducing time

There seem to be a few specific attributes for in-store layouts that have been tried, tested, and proven successful. Some of these attributes include speed, convenience, cleanliness, and product selection. In today’s fast-paced world, where customers expect immediate assistance and instant gratification, making it easy and quick for customers to find their products or information, or providing them with different payment options for convenience and reducing their wait time at check-out queues, can significantly  enhance your in-store customer experience. Using innovative retail technologies can allow you to add these capabilities to your retail stores.

  1. Rewarding regular customers

You must appreciate the loyalty your customers have towards your offline retail business and reward them. Customer relationship management and loyalty programs with attractive reward schemes are proven methods to enhance the brand-customer relationships. The more you reward, the more your customers will come back to buy from you, resulting into a profit churning cycle for your business while offering a superior experience to your customers. Further, these loyal customers would be your brand advocates who in-turn would use their word of mouth to bring new customers.