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Aug 01

7 Ways to Create In-Store Experiences That Drive Traffic and Sales

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Vend

Question: are you planning to bring anything new to the in-store experience? If your answer is “no,” then brace yourself. The coming years could be rough for your retail business.

Why? Because competition in the retail industry is fiercer than ever. Between ecommerce sites and subscription services, consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to where they spend their time and money.

To stay competitive, you need to give them compelling reasons to come down to your store and shop.

Looking for ways to do just that? Below are 7 tips and examples to get you started.

1. Have each associate go from being a “salesperson” to being a consultant, expert, or even friend

This TIME article said it best: the retail worker of the future is “cool, charismatic, and better paid.”

It’s good to have the in-store technology and other bells and whistles, but don’t lose sight of the fact that your front-line employees are the biggest and most important creators of the in-store experience.

Any retailer that wants to stay competitive needs to step up their game when it comes to staff hiring and development. It’s no longer enough to train employees on your products and store policies — these things are just the bare minimum.

You also need to train them to relate better to shoppers. Your associates should have the ability to connect with customers in a memorable way. This often means shifting from being a “salesperson” to being an expert, consultant, or even friend.

Need an example? Freelance writer and content strategist Alexandra Sheehan recalls an interaction she saw between one of her friends and the associates from a tuxedo shop. Here’s how it went down:

“One of my friends was getting married in a couple of months and stopped by the store where he and his groomsmen were getting their tuxedos,” she wrote. “He was greeted by name and with a cold beer. Handshakes and hugs all around.”

“When we left, I turned to my friend and asked, ‘Do you know them?’ He said, ‘Yeah, they’re helping me with my tux.’”

“Their entire relationship was forged on a transaction, a customer-brand interaction. But it was authentic. I’m not in the market for a tux, but if I were, I’m sure that’d be my first stop.”

Consider the above example when you’re hiring or training your associates. Ask yourself, how can you and your staff uplevel your relationships with your customers? If your customers still see you and your employees as “salespeople,” what can you do to change their perception?

Find the answers to these questions and use them to reinvigorate your staffing and customer service strategies.

2. Let guests have some hands-on fun

Are you allowing your customers to experience your products or are those items just sitting inside boxes on a shelf? If it’s the latter, then it’s high time to mix things up. Figure out how you can present your merchandise in unique and experiential ways.

The Game Chest at the Del Amo Fashion Center is doing a great job at this. Founded by three local moms, The Game Chest combines board games with toys and allows guests to have hands-on fun with their products.

A lot of their toys are openly displayed so children can literally play with large train sets and blocks in-store. The folks at the store also offer toy demos so customers can try them before buying. Prefer to rent toys? The Game Chest has a rental service, too.

And for board or card game enthusiasts, they have a special area in the store with tables and chairs where people can play. Events such as classes and tournaments also take place in the store.

Another retailer that’s encouraging hands-on fun is kids’ apparel store, Gymboree. The branch at the Del Amo Fashion Center has an area where kids can color and draw. This helps the children stay occupied while parents shop.

Now it’s your turn. Can you ideate and test ways to promote hands-on fun in your store? Perhaps you can allow customers to play with your products. Or maybe you can promote activities that keep the little ones busy. Find what works and see how shoppers react. 

3. Make sure your physical and digital stores work together

If you have an online store (and you totally should), see to it that your ecommerce site works hand in hand with your physical location(s). Remember, modern consumers are using multiple channels and devices in their shopping journeys. Aside from shopping in-store, they’re using their phones, computers, and tablets to research and buy products.

For this reason, it’s important to not just have a presence on different channels, but you need to enable customers to shop across physical and digital channels seamlessly. In other words, you need to be an omnichannel retailer. Here’s how:

Implement click-and-collect

Click-and-collect, a service that lets shopper buy online and pick-up in-store, isn’t just convenient for customers, it also drives traffic and sales in your physical stores. This past holiday season is a testament to that, with nearly a third of shoppers opting for in-store pickup. Not only that but according to the ICSC, 69 percent of shoppers who went in-store to pick up their orders ended up buying additional items.

So how exactly can you implement click-and-collect? The first step is to have a centralized retail solution that lets you manage orders, sales, and customers from one system. Or, if you have separate systems for your physical and digital stores, then you need to find a way to integrate the two programs.

Whatever the case, talk to you solutions provider and ask them about their omnichannel retail offerings.

Bring your website in-store

Consider enhancing the brick-and-mortar experience by allowing shoppers to browse your online shop in your physical location. This can be a great offering, especially if you have multiple stores or warehouses and don’t carry all your stock in one place.

Enabling people to browse your ecommerce site in-store lets them see products or variants that you may not have on-site. If they see something they like, you can just have your associates place an order for them and ship it to their home.

nike2

Have a look at what Nike is doing. In some of its stores, the sportswear retailer has large touch-screens so customers can browse Nike.com and order products on the spot.

4. Redefine the checkout experience

Long lines at checkout are big a turn-off and can result in customers abandoning their purchases. Research has found that “Americans will abandon a checkout line and leave a store without making a purchase after eight minutes of waiting in a checkout line. British shoppers won’t even wait around that long. They’ll walk out after just six minutes.”

Don’t let long lines affect your bottom line. If you’re dealing with lengthy queues at checkout, take immediate steps to speed things up. Below are a few suggestions:

Always be ready with additional registers 

Are long lines slowing you down? Open new registers and make sure you always have enough cashiers on staff to serve shoppers.

To make things even easier, consider using an iPad as your POS. That’s how The Borough Kitchen (a homeware retailer) combats long lines in-store. “At peak times…we can add a new till instantly by switching on another iPad. That just wouldn’t work with a traditional till system,” says founders David Caldana & Justin Kowbel.

Another benefit of using an iPad is that it lets you untether the checkout process. Rather than being stuck behind the cash wrap, you can quickly take the checkout process to the customer and ring up sales from anywhere in the store.

Consider in-app checkout

Looking for a more innovative and tech-forward way to combat long checkout lines? Have a look at what Sam’s Club is doing.

screenshot-2016-12-30-10-30-02

The warehouse store has a mobile app called Scan and Go which lets customers scan and pay for their purchases within the app itself. All they need to do is use their phone’s camera to scan product barcodes, pay for their purchases using the Scan and Go app, and show their e-receipt to a Sam’s Club associate on their way out.

No doubt this the app makes shopping easy and convenient, and it hints at what the future of in-store checkout might look like. Granted, this solution isn’t right for every retailer (especially if you don’t have a mobile app or an active user base) but it’s worth keeping on your radar.

5. Provide “retailtainment.”

As we mentioned in our 2017 Retail Trends and Predictions report, we’re expecting “retailtainment” to pervade the industry. Retailtainment, as the name suggests, is the fusion of retail and entertainment — an effort on the part of retailers to provide customers with fun, unique experiences that elevate shopping above anything it’s previously been.

What kind of retailtainment should you offer? That depends on your store and customers. In some cases, bringing in celebrities or industry professionals could do the trick. 

Last year, for example, Walmart stores in Little Rock Arkansas brought in professional bullfighters to sign autographs in-store. The stunt not only attracted a ton of foot traffic, but it got Walmart plenty of coverage from the local press.

Retailtainment could also mean giving people something they don’t see every day. Consider what clothing store New York & Co. did. In 2015, the NY&C store in Cerritos, California used real people instead of mannequins in their window displays.

The attraction got passers-by to stop and actually check out the store, because, let’s face it, how often do you see real-life “mannequins”?

6. Promote a sense of community

If it makes sense for your business and customers, find ways to bring people together in your store. Invite customers and community members to events where they can learn new things, interact with like-minded individuals, or simply get a break from staring at their computer or phone all day.

A great example of a retailer that’s mastered community building is The Workroom, a craft store in Toronto. In addition to selling fabric and other supplies, The Workroom also holds sewing classes and workshops. These events instill a sense of community in people and they’re one of the reasons why shoppers keep coming back. 

“One of the biggest things for me was the community aspect,” says owner Karyn Valino. “[I wanted to have] a place where people who are crafty can meet other people and be surrounded by stuff that inspires them.”

Do note that building a community isn’t just about holding events. Community building requires cultivating real relationships with customers and communicating with them on a regular basis.

At The Workroom, Karyn says they gather information from customers who purchase their products and attend their events. They also send newsletters regularly to keep people in the loop and to gather feedback.

According to Karyn, doing these things helped her get to know customers better. “It really helps to have such a close relationship with my customers. I know exactly what they like, and because of that, I’m able to make more educated decisions regarding purchasing, planning classes, and testing new ideas.

7. Create immersive experiences

Want your store to attract shoppers and make a long-lasting impression? Create a store environment that envelops customers and grabs their full attention.

Some retailers are doing this through technology. Shoe retailer TOMS, for instance, deployed virtual reality (VR) headsets in 100 of its stores to enable shoppers to experience the brand in an entirely unique way.

TOMS’ in-store VR program allowed customers to take a virtual trip to Peru where they would get to see the company’s One for One giving campaign in action. In doing so, TOMS wasn’t just able to drive awareness towards its charitable efforts, but it also gave people a brand experience they won’t soon forget.

Another retailer doing a great job with immersive experiences is IKEA. Last year, the homeware retailer opened The Dining Club, a temporary pop-up store in which guests were given a chance to run their own restaurant.

According to Ikea,”diners will orchestrate an intimate foodie experience in a homely kitchen environment to mimic an actual dinner party, but one where diners can host many more guests than usual.”

Guests are taken into The Dining Club where they cooked meals and entertained friends. It was a whole new experience that allowed them to enjoy good food and company (while being surrounded by IKEA products at the same time).

Commit to reinventing the in-store experience

What’s the best way to take your store’s experience to the next level? The short answer is it depends.

Do your research. Ask yourself — or even better, ask your customers — what would make shoppers come into your stores? Do you need to offer omnichannel services? Should you work on community building? The only way to find out is to get to know your customers and try new things.

Will it be easy? Not likely. But doing so is critical if you want to thrive in the months and years to come.


 


Aug 01

A Quick Guide to Getting Started with eCommerce

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Unleashed

Grow your business by strengthening its eCommerce capability. eCommerce is one of the most rapidly growing ways to sell products to customers in most countries globally.

To be successful, you’ll need to have a good business structure, a quality product that’s in demand, a business plan, and effective marketing. Follow these pointers to help set up your business in the right way and to make sure you’ve got the best product for your new online platform.

Setting your business up for success

Before you launch online, consider whether your current business name is fit for purpose. Online trading reaches a much wider audience. Your business name should make sense in the setting that you’re selling. Research business names and website domains early on. Having a unique and readily identifiable business name can be critical to your success.

Moving into the online world can complicate things legally. For many businesses, it means scaling up sales and that necessitates a rethink of your business structure, legals and tax planning. If moving online means you’re likely to be turning over a lot more, consider talking to an accountant. You might need to register for GST or VAT. Crucially, if your store is available to customers from other countries, you’ll need to consider cross-border issues.

Having the right legal structure also counts. It affects everything from how your business pays tax to whose assets can be seized if things don’t turn out so well. Some areas and products need government consents, licences, or permits to operate. Make sure you do your research before you start selling online. Most government departments set out clear processes and forms for applying for registration before you get started.

Getting your shop in order – products, market, and suppliers

Have a product, a plan, and a niche

Your business’ success depends on having the right product (procured from quality suppliers) and being sold in a way that advantages you compared to your competitors – so do your research! Be sure to evaluate your product, target market, and your suppliers.

Market and evolve

When you’re up and running, make sure you maintain a healthy marketing and self-analysis programme. You could undertake this from data that your online platform collects, from your suppliers, and/or from search engine optimisation results.

Evaluate and adapt

From time to time, your business will want to check in with suppliers, customers, and your business targets and key performance indicators. It is important to have a clear roadmap for your business so that you know what success looks like and how you’ll know when you are approaching it. If your business is not going to plan, consider revisiting the plan or pivoting your strategy in a commercially intelligent way.

Picking out a platform

Many businesses who expand into the eCommerce space jump to this step first without thinking about the practical aspects and working through a business plan. Those steps are crucial, even if you have a fantastic idea for an online store.

When comparing eCommerce platforms, it can be easy to skip the features and zero in on price. Price is important, but features can make or break the transition online. A crucial feature is integration support; finding a platform that integrates with your accounting software and online inventory management platform will save you and your staff countless hours in the long run.

Finally, ensure your chosen platform is likely to be scalable as your business grows. Even if you don’t need a logistics, fulfilment or online inventory management solution now, there’s a decent chance you’ll want to be able to integrate with a shipping or online inventory management platform if your business scales significantly.


 


Aug 01

B2B Retailers versus B2C Retailers: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Unleashed

You may have come across two terms which are often confused – Business-to-Business (B2B) retail and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) retail. In this article, we outline the key features of each model so that you know the differences between the two.


The Basics

The B2C model is possibly the business model most widely understood by the general public. The B2C model sells finished products and services directly to consumers, while B2B models sell products to other businesses.

The Purchasing Process

There are a few fundamental differences between the two models when it comes to purchasing products. Consumers buy products or services for personal use, whereas business buyers purchase products or services for use in their companies, whether as a component to help them produce their finished piece or even for use in the office.

Additionally, the B2B purchasing process can be much more complicated than the B2C purchasing process. For example, decision making groups in B2B purchasing can include members from anywhere from technical, business, financial and operational departments, depending on the type of purchase. Moreover, the person selecting a product may not have responsibility for making the final purchasing decision. A large capital purchase, for example, may require authorisation at board level.

In contrast, the B2C purchasing process involves just the buyer. For example, when people go to the convenience store to pick up a drink, it’s a straightforward process involving only the buyer.

Payment and Prices

In B2C models, each consumer will likely pay the same price for a product as every other consumer. However, in B2B purchasing some customers may be charged at a different rate for the same product. This may occur, for example, if some customers agree to place large orders or negotiate special terms in order to get a reduced price to other customers.

Payment methods between the two models can also differ radically. For instance, B2C buyers traditionally select products and pay for them at the point of sales using payment mechanisms such as credit or debit cards, or cash. In B2B transactions, buyers select products, place an order and arrange delivery through an agreed logistics channel. Customers do not pay at the time of the order but receive an invoice which they settle within agreed payment terms.

Breadth of Audience

The final difference between B2B and B2C models is the types and size of consumer audiences that each model aims to target. For example, B2C retailers often strive to reach a broadly defined group of people – anyone from sports fans to millennials who are into music or kids in general. B2C retailers have a larger target audience as a whole.

By comparison, B2B retailers have a much narrower target audience – there are usually a set number of buyers, with a pretty straightforward profile. For example, a B2B retailer might only target ad agency owners or finance VPs at tech start-ups.


 


Aug 01

Branded Reporting for Advisory Success

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Spotlight Reporting

Successful marketing is key to raising brand awareness and growing your advisory services. By ensuring that clients receive a professionally branded report and a tailored advisory experience at each meeting, you will enhance the overall perception of your brand to the wider business community and are more likely attract new clients.

A modern looking report cover design is an essential tool for giving your clients an amazing first impression and professional experience at every client meeting. Our new range of report covers and customisation options are designed to put you firmly in control of the report design.

Choose the new modern design and tailor it to match your brand by customising the colours and logos. Or go even further by uploading your own custom background to show off your firm’s style and flair. Make every client report sing your firm’s praise from start to finish.

We love how our beautiful reports and forecasts help enable your client meetings, but we want you to take all the credit! All our reporting tools have a white-labelling feature - at no extra cost, add your logo to look less like Spotlight and more like your firm. Even better news, you can now add multiple logos to your report cover, giving you the option to add your client’s logo onto every report.

With our new report covers and a customisation options, you can create unique reports fast and scalable! Check out our 2-min training demo and then view and download the recording for our 30-min live webinar to explore how you can effortlessly customise your reports for your clients.


 


Aug 01

Cash Registers vs. POS Systems: How to Tell Which Is Right for Your Retail Biz

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Vend

Most thriving retail businesses process many transactions on a daily basis, sometimes thousands.

To handle that kind of volume, brick-and-mortar businesses need to arm themselves with the tools — both hardware and software — to keep operations running smoothly.

The heart of a retail business? The point-of-purchase, cash register or point-of-sale (POS) system. While many may use those terms interchangeably, they’re not one and the same. In fact, there are many key differences that would affect which route you go for your retail business. Let’s dive into what the traditional cash register is, what a POS system, and how they’re different — plus how you can choose which option most suits your business.

What is a cash register?

The official definition of the term “cash register” is “a business machine that usually has a money drawer, indicates the amount of each sale, and records the amount of money received.”

A cash register logs transactions that occur in your store, creating a record of the money coming in and going out. It can also calculate and add taxes, generate receipts, and offer basic sales tracking. Many major grocery stores and department stores use cash registers.

The cash register was first invented back in 1879 by whiskey, wine and cigar merchant James Ritty as a preventative measure towards employee theft. And while we’re willing to bet employee theft was a lot more rampant back then, it’s still a concern for retailers. In fact, employee theft is the second-most leading cause of shrinkage for retailers, according to data by the National Retail Federation.

Cash registers have come a long way since their early iterations. Now, we have electronic cash registers that you commonly see in restaurants. While a basic cash register is set up to handle cash transactions, newer ones have more robust options.

Generally speaking, cash registers are only a few hundred dollars in cost, but if you want additional functions like credit card readers, barcode scanners or scales, then you’ll need to invest in additional hardware.

What is a POS system?

Point-of-sale is defined as “of or relating to the place (such as a check-out counter) where an item is purchased.” Point-of-sale (also point-of-purchase or POS) systems are the mechanisms with which retailers and customers can execute purchases.

Basically, a POS is like a cash register on steroids: You can use it to administer cash transactions and do everything that a normal register would do, plus you can gain more detailed reporting on those transactions. A POS usually has a touchscreen interface that employees use to administer purchases.

A POS may be comprised of a few components:

  • Touchscreen device
  • Card scanner
  • Chip reader
  • Barcode scanner
  • Computer
  • Server (the Cloud)

POS systems were introduced in the 1970s, when cash registers evolved into computerized POS terminals which could perform additional functions, like credit card processing and basic inventory management. They gained popularity and became commonplace in retail environments in the ’80s and ’90s. According to Transparency Market Research, the global point-of-sale industry stood generated $36.86 billion in revenue in 2013, 34% of which claimed by retailers.

Over the years, the POS system has become more advanced. Now, many POS terminals integrate with other retail business tools, such as inventory management, accounting or warehouse management software. Some are robust enough to act as a retail management command center that handles everything sales, inventory and customer management.

POS systems are essential for multi-channel sellers, as they can track and sync data across multiple store locations, warehouses and/or fulfillment centers. They provide a centralized location for data which allows retailers to stay on top of various channels and stores from a single platform. Boston Retail Partner’s 2015 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey supports this outlook. According to the study, there will be a 663% increase in retailers with a single commerce platform in 2019.

POS systems also have features for a number of other components to your retail business, including:

  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Gift cards
  • Marketing
  • Personalization
  • Data for informed business decisions
  • Automation
  • Accessible from the Cloud for mobile business owners

What is a mobile POS?

Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) are an even more recent evolution of the modern cash register. Predictably, the main difference here is that a POS is not mobile, whereas an mPOS is. This is helpful for sellers who have multiple locations or frequently sell at events or markets, but it’s also useful for single-location brick-and-mortars.

mPOS systems make associates mobile, just like your customers. So, rather than forcing a customer to make their way to the point-of-purchase, the point-of-purchase can come to them. Anytime you can reduce friction along the path to purchase, you’re helping your odds at closing the sale. In fact, more than half of UK retailers rated mPOS as the most important in-store technology for consumers in 2014. They’re also typically smaller in size than a standard POS, which supports mobility.

It’s fairly common for an mPOS to have a monthly subscription fee.

Cash register vs. POS system: What are the differences?

Cash register vs. POS system: What are the differences?
Cash register POS
Price Generally less expensive; $100–$800 Around $1,200+ upfront plus $1,000/year in fees, but you typically get more bang for your buck.
Ease of use Very easy to learn and train employees to use; has basic functions. Modern POS systems are as user-friendly and intuitive as most mobile apps. But for users who need support, some vendors provide email, phone, and online customer service and training.
Reporting Basic sales reporting. Multiple reporting options; improved accuracy. Some POS systems also come with sophisticated retail analytics that track sales, inventory, customers, and more.
Biggest advantages Long-lasting; reliable. Robust, grows with your business, offers much more features and functionality.
Biggest drawbacks Limited in functionality; archaic. Typically comes with subscription fees and may require regular software updates.

How to decide between a cash register or POS system

Choosing between a cash register, POS and mPOS for your retail business is like any other major business decision: The right answer completely depends on your unique needs. So, while there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, there are a few considerations and questions that can guide you through the process:

  • What are my biggest pain points NOW? What’s the cause of those pain points?
  • Which types of payment methods does my business need to be able to accept?
  • Do we need to collect tax(es) for sales? Are they all the same tax, or are there different taxes for different customers, sales, stores or products?
  • How busy is my store on average?
  • How many departments, categories and product SKUs do I need to track?
  • How many products do we carry now? How many will we carry in the future?
  • How many registers do we have or need?
  • What is my current customer loyalty program?
  • What does my staff like or dislike about our setup?
  • How do we administer receipts to our customers?

Here’s a quick summary of the steps we’ve outlined in our POS Buyer’s Guide:

1 Define the needs of your business. Refer back to that list of questions to understand what your core needs are.

2. Take note of the required hardware. This includes barcode scanners, scales, receipt printers, etc.

3. Set a budget. If you’re choosing mPOS, you’ll likely need to account for a monthly subscription fee, whereas cash registers and traditional POS may be upfront costs with occasional maintenance expenses.

4. Audit and compare POS systems. Ask other retailers in your network or the other business tools you use (accounting, inventory management, etc.) for referrals. Check sites like Capterra, Product Hunt or Merchant Maverick to see what others like/dislike about your options.

5. See the POS in action.Watch the demo videos on the POS websites and request a live demo with your top choices so you can ask more questions to a real human.

6. Get the setup right. The best POS companies will help you through this process. To reap the most benefits from your POS, you’ll want to invest time in the beginning to setting up templates, automations, workflows and other settings.

7. Make the most of your POS system. You’ve invested the time upfront to set yourself up for success, so now it’s time to use it.

What do you use in your business to administer transactions? If you’ve upgraded to a POS, which features have you benefited from the most?


 


Aug 01

How to Double Your Retail Sales: Lessons from the Gift Shop Poopsie’s

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Vend

Meet Alana Turner, the co-owner of Poopsie’s, a quirky gift shop in Galena, IL. When Alana and her co-owner took over the business in 2010, they had about 5 employees.

But Poopsie’s has grown tremendously since then. Not only have they more than doubled their annual sales, but they also have an average of 15-20 employees.

In this article, we explore how Alana and her team achieved their impressive results. Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • How investing in staff training helps their store be more successful
  • The task delegation technique they use to improve staff productivity
  • Alana’s top tips for creating shoppable displays that drive sales

Let’s get started!

Investing in additional — and better-trained — employees

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Any retailer that wants to stay competitive needs to invest in their staff. Remember, your employees are the people who are doing the selling, so if you’re looking to increase sales, start by investing in them.

Alana and the Poopsie’s team understand this, and according to her, the investments they’ve made in their workforce have significantly contributed to their success.

“Our success is for sure partly because of our well-trained staff,” she shares. “We invest a great amount of time in training our staff to be the best personal shoppers (known as ‘Poopettes’) they can be. They are one of the main reasons customers travel hours to revisit us time and time again.”

Alana says that they use “multiple layers of training” for their staff, even before their first official day. The training is also continuous, so employees are always going through some form of coaching, no matter how long they’ve been part of the company.

As for how the training is implemented, Alana tells us that each Poopette is trained by management or a subject matter expert. Their education begins with written information on Poopsie’s policies and procedures, then they move on to educational videos on selling. From there, Poopettes go through hands-on training on the sales floor, where they shadow a manager or a top-selling Poopette for a day or two.

According to Alana, they also layer on new videos and additional written information about their products and services. Managers are trained on new and hot products every day and all year round.

The task-delegation technique that improved employee efficiency

Continuing on the topic of staffing, Alana says they were able to boost the productivity of their staff by having them specialize in particular tasks.

We “decided to move away from everyone being trained to do all tasks and move towards having certain staff trained to specialize in areas,” says Alana. “For example, instead of all staff helping with receiving every day in between customers, we now have one person that does 80% of our receiving for us.”

She continues, “This has helped cut down on errors and inefficiencies in receiving, which as we all know equals lost profits, and it has allowed the sales staff to focus more on selling to customers.”

“Some other areas we have hired specifically for are: cleaning, restocking, and displays, as they were all areas consuming a lot of our sales staff’s time. We still have these Poopettes trained to sell so they can service customers if needed, but when they are in the building their main focus is their task and the sales staff covers 90% of the customers.”

Why did they decide to do it? According to Alana, they started to catch employees doing other tasks when they should have been serving the customers near them.

“It’s not that they weren’t working hard; they just weren’t focused on the customer enough for us. So we started delegating certain tasks specifically to staff to tackle and it just took off from there,” she shares.

“We still, of course, keep all staff busy between times of customers, but we are more mindful about how involved the tasks we give out are. And all the big ones are assigned to staff who are not in charge of selling that day.”

How to buy and showcase merchandise

Alana also attributed their growth to the way that they’re using their space.“Our constant focus is on how we can utilize every usable square foot of our space to best fit the needs of our customers,” she says.

Doing that involves:

Buying products their customers can fall in love with

“We put a lot of energy and effort into providing above and beyond customer service to our customers, providing unique products and services that they won’t find at Target and other familiar stores, and also in presenting our products in ways that make customers think about the items differently. 

She continues, “a lot of the buying really does just come from within or the gut as they say. I’m just blessed that I’m fairly good at it. Though I do have to spend a lot of time looking through catalogs, emails, buying shows and etc to continue to find new, trendy and exciting products for our customers.”

Presenting those products in clean and shoppable displays

According to Alana, having “fresh, new, and clean” displays are critical. “Another important tip with displays is that the best selling zone is from the waist to the forehead, so you always want to be thinking through how you are utilizing that space in each and every display. Otherwise, you are letting dollars walk out the door!”

Alana says that displays that “are more boutique in style” work best for Poopsies. She says that in most cases, their sales tend to slow when they starting “massing out” their merchandise or packing items into tight displays.

The Poopsie’s team also knows which areas turn dollars the quickest, and they see to it that those displays are always in top condition.

The final piece of advice

When asked about any words of wisdom she’d like to impart, Alana focused on having the courage to try new things and take a little risk. “With all of the technology and instant communication surrounding us today, things change faster than they ever did before. So if you can’t try new things and be willing to change and change often, you will have a hard time thriving in the current retail landscape. You can probably survive but you won’t thrive.”


 


Aug 01

How to Post on Instagram: A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by https://blog.vendhq.com

With more than 800 million active monthly users, Instagram is a social media channel of massive proportions. And, when used strategically, it can reap major benefits for your retail store.

This is a post by Alexandra Sheehan

With more than 800 million active monthly users, Instagram is a social media channel of massive proportions. And, when used strategically, it can reap major benefits for your retail store.

But knowing what to post on Instagram — and how to do it — might leave you wondering where to start. That’s we’ve created this guide for retailers, detailing how to post on Instagram (including Stories, ads, IGTV and more) and tips for making the most of the photo-sharing social media tool.

How to post a standard Instagram post

Your standard Instagram post with an image looks something like this:

Here’s how to do it:

How to post a standard photo on Instagram

1. First, you’ll want to open your Instagram app and tap on the + at the bottom of your screen. You’ll then be taken to a screen that looks like this:

Notice how the shoe is cut off? If you have a photo that isn’t square and would look better full width, you can tap on the expansion button on the lower left part of the photo, to expand the frame so your photo is full width, like this:

If you want, you can also post a gallery on Instagram, which features more than one photo. To add multiple photos, tap on the multiple images icon. You’ll then be able to select the photos that you want to include in the gallery. This is helpful if you have a new product line and want to showcase the color variants, or want to promote your latest product bundle on Instagram. 

2. Tap Next (upper right corner) to add filters to your photo.

You can also adjust edit your images within the app.

3. Once you’re happy with your image, tap Next again. Here, you can add a caption, location and tags, as well as automatically share to your connected Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

4. When you’re all finished, tap Share (upper right corner) to post the photo(s) to your store’s Instagram feed.

How to take a photo or video within Instagram

You can also take photos or videos within the app, instead of using images that you already have on your phone. This is helpful in cases such as in-store events where you’re posting out-of-pocket. Otherwise, you’ll want to have high-quality images that you’ve shot outside of the app whenever possible.

1. If you are taking a photo within Instagram, open the app and tap on PHOTO in the middle at the bottom of your screen. You should see a camera view (remember to allow Instagram permissions to access your device’s camera).

2. Hit the big circle in the middle of the screen to snap your snot, and follow the same steps as you would with the previous example, in terms of editing, tagging and posting.

If it’s a video you’re after, tap on VIDEO, to the right of PHOTO.

You’ll have to press and hold the middle button to record your video, and you can stop mid-video and then pick up at a new point without losing the footage you’ve already shot.

3. After you’ve recorded your video, you can choose filters like you would with still images.

4. Then you can tap on COVER to choose the cover image that users will see in their feed before the video begins to play. You want to choose a compelling, eye-catching frame that piques interest.

5. When you’re finished, follow the steps as you would with the standard Instagram post (tagging, adding location, writing a caption, etc.)

Here’s an example of an Instagram video posted by Tracy’s Place, a retail store in Westminster, Colorado:

Tips for posting standard Instagram photos and videos

  • In-store events, such as the example above, make for great Instagram videos. You can do these live (more on that in a bit), or record videos and edit them together for a post-event Instagram post.
  • United By Blue has multiple retail locations in New York City and Philadelphia, so they use the store-specific accounts to post regional content.
  • Lifestyle images, rather than generic white-background product photos, are more visually appealing on and suited for Instagram.
  • That being said, if you have striking or unique product photography, you can repurpose those images to use on Instagram as well.
  • Let customers know what’s new at the store.Rare Finds sells one-of-a-kind antique furniture in Denver, Colorado, so they frequently use Instagram photos to announce new arrivals, like in this gallery:
  • Use the tagging functionality to tag Influencers, brands or other accounts mentioned or featured in your post. Red Bank, New Jersey’s Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash tagged the well-known individuals and Jay and Silent Bob Instagram account in this photo:

How to post a Boomerang on Instagram

A Boomerang is a small video clip that loops. First it goes in the order it was recorded, and it then plays in reverse, sort of like if you were to rewind the video. This video loops infinitely, creating a visual that appears similar to an animated GIF.

To post a Boomerang on Instagram, you first need to download a separate app (available for Android and iOS).

1. When you’re in Instagram, about to post a new image, tap on the Boomerang  icon. This will open the Boomerang interface, which you can use to record your video.

2. To record your Boomerang, tap and hold the white circle in the middle. When you let go of the screen with your finger, the Boomerang will stop recording. You can trim the video and fix stability before tapping NEXT.

3. After recording your Boomerang, you have the option to crop the frame as needed. Once it’s at the desired length, tap on the arrow in the upper right corner.

4. Now, you can add filters, trim the overall video, and add a cover image — just as you would with any other standard Instagram photo or video.

5. When your edits are complete, tap Next to add the location, caption, tags and other settings before posting.

Tips for posting Boomerangs on Instagram

  • Make something that maybe isn’t visually appealing a little more exciting. Mystique Lingerie, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, posted this Boomerang from a booth at an event they were at. The photo wasn’t very well-lit, but the movement made the post more fun and eye-catching:
  • Likewise, you can mask smartphone photography with a Boomerang, especially if the device doesn’t have a great camera.
  • Helping Hands in Boulder, Colorado used a Boomerang to give an animated twist to their promotion announcement:

  • New York City’s Strand Book Store posted a Boomerang to have a little fun with one of the books they sell:

How to post Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are self-destructing photo and video posts that function similarly to how Snapchat works. They are located at the top of one’s feed and are visible for 24 hours from the time they were posted.

Instagram Stories also helpful for gaining followers, as they appear at the top of the Explore section, so it’s a great way for users to discover your brand — especially if you’re lucky enough to get featured in a local Instagram Stories feed. Instagram Stories has around 300 million daily users.

1. To post on Instagram Stories, you’ll have to tap on your avatar in the upper left corner or simply swipe left.

2. Select the type of Story you want to post. (e.g. Photo, Video, Boomerang, Superzoom, etc.)

3. Then, you can either tap on the white circular button to take a photo, or tap and hold to record a video. Your post will then be in your followers’ Stories feeds.

4. Tap “Send to” at the bottom right, then hit “Share” on the next screen.

Tips for posting on Instagram Stories

  • Go behind-the-scenes on your Story. Nordstrom Rack did that at one of their photoshoots:
  • At United By Blue, the local store accounts use Instagram Stories to share upcoming in-store and local events that are relevant to their brand.
  • User-generated content makes for great Instagram Stories content. Plus, it gives your customers a shout-out and others incentive to engage with your brand on Instagram: (Remember: Always ask permission before using customers’ content, otherwise you could land yourself in hot water.)
  • Post interactive polls on Instagram Stories. Maybe you use it for market research and get feedback on new product ideas, or you use it as a fun way to create engagement with your brand.
  • Unlike standard Instagram posts, you can add links to your Stories. Perhaps you link to directions to your store, or a landing page about the upcoming in-store event series you’re hosting. J.Crew uses links to promote its blog posts:
  • Make your Story a host to Instagram takeovers from local influencers in your community.
  • Use the location tag to promote your store destination.

How to post photos with tagged products on Instagram (aka shoppable posts)

Ask any social media marketing their biggest qualm about Instagram, and you’ll likely encounter a few answers revolving around the inability to link. When brands post standard Instagram pictures, videos or Boomerangs, there is no option to add a link to the content, either in the visual itself or in the caption. You can include the link in the caption, but it won’t be clickable.

But you can work around the inability to link is by making your Instagram shoppable. Here’s an example from GoPro to show what a shoppable Instagram post looks like:

Essentially, the shoppable Instagram works by allowing business pages to place virtual product tags on products so users can click directly through to the link.

Before you can post your own Instagram shot with tagged products, you’ll need to get approval for shopping on Instagram. Once that’s in place, and you’ve connected your product catalog to your account, you can tag products in your posts.

Follow the steps you would to post a standard Instagram photo and tag individuals. Using the search function when tagging, enter the name of the product you want to tag. You’ll be able to select the corresponding product, which will add a link to the page on your site and the pricing from that page.

Tips for posting tagged product photos on Instagram

  • Announce a new product or product line with tagged photos on Instagram. Invest in high-quality product photography to show them off in their best light.
  • Create a gallery that serves as a collection of products which create the whole solution. Maybe it’s an entire outfit with accessories, or all of the ingredients necessary to make a specific recipe.
  • Show off your new product or window display, and tag the products that you’re showcasing in-store.

How to post an Instagram ad

There are two ways you can advertise on Instagram: promoting a post from within Instagram or running an independent ad through the Facebook Ads Manager.

Promote a post

Tap on a standard Instagram post that you’ve already posted in the past and select Promote. Choose the business objective that you want to set for the ad; your options include Visit your website or Call or visit your business. For brick-and-mortar retailers, you may want to select the latter.

Then tap Select button text to choose from the list of call-to-action (CTA) text. You can choose from a variety of CTAs, like Learn More, Shop Now, Book Now or Contact Us. Then add the link or location (depending on the business objective you chose).

Now it’s time to choose your audience. You can customize this based on certain demographics and behaviors, or you can make use of Instagram’s suggested targeting. Tap Done.

Set the budget and length of campaign for your promoted Instagram post. Tap Next, review the details, and tap Promote to promote the Instagram post.

Run an ad

To run a full-on Instagram ad, you’ll have to go through the Facebook Ads Manager. From there, create a campaign objective. Instagram ads give you a few options:

  • Brand awareness: reach people more likely to pay attention to your ads and increase awareness for your brand
  • Reach: show your ad to the maximum number of people
  • Traffic: for clicks to your website or to the app store for your app
  • App installs: send people to the store where they can purchase your app
  • Engagement: get more people to see and engage with your post or Page. Engagement can include comments, shares, likes, event responses and offer claims
  • Video views: promote videos that show behind-the-scenes footage, product launches or customer stories to raise awareness about your brand
  • Conversions: get people to take valuable actions on your website or app, such as adding payment info or making a purchase

Then choose your targeting (or ad set) and budget. You can use custom audiences, lookalike audiences, or insights from Facebook, Instagram, Google Analytics and your POS system to help you create audiences. You can set a daily budget or a set budget for the lifetime of the campaign.

From there, you’ll have the opportunity to choose which type of Instagram ad you want to run:

  • Carousel: Multiple images, similar to a gallery. Here’s an example from Reynolds Kitchens:
  • Image: This is similar to a standard photo post. 
  • Video: This is similar to a standard video post. Here’s an example from Brandless, where they show users how to make cold-pressed coffee:
  • Slideshow: This is when multiple images are put together into a video for a slideshow-like presentation.

Finally, choose your CTA text and enter the link you want the ad to drive users to.

Tips for posting an Instagram ad

  • Showcase your customers in your ads. Instagram users are accustomed to seeing posts from their friends and family — in other words, people just like them. thredUP shares a customer testimonial, plus an image of the “real-world” person in their Instagram ad:
  • Use videos to show your product in use and prove the claims you make about it. Tesalate took this approach with their Instagram ad, which shows off how their sand-free towels work:
  • Think outside the box with creative design to promote the opening of your new store. Remember, ads are intrusive to users’ feeds. A minimal approach like the North Face example below shows a technique that they used on Facebook which could easily be repurposed on Instagram as well.
  • Check out your competitors and, more importantly, what users are commenting there. Some of the feedback on Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club’s ads are women who feel their needs are neglected. Enter Billie:

How to post on IGTV

In June 2018, Instagram announced the launch of IGTV, an “app for watching long-form, vertical video from your favorite Instagram creators.” Essentially, IGTV allows users to post video content that lasts up to one hour — much longer than the standard Instagram video post.

1. Download the independent IGTV app. While you can watch IGTV posts in the native Instagram app, you need to download the independent IGTV app (or use the web app) to post your content. You’ll also need to shoot and edit your video outside of the app.

2. Open the app to create your channel.

3. To post your first IGTV video, tap Upload video and choose the file from your device’s gallery. Your videos must be vertical and between 15 seconds and 10 minutes long.

4. Choose your video and tap Next in the upper right corner. From there, you’ll be able to change the cover image, add a title and description, and choose whether or not to automatically share the content to your account’s linked Facebook page too.

5. When that’s all complete, hit Post to share it with the world.

Tips for posting on IGTV

The feature is still relatively new, so the advantages for brands remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that IGTV brings a whole slew of untapped opportunities.

  • Extend your in-store experience. lululemon broadcasts free yoga classes, something that they also offer in-store.
  • Remember how thredUP leverages real people for social proof of their brand? Warby Parker does the same on its IGTV channel with #WearingWarber, where influencers talk about their frame and story behind their glasses.
  • Show people what’s going on in your store via live broadcast. Nordstrom at The Grove in Los Angeles shared in-store event coverage on their IGTV:

Your turn

How do you already use Instagram for your business? What works best? What plans do you have to try in the future? Let us know by sending a tweet or post on Facebook!


 


Aug 01

Is Revenue A True Predictor Of Success?

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by GoRoster

“Success.” Typically defined as: ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.’ Success means a lot of different things to different people. Success may mean wealth, or it may mean happiness.

It may mean fame, and for others it may mean power. But can revenue be a true predictor of success?

In the business world there is not right or wrong way to define success. It’s merely subjective. It is based on both the personal and the business goals that you have in place for yourself. These can vary tremendously from one person to the next. Many believe that there is in fact only one path to success, and they simply choose not to consider other patterns of thinking. In their mind, this way of thinking is what will help them to reach their end goal.

It’s all in your ability to adopt change when it comes to your current systems and process, that will help you as you carve out your route to business success. If you begin to place too much confidence in your ability to make good judgements and decisions and solely rely on old patterns of thinking, you’re giving no weight to the environmental factors surrounding you that are constantly changing.

As we all know, the costs that typically make up a business are:

  • Your fixed Costs
  • Your variable Costs
  • Your employee Costs

And then you have your little shining beacon. Your profit.

Ask yourself. Are you measuring the right things? Many have the perception that they know what makes up the correct monetary equation to predict their profit. We believe this is a naive way of thinking unless you’re consistently taking into account the effects of both your controllable and uncontrollable costs. Unless you are 150% sure your decisions are supporting your overall goal for profitability – there will never be complete accuracy in your figures. What you are measuring needs to show:

  • Continuity in accuracy
  • And, the numbers need to hold the correct weight.

It’s like being the coach of a sports team. You’re employed to pick players based on their skills and their ability to play within the team. There needs to be continuity in accuracy and you must weigh up the importance of the correct statistics. What abilities are most relevant based on the current game and competition. The environmental factors.

So there you have it. Revenue can be a predictor of your success. If you choose to measure it correctly. 

(1) www.oxforddictionairies.com /definition/english/success

 


Aug 01

Marketing your Advisory Services

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Spotlight Reporting

An accounting firms' success is increasingly due to their people skills, rather than just their ability to crunch the numbers.

Going beyond the numbers to provide analysis, guidance and forecast insights is now the focus for modern accounting firms.

You have the expertise so now you need to shine the light on these areas. Marketing your advisory services is not just about bringing in new clients but also driving profitability from existing clients who often may not know the breadth of service you can offer them. If you are not already promoting your expertise to clients and prospects, the chances are that your competitors will be. In research by CMO.com, 71% of financial services organisations plan to increase their digital marketing spend in the year to come.

It can be as simple as sharing your firm’s knowledge. Here are some easy steps to get you started:

Focus on the problems you solve not the services you offer

Marketing your advisory services comes back to your value proposition. Put simply, this means working what problem you solve for clients and why they should choose you over another. Work out what matters most to your clients. Is it business development, cash flow, preparing for an IPO or your expertise in hospitality? There may be a number of areas of speciality that you can include in your marketing. When you have established them, use the following techniques to raise awareness.

8 top tips to raising awareness of your advisory services:

1. Start writing - start a blog and share insights, useful information and opinion pieces. You can also share articles written by others and add your personal commentary. Make sure you ‘give first and sell second’.

2. Grow your network through social media - Share these articles on your social media channels. Introduce your article with a compelling comment and include a link to bring readers to your website. Your posts will gather a following from people who are interested in the solutions you provide.

TIP: BOMA reformats and delivers your campaign to the channels you choose.  Email, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram - all from one easy to use platform.

3. Get out there - go beyond your own blog. Offer your firm for speaking spots at events, respond online with commentary on topical issues, write guest blogs for sites that hold authority in your field.

4. Work with influential partners - find complementary partners and collaborate with them to offer your clients something of value. A good idea could be a seminar with a bank, a joint seminar with an industry organisation.

5. Tell your existing clients - How many of your existing clients know about the advisory services you can provide them? Make sure you are communicating with them each time you meet about the work you are doing for others and services they can take advantage of.

6. Friend get friend - send your top clients an offer of two hours free of charge to help them plan for the year ahead and include another free advisory session for them to give to a business they know. It’s a small investment that can lead to new revenue for your firm and your client feels good about handing the voucher on because it’s a free gift from them.

7. Be different - be prepared to put some new ideas out there, offer an opinion, and challenge the status quo.

8. Get others involved - share the workload amongst your staff. They will have their individual areas of expertise and this will showcase the breadth of experience you offer. You’ll also benefit from a wider audience online through their connections.

Marketing builds loyalty and grows your business

It can take a while to build awareness of your advisory services and encourage enquiry so the sooner you start the better. If your clients and prospects consistently see the value you add, you’ll see the flow on effect of more enquiry and work. And as you gain a reputation for your services, more people will seek you out.

Guest Author: Liz Studholme is the Marketing Content Manager at BOMA.

We take the complexity out of digital marketing. Find out more.


 


Aug 01

Ready, Set, Grow: A Guide to Funding Business Growth

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, August 01, 2018


 


Guest Post by Float

Almost every small business struggles through ups and downs on their journey to funding business growth.

When you’re battling the day-to-day, it can be easier said than done to identify and embrace opportunities for growth, but there are a few different areas where the right finance could help.

Take on new projects

If you have the opportunity to take on a new contract, it’s exciting news for your business, because new work means more customers, and eventually, increased revenue. Some new projects are a stepping stone for growth, whereas others will be make-or-break for your company. Either way, you might want to use finance to make things a bit more manageable.

Winning new contracts is a good sign for the quality of your service but may seem like a big challenge. Many firms choose to use finance to boost their working capital, and going down this route means you’ll be able to buy new materials or equipment, or even hire more employees.

With many alternative lenders, you’ll get the funds very quickly — in days, if not hours — so you can take advantage of new opportunities safe in the knowledge you’ve got the cash you need to see it through.

New equipment or machinery to boost growth

Updated equipment or machinery can help you work (or produce) more efficiently. There are many types of asset finance that can help you acquire new machinery or equipment — whether you need a new van, a more efficient excavator, or updated computer systems.

Whatever equipment you need, using asset finance is a simple way to kick off growth. Simply put, you can get new assets but still maintain a healthy cash flow, because you can use the assets without having to pay a huge amount of money upfront.

Pursue new markets or expand into new offices

New markets mean new customers and potentially greater traction for your product or service. However, every small business has limited resources, and additional funds may be a useful or even necessary option to realise your international plans.

Many firms use trade finance in this situation, which is designed for paying suppliers. It’s based on purchase orders, so if you’ve taken on a big new customer you may be able to raise finance even if you haven’t been trading long. In fact, one of our recent customers MyGatorWatch did exactly that, with only 6 months of trading history.

The same applies to domestic expansion. If you’re getting lots of new contracts, ordering more stock, and hiring more staff, you’ll naturally think about expanding to another location — but it’s difficult to do so if your working capital isn’t keeping up. An all-purpose business loan could be helpful here, so you know you’ve got some extra cash to cover the short-term costs while your revenues catch up.

Embrace new types of growth funding

When you’re looking at using finance to grow your business, it’s important to keep an open mind. The business finance market has changed drastically in the last decade, and innovative business finance options like crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending can be a smart way to give yourself some financial tailwind.

There are lots of platforms that allow businesses to get equity investment or a business loan from ‘the crowd’, but it’s important to bear in mind that if you choose to go down this route, your business needs be attractive to potential investors or lenders. For this reason, it’s not suitable for every growing business, but it can be a worthwhile option to explore.

Equally, there are lots of new options for ambitious business owners looking to take over existing firms. Raising finance for mergers, acquisitions, and management buy-ins and buyouts is complex, and can be structured in many ways, but there are lots of lenders in the market who could help. If you’re planning your next move for business growth, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your funding options early.

Conclusion

Running a business is tough work, and there are many challenges you have to get through — from setup to survival, to growth. But, if you prepare your strategy early on, alternative finance can help you approach the next step and move your business forward whether you’re expanding internationally, or getting a second van.

Float allows you to see the reality of the cash flow in and out of your business. By monitoring your cash flow through Float you can be one step ahead when applying for funding – you’ll know if, and when, you’ll need to.

About the Author
Conrad Ford is Chief Executive of Funding Options, recently described by the Telegraph as “the matchmaking website for small businesses and lenders”. Funding Options has been selected by HM Treasury to help businesses find finance when they’re unsuccessful with the major banks, as part of the Bank Referral Scheme that launched in November 2016. @FundingOptions