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Mar 01

6 Retail Marketing Strategies to Help You Get New Customers

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, March 01, 2018


Guest Post by Vend

Whether you’re just setting up shop or been running your store for decades, acquiring new customers is always the name of the game.

In this post, we’ve compiled some must-try marketing ideas for retailers. Check them out and see if you can make them work in your business.

1. Start with the store assets you already have

Before looking at fancy retail marketing tactics, start by leveraging the assets you already have. If your store is up and running, you likely have a lot of resources that you can use in your marketing efforts.

These assets include:

Your merchandise and fixtures

The best way to attract and convert customers is to wow them with your amazing merch. See to it that you’re always stocking the right products. Then once you have the right merchandise, come up with creative displays and arrangements to make them pop.

Not sure how to do that? Start by identifying your “Lake Front Property.” This is the area of your store that generates the most revenue.

According to Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender, “Displays in this area should house new, hot and high margin product, not every day, basic items that are best housed toward the rear of the store. And since 90 percent of customers enter a store and look or turn to the right, the Lake Front Property needs to be merchandised with particular care.”

Your window and curbside

Your window and curbside offer tons of opportunities to attract new customers, so get the most out of them. Let’s start with your windows…

Window displays – Keep changing things up and try to update your displays at least once a month. For busy shopping seasons like the holidays, you want to do it every couple of weeks or even every week if possible.

Every retail store is different, so certain design tips may work better for others. The “best” design or look depends on your customers, so zero in on who you’re targeting and craft your displays specifically for them.

Also, consider telling stories with your displays. You can do this by selecting a theme, and finding stories in line with it.

Check out what Anthropologie is doing. The apparel retailer changes the window displays of its stores depending on certain seasons or events. What makes their window displays great, though, is that Anthropologie always finds a unique angle or story within its chosen season theme.

For instance, for Earth Day 2013, the retailer decided to “pay homage to the gifts of gardening with a variety of handcrafted fruits and veggies, and containers made from recycled cans, tires, bottles and more.”

Curbside – Don’t neglect your curbside. In addition to keeping this space clean and tidy, consider adding “curbside extras”. For example, why not set up a sandwich board outside your shop with some eye-grabbing text or art? Doing so can make passers-by stop and pay attention.

Check out this great example from Covet Shoppe & Jewelry Bar in San Francisco

Your staff

Did you know that Starbucks spends more money on employee health benefits than coffee beans? And according to AOL, the company also “offers extensive benefits packages that are customized for each employee, called “Your Special Blend.” Options include things like bonuses, 401 (k) matching plans, health/medical/dental plans, and even adoption assistance.”

Starbucks recognizes that happy and healthy employees perform better and are generally more pleasant. Walk into any Starbucks store and you’ll likely find enthusiastic baristas who chat up customers and recognize their regulars. Starbucks’ employees provide a great in-store experience that keeps people coming back.

Here’s our point: employees could be your best marketers. It’s important to keep them engaged and motivated. Accomplishing that starts with hiring the right people and treating them well. Offer competitive compensation, provide ample training, and strive to be a great place to work.

These steps will lead to happier employees and higher levels of performance, which in turn lead to better retail experiences and more satisfied customers.

2. Leverage social media

When it comes to retail and social media, there are three platforms you should seriously consider: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. These are the most consumer-centric networks, making them ideal for merchants. Pinterest has the added edge of being a platform people specifically go to conduct research before they purchase something.

So let’s break it down:

Facebook tips for retailers

Here’s the reality: if you’re a brand who wants to get more visibility on Facebook, you need to pay for it. The social network has been decreasing brands’ organic reach for some time now, but in 2018, we can expect business’ organic presence to decline even more.

Mark Zuckerberg himself said that they will be rolling out changes to the News Feed to prioritize content from friends, family, and groups, so business pages will have to fight even harder to get exposure.

Here’s what you can do to compete:

Start a Facebook Group – Facebook lets you create Groups for your business or brand. Think of Facebook Groups as clubs or communities where your most engaged customers and fans can congregate.

While you can talk about your products and business, the primary purpose of having a Facebook Group is to allow your customers to connect with each other. It’s not a place to shamelessly promote your business.

One example of a company that’s leveraging Facebook Groups is Peloton, an indoor cycling brand. The company established the Official Peloton Rider Page, which is “intended to be a community board for Peloton members to share their experiences on the Peloton bike and iOS app.”

The Group is very active, and people use it to share their workouts, ask questions, dish out tips, and more.

See if you can do something similar for your Facebook presence. If you sell something that’s centered around a particular lifestyle or interests (e.g. fitness, food, crafts), then consider creating a Facebook Group for your patrons and potential customers.

Run Facebook ads – If Groups aren’t your cup of tea, or if you want even more brand visibility on Facebook, then you’ll need to run Facebook ads to reach your target audience.

The good news is, Facebook has a variety of ad products with robust targeting capabilities that let you zero in on your specific audience.

The best thing to do is test different advertising solutions, then keep track of your metrics (e.g. clicks, engagement, sales, etc.) Take note of the numbers, then use those insights to determine your ROI. This will help you figure which ad types are right for you and how much to budget for Facebook advertising.

Using Instagram to market your store

With over 800 million monthly active users (over half of which are active daily), it’s obvious that Instagram is a go-to social network for today’s shoppers. Here are some best practices to consider:

Curate your visual content exquisitely – Your Instagram posts should be anything but random. You need to create a clear brand aesthetic so when people visit your profile, they get a quick idea of who your brand is.

Check out Clad and Cloth’s profile. You can see instantly from their collection of photos that their brand produces casual clothing items and likes a clean neutral palette with pops of color.

So, if you haven’t done so yet, spend time thinking about your brand aesthetic. Ask yourself, what kind of first impression do you want people to have about your brand? Find the answer then figure out how to make it come to life on your Instagram page.

Make liberal use of Instagram Stories – Instagram Stories allow you to be more informal with your aesthetic, as people expect Stories to be more spontaneous and less curated. You can use them to give people behind-the-scenes glimpses at your store or showcase new products.

A secondary feature of Instagram Stories is that you can create a few permanent ones to display on your profile, highlighting things you really want your potential customers to see. Check out what Peridot Decorative Homeware is doing. The retailer uses these permanent Story spots to make it easy for people to view interior designs, shop for items, and more. They even created custom Story cover images to make them look more attractive!

Hashtag it up – Research which hashtags are relevant to your brand and use them to help your photos surface in front of people you’d like to become customers. Pro tip: rather than putting the hashtags right into the caption, post your picture without hashtags and immediately comment them. It looks cleaner than putting hashtags in the caption.

Pinterest for retailers

Now let’s move on to Pinterest best practices:

Remember that curation is key – Like your Instagram profile, make sure that your Pinterest boards are carefully curated. You should create boards that make it simple for potential customers to navigate to things they’re interested in.

J.Crew, as you can see, has boards that make it easy for you to look at their jeans, their prints, or their stripes.

Don’t just pin your own things – Get social and pin things on your boards from others. (But make sure it fits your aesthetic.)

Be aware that the Pinterest algorithm doesn’t necessarily surface your content quickly – It can often take up to 6 months for your content to really start appearing in people’s feeds.

This means that, while you should be pinning your products, pages that will do best for you organically are likely to be links to your blog posts. You can write blog posts specifically for Pinterest, such as gifting guides that help get your brand lift and will then direct your customers on to your correct pages all year round. As for products, they’ll do great on Pinterest in ad form.

3. Market your business through key partnerships

Partnering with a local business or charity is a wonderful way to get your brand’s name out to people who can come and shop in person, not just online. There are a few ways to do this:

Partner with the stores in the same location as you – If you’re in a strip mall or downtown area, you can ask the stores around you to offer your coupons to their customers (in return for you doing the same). The upside here is that you’ll be directly reaching people who are perfectly positioned to just pop by. The downside is that your neighbors’ clientele may not be your clientele.

Partner with stores in the general area whose clientele are your clientele – If you have stores in the nearby area that service the same clientele as you, you can also ask them to offer your coupons. Alternately, if you worry that no one will be motivated to drive to you based on coupons, you can always take your business to your partner and set up a pop-up shop for a day.

Partner with a local charity to put on an event – Customers these days are much more socially conscious and like to shop with brands who care. Partnering with a local charity offers you the chance to hit two birds with one stone: get your name out to a new set of people and show your customers you care about making a difference at the same time. Choose a charity whose values align with your own and set up an event!

4. Beef up your email marketing

Email marketing is still the most effective marketing channel, with a 4400% ROI. Taking advantage of email to acquire new customers just requires a little savvy-ness.

Segment your non-customers – The best way to use email marketing for getting new customers is to segment your subscribers who haven’t purchased yet into their own list. (For even more effective and personalized emails, you should further segment this list by other relevant pieces of information.)

You can then send people who haven’t purchased yet targeted campaigns with first-time buy offers or giveaways.

Showcase your story and values while you’re at it – Another great campaign idea is to send an email detailing your brand story. It’ll get people engaged with your brand and excited about your values.

The Farmer’s Dog is killing it on this front. Check out this gorgeous email I received after not purchasing. Their story is touching and the 20% off coupon is a solid CTA to end on. (And fun fact: their marketing automation software also served me a personalized 20% off CTA when I went to the website independently about 20 minutes later. Genius.)

Provide value (period) – Email promotions aren’t the only way to acquire new customers.

You also have to think about the long game of email + content marketing, in which you send valuable content without any hard sells or strings attached. This builds trust and positions your brand as an authority, so when people are ready to buy, they’ll think of you.

Check out what The Dollar Shave Club (DSC) is doing. While DSC sends promotional emails now and then, they also have DSC “Original Content” emails that contain informative (and entertaining) articles on grooming, health, style, work, and more.

These content pieces are non-salesy and they’re refreshing to read, especially when every other company out there keeps sending “SALE” or “BUY NOW!!” emails.

The bottom line? Your email marketing strategy should have a mix of promotional and valuable content. Find the balance that works for your subscribers and go from there.

5. Consider influencer marketing

These days, a nod or endorsement from an influencer carries more weight than traditional advertising. Why? Because people are more inclined to act on the recommendations of sources they know, like, and trust.

This is why it pays to have an influencer strategy. Getting key individuals to recommend or talk about your brand can drive awareness, traffic, and ultimately, sales.

The basis of influencer marketing is that your brand partners with a third party content creator who then pushes your products on their platform(s).

One brand, Morphe, used influencer marketing to become in less than a decade one of the most powerful names in the beauty industry. Morphe was founded in 2008 with the very intention of using beauty influencers, particularly those on Youtube, as their primary way to generate sales. They have given many, many beauty influencers affiliate codes, but Morphe really refined the art of marketing by working very strategically with a certain few top influencers, whom they pay extra.

They also collaborated with these influencers to create customized beauty items, like eyeshadow palettes, which the influencers then encouraged their huge followings to purchase.

This strategy paid off in a big way when Morphe’s top influencer, Jaclyn Hill, delivered Morphe 1 million sales of her palette in 6 months last year. At $38/palette, that’s pretty life-changing for a brand.

The best part about this story for your store? You can totally replicate their success! Morphe was an almost unknown brand when they first partnered with Hill, who was also relatively unknown at the time. Morphe prudently chose to invest in her early on and their partnership ultimately allowed both parties to flourish. If you’re looking to use affiliate marketing, follow Morphe’s footsteps and get strategic about who you’re investing in.

6. Start a referral campaign

Capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing with a referral campaign. While there are many variations on referral campaigns, the core idea is that you provide some sort of incentive for your happy customers to share the word about you to their friends.

Stitch Fix, a fashion box company, has referral marketing down to an art. Their referral campaign is such a permanent part of their strategy that it actually has its own page on their website.

Each customer is provided with a unique link to Stitch Fix’s home page. The customers can then share this link with their friends and social network. When someone purchases a box using that link, the original customer is given a $25 credit towards their next box. (And the new customer is enticed to make a purchase with their own $25 credit.)

For stores looking to replicate Stitch Fix’s success, consider testing out referral marketing with an initial campaign. Choose your incentive, set up goals and get cracking. (For a great step-by-step guide on how to run your first referral marketing campaign, check this article out.)


Acquiring new customers can be daunting for a SMBs, but these strategies have worked wonders for many retailers. By testing different things out and analyzing your results, you’ll be able to figure out what works well for your brand.

And take note that these retail marketing tactics are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more ways to acquire new customers. You could try promotions, mobile marketing, or events, among other things. They key is to try different things, figure out what works, then go from there.

Mar 01

Choosing Between Local or International Suppliers

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, March 01, 2018


Guest Post by Unleashed

As industries increase in globalisation, establishing trading relationships with suppliers further and further afield, there is a concurrent and rather ironic push for consumers to support local entities and ‘shop small’.

The idea of course is that sourcing products locally increases the likelihood that products are hand-made with attention to detail, impeccable quality and unique design features. Perhaps local products may also be cheaper with the lack of ‘middlemen’ or transport involved in the production process. However, the decision between sourcing locally or internationally is not clear cut. Let us take a look at some considerations when choosing your supplier.

Decision Criteria

These may sound self-explanatory but if not, well, explained, they can be easily missed. It is important to identify the decision criteria when choosing a supplier. That is which points you are willing to be flexible on and which points are non-negotiable. It is imperative to consider quality when sourcing your suppliers. At first glance, the optimal quality available seems to be a no-brainer however, for some things you may be able to sacrifice a bit of quality or a quality-name for a cheaper buying price. Timing, which incorporates both production and shipping times, needs to be considered. It may well be worth paying slightly more for a shorter production time because you would save in economical versus expedited shipping. Furthermore, another driver might be economic stability such as exchange rates or certainty of provision. Once all these things have been weighed up appropriately, it is possible to conduct feasibility analyses and decide on a supplier.

International Sources

Sourcing products from overseas can often equate to low-cost country sourcing (LCCS), which is where products or materials originate from countries with exceptionally low labour and production costs resulting in modest purchasing prices. Such examples of countries where this is the case includes much of Asia, some of South and middle America and eastern Europe. This accounts for the epidemic occurrence of the words ‘made in China’ that we see all around us.

As aforementioned, there are always shades of grey and the decision to source internationally should not be reached on price alone. It is important to consider the weight and shipping of the items as, despite lower purchasing prices from LCCS, it might make more sense to source locally to save on expensive, long and weighty shipping options.

Local Sources

One of the fundamental reasons to source locally is the proximity of the purchaser to the producer. This means the purchaser has greater control over the final product afforded by frequent checks and clear, concise communication. As the consumer trend to support small and local businesses with organic and ‘wholesome’ undertones grows, locally-sourced items increase in popularity. Therefore, sourcing locally almost turns into a marketing directive where what the customer wants, the customer gets.

For a company that exists in a low-cost country, sourcing locally could well be the cheapest option. Likewise, for other countries, it could be the cheapest option due to savings with shipping. However, small and local plants are less prone to mass production, which drives up manufacturing costs and so, more often than not, local, boutique-level quality comes at a premium.

Decision Time

Sourcing locally or internationally is not a simple, cut and dry decision. It needs to be made after identifying the key decision criteria, what is vital and what can be compromised. Only after these have been found, can research on suppliers commence. It is important to also view suppliers as a partnership and so it takes work as well as requiring a length of time to get to know each other and each other’s respective capabilities. Of course, any decisions around ordering of material or inventory stock are far more informed and stress-free when precise knowledge of current stock and future needs are known. For this level of expert knowledge, an inventory management software system is the answer as it is customisable with a team of people to help you get started.


Mar 01

We Asked Shoppers Who Their Favorite Retailers Are and Why. Here’s What They Said.

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, March 01, 2018


Guest Post by Vend

Who is your favorite retailer and why? We posted that question on LinkedIn last week because we wanted to learn more about the retailers that consumers love.

Specifically, we wanted to identify the retailers that are doing a great job at keeping customers happy and what they’re doing right. We’re happy to report that the LinkedIn community didn’t disappoint. You can check out the best answers below, but here are some key takeaways:

  • The majority of people who responded to our poll said that their favorite retailers offer amazing customer service from non-pushy salespeople.
  • While low prices matter, most respondents didn’t mention price as their #1 reason for loving a retailer.
  • In fact, for many of the respondents, merchandising, store layout, and product quality seem to matter a whole lot more than low prices.
  • People want to shop from retailers who share their values and stand for something.
  • Having a great return policy doesn’t hurt!

Want to get deeper insights into these takeaways? Have a look at our favorite comments below.

Sephora – “They’re extremely helpful, but I never feel pressured to buy something I don’t love.”

“My absolute favorite place to shop is Sephora — particularly the one at The Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas.

I love everything about the store. It has a more intimate layout compared to other stores, but it’s not cramped. The product is always displayed in the most accessible fashion; for example, new trends, popular best selling products, etc. There’s access to help if you need it, and they can help you regarding skincare, makeup, gifting, prices, personal lifestyle choice, etc.

The one thing that I absolutely love about this particular location is that they’re extremely helpful, but I never feel pressured to buy something I don’t love. The choice is mine. I tend to buy anyway because of the great products and a lovely staff. I never leave feeling buyer’s remorse or dissatisfied. Five stars all around from one very happy and loyal client.”

– Tiffany Grant, Styliste at AllSaints

Nespresso – “It all created a feeling and ambiance of a club we all want to be a member of.”

I went along to the Dubai Mall and took a look at the Nespresso store there. In the biggest shopping mall in the world, the store was just as impressive. With the usual blend of a tasting counter mixed with several ‘stations’ where expert barista advice was on hand, it all created a feeling and ambiance of a club we all want to be a member of.

– Andrew Busby, Founder & CEO at Retail Reflections

White House Black Market – “They reward my loyalty and market to me appropriately.”

“I tend to be a loyal shopper with White House Black Market not only because their styles consistently fit and flatter, but also because they reward my loyalty and market to me appropriately (knowing my historical purchases).

I buy online and in-store and when I’m shopping in-store, the store staff are experts at getting me to try on and usually buy more (complimentary) items without feeling pressured to purchase.”

– Kate Deurloo, Sr. Manager Global Shopper & Omnichannel Activation at LEGO

I Heart Denver Store – “It’s an interesting experience to see the well-made goods and learn about the small businesses.”

“The I Heart Denver Store in Denver because the two retail stores only sell locally made (200+ brands/makers). The staff and customer service is great! I love the look and merchandising. It’s an interesting experience to see the well-made goods and learn about the small businesses.”

– David Sandusky, Co-Founder at Idea Chíc

IKEA – “Good and efficient layout and merchandising.”

“For me, it’s definitely IKEA. I can have my meals before shopping. Their stores’ merchandising and layout are really efficient and promote a comfortable shopping ambiance. Plus, their employees are friendly and they have a great exchange and refund policy. Most importantly, IKEA cares about corporate social responsibility.”

– Lex Sim, Retail and Business Consultant at VSI

Bailey Nelson – “The staff are attentive without hovering over you.”

Bailey Nelson. As soon as you walk into the store you receive a welcoming reception. The staff are attentive without hovering over you and provide advice and recommendations when needed.

Their product selection both online and instore is consistent and they can fit your specs whilst you wait!

– Cath Carlsen, Global Marketing Operations Director at Vend

Everlane – “I’m obsessed with brand transparency and would love to see the end of fast fashion in my lifetime”

“Let it be known I loved Everlane before it was trendy, made headlines, and before it went physical. I’m obsessed with brand transparency and would love to see the end of fast (read: exploitative, environment-destroying) fashion in my lifetime, so Everlane’s relatively simple commitment to showing photos from inside their factories remains radical to me.

Their products are well-made, their stores and website are gorgeous, and their customer service is speedy and gracious. Never a miss.”

– Joanna Rutter, Marketing Specialist at Dor

Home Centre – “You can’t walk out saying ‘I didn’t like anything.’”

“Home Centre from Landmark group. They bring such freshness to the shelf driven by amazing merchandising and products. Their visual merchandising compels you to think, “Well I too can do this at my home, let me buy it.”

Plus, their assortment caters to the tastes and choices of yesteryear as well as more modern designs. You can’t walk out saying, ‘I didn’t like anything.’”

– Saurabh Kulshreshth, General Manager – Cluster Operations (Punjab & UK) at Reliance Cash & Carry

Little – “Inspires me to make a purchase not only for the gorgeous product but also simply to support an amazing small business!”

“Little in Portland, Maine is a kid-centric boutique that brings my Instagram feed to life and inspires me to make a purchase not only for the gorgeous product but also simply to support an amazing small business!”

– Allison Yee, Founder at upNEXT

Trader Joe’s – “I appreciate how friendly and helpful their staff is despite a large influx of people.”

Even though they are related to F&B, I appreciate how friendly and helpful their staff is despite a large influx of people. My go-to is the outlet at UWS (71 & Broadway). The cashiering is done seamlessly and quickly and they always ask the question ‘I hope you found everything you were looking for’. Secondly, while in line to pay, the staff often walk around asking customers if they forgot anything which I think is very thoughtful and empathetic.

– Saira Sethi, Luxury Store Evaluator / Learning & Development Specialist

schuh – “So friendly, so efficient…”

“I visited schuh in Luton for the first time yesterday. So friendly, so efficient, and they brought the credit card terminal to me. Such a great experience overall. Plus a 365 day refund policy!”

– Mitul Kotak, Director at Vibe Juice

Nordstrom – “They execute the entire customer experience perfectly.”

“Always and forever Nordstrom. They execute the entire customer experience perfectly. From the beautiful prints ads that show up in my mailbox to the bright, clean, and easy to shop floor with amazingly attentive employees, they feature experiences that are fun and engaging. Most importantly, they have an expansive product assortment that mixes trends and classics that evolve with me.

A huge shout out for their footwear department, cause this size 12 girl needs boots!”

– Sarah Ferrence, Owner & Consultant at Mod. Merchant

Tommy Bahama – “Beautiful merchandise.”

“Tommy Bahama is one. Beautiful merchandise, great coupons for discounts as soon as you buy one item, and they have smart promotions around the holidays. And did I mention beautiful merchandise?”

– Susan L. Hodges, President at HodgesWrites

DSW – “Excellent customer service in light of mishaps.”

“DSW! Lost packages, website glitches, and other unforeseen issues are always going to plague retailers, but excellent customer service in light of those mishaps will be rewarded with loyal shoppers.

DSW’s website crashed this fall, leaving many shoppers like myself stranded mid-checkout. The next day I received an apology in my inbox with a note letting me know their flash sale was extended because of the mishap. And guess what? I bought the shoes… and a few more pairs since then!”

– Mikaela Kornowski, Marketing & PR Executive at OFFPRICE Show

Amazon – “It’s a company that simplifies my life.”

“Amazon all the way as my number one! It’s a company that simplifies my life and has the best customer service. Searching for goods and services on Amazon is also extremely easy. I appreciate the suggestions they offer; most of them make sense.”

– Regina Clarke, Founder and Creative Director at Windward Beauty

Uniqlo – “ I don’t remember if I have ever walked out of the store without buying anything.”

“One of my favourite retailers is Uniqlo and I always visit them when I travel to HK. They sell products that are a good value for my money. The quality, style, and fit of the merchandise are great.

It’s also very easy to navigate the store. I don’t remember if I have ever walked out of the store without buying anything.”

– Kavita Bhatia, General Manager at MGB METRO GROUP Buying

Kohl’s – “Their cross-channel capabilities are stellar.”

“Between the coupons and the Kohl’s cash, Kohl’s Department Stores has me hooked. I did almost all of my holiday shopping there. Their website and mobile app are easy to use and offer a great selection, their orders are always shipped quickly, and their return policy can’t be beat.

Plus, their cross-channel capabilities are stellar. I went to browse in store one day, and the lines to check out were SO long. I debated leaving, but then I saw the signs for free shipping when you order online while in stores. So I browsed the store like I normally would, scanned the items I wanted using the mobile app, and ending up ordering everything online — I didn’t have to spend a minute waiting in line to check out.”

– Alex Chrum, Digital Marketing Strategist at

Target – “They are not afraid of standing up for what their values are as a company.”

“I would have to say Target. They are not afraid of standing up for what their values are as a company, and they keep on top of current trends in a way that makes things affordable for the average consumer.”

– Brandon Rekowski, Associate Recruiter & Coordinator at ManpowerGroup


Mar 01

How to Optimize Your Inventory: A Guide to Getting Stock Levels “Just Right”

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, March 01, 2018


Guest Post by Vend

How much money do you lose to stockouts and overstocked items every year? The answer might surprise you.

Unless you have a robust inventory management solution in place, stockouts and overstocked items could be costing you a small fortune.According to the IHL Group, overstocks and stockouts cost retailers a combined $1.1 trillion in lost revenue in 2015. That works out to a combined average loss of 7.3 percent per business reported on.

That’s a lot of money, and you deserve to reclaim that 7.3 percent of profit you rightfully earn every year. To help you do that, we’ll shed light on some the ways that you can prevent overstocks and stockouts. By the end of this post, you should have a better idea of how to achieve stock levels that are “just right”. 

The right inventory management practices prevent stockouts and overstocks

Let’s get two things very clear before diving in:

First, overstocks cost money. Carrying costs of overstocked items can be anywhere between18 and 75 percent of the products’ original value. Many logistics and supply chain experts use 25 percent as a rule-of-thumb figure.

Secondly, stockouts erode customer trust. Shoppers who want to purchase items you don’t have in stock will buy from your competitors and are far more likely to return to that retailer when they need new products in the future.

To help you understand the costs that come with stockouts, use the following formula: cost of stockout = (# of days out of stock x average units sold per day x profit per unit) + cost of consequences (i.e. idle production line, regulatory penalties, etc.)

Even if a customer does not immediately purchase an out-of-stock item from a competitor, forcing customers to backorder items affects their overall level of satisfaction. Not to mention, backorders almost always carry higher overhead costs, so you are still losing profit due to inefficiency.

So, how do you prevent these issues in your business? Start with the following steps:

1. Use data to predict future sales

If you have a few years of sales data to work with, you can predict sales performance for individual product lines with unerring accuracy.

To do this, adjust your monthly sales trends for overall annual business growth by calculating sales trends using an average index of each month’s sales. For example, combine your last 5 years of January sales figures and divide by 5 to create a January Index, then compare each month’s index.

This will help you forecast your sales for that month, so you can order stock accordingly.

If calculating years of past data doesn’t sound appealing, there are inventory management solutions that can do this for you.

Most modern platforms can track real-time sales data and alert you when your top products are running low, and more sophisticated software will provide highly accurate future sales predictions.

2. Use technology to your advantage

Most stock issues are entirely preventable. How? By using the right technologies, particularly when it comes to point of sale and inventory. 

Ideally, your inventory system should connect to your point-of-sale to keep track of sales and inventory at the same place. This helps ensure that no discrepancies exist between sales and inventory figures.

For this reason, it’s critical that you select an inventory solution that can “talk” to your POS, or better yet, choose a solution that offers both POS and stock control functionalities. Ditch the cash register and spreadsheets. Instead, find a modern retail system that enables you to sell and manage your products efficiently. Also, remember that when it comes to stock control, you need more than accurate data – you need data that is both accurate and up-to-date.

Without a system for verifying inventory data like this, you will never be able to predict future sales and prevent stockouts.

The best way to implement real-time inventory management for small business is a two-pronged approach:

  • Use the cloud. Cloud technology gives you 24/7 access to your inventory data from any mobile device on the planet. Instead of hosting your data on an expensive on-site server, you simply rent server usage for a monthly fee. It’s faster, easier, cheaper, and more importantly, more secure than using an in-house data solution.
  • Implement item-level RFID tags. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) comes in the form of chips embedded in product tags or packages. These chips contain product information and enable retailers to track items using their stock control system, so merchants can gain real-time inventory visibility and accuracy.

The combination of these two technologies gives you the ability to track the movement of products in and out of your store in real-time. When you have a POS and inventory management system capable of reporting real-time figures, you can move quickly and make better stock control decisions.

3. Avoid ordering surplus items

Overstocking and product surpluses are a big retail headache. They can be huge profit-eaters, especially in industries that deal with perishable items. As with stockouts, accurate and up-to-date data are critical to reducing overstock. But there is an extra step that you can take when ordering new products to avoid surpluses.

This is called Kanban.

Kanban is a visual productivity system invented by auto manufacturer Toyota in the 1940s. The system establishes a set maximum for each product, part, or material and uses colored cards to alert supervisors when stock is low. This triggers a re-order only up to the original maximumquantity.

Check out the image above. Each column represents a “bin” that houses your item, and the squares represent the amount of product in each bin. You should move cards into the next columns as you sell your products so you can have a visual representation of your stock levels.

The reason the KanBan system works well is it usually increases the frequency of product replenishment intervals. You are ordering less inventory per order, but ordering more often in response to actual customer purchases in real-time.

At first, it may seem like ordering more often will cost more in the long run due to increased shipping costs. However, once you take into the account the cost of expensive rush orders made to compensate for stockouts and the carryover cost of keeping a large inventory, it usually turns out to cost less.

KanBan is a system to use in addition to your inventory management solution. You should always rely on your inventory data when making product ordering decisions, but when it comes to fast-moving items that are harder to track, consider using the KanBan to make the job easier. 

4. Conduct physical counts regularly

Tracking your stock levels using your inventory system is all well and good, but you also need to have a handle on your physical inventory counts. After all, the numbers you have on screen may not match up to what’s actually in the store. To prevent any discrepancies, make it a point to physically count your merchandise regularly.

You can do this by doing full inventory counts or by cycle counting — i.e. the process of partially counting merchandise on a continuous basis. You can also choose to do both.

Whatever you decide, aim to count all of your products at least once a month, or at the very least, once every season or quarter.

Final words

Hopefully, the tips above gave you some insights that you can apply to your own stock control efforts. Do you want to learn more about retail inventory management?Download our comprehensive guide and learn how to reduce stockouts and overstocks using the latest technology on the market. 


Mar 01

Benefits of a Domestic Supply Chain

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, March 01, 2018


Guest Post by Unleashed

The success of a business, amongst other things, is largely dependent on their ability to supply their product or service to a customer exactly when and in what quantity they require.

It is this ability that can be compromised by so many factors, the main one being supply chain management and accurate and reliable fulfilment of their own orders by suppliers. So, what is one way to gain greater control over the supply chain? Keep it simple, small and domestic. Here we will consider some of the benefits of a domestic or local supply chain.

Absorb change

Where a last-minute order or changes to an existing order may send a production manager into a tailspin, with a domestic supply chain, change can often be absorbed with no effect to the order or end customer. In short, the domestic supply chain has the capability of reacting quickly to changes and absorbing their effects so that business continues as usual. In large part, this ability to absorb change stems from their close geographical location and resultant uncomplicated supply chain. Time in shipment is reduced as is risk, and coordination of production and delivery is far more accurate.

Lose the middlemen, save the dollars

With the increase in globalisation and subsequent growth of individual supply chains, a massive business opportunity was created for companies proficient in logistics. In fact, it is estimated the US collectively spends $1 trillion per year simply on logistics. Therein lies the cost and time saving opportunity. By keeping suppliers close, supply chains are kept small negating the need for logistics companies and middlemen. This saves a great deal in time, money and risk of errors.

Community-minded and marketing yourself

Not only is sourcing domestically an environmentally and ethically-responsible choice, but it also appeals to those customers who have the same ideals driving their business. This then provides a point of difference that can be marketed and capitalised on. By procuring inventory stock or materials from local growers or suppliers, not only will fair prices be expected (in a developed nation with employment guidelines) but also, local business is supported which grows local economy and enhances development. And these are not the only wins. From an environmental perspective, the company’s carbon footprint can be dramatically reduced, which is not only fantastic for our lasting global impact but again is a marketable, point-of-difference, which is becoming a larger driver for consumers.


Mar 01

Handle conflict like a pro: essential team conflict management examples and tips

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, March 01, 2018


Guest Post by Employment Hero

Conflicts are inevitable, even in the most engaged of workplaces. Regardless of the source of the conflict, if they are left unresolved, conflicts can quickly impact employee morale and productivity.

This article will cover the basic team conflict management skills that you should practice, as well as several common situations and how you should approach them.

It’s important to practice the following skills in conflict resolution:

  • Create a healthy culture. Treat everyone in your team fairly and equally, provide them with praise and recognition, and be open and honest at all times.
  • Learn to spot the early signs of conflict. Read team members’ body language (e.g. crossed arms), facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Deal with conflict promptly. Take action early to help your people resolve the situation before it escalates.
  • Develop rules for handling conflict. Ensure team members listen to one another, respect each other’s points of view, and refrain from interrupting each other.
  • Never take sides. Your role is to help the team members address the issues causing the conflict and to reach a resolution that works well for them.

As the HR manager in your company you should be able to provide help and support to your colleagues and lead team building and conflict management activities.

Common types of workplace conflict

Three of the most common types of workplace conflicts that you’ll experience are with the boss, your co-workers, or the team.  Here we discuss each type and give you handy tips on dealing with each area.

Conflict with the boss

An employee who has constant clashes with his or her boss typically come about because he or she shows little faith in their skills and ability, and doesn’t have confidence that the employee can get the job done without micromanagement.

The individual may have been overlooked for a promotion, or their boss may have different ideas about what the employee’s role should be, and very different perceptions about priorities and what needs to be done.

Tips on resolving conflict with a boss

If there is conflict between a boss and an employee, it’s important to understand the boss’s goals and motivations, while letting the employee express their concerns, while exploring ways for them to work better together.

For example, the boss may have no idea that the employee was looking for more responsibility, and their “micromanaging” of them was just their way of making sure the employee didn’t get overwhelmed with the tasks at hand.

Getting insight into a boss’s reasoning and outlook may spark ideas about new techniques for handling the situation.

Conflict with a colleague

In today’s working world, collaboration is key. But, the office can be a stressful, competitive place that doesn’t always bring out everyone’s best side.

Tension can flare up among co-workers for any number of reasons. From perceptions of unfair workloads, unjust recognition, favouritism, to different views on how a task should be completed.

However, some of the most problematic conflicts with colleagues come about because of egos, personal values, and office politics.

Tips on resolving conflict with a colleague

With an honest and open approach, you can resolve most types of co-worker conflicts.

When it comes to differing views on how a task should be accomplished, it’s important to recognise all ideas, and find common ground. Focus on what aspects both parties agree on, and figure out if there’s one way that appeals to both of them. If not, approach someone higher up to get their help on making the decision.

To resolve more difficult conflicts with colleagues, it’s important to approach the situation with a positive attitude and focus on solutions, rather apportioning blame.

Conflict with direct reports or team members

Conflict with direct reports can erupt if a team member appears to be slacking off and not pulling their weight, while their poor performance goes unchecked.

At the same time, workplace change like a new boss or a peer being given more responsibility can also spark conflict as workers try to adapt to new situations. Other factors include an individual’s self-esteem, their personal goals, values and needs.

Tips on resolving conflicts between direct reports or teammates

The longer a conflict between team members goes on, the more it will snowball. So, it’s important to have difficult conversations with the team members early on. Look at issues objectively, and make work-related outcomes and behavioural expectations clear.

Alternatively, where both team members have credible ideas on a solution yet cannot find common ground, draw on a senior member of staff to help find the compromise.

Team conflict is normal

It’s important to understand that a conflict-free workplace is not necessarily a good thing. Conflict is both normal and healthy. Creating a culture where dissent is encouraged and where everyone feels safe to disagree with one another can spark innovation, and future success.

Indeed, healthy conflict is not toxic. Nor will it destroy your work environment or company culture. In fact, handled properly through appropriate team conflict management activities, conflict can generate that spark of ingenuity that is so important to the health of the business.

So, as the HR manager, it’s important to treat conflict with respect. But, instead of cleaning up other people’s messes, empower your people to work through the problems themselves.


Feb 28

Three Must Have New Year’s Resolutions for Small Businesses

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Guest Post by Unleashed

As some countries ring in the new financial year, now is the time to reflect and make New Year’s resolutions for your SME for the financial year ahead.

We have the top three resolutions that SME owners and executives need to consider that may really impact their SME’s bottom line and its growth.

Improve Cashflow Management

In a recent study, a major concern that was raised for SME owners was cashflow. Therefore, an important resolution is to improve cashflow management. The beginning of a new year can be concerning for small businesses due to the annual seasonal post-Christmas cashflow dip. It is foreseeable for businesses to find it extremely difficult to meet their outstanding costs on time, which creates issues for even strong and viable businesses when it comes to their end of February business activity payment statements. While many small businesses often focus on their exciting new business ideas and trying to bring them to fruition, it may mean that prioritising time on less exciting notions such as systems improvement is compromised. The beginning of the year is a great opportunity to undergo a financial housekeeping check and to put better solutions and systems in place. For example, try improving invoicing processes, to mitigate against potential disputes and improve on late payment rates. A small amount of work now in these areas may create incremental improvements that can expedite the collection cycle and therefore increasing cashflow within your SME.

Find Better Capital Options

There is a staggering low percentage of small businesses who review their primary bank relationship or actively keep an eye out for credit facilities that fit their business needs. The beginning of the year is yet another opportunity to consider what working capital options are a better fit to your business, to enable growth. In the case concerning owners of high growth businesses who do not necessarily want to use their own capital funding, an option could be debtor finance, a funding solution that grows in line with business revenue. Debtor finance is more helpful to high labour businesses where wages must be met, often before when the business is actually paid. Growing businesses can struggle with cashflow due to taking on more employees and/or ordering more stock, yet while having to wait 1-2 months to receive payment. Debtor finance enables a business to access funds straight away, without having to wait for their invoices to be paid.

Achieve a Healthy Work/Life Balance

A recent study also found that almost 90 percent of SME owners put in over 50 hours a week in to their business, and that same study found almost half were actually putting in 60 – 80 hours per week. Long hours go into running a business especially a new and growing one. Moreover, the nature of the digital space means that business owners are always accessible. It really is worth making time for a mental health check and therefore encouraging resolutions that work on an individual level to help SME owners achieve a more fruitful work/life balance. Consider taking time off to refresh for the year ahead, but also create a weekly calendar for non-work meetings and activities that help keep you refreshed also. That way as a SME owner, you have more energy and your time that you do spend in your business is the best time you can offer.


Feb 28

The 5 Best Xero Apps of 2018

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Guest Post by Float

We have scoured the marketplace to bring you the five best Xero apps of 2018. From reporting software to time management applications, we’ve covered a wide variety of apps designed to make your life easier.

These apps function globally and offer customer support regardless of your timezone.


AutoEntry does what it says on the tin. It eliminates the need for manual data entry of invoices, receipts, and statements for accountants, bookkeepers, and small businesses. The automation means more time can be spent on growing your business rather than deciphering your colleague’s terrible handwriting. Is that a ‘5’ or a ‘3’? Trust us, we’ve been there.

Operating with speed and precision, AutoEntry operates across a secure platform to grant you peace of mind at all times. So, whether your data is complex or simple, AutoEntry can withstand the headache that you will soon be free of forever. AutoEntry is one of the most popular solutions in the space and aims to provide swift and efficient data management for you and your business.


Float is an award-winning cash flow forecasting app that allows you to predict the effect of different decisions on your business, monitor your cash and produce beautiful reports. This Xero add-on provides a visual, accurate, and intuitive cash flow forecasting service thanks to its robust integration with Xero.

With over 120 five star reviews on the Xero marketplace, Float certainly is one of the best Xero apps of 2018. The integration with Xero cuts out the need for manual data entry, resulting in increased accuracy, an always up to date forecast and an average time saving of 8 hours per month for its customers. Float offers cash flow forecasting software that is simple to set up and easy for you to understand.

The beauty of Float lies in the fact that it pulls in amounts and expected dates from bills and invoices from Xero, and uses them to populate your forecast. This means that your forecast is extremely accurate in the short to medium term, giving you insight into exactly when money is leaving and entering your business. Don’t drown in spreadsheets; get on board with Float.


Hubdoc believes in a paperless world. Whilst this reality may not be too close at hand Hubdoc are certainly making huge strides towards their goal. It’s bookkeeping, without the books. Hubdoc automatically imports all of your financial documents and allows you to turn them into data that you can use. It extracts financial information from any bill, invoice, or receipt. Automatically making your life easier.

Hubdoc is one of the most popular accounting apps on the Xero marketplace. With the ability to keep track of your finance documents in real-time, Hubdoc enables that work life balance to tip in your favour.

You can also view all historical documents that are stored in one secure place online which means that you’ll never be searching for that coffee-stained invoice ever again! Allow Hubdoc to give you your time back. Spend more time running your business, not chasing paperwork.


Tradify is an app that allows for an automatic and systematic analysis of workflow for small businesses. It enables you to track every job from initial quote to invoice. It prioritises and categorises jobs depending on what’s due, what’s next, and what’s overdue. It’s the nicest manager you’ve ever worked with.

Working on a system that is visible to your whole team, this Xero integration is a complete overview of your entire workload. From eliminating the need for manual data entry to time tracking and scheduling, Tradify works not only with you but for you. Tradify not only saves you time but gives you real-time visibility of your workload.


MinuteDock is the financial diary you always wanted. Carrying around a bulky and tattered diary is not only inconvenient but, let’s be honest, it’s pretty bad for your back. By investing in MinuteDock you’re doing good things for your stress levels, your body, and your business. Describing itself as a “loveable time tracking software”, we’re tempted to agree.

The ability to keep track of your schedule at the touch of a button is crucial to the running of a business. You can finally take your eye off of the clock and focus on what’s right in front of you. It automatically generates your invoices through its integration with Xero. Meaning that you’ll never have to worry about manually inputting data again. MinuteDock is for everyone. Used by accountants and lawyers, freelancers and consultants, you’re in good company when you choose MinuteDock.

The apps listed above are some of the best available on the marketplace today. All of them have you and your business needs in mind. Whether you’re using them for eradicating manual data entry, for organising your life, for future-proofing your finances, or simply to optimise your payment systems, they’re all designed to help you help yourself.


Feb 28

How to Deal with Difficult Customers: Nine Proven Tips for Retailers

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Guest Post by Vend

Dealing with difficult customers can be… well, difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right attitude and action steps, you can effectively navigate these tricky customer situations and emerge (hopefully) unscathed.

This post offers tips and insights to help you do just that. Our hope is by the end of the article, you and your staff will be more prepared to handle difficult shoppers.

Let’s dive in.

1. Have the right mental attitude

Take a few seconds to breathe and put yourself in the right mindset before dealing with the customer. Remind yourself that the shopper isn’t necessarily mad at you, but rather, they’re miffed about the situation.

Having the right mental attitude will help prevent your buttons from getting pushed and enable you to respond in a calm and professional manner.

Ricky Marton, founder of Be Robin Hood says that the most important thing to do when dealing with troublesome shoppers is to not let them see that they’re getting to you. “Once they realize they aren’t in charge, they’ll either leave or calm down and (hopefully) apologize.

2. Hear the customer out and empathize with them

People who are upset need to be heard, so let your customers talk, and don’t interrupt them.

“Let the client vent about the situation if at all possible,” advises Carrie Thompson, Facility Manager at Affordable Mini Storage. “Don’t allow physical violence or threats (time to call the police!). Allowing a client to fully verbalize their complaint or anger is valuable. Many issues arise or escalate because the client didn’t feel like they’d been heard.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when listening to customers:

Practice active listening

At this stage, it’s important to engage in active listening, which is the practice of consciously assimilating what the other party has to say, instead of just standing silently in front of them.

This will help make a good impression and it’ll allow you to really take in what the customer is saying, so you can (if possible) resolve their issue efficiently.

Active listening also entails that you listen with your whole body. This means using positive body language such as having an open stance and nodding along to show the other person that you’re listening.

Make them feel that they’re taken seriously

Gary Johnson, a Senior Consultant at Prevention Advisors, recommends that you show customers that you’re taking their concerns seriously. According to him, this can be done by maintaining eye contact and exhibiting the right non-verbal behaviors (like not smiling, excessively nodding, or rolling your eyes — more on this below).

“Call your customer by name, if possible,” he adds. It makes people feel that they’re being heard and could help calm them.

Respond with empathy

“When someone yells at us, our natural response is usually to respond with either anger or go into defense mode. Avoid these at all costs,” says Fiona Adler, Founder at

“Whether or not you think there’s a real problem, it’s real from the customer’s perspective, so the appropriate emotion for you to respond with is ‘empathy’. Say things like; ‘I can see why you’re disappointed’ or ‘Oh dear, that’s not what you would have expected’ or ‘I can understand why you’re upset.’”

3. Be mindful of your verbal and non-verbal cues

The things you say — and don’t say — can significantly affect the outcome of any customer interaction. Signs of boredom, impatience, or aggression will only escalate the situation. So, be very mindful of your words and the body language you project.

Here are a few tips to help you do just that:


Use “phrases of courtesy.” According to Renée Evenson, author of Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service, “Customers appreciate being treated courteously, so when you interject words and phrases of courtesy appropriately throughout your conversations, you show your customers how you respect them.”

Evenson provides a handy list of phrases of courtesy that you can refer to. Check them out below and make it a point to incorporate them into your customer service vocabulary:

  • “I apologize. I didn’t hear/understand what you said.”
  • “Will you?” rather than “You will.”
  • “Yes,” rather than “Yeah.”
  • “Sir.”
  • “Ma’am.”
  • “I’ll check and be right back.”
  • “Will you hold for a moment while I check on that?”
  • “Thanks for waiting.”
  • “Mr./Mrs./Ms. _____.” (Address by the first name only if you know that’s appropriate)

To see the full list and learn about how to incorporate phrases of courtesy into your customer service, check out the book here.


Your body language should show customers that you’re open to what they have to say, so be careful with the non-verbal cues that you give off.

Make eye contact (but don’t stare), nod along to what the customer is saying, and maintain an open stance to demonstrate that you’re listening. Avoid defensive or hostile gestures such as closed fists or folded arms as they could aggravate the customer.

For your reference, here’s a table you can refer to when it comes to the dos and don’ts of body language in retail:

4. Be discreet

Being tactful and discreet is crucial when dealing with difficult customers.Remember, other people are watching, and some may even whip out their smartphones to record the conflict. The last thing you want is for the incident to hit social media.

Johnson recommends that managers and associates speak in a slow and lowered voice. Strong emotions are infectious, so control your feelings and avoid doing anything that could further aggravate the situation.

5. Communicate what you can and can’t to about their situation

Once you’ve heard what the customer has to say, you’ll need to talk to them about what you can and can’t do. Anne Miner of The Dunvegan Group recommends that you start by clarifying and apologizing.

“Once you have heard the story, ask questions to clarify where necessary. Then, apologize — tell the customer you are sorry they have had this experience, feel this way or whatever is appropriate.”

From there, proceed by communicating what you can and can’t do about their problem.

“Tell the customer what you CAN do for them — issue a refund, a credit, or connect them to the manufacturer,” says Miner. “Ask the customer if this will be acceptable to them. If not, ask what it would take for the customer to feel better about the situation.”

Now, what happens when you can’t bend to your customer’s wishes?

The best thing is to be upfront. Miner recommends saying something like: I wish I could do that for you. At this moment, that is beyond my authority but I will ask ______. May I have your phone number so I can get back to you?

Here’s an additional tip: if possible, let the customer know about the changes that you’ll make as a result of their complaint.

“Make the customer feel like they’ve made a difference,” advises Adler. “The last thing customers want is to feel like their feedback is going nowhere. Make sure that you let them know that you’re very grateful they alerted you to this problem. Then let them know the steps that will be taken to ensure the same thing won’t happen to other customers.”

6. Act quickly

If you can resolve the customer’s problem immediately, then, by all means, do so. This has several benefits:

For one, being able to quickly address a customer’s concerns may just turn their negative experience into a positive one. If you can get on top of things and satisfy the shopper, they might just end up as a loyal customer who buys from you regularly and tells their friends.

Resolving a customer’s issue ASAP also prevents a situation from escalating. This is especially true if someone is complaining loudly inside your store.

As Nicole Reyhle wrote in her Forbes column, “when a customer is creating a scene in front of other customers, you should aim to resolve it as fast and quietly as possible… One of the main reasons for this is that any customer who becomes upset and loud about it in your business is likely the same type of person to talk about this experience with friends, family and other potential customers.”

7. Compensate for their discomfort (if necessary)

Taking this step isn’t always necessary and depends on the situation. For instance, if the issue is due to an error on your part, it may behoove you to do something extra for the customer.

Jason Perkins of San Diego SEO Firm suggests providing additional compensation to make up for any mistakes or issues.

“Give them something to compensate for the discomfort. When customers complain about something, either it has to do with your service or with the people who are working for you. If they feel that they are not being serviced properly, you have to give them something to make up for the mistake,” he says.

“Since I was a manager, I made it a point to give these customers a coupon, discount or maybe give them their item for free or give them a replacement.”

8. Make a judgment call: Will you tolerate someone who’s being downright obnoxious or unfair?

If the situation reaches a point where the customer crosses the line and becomes downright rude and unfair, you’ll need to make a judgment call on giving them what they want versus “firing” them.

Yes, choosing the latter would mean that they’ll never shop with you again, but keeping a problematic customer can be just as bad.

As customer service and speaker Shep Hyken puts it, “if the customer crosses the line, it may be time to fire the customer, politely sending them on their way to the competition. A bad customer can hurt morale and make the working environment uncomfortable. Just as bad, a manager that won’t stand up to the customer and support his/her employees can have a negative impact as well.”

Here are some steps you could take when asking customers to leave:

  1. First is to give them a chance to calm down. Tel them in a calm but firm voice that they need to tone down the foul language or actions and that you won’t be able to help them if their behavior persists.
  2. If they refuse to calm down, politely ask them to leave. According to Johnson, you can say things like:
  • Mr. Jones, I have not been rude to you, so there is no need to be rude to me. If you calm down, I will be able to assist you, but if you continue to threaten me I must notify the authorities
  • I apologize, but if you continue to use this language, I will be forced to ask you to leave the store.
  1. If things escalate, call the authorities. Depending on your store’s procedures, you could notify mall security (if applicable) or get the police involved.

9. Practice diffusing anger

Staying calm and empathizing with frustrated and emotional shoppers can be difficult, but it’s entirely doable if you practice. That’s why Johnson advises retailers to routinely conduct training sessions on diffusing anger.

“To better prepare your staff, a good strategy is to use interactive role-playing. Set up training sessions so that team members can practice dealing with angry and upset customers,” he says.

Johnson, who personally facilitated such sessions, shares that staff members always feel more empowered and comfortable after role-playing different scenarios. “It’s one thing to think – in your head — what you would do or say, but it’s a whole other thing when you actually have to articulate it out loud and practice what you need to do.”

Reminder: it’s still best to try and prevent issues from arising in the first place

The best way to deal with difficult customer situations? Prevent them from happening in the first place. Here’s how:

Keep your store neat and adequately stocked

Keeping your store organized makes it easier for shoppers to navigate your location and get their hands on the things they need. This gives them a faster and more convenient in-store experience and decreases the likelihood that they’ll ask (or demand) for assistance.

Also, ensure that your shelves and fixtures are adequately stocked. Instruct your staff to routinely check your shelves for items that are running low so they can replenish immediately. Doing so helps customers find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, so they (and you) are less likely to feel inconvenienced.

Speed up customer service

Make sure your staff knows the importance of speed when serving customers. Many shoppers are extremely busy and have no time to wait around.

How you can you serve customers promptly without compromising quality? 

Hire additional employees – Having added help can keep your store running smoothly during the hectic Christmas season. See to it that you have a good staff-to-customer ratio so you’re not making anyone wait. Remember, slow customer service is a huge consumer pet peeve. You’ll prevent a lot of headaches simply by being prompt.

Do note that hiring more people is just the first step. Equally important is ensuring that your staff is well-trained. Devote extra time educating your employees (especially seasonal hires) about the ins and outs of your store. They should know your sales floor and stockroom like the back of their hand so they can easily find the right products for shoppers.

Retail tech know-how also goes a long way, so see to it that your employees know how to quickly operate your equipment and retail software.

Speed up checkout

Many customer issues may also arise in the checkout area. From long lines to less-than-perfect payment technology, retailers need to anticipate and prevent potential problems that can occur when it’s time to ring up sales. Here are a few steps you can take to improve the checkout experience during the holidays (and beyond):

Use quick keys – Most modern POS systems provide product shortcuts or on-screen buttons that speed up how items are added to a sale at checkout. If your system has this capability, be sure to enable it and add your most popular items. That way, when a customer buys a product that’s already included in your quick keys layout, you can ring them up with just a tap of a button, instead of having to search for the item.

Vend Tip

In Vend, these shortcuts are called “Quick Keys, ” and they can significantly reduce time spent at checkout. If you’re using Vend and would like to learn more about Quick Keys, click here.

Learn More

Use integrated payments – Using a payment solution that integrates with your POS makes checkout a lot faster. Integrated payments allow sales to flow directly from your POS to your card reader. This means you won’t have to manually key in the transaction information into the card reader, so sales are processed much faster. Not only that, but integrated payments prevent human error and are more secure.

Talk to your POS vendor about the payment processors they integrate with and see if you can use them in your business. (Pssst… Using Vend? Check out this post for more information on integrated payments.)

Enable contactless payments – While contactless payments such as Apple Pay aren’t as widespread as credit cards, a growing number of consumers have adopted them.

If you cater to a lot of these shoppers, start accepting contactless payments in your store. That way, people won’t have to fumble with cards or cash. All they need is their phone, and they’ll be good to go.

Add registers and untether the checkout experience – Always be prepared to open new registers when it gets busy. For instance, if your POS can run on a laptop or iPad, you’ll want to have extra devices in your store so you can quickly open a register when the lines get too long.

That’s what homeware store Borough Kitchen does in their business. “At peak times… we can add a new till instantly by switching on another iPad,” shares founders David Caldana & Justin Kowbel.

Consider doing the same thing in your stores. Equip extra iPads or laptops with your POS so you can quickly bring them out when it gets crowded in your shops. And if you’re using a tablet, you could even untether the checkout experience and ring up sales from anywhere in the store instead of being stuck behind the cash wrap.

Bottom line

Dealing with difficult customers isn’t easy, but it comes with the territory of running a retail store. Also, remember that something positive can also arise from these situations.

As Adler puts it, “Angry customers are one of the most challenging parts of running a business, but handled correctly, you really can turn these people into some of your strongest advocates. I’ve seen many cases where a mistake has been corrected and the customer has gone on to be extremely loyal to the business and refer lots of their friends as well.”

Feb 28

The Power of Customer Success

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Guest Post by Spotlight Reporting

Customer Success is one of the most important strategic priorities at Spotlight Reporting. The more we learn about Customer Success principles, strategy and practice, the more we can see the powerful resonance this could have for accountants in practice.

What is Customer Success?

Our definition of Customer Success is:

“Putting the customer at the heart of our decision-making to ensure that their desired outcomes are aligned with our own criteria for success.”

To put it simply, Customer Success means that we:

  • Embed a process to enable customers to work towards transforming their practices.
  • Allocate talented and industry-experienced humans to our key accounts, so that our most dedicated customers set goals, undertake bespoke training, put Spotlight Champions in place, and execute on sales and marketing ideas.
  • Ensure that our Customer Success Specialists contribute to our customers’ transformation journey.
  • Set our company, team and individual KPI’s to measure our customer satisfaction, retention and growth. If customers don’t win, our KPI’s suffer and everyone from the Board, CEO, leadership team and front-liners assesses shortfalls and iterate our approach.
  • Adopt ‘portfolio management’ principles ensuring periodic, disciplined and useful interactions with our customers.
  • Create content that resonates with our customers and is focused on actionable activity driving a return on investment for our customers (such as our '7 Ways to Grow Advisory Revenue' and 'Embedding cash flow advisory services').
  • Ensure that product decisions are based on consultation, research, observation and customer input (alongside our own internal Product leadership, of course).
  • Resource our Support & Training to provide global, 24/7 coverage.
  • Ensure that leadership team members (including me) have daily interaction with the lifeblood of our business – our customers; and
  • Are not asking our customers to be successful without our help – we partner with them to drive lasting value. This is as important to us as it is to them.

We are fairly new to deploying a Customer Success Strategy and having a dedicated Customer Success Team, so of course we are still learning and making mistakes. But we have made a core commitment; and we are seeing some pleasing progress as we orientate ourselves towards the real and sustainable success of our subscribers.

Read our ‘Customer Success in Accounting’ blog post to learn about the importance of having a Customer Success programme at an accounting practice and the ways to implement it in your firm.