How retailers can leverage O2O effectively!

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The O2O concept is not new, rather it has been a buzzword for a few years now but in the last couple of years this concept has started gaining importance. In simple words O2O means online-to-offline where online channels are used to drive customers to the offline stores. The main aspect here however is to make this experience flow between the virtual and the physical channels seamless and impressive.

Below are three ways how retailers can use their existing resources to leverage O2O effectively.

Brick and mortar stores: By treating stores not just as sales channels but also as distribution centers, retailers can leverage their store network to satisfy customer needs by using store level inventory to deliver orders to customers’ homes as well as for click-and collect orders. With these new fulfillment options enabled by the store, consumers can click, collect and return goods as per their convenience. Modern day customers are demanding a better combination of value, convenience and experience and brands who strike the right balance between delivering great product value and offering superior customer experience and convenience will emerge as customer favorites.

Combination of channels: About a few of years ago retailers went about developing websites and mobile applications to expand their presence and some retailers also shifted to an online-only presence without having any offline stores since the trend seemed like the customer was increasingly going ‘digital’. Moreover running and managing brick-and-mortar stores were seen as an expensive and time consuming affair. But the modern day retailers have realized the need to go ‘omni-channel’ i.e. seamlessly integrating both their online and offline channels to enable customers to research, purchase, earn and burn loyalty points, and return, across channels. Brands focusing on getting their omni-channel right will definitely win the customer experience race.

Data Management: In order to get it right in omni-channel retailing, retailers need to manage their customers and inventory across channels. As customers randomly switch between channels while shopping it is imperative for retailers to ensure that the customer demands are satisfied, irrespective of the channel they choose. Here is where data management will help. Having insightful customer data such as past buying patterns and purchasing history, as well as accurate information of the product inventory and stock, and having all this available in near real-time will allow retailers to be proactive towards managing demands across channels effectively and thus mitigating chances of lost sales. Moreover profiling customers will also enable retailers to create and execute targeted promotions and campaigns to spike customer’s interest in the brand and thus boost sales.

The 3 important ways POS data can be used

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The modern day point-of-sale (POS) has evolved to become more than just a transaction processing tool. Technology has advanced since the original cash till, and today, the POS has business benefiting features that retailers can really use across processes. Let’s focus on one of the most important benefits of the POS which provides value in intelligence and decision making – data collection.

While most retailers over the last few years have started collecting data at the POS, it’s those who are actually processing this data in the right way and drawing insights to enhance their businesses are getting ahead in the retail arena. Below are 3 important aspects of POS data and how it can be used.

Inventory and stock optimization:
When the POS is used to record data about inventory, it enables retailers to stay on top of stock levels thus making it easier to track items — from ordering through the point of sale (and even returns). This further aids in better inventory forecasting, purchasing, and this is also useful in retail marketing decisions. Some of modern retail POS software provide some important features related to inventory such as conducting inventory counts, managing returns, automating re-order points, checking stock levels at stores, among others. Analyzing the inventory data collected at the POS can enable retailers to have the right product at the right time.

Enhancing customer experience:
The POS software can be used to collect customer information while registering customers, look-up already registered customers, capture their feedback, track the frequency of their visit to the store, and also monitor their ticket size, the kind and quantity of products they generally purchase. All this data can be processed to draw powerful insights to analyze shopper behavior and their buying patterns thus allowing retailers to personalize customer experience along with having the right inventory at the store. Further, the information can also be fed-back to the store-staff at the POS to enable cross/up selling. Also, having the inventory data will allow the store associates to proactively let shoppers know about the availability of certain products. These efforts can enhance the overall customer experience.

Improving staff performance:
The POS software can be used to collect data related to sales staff. Some of the valuable metrics in addition to total sales could be basket size in-terms of price and quantity, walk-ins converted to registered customers, customers issue resolutions, and so on. The data can then be processed to learn about employee performance and understand the areas where improvements are required in terms of training and also recognizing the achievements of the store employees. In addition to this, factoring in the staff to sales ratio is an essential parameter to decide about the staffing needs for the store.

5 Festive things retailers should do to relish a successful shopping season.

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It’s time for the festive holiday season once again, and for a retailer, this should only mean one thing: it is time to ramp up the planning and implementation of processes. The festive season is the biggest shopping period of the year, and for many retail businesses, festive shopping can be the opportunity to really boost their sales. It goes without saying that retail owners will do their best to rise to the occasion and add that extra bling to their business. In-order to help retail companies ring in higher festive shopping sales, here are a few simple things that need to be done.

  1. Festive displays – Ensuring the displays, those at the window and in-store, shop layouts, online websites, and mobile apps are aligned with the theme of the festive season, and are attention grabbing, enticing consumers to at least take a look. Once they peek, the merchandising and product displays should be able to hook the shoppers and lure them to take further actions. At the brick-and-mortar store level, elements like lights, signage, and props can be used whereas on e-commerce sites and mobile apps, color theme, banners and images can be used to bring that festive look.
  2. Festive merchandise – Merchandise and products need to have the flavor of the festive season. As such, having limited edition merchandise for the festive season or running attractive offers on certain merchandise exclusively during the festive season is sure to spike interest amongst shoppers. In some cases, even planning and arrangement of merchandise on the shelves with some festive touch can be good enough for consumers to notice.
  3. Festive inventory – To ensure that shoppers are able to get the desired products in their preferred quantities and time-frames that they are looking for as well as to reduce the out of stock situations, retail owners must plan their festive inventories right. Not only that, they should keep a track of the stock turnover and order new inventory accordingly, keeping it ready to replenish stocks without delays. In some cases, it may be advisable to have additional stocks in order to avert no stock situations. Using techniques like ‘endless aisle’, retailers can avert lost sale situations when the inventory is not obtainable at the store.
  4. Festive support – If retailers are expecting shoppers to pour in large numbers especially during peak and rush hours, they need to hire additional staff not only at the store, but also at the call center or online support to handle such situations. This would ensure that adequate number of associates are available to assist customers in such situations. In addition to this, having extra point-of-sale (POS) counters for check-out, using handled/mobile POS devices for billing can help forestall long queues. Also, retail owners should manage their websites and apps well so that they load and update quickly despite heavy traffic. All this will ensure that shoppers experience no lags and reduced wait times warding off situations of cart abandonment.
  5. Festive offers – In the festive season, shoppers look forward most for the umpteen discounts and promotions that retail brands offer. Festive discounts and promotions are a norm now and most of the retailers run various marketing campaigns to attract customers. Thus, it is important for retail businesses to offer more relevant and personalized promotions that will entice shoppers. Using cross-selling and up-selling techniques would further benefit both customers and retailers.

Retail and the importance of integration

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Operating an e-commerce website should not be considered as a separate and isolated business practice instead it is an extension to the retailer’s physical presence that helps drive sales and improve the bottom line. More often than not, it is the inability of retailers to understand the necessity of integrating their physical stores with their e-commerce website or marketplaces, which could cost them dearly in terms of sales, revenue, and clientele.

E-commerce websites, if implemented efficiently could help increase footfalls at the physical stores by enabling retailers to implement newer and innovative strategies such as Click and Collect, Click and Deliver among others. However, operating an e-commerce website in isolation cannibalizes their own physical stores. There’s a reason why most of the e-commerce and online market players make losses despite of clocking healthy sales. To improve the online sales, retailers often indulge in offering hefty discounts and free deliveries, without realizing that it causes the overall sales to take a hit. They should realize that to compete with marketplaces and e-commerce giants, they are not needed to have a price war with the existing players. Indulging in a price war might increase the number of visitors to the website but it also makes customers search for newer avenues where they can find the desired product at a lower price.

Retailers should rather focus on customer loyalty, inventory management, assortment planning, promotions planning and in-store shopping experience which can certainly be done by integrating the e-commerce website with the physical stores. Integrating the two helps in getting real time updates regarding customers, sales and inventory, while allowing the retailers to come up with innovative business strategies. For instance, retailers can implement click and collect that could increase the chances of cross selling and upselling along with serving the aforementioned purposes. This in turn would help retailers in improving the bottom line while being on the right path of growth that ensures sustainability and scalability.

In most cases, cannibalizing can have catastrophic repercussions on the overall performance of the business. It is better to research on the possible outcomes of having an e-commerce website along with preparing an efficient plan to integrate it with the physical stores using the right technology, such as ETP Connect. This being done, there does not exist the minutest possibility of missing out on the advantages of going omni-channel.

Why managing inventory the right way matters?

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Technology has completely transformed the way people make purchases. From online marketplaces to brick-and-mortar stores, retailers tend to implement innovative measures to better cater to the needs of customers. They incorporate promotion planning, customer analytics, and mobile payments to enhance the shopping experience. But, one thing that forms the backbone of retailing is somehow neglected in the entire retail chain. Yes, we are talking about inventory.

Managing inventory is not just a single task encompassing certain limited activities; it is a process that involves some complex calculations such as sell through rate, inventory turnover ratio, GMROI among others. It is an uphill task to perform the aforementioned calculations, which in turn makes it difficult for retailers to manage their inventory. Retailers require a tool that bridges the gap between brick-and-mortar stores and marketplaces, and provides them with a single, simple, and holistic view of the inventory.

One such powerful tool is ETP Connect – a robust, multifunctional, and comprehensive tool that connects the brick-and-mortar stores with the ecommerce sites and marketplaces. It provides real time updates to the stores and head office of the retailers about the purchases being made both offline and online. Whenever a purchase is made through website or marketplaces, ETP Connect routes the information to the head office, where the designated authority can view the immediate effect on the inventory in real time.

Also, since retailers get access to real time data, it simplifies their task of computing complex inventory calculations, thus enabling them to take timely decisions to further speed up their entire retailing process. The effects of this are manifested in the form of satisfactory customer experiences and a robust bottom line.

ETP Connect is a one stop solution for leading retailers to end their inventory management woes, by enabling them to better plan their business strategies. It also allows retailers to have a unified view of customers, endless aisle, and features such as Click and Collect, and Click and Deliver. Put an end to all your retail woes by implementing a futuristic and powerful ETP Connect and embrace the omni-channel transformation the right way.

10 Things to look for while replacing your legacy retail systems

Today’s retail consumer is smarter, tech-savvier, and extremely demanding than ever. Not only is she shopping across online and offline channels, but they also expect to have a unified, splendid experience as they switch between channels. They expect retailers to offer the choicest deals on the finest products at the best prices and to fulfill orders in the speediest and the most affordable manner possible. Phew! Those are some very high, almost back-breaking expectations that most retailers cannot meet using their legacy retail systems.

To fulfill the stringent demands of modern consumers, retailers need to equip their businesses with a new-age, robust retail solution that is scalable and dynamic enough to manage customers, inventory as well as valuable business data across multiple stores and touchpoints. It may seem like a difficult task at first; but with the right retail solutions replacing their conventional legacy systems, retailers can cakewalk themselves through this.

Also, it is something retailers will need to achieve if they wish to stay in business. Retailers need to bear in mind the following 10 things while replacing their legacy retail systems:

1. Start with the customer
Focus on who you are overhauling your retail management system for – the customer. Discern their expectations from an ideal shopping experience; and then choose a system with features that can help deliver that experience.

2. Solution mapping for business
Define the project/business objectives clearly. Map the deliverables of the new solution with the business needs and goals set. This will help in setting priorities right to successfully find and deploy the right solution for your business.

3. Make it a gradual process
Break down the process into batches if the prospect of launching a new retail management system across the entire operation seems overwhelming. For instance, rolling out the new system to a few stores before moving on to other locations allows the enterprise to ease into the new solution and keeps the project from becoming overwhelming.

4. Be wary of probable drawbacks
Before signing up for a shiny new system, think about how to transition users to the new solution. Is it easy to understand or would it be necessary to invest resources in training? Is it customizable? Would it be necessary to modify existing workflows? Can the new system integrate with other solutions that the business is already using? These are just some of the questions you should answer before deciding on a new system.

5. Get organized
Replacing the legacy retail management system needs a process that is best fit for your business. Set up a procedure that can keep the implementation on track.

6. Bring in the specialist
Have in-house experts research, evaluate, and deploy a new retail management system, or consult with third party experts who can assist in all phases of the project. Tap into their technical knowledge and expertise to make smarter decisions throughout the process.

7. Choose a system with robust inventory capabilities
Inventory is the building block of any retail business. It is also one of the most challenging aspects to manage at company-wide stock levels. The vast majority of multi-store retailers specifically look for cross-channel inventory management capabilities in their new POS to streamline inventory management.

8. Embrace new technology with open arms
Try to find the most forward looking innovations in retail technology that are right for the business.

9. List the “must haves”
Create a “must have” list of features and capabilities that are absolutely needed versus the “nice to haves,” to avoid ending up with a beast of a project.

10. Test, test, test
Thoroughly test the retail management system to ensure that it works right for your business.

How long should the process take? Wood advises retailers to allocate six weeks to for the search as “this is the average length of time companies are able to find a replacement software in.”

 http://www.capterra.com/point-of-sale-software/user-research

Omni-Channel Fulfilment Is The Biggest Retail Challenge

Fulfilling the demands of cross-channel operations is the biggest challenge for retail businesses. According to a recent study that involved 400 retail CEOs across the globe, failing to meet omni-channel demand and being unable to sustain ‘brick and mortar’ sales was the most significant business impediment, cited by 42 per cent of respondents.

The cost of fulfilling orders across channels has increased for 67 per cent of retailer business.

Fulfilling customer returns from orders in-store and online was the biggest challenge, 76 per cent, with 71 per cent of retailers citing it as the most expensive aspect of fulfilling orders.

The research also showed that only 29 per cent retailers consider themselves to be multi-channel, while 26 per cent say having shipping options was very important to meeting customer expectations.

Globally, meeting omni-channel expectations of customers was the biggest priority for the future. It was also the biggest challenge, with 35 per cent citing failing to meet the demands as the biggest concern, and 84 per cent saying they could not currently fulfil omni-channel demand profitably.

The cost of fulfilment, especially returns, was cited as the most expensive aspect of omni-channel operations.

Chief executives surveyed are investing an average of 29 per cent of capital expenditure this year on improving omni-channel fulfilment capabilities.

Globally, CEOs are more upbeat about long-term growth as opposed to growth in the near-term, with most expressing rising confidence in revenue growth over the next 12 months compared to last year.

Pop-Up Retail: Understanding The Value Of Opportunities

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The impressive growth of pop-up retail can be seen in the fact that it was a zero dollar industry in 2003 but flourished into an 8 billion dollar industry in 2013. Pop-up continues to drive innovation and offer several strategic opportunities thus adding a new dimension to retail.

Some of the strategic opportunities presented by pop-up retail:
1. Retailers can target a niche audience.
2. Chance to experiment with an economic alternative to full-scale retail set-up.
3. Allow retailers to test new products, concepts, and markets.
4. Derive valuable consumer insights economically and with minimum inventory.
5. Retailers can create buzz and imprint their products on the customers’ minds.
6. Tap into “massclusivity” and stimulate consumer curiosity with elements of surprise and urgency.
7. Clear old inventory and stock.
8. Aggressively promote merchandise around a finite duration of time such as season, festival or holiday.
9. Create a learning center for customer

Retailers have been quick to explore the popup retailing concept:
– In 2003, Target pioneered the pop-up model with a 1,500 sq.ft. store in New York City that for showcasing designer Isaac Mizrahi’s women’s clothing over five weeks.
– Nike created a Runner’s Lounge in Vancouver with free massages, snacks, drinks, and the opportunity to test their new line of shoes designed exclusively for running.
– Collaborating with global brands – Adidas, Levi’s and Sony Ericsson, MTV promoted limited edition apparel and high-tech electronics by setting up pop-up stores in German cities for a week at a time.
– Exploring the idea of a traveling pop-up store, Gap fashioned a school bus with 60’s themed apparel and accessories.
– E-commerce retailer, Bluefly.com opened a brick-and-mortar store in New York to unload slow-moving stock in a temporary boutique.

To set-up a successfully running pop-up store or site, retailers need to employ the right pop-up technology. Web-based point-of-sale (POS) and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) integrated with customer data and inventory management tools using the right retail software will enable the pop-up store staff or self-serve kiosks to answer customer queries and access real-time information about product availability and provide superior customer experience. Retailers must ensure strong security measures at the pop-up locations for protecting transaction data going across the network while providing connectivity.