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May 03

3 Key Trends That Will Drive Business Success in FY 2019

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Unleashed

As some of us begin a new financial year, it’s time to reflect on trends from the year that’s been. The 2018 financial year continued the dramatic trend of change that small and medium sized businesses have been experiencing for the last few years.

As some of us begin a new financial year, it’s time to reflect on trends from the year that’s been. The 2018 financial year continued the dramatic trend of change that small and medium sized businesses have been experiencing for the last few years. If the last few years are anything to go by, the 2019 financial year is poised to continue that trend of change – from IT to marketing to economic conditions, everything is ripe for disruption. Here are a few key predictions for the year ahead.

Marketing Trends

At the end of 2017, many commentators speculated that marketing would continue to become increasingly personalised in 2018 and beyond. That’s largely a safe bet – businesses understand the advantages of speaking directly to specific consumers. Consumers generally respond positively to more targeted marketing – the result being that each consumer receives content that is relevant to their tastes and interests.

Against this, the social licence for businesses to leverage consumers’ personal information in this way is under threat. Recent privacy scandals involving well known brands, such as Equifax and Facebook, are leading consumers to think more closely about the information they entrust to commercial entities. These are challenging times for marketers – in addition to complying with relevant privacy legislation, businesses that collect personal data need to think closely about consumer expectations and consumer trust.

Technology Trends

More than ever before, financial year 2019 is likely to see the failure of businesses that have failed to move with the times. Businesses that leverage technologies like the cloud, remote working and data science are achieving much stronger results than businesses which work locally and don’t gather detailed performance metrics. For example, food and beverage manufacturers are seeing strong efficiency and reliability gains from using food manufacturing software. Broadly, businesses that avoid technology will need to have a particularly strong point of difference to remain competitive and relevant.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is likely to change the game for many SMEs this year and beyond – providers in many countries are rolling out IoT specific networks, providing a platform for smart machines to talk to other smart machines. In inventory and logistics, the IoT is expected to remove a lot of manual effort – just as with previous innovations such as barcode scanning and food manufacturing software, the IoT is likely to result in significant cost savings for logistics services and improve on time performance.

Economic and Financial Trends

Predicting economic and financial trends is notoriously difficult; although there is some common ground, commentators don’t always agree on the economic conditions that small and medium sized businesses are likely to face. What is clear, however, is that businesses need to be prepared for adverse economic conditions. This is not to say that the current economic boom is likely to turn to a bust; rather, small businesses constantly face a risk that economic conditions will turn and should maintain a healthy focus on efficiency, competitiveness and financial health. Many small businesses are doing this already – distributors are aiming to rein in transport costs, while food and beverage manufacturers are turning to food manufacturing software to reduce high levels of waste. In financial year 2019 and beyond, small businesses should keep an eye on their financial ratios, remain cautious about debt levels and avoid carrying too large a balance of buffer inventory.

May 03

3 Ways to maximise your portfolio performance in 2018

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Sharesight

With stock market volatility the highest it’s been in over two years, it’s easy to lose your cool and forget your long-term goals.

While we can’t tell you which stocks will outperform the market in 2018, these quick-wins are guaranteed to provide you with the portfolio insights to help you make the most of your portfolio this year.

#1 – Understand how you’re performing – and why

Is your portfolio struggling simply because the overall market is down, or is it due to the individual stocks you picked, or down to your asset allocation? Do you even know?

Benchmarking your portfolio is an easy way to compare your portfolio to the market. Organising your holdings according to Custom Groups and having a look at a Contribution Analysis Report will help you easily compare and contrast the winners and losers in your portfolio – so you can make the most out of 2018.

#2 – Automate your future trade tracking

Switch to a broker who will automatically forward your trades to your portfolio tracker. You’ll save countless hours of manual portfolio admin every month, not to mention at tax time. And if you use Sharesight, corporate actions such as share splits and dividends are automated (and factored into your performance returns), so you’ll always know exactly how you’re doing.

In case you missed the news, Sharesight now supports contract notes from over 100 brokers. Here’s the full list of brokers whose trades will automatically flow into Sharesight via an API or contract notes (trade confirmations). If your broker doesn’t provide contract notes, you’ll want to set aside some time each week/month to manually record your trades.

#3 – Stay informed

Track your portfolio from anywhere with a portfolio tracker mobile app for your Android or iOS device. You can also subscribe to Sharesight’s weekly portfolio summary email, which shows you an overview of your portfolio’s performance over the last 7 days. There’s even the option of getting an email alert every time the price of one of your holdings spikes or collapses by 5% in a single trading day. For more info, check out: 3 Sharesight email alerts you should enable today.

May 03

5 Essential Business Costs Not to Skimp On

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Unleashed

If you are a startup owner or entrepreneur, it is no secret that you may be working within a tight budget. The ability to make pennies stretch is an important survival skill.

However, some of the most common money-saving strategies could end up being more detrimental to your business in the long run. What may save you money today could potentially cost you more tomorrow. Below we have collated five areas of your budget where cutting these business costs could be the end of your new business.

Hiring Talent

It is important to look for employees with different skills to yours that complement your own, while driving the business forward. Although it may be tempting to pay the minimum wage in order to save business costs, if you have great talent you may want to consider paying them fairly. If they are indeed a valuable asset you will compensate them accordingly. Not only does this save you in employee turnover, but it also saves you money and time later on.

Marketing

It does not matter how great your business offerings are if potential customers do not know about them. Successful businesses have strong marketing plans that identify its target markets and outlines strategies for reaching them. And while startups may be inclined to decrease their marketing budgets to save cash, the reality is that insufficient marketing will hinder your business growth.

Startups should really be aiming to increase their marketing communications with their customers. Seeking out new customers and encouraging existing ones to buy from you again will translate to a healthier balance sheet later.

Technology

Having the right frameworks in place earlier on can help in efficiency and productivity in the future. If you want to be big, think big. By having technology now that can streamline processes, you can build the solid foundation your business needs to grow steadily. Take for example inventory management systems, it may be more affordable at the beginning to simply have spreadsheets and enter things in manually, however this scope is limited and does not take into account the growing structure of your business. If you invest now, in streamlining business processes, you can save monumental amounts in the way of time and money.

Another vital component of your business is your website. You should never skimp out here. First impressions matter and due to the way in which we search for new offerings primarily online, it is imperative to have a professional looking website that quickly conveys the right message to potential customers.

Accounting

Accounting may feel like another huge unnecessary expense when you are getting your business started. However, a great accountant can actually save you money by making sensible financial decisions, finding tax breaks and filing your tax returns correctly.

Insurance

One area where you definitely do not want to skimp on is business insurance. While it may be rare that an accident or disaster can hit a business, it absolutely does happen. Small business owners should invest in business insurance. By paying a monthly premium, startup businesses can protect their companies in the events of a robbery, fire, lawsuits and more. Additionally, insurance covers product and customer liabilities, as well as the actions of your employees.

Entrepreneurs and startup owners are constantly trying to ascertain what business costs are necessary and which ones can be cut from the budget. We have discussed five areas where not to skimp. By having these areas in mind, you can increase your startup’s chances of success.

May 03

7 Examples of Good Customer Service in Retail (and How to Apply Them to Your Stores)

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Vend

While there are many things that can affect the in-store experience (e.g. products, prices, store environment, etc.) customer service is always going to be one of the top factors that impact how shoppers perceive your brand.

And here’s the good news: when it comes to customer service, you’re in the driver’s seat.

You may not be able to influence the weather or control your competitors, but the level of service you provide is completely within your control. That’s why you should always be cooking up ways to wow your shoppers.

Now, I understand that this advice can be vague. (What exactly do I mean by “improving the customer service”?). So, to help your concertize the concept, I’ve put together a handful of real-life examples and action steps for taking your retail customer service to the next level.

1. The store owner who remembers — and appreciates — repeat customers

Make surprise and delight key components of your customer service and retention strategies. Repeat customers are the best types of shoppers to have and they’re very appreciative of retailers who remember them.

So, make it a point to let your frequent customers know that you’re grateful for their purchases.

One of my favorite examples of this in action comes from T-We Tea, a tea shop in San Francisco. I’ve purchased from them a number of times, and with my previous order, I found a sweet note that read, “OMG, Hi Francesca! So lovely to see your name come up! We miss you dearly up here but know you are always doing epic things!”

It was a lovely gesture and it’s certainly not something I get from other retailers (even the ones I shop with regularly). Because of this, T-We Tea will always be one of my go-to places for loose leaf tea.

Action steps

Take note of your repeat customers Use a good CRM that lets you record customer details — i.e. contact info, purchase history, and birthday, among other things.

Put that info to good use – Once you have their information, be sure to use customer data to serve shoppers better. For instance, if you see an order from someone who’s already in your database, acknowledge them for the repeat purchase then send a sincere note of gratitude.

2. The retailer who makes an effort to upsell and educate customers

Think upselling is sleazy or bad for customer service? Not if you do it right. If you take the time to educate customers before they purchase and tailor your recommendations to their needs, I guarantee that the shopper will leave happy.

Case in point: a while back, I took my toddler shopping at our local shoe store for kids. We encountered a great associate who helped him select and try on different pairs of shoes.

The associate then came up to me and said, “I noticed your son’s feet were a bit sweaty. What types of socks is he using?”

I told him we just used standard cotton socks.

“Cotton isn’t ideal for sweaty feet,” he replied. Do you want me to show you some of the socks we have that can help?”

He proceeded to tell me about the various types of socks they carried, the materials they were made out of, and which ones would work best for my son. I ended up buying a couple of pairs, and I was thrilled with my purchase because it did wonders for my son’s feet.

Action steps

Train your associates to upsell and cross-sell – Start by encouraging them to pay attention to each customer and determine any potential needs or wants they may have.

In the example above, the associate took note of the fact that my son had sweaty feet, and then made the right call by recommending the right type of socks for him.

Make sure they educate shoppers – Upselling or cross-selling shouldn’t just be about pushing products. See to it that shoppers know the benefits of the products you’re pitching and why they should buy it.

3. The retailer who finds a way around stockouts

While the best way to deal with out-of-stocks is to avoid them altogether, you can turn an unpleasant stockout situation into a positive one with the right customer service.

Here’s a cool example from Real Canadian Superstore. A customer decided to use the store’s click-and-collect service by ordering her groceries online and then opting to pick up her purchases at the store.

According to her Instagram post, some of the products she ordered were unavailable, so one of Superstore’s employees called her up and offered substitutes.

The whole experience was smooth and efficient, and the customer was so happy with Real Canadian Superstore’s service, that she raved about them on social media.

Action steps

Have a backup plan for stock-outs – When a customer asks you about a product that’s unavailable, make sure you have a better response than “Sorry, but there’s nothing we can do.” Always be ready to recommend substitutes so you don’t miss out on the sale.

Offer to ship from your store/warehouse – You could also offer a service in which you order an item from another location or channel (i.e. your online store) then ship it the customer for free

4. The cashier who forges a local connection with shoppers

This particular example isn’t strictly about retail, but it’s still a great example of notable customer service.

I was purchasing a drink from a local cafe, and the cashier behind the counter noticed that I was holding a business card from a nearby eyebrow threading place. “Oh, you go there too? Aren’t they the best?” she said.

We then had a quick chat about why we love the business and our experiences it with. It was a brief encounter, but certainly a memorable one. I loved that the cashier established a connection by referencing something local that we both liked.

That effort didn’t take much, but it went a long way as far as customer service goes. Why? Because so few people do it. The majority of cashiers just ring up sales and spout impersonal lines like “How was everything?” or “Have a nice day.”

Don’t be one of them. Make the checkout process as pleasant as you can by making an effort to connect with the customer. Doing so could be just the thing that keeps you top of mind and gets them to come back.

Action steps

Be on the lookout for commonalities – Find a way to connect with customers through things you have in common. Do you have similar tastes? Do you frequent the same local spots? Use those commonalities to start conversations.

You don’t always have to push a sale – In the example above, the cashier and I chatted as she was ringing me up at the counter. I was already a paying customer, but she still made an effort to connect with me. Strive to do something similar in your own store. Don’t just chat up a customer because you want to make money off of them. Do it to build a relationship.

Further Reading

Connecting with customers starts with how you greet them. If you need ideas on how to welcome shoppers in our store, this post offers 20+ examples of retail store greetings you’d want to try.

Learn More

5. The sales employee who takes the time to find the perfect fit

Earlier this year, I swung by the Sunglass Hut location in SoHo, as I needed a new pair of sunglasses. The associate manning the store was super friendly and offered to help after noticing that I was unsure of what to buy.

She took the time to find out what I needed and what my preferences were, and then she walked me through the different brands they had. She then hand-picked pairs of sunglasses that best fit the shape of my head, and even brought out an eyewear tray so we could easily compare different products.

It was a great experience and I appreciated the employee’s sincere effort.

Action steps

Work *with* shoppers to find the right product – Exert more effort to help your customers in need. This could mean different things, depending on your store. For example, you could accompany a shopper to the shelf where an item is located instead of just saying “It’s in Aisle 4.” Or, like the associate above, you could bring out different products to help the shopper compare items.

But be sure to read your customers appropriately – To be clear, not every customer needs an associate to show them around the store. Some shoppers want to be left alone, in which case you shouldn’t bother them. But for those customers who do need assistance, do your very best to help them find what they need.

6. The associate who puts her product knowledge to good use

Product knowledge is an essential component of customer service, so you and your staff must be on top of your merchandise and catalog details at all times. This comes in handy when you’re:

  • Talking about your bestsellers
  • Discussing the features and benefits of various items
  • Teaching shoppers how to use a product

Here’s an example that shows an associate doing all three of these things: I was shopping around for dry shampoo, and I decided to take my search offline. As someone who’s never used dry shampoo before, I didn’t want to rely on online product descriptions or reviews; I wanted to touch, feel, and maybe even test products in person.

I decided to visit the Birchbox store in SoHo to see what they had to offer. Birchbox had a great selection, but ultimately, it was the store’s customer service that made my experience stand out.

The associate I worked with was knowledgeable and helpful; she told me which brands she liked best, what their top-sellers were, and she explained the distinctions between different products.

Then when she learned that I’ve never tried dry shampoo before, she recommended I purchase a travel size bottle instead of pushing me to buy a full sized product. She even showed me how to apply the product to my hair. I walked out of that Birchbox store with a product that I was excited to try, and I was reminded of just how powerful in-store customer service can be.

Action steps

Use the “FAB” formula – The “FAB” formula, which stands for “Features, Advantages, and Benefits” helps you and your associates easily remember what each product is all about.

Basically, features are the components or characteristics of a product while its advantages pertain to what the features can do. The benefit, which is the most important part, is what the customer can get out of the product and its features. For best results, see to it that the benefit you pitch to the shopper is unique to them.

For instance, let’s say you’re selling a pair of sunglasses. Features could include the frame size, the material that it’s made out of, or the fact that it’s polarized. The advantages could be the durability of the pair as well as its ability to reduce the glare from certain surfaces. Finally, the benefit could the fact that it helps the customer see better.

Know your top-sellers  – Get familiar with your product trends and bestsellers so you always have handy items to recommend. To make things easier, choose a retail management system that has robust product reporting capabilities. The best retail systems provide you with insights that you can incorporate into your sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.

7. The retailer offering a sincere apology

Things don’t always go your or your customer’s way, and it’s during times like these that your customer service is really put to test. While the “right” way to deal with unpleasant situations will depend on your circumstances, often you’ll fare a lot better if you apologize and try to compensate for what happened.

DSW offers a great example of the right way to deal with mishaps. According to Mikaela Kornowski, Marketing & PR Executive at OFFPRICE Show, “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!”

Action steps

Have an apology ready – Even if the situation isn’t necessarily your fault, saying sorry that a customer is having difficulties can go a long way.

Make it up to the customer – If there was an error on your end, do your best to own the mistake and make it up to the customer. Is there a way to reverse the error? Can you offer a discount instead?

Final words

Customer service is more than important ever. We’re doing business in an environment where consumers have more choices than ever before. How you treat them is a huge differentiating factor and it can turn indifferent shoppers into raving fans.

Bottom line: make customer service a priority at all times. 

May 03

Avoiding Supply Chain Woes

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Unleashed

More and more companies are failing because of risky supply chain issues. When working within global supply chains a lot of unknowns or changes to previous business methods can result.

With an increasing amount of business being outsourced to other countries, it increases the chance for supply chain problems. Supply chain failures occur when a business gives a supply chain company too much responsibility, especially when they don’t understand how they operate. Not only will companies do this, but they don’t have any risk management tools in place to mitigate issues that they are having in their supply chain.

It is important to highlight why companies are having difficulty with their supply chains and what strategies can be put in place to avoid supply chain failure.

Low-cost country sourcing

Low-cost country sourcing (LCCS) is a supply chain strategy where a company gets materials from an overseas country that has cheaper labour and production costs. By sourcing materials and labour, it cuts down on operating expenses. However, just because your operating expenses have reduced, there could be other costs incurred in using a LCCS option.

With LCCS, there may be currency volatility or corrupt governments in the country you are working in. There may be high fees for shipping or the cost of visiting the supplier might be substantially higher depending on how remote the factory is located.

“Unleashed has allowed us to improve our processes and systems to make sure we maximize the opportunity to give people the products they love.”

While at the same time decreasing inventory turn time and investments in raw materials due to an improved planning and purchasing processes.

Shipment Delays

The location of your supplier’s warehouse may impact on how quickly you are able to receive goods. There could be delays because of weather or goods getting held up at customs. This could impact the health of your inventory control as unreliable shipments from overseas could cause problems if they don’t arrive on time.

If you are not able to provide customers with guaranteed shipments, then it might negatively influence your sales. Without reliable inventory control from reliable shipping as a result of bad supply chain issues, a domino effect may occur.

Social Responsibility

In LCCS settings, labour laws can be very different from your home country. The overall cost of a good might be cheaper, but the reason it is cheaper might make you uncomfortable. Sometimes working conditions in warehouses are not up to your country’s standard and workers are subject to conditions with substantial amounts of chemicals. In addition, child labour could be going on and general unfair wages to the employees may be an issue in the country.

It is important to do an audit of the warehouse and build a relationship with the factory owner. It is difficult to ensure all processes are transparent but is imperative to have the clearest understanding possible.

Environmental Issues

Just like social issues, environmental issues are also a concern. Some factories may not use proper waste facilities for their chemicals or claim they recycle but in actuality they do not. Try to assess their environmental policies and see they are putting it into practice.

May 03

Best and Worst Businesses for Cash Flow

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Float

No matter how inventive or simple your business model is, you can still have problems with cash flow. Here is a rundown of the best and worst businesses for cash flow.

The Best…

Retainer Businesses

A business that keeps its clients on retainer will have relatively stable cash flow in comparison to project-based businesses. Retainer contracts are often mutually beneficial to businesses and their clients. Whilst a business gains consistent work and revenue, a client has the certainty of investment when it comes to their own cash flow.

A retainer contract means peace of mind when it comes to working capital to cover your financial obligations. It also means that your cash flow is more manageable.

Most service businesses tend to work with a mixture of retained clients and with project work (more on that later). But it’s safe to say that keeping your clients on retainer is the best for cash flow.

SaaS companies

Companies that offer Software as a Service are some of the largest and most globally recognisable businesses and appear most frequently on lists such as the Fortune 500, and the Forbes Top 25. But bear in mind that these lists are measured on profitability, rather than cash flow.

With the founders of certain tech companies the subject of Oscar-nominated movies it’s fair to say the tech business is synonymous with success.

With internet-based delivery models, companies that deliver Software as a Service tend to incur less expenditure on raw materials than other business sectors. Fewer overheads, a low barrier to entry, and more opportunities to grow mean that tech companies tend to have good cash flow.

best cash flow businesses

Okay for Cash Flow:

Agencies

An agency is a business that provides a service on behalf of another business, or person. Whether you outsource support or materials, chances are your company can function with fewer overheads.

Fewer overheads mean spending less money upfront – which is good for cash flow – but agencies are often project-based. An intermittent inflow of cash may mean that your cash flow contains more troughs and peaks than a typical business.

Creative agencies are having to pay more attention to payment infrastructure to help with their cash flow. Reducing payment terms, turning to direct debit, and requesting half payment upfront in order to get paid faster are all ways in which agencies are getting paid faster.

Additionally, investment in a functional, and scalable tech stack provides cash flow solutions for agencies. Integrating multiple apps, networking on social media, and running a business remotely, can help with the lumpy cash flow that comes with project work.

Franchises

Franchise businesses have an advantage over other businesses in that they, particularly if they’re an offshoot of a recognised brand, already have a reputation. Owning a franchise can mean combining your business acumen with the (hopefully) positive reputation of whatever company you’ve taken on.

A franchisor’s brand is its most valuable asset. But with a high initial investment, it’s still a risk to get involved in a franchise. However, an entrepreneur opening a new franchise inherits an established business model which can mean a head start in terms of the business working.

And the worst…

best cash flow businesses

Restaurant industry

Your loyal customer base might think that your gastronomic experiments pay for themselves but it’s more likely that deliciousness comes at a price. It turns out that you can buy taste after all.

In fact, the number of restaurants that went bust in 2017 increased by a fifth. With nearly 1,000 insolvencies in 2017, compared to 825 in 2016, the plight of the UK restaurant business is being blamed on expensive overheads and increasing market competition. If the naked chef can’t stand the heat then the restaurant business is certainly not cushty for cash flow.

Unlike the flash-in-the-pan trends of quinoa or kale, delivery services seem to be causing a bit of a stir amongst restaurateurs. The restaurant business seems plagued with hurdles to overcome in order to run, and maintain, a healthy cash flow.

Seasonal Businesses

Seasonal business cash inflows and outgoings fluctuate throughout the year. Inconsistent incomings are the main reason that seasonal businesses are some of the worst for cash flow.

There are many reasons why your business may be seasonal. You may sell Christmas trees, gazebos, even swimming pools. Whatever the reason is, with temperamental cash flow you’ll need to factor that into your business management strategy.

Cash flow, as we discovered in a recent case study, needs to be monitored closely in order to survive the deluges and droughts that come with seasonal business. With inconsistent takings, it is essential for a seasonal business to keep track of its cash.

Property Developers

Property developers need to make a large initial investment and there can be a lengthy wait to see the returns. However, after the initial payout and the following hard work you’re left with a large sum of money to start the cycle all over again.

By definition, the property business is capital-dependent and cash flow poor, particularly for business owners that have no additional income. This is why, until they’re flush with cash, property developers tend to work two jobs in order to keep their development job afloat.

Cash flow for property developers is a game of cat and mouse. With times of cash droughts and alternate times of capital saturation, cash flow can be hard to keep on track.

In conclusion…

Ultimately, any business can fail. But monitoring your cash flow can be a definitive means of preventing business insolvency. With intuitive and visual cash flow forecasting provided by Float, you can make money troubles a thing of the past.

Sign up for a free trial with Float today!

Or, to find out how Float can help your business become a cash flow champion, sign up for one of our free webinars!

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May 03

How to Engage and Sell to Gen Z

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Vend

While millennials are still a significant consumer segment for retailers, there is another shopper group that’s continuing to gain spending power

That segment is none other than Generation Z. Born after 1995, the oldest Gen Z consumers are still in their early 20s, but their numbers and retail influence are growing rapidly. According to Fast Company, Gen Z “makes up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers.”

If your store caters to these teens and early twenty-somethings, keep reading. In this post, we’re discussing the key traits of Gen Z along with tips to help you sell and market to them.

Gen Z traits and characteristics

What’s Generation Z like and how are they different from (or similar to) other consumer groups? Here are a few key characteristics:

They want to be part of product development

According to the National Retail Federation, Gen Z shoppers “like to be part of the product creation process, and are much more willing to share feedback and product improvement suggestions with brands.”

This is one of the biggest differentiators of Gen Z from millennials, notes the NRF, as the former “want brands to cater to them, and expect purchases to reflect their personalities and values.”

Gen Z shoppers want to do good

This isn’t to say that young consumers aren’t without their values. Like millennials, Gen Z-ers is driven to do good. Research has shown that this particular generation cares about various environmental issues (76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet) as well as social causes such as racial, gender, and income inequality.

Studies have also shown that 60% of Gen Z consumers “want their jobs to impact the world”, and “26% of 16-to-19-year-olds currently volunteer.

They trust influencers more than traditional celebrities

Out of all consumer segments, Gen Z-ers are the consumers who trust traditional advertising and marketing the least. This is particularly true when it comes to digital influencers versus traditional celebrities.

A report by Fullscreen found that “over half of teens would prefer to see a brand advertise via social influencers rather than produce TV commercials, pre-roll video ads, sponsored articles/posts or banner ads.”

This generation is practical and realistic

Majority of Gen Z-ers are “are risk-averse, practical, and pragmatic,” notes Fast Company.

The publication found:

Whereas millennials were criticized for their lack of focus, Gen Z are determined to plan ahead. Gen Z have been strongly shaped by their individualistic, self-reliant Gen X parents and they’re committed to avoiding the mistakes their meandering millennial predecessors made. “I need a job that will come out with money, otherwise college will be a waste”, says Marcus, 17. “I want to pick a career that is stable.”

They appreciate brick-and-mortar stores

Here’s something that might surprise you about Generation Z shoppers: to them, physical retail is far from dead. A study by CrowdTwist found that “57% of Generation Z prefer shopping in-store… Despite being digital natives, Generation Z prefer to shop in-store rather than online, and a slightly larger percentage of them compared to Millennials prefer to do so.”

That said, offline shopping still needs to be aided by technology. According to research by HRC Retail Advisory, to the vast majority of Gen Z-ers (over ninety percent) having a strong Wi-Fi signal is essential to a great shopping experience.

This is because while young consumers like to shop offline, they prefer to do so with technology (smart devices, in-store tech) close by.

“[While Gen Z] was born with a smartphone in hand, it doesn’t keep them from shopping – and even preferring to shop – in brick and mortar stores, as long as they have access to their ever-important social network,” said Farla Efros, President of HRC Retail Advisory.

How can retailers market and sell to Gen Z?

Now that you know have a better idea of what Gen Z is like, it’s time to figure out the best way to market and sell to them.

Here are some ideas of what you can do:

Be real and inclusive

Out of all that generations and shopper groups, Generation Z has the least amount of trust for traditional ads and marketing campaigns. These consumers can see right through those perfectly touched-up commercials, and they’re not impressed.

To move and engage Gen Z shoppers, you need to be authentic. Feature real people and stories in your campaigns and build a brand that’s down to earth and relatable.

One example of a brand that’s doing this (and seeing results) is Abercrombie & Fitch. After falling from grace a few years ago, the company set out on a new strategy to reinvent itself. One of the things it did? Revamp its marketing strategy.

As Glossy reports, the company “moved away from the scantily clad, thin, white models it was known for, and instead embraced diversity across race and size.”

It also launched its “Made for You” campaign in which it featured real people (instead of “hot” models) showing off the brand’s clothes on the streets of Memphis, Tempe, and Austin.

 

Engage Gen Z through technology

Gen Z-ers appreciate brick-and-mortar stores, but they still love their technology. Remember, this generation comprises of digital natives. They grew up with the internet, and unlike Generations X and Y, they know very little about analog technologies.

For this reason, you can’t afford not to adopt technology in your business.

Start with great connectivity – For starters, make sure your young customers can access the internet from your store. Shopping is a social experience, and for Gen Z, the “social” component comes in when they whip out their phone to share an Instagram Story or post about their experience on Facebook.

Encourage social media shares – Speaking of which, make sure your store is social-media-friendly. Create spaces that are snap- and share-worthy. Your young customers will thank you for it. You don’t even have to splurge to get this right. Sometimes, a witty or empowering sign outside your door can do the trick.

Here’s an example from Isalis in San Francisco.

Consider non-traditional payment methods – If you’re only accepting cash and credit cards, consider expanding to other payment options such as mobile payments. This is particularly important if you’re selling to younger customers.

These consumers love their phones and there’s a good chance they already have their payment details stored on their devices. Why not make it easy for Gen Z shoppers to use them?

Don’t forget the non-customer-facing tech – They’re not exactly sexy, but the technologies that power your inventory management, point of sale, and reporting are still critical to the shopping experience.

Case in point: stock control. 66% of Gen Z-ers would shop at a store more if they could check inventory beforehand. This means that if you want to win over these customers, you need to make your inventory available online and ensure that it syncs with your offline catalog.

The only way to do that is through a retail management system that seamlessly connects your various sales channels.

Personalization is also an important factor when selling to Gen Z (or any generation for that matter). Shoppers today want to you to cater to their specific needs and preferences, and the only way to do that is to collect the right shopper data through a robust CRM.

Team up with influencers

As we mentioned earlier, Generation Z trust influencers more than traditional celebrities. Rather than teaming up with a celebrity to endorse your brand, you’ll find more success (and likely spend less) teaming up with influencers or even just real people whom your customers can look up to.

Here are some ideas:

Scouring the web – Use tools such as Alltop, Alexa, or even good old Google to search for bloggers in your niche. Sort through the websites, check out how authoritative or influential they are, and then take note of the ones you could approach.

Searching on social media – Use the native search features of Facebook and Twitter, or leverage a tool like Social Searcher to find mentions of your products or brand. Hashtags can also do the trick. Tiffany Willson, co-founder of home design app Roomhints says that they make use of hashtags to find influencers in their space. “Retailers can find the right influencers by searching relevant hashtags on Twitter. The key people within the industry will pop up.”

Look through your database – You may not have to look too far to find the key people you need. Customers who love your store would likely be more than happy to refer their friends or talk up your brand. Go through your database, find your best customers (Hint: these are your top-spenders and frequent shoppers) and see if they’re up for the task.

Once you find people who can help amplify your brand, get in touch and strike up an agreement on how you can work together.

Further Reading

Need more tips on how to work with influencers? Check out our post, How Retailers Can Tap Into Influencers to Drive Word of Mouth and Sales.

Learn More

Invest in corporate social responsibility

As we mentioned earlier, Gen Z consumers care a great deal about various social environmental issues. That’s why it pays to invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Depending on your business, there are a number of ways to do this.

Donating to charity – One idea is to donate a portion of your sales to charity. Find a charity or cause to support, then pledge to give something every time shoppers purchase something from you.

TOMS does this through its One for One® program, an initiative in which the company provides “shoes, sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services to people in need.”

GAP’s Give Twice program is another example. For every gift card sold, the retailer donates 2% of the purchase to organizations such as CARE or Communities in Schools.

Sourcing and producing your products responsibly – CSR can also mean being more conscious of how you source and produce your merchandise. Are you implementing human- and environment-friendly business practices? What about your suppliers or vendors?

If the answer is no, consider aligning yourself with suppliers or manufacturers who have the worlds’ common good in mind.

Consider Everlane, which only works with factories with integrity and values. “We visit them often, and build strong personal relationships with the owners,” says Everlane on its website. “This hands-on approach is the most effective way to ensure a factory’s integrity. As an added assurance we also require stringent workplace compliancy paperwork.”

Enable product customization

Gen Z shoppers love being part of the product development process, so be sure to seek their input when you’re trying to decide what merchandise to sell. 

Or better yet, why not let them build the products themselves? If it makes sense for your business, see if you can enable your customers to build and customize their merchandise. Consider Build-a-Bear which specializes in stuffed animal customization.

Shoppers truly make a toy their own by choosing everything from the type of animal, to its clothes, accessories, and even sounds and scents.

Not selling items that can be “built” on the spot? Then let shoppers built collections of products instead. Birchbox does this really well through its “Build your own Birchbox” program.

While the company still says curated boxes, it also offers shoppers to literally create their own boxes. All they need to do is pick the box size they want then select product samples to put in it.

Your turn

Do you have a lot of Gen Z customers? How are you selling and marketing to them? Let us know by tweeting at us or dropping us a line of Facebook.

Retail Giveaway

Is there any area in your retail business that you need help with? Perhaps you need expert advice on improving your sales, marketing, or merchandising.

Whatever the case, we’ve got your back. Vend has teamed up with not one, not two, but THREE retail experts to bring you the ultimate retail giveaway! We’ve joined forces with retail anthropologists Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender, as well as RetailMinded founder Nicole Reyhle to give youa retail training bundle that can set you up for success.

We’re giving away exciting prize packages to 5 lucky retailers who need help taking their business to the next level.

May 03

How to Prevent and Handle Internal Theft in Retail Stores

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Vend

When thinking about threats to your retail store, shoplifting is probably number one, right? The idea of someone swiping hundreds of dollars of products into a giant bag and walking out with them is horrifying, isn’t it? (post by Cara Wood)

When thinking about threats to your retail store, shoplifting is probably number one, right? The idea of someone swiping hundreds of dollars of products into a giant bag and walking out with them is horrifying, isn’t it? Well, unfortunately, there’s a threat that might be even higher on your list: your employees.

A global study of retail theft found that employees who steal from retailers average $1890 in theft, while the average shoplifter will only take about $438. That’s pretty shocking. Of course, it should be emphasized that it is only a small minority of your employees who will actively steal from you. I would also like to add that many of your well-meaning employees may accidentally contribute to your losses by making errors during inventory count or misunderstanding policies or discounts and giving them at the wrong time. I myself contributed to loss at my retail job when, early on in my employment, I believed that a “BOGO” meant the item of great value was discounted.

Types of employee theft in retail

There are numerous ways an employee can actively steal from a retailer these days, but here are few main ones:

Stealing products

Employees might steal products from you, whether to keep for themselves or to sell somewhere on the internet. One classic method for stealing products is to hide something in the trash when they take it out, which they will retrieve from the dumpster later. Employees may also hide small items on their person or in their bags.

Gift card theft

Gift card theft is very popular these days, largely because it’s difficult to detect. There are various methods to pull off this scam, but typically, employees will issue fake refunds to gift cards they will keep. They may also give a customer purchasing a gift card a blank gift card while keeping the loaded one. This form of fraud is dangerous. At the Sak flagship store on Fifth Avenue, a clerk was able to ring up $130,000 dollars in false returns a few years ago.

“Sweethearting”

“Sweethearting” is when a cashier will opt to not ring up goods that a friend or family member wishes to take from the store. It can also be when a cashier falsely gives their store discount to their friends or family members.

Identity theft

This final method of internal theft may not be directed against the store, but is within the same grouping of activities and could cost your store its reputation. Retail employees have ample opportunities to steal customers’ identities. At the store I worked at, for instance, we used to not only take credit cards over the phone but even social security numbers if we wanted to open a credit card for someone. I had, at minimum, hundreds of opportunities a year to keep a customer’s SSN and credit card information with me.  

Skimming

Employees have been skimming off the top of the cash drawer for years. Employees who know that you won’t care about a discrepancy of a few dollars in the cash drawer may take advantage of you by slowly skimming quite a large amount of cash over time.

Why do employees steal?

There are likely as many reasons as there are thieves but often, it’s a disgruntled employee. Perhaps they’re stealing for revenge on the store for some reason. Perhaps it’s because they think they deserve a raise that they haven’t gotten. Perhaps it’s because they are in a bad way financially and really need help. But not all employees steal for these reasons either. Some, like those who participate in “sweethearting,” may believe that they’re just helping out a friend with their employment perks. Some, as in my case, may not even realize that they’re actually stealing from the store.

How to prevent internal theft

The first thing to know is that it’s best to simply prevent these situations from happening. Once an employee is actually stealing, it can be a tricky situation to handle. It can even, as an episode of the crime show “Snapped” that still haunts me brutally demonstrated, be a dangerous situation for the person who confronts the thief.

1. Run background checks on all new employees.

Running a background check is a fairly standard process that will help you weed out any clear bad eggs up front. Mikal E. Belicove from Forbes has some good tips:

  • He suggests that while you do use background checks, don’t use “the box.” That means, don’t ask someone if they have a criminal background on their paper application just to weed people out. Conduct interviews first and get to know someone first to avoid unnecessary discrimination.
  • Be consistent and run the same process on each applicant.
  • Look for patterns, rather than a single good or bad act.
  • Use a professional agency.

2. Ensure that all employees are well-trained on policy to prevent accidental loss.

As previously mentioned, employees might make mistakes on the job. Whether it’s entering the wrong number of inventory or giving the wrong discount, mistakes happen and they can really add up.

Work with your employees so that they know your policies and check their work. In my case, I learned that BOGO discounts are put on the lower priced item because my manager was checking receipts that day and noticed my error. She pulled me aside and kindly let me know how to do discounts correctly. That short conversation likely saved my store quite a lot of money in the long run.

3. Institute modern inventory management and POS software to make it easier to monitor for discrepancies.

You certainly could audit receipts every day or week or month to try to discover patterns of loss in your store. But you could also just implement a modern inventory management and POS system that will pull reports for you every day. These reports will make it easy for you to notice patterns (like if the cash register has been consistently down a few dollars) and will make it noticeable when you do inventory checks what exactly is missing.

4. Count your cash drawers every day.

You do want to count your cash drawers every day to keep full tabs on how much cash is in them at all times. Running these counts will deter skimming and help you detect it, as well.

5. Use a buddy system for the trash.

Given that the trash is a popular method for employee stealing, have your employees take the trash out together. Thieves are less likely to try to stuff something in the trash bag when someone is there watching them.

This tip is a doubly good, too, because having two people take out the trash is typically safer than having one person take out the trash.

6. Have employees check each other’s bags before they leave for the day.

This tip is a bit awkward, I know. I used to have to do it. Whenever an employee left the store, the manager on duty would check their bag before they left. At closing, the employee left with the manager would also check the manager’s bag. It was always a bit awkward to hold your purse out and let someone else go through it, and it was always plenty awkward to be the person going through the bag, but it certainly made it more difficult for anyone wishing to walk out with an item in their bag.

7. Implement surveillance software.

Surveillance software isn’t just video cameras anymore. Now the cameras are equipped with software that can help them detect such activities as “sweethearting” and alert you to the problem. It’s pretty incredible. These systems are especially good for documenting instances of employee theft.

8. Keep your employees happy.

Happy employees are just better for a business. They’re more productive and less likely to steal from you. The retail industry as a whole has not been the best about seeing to it that their employees are happy, but both Starbucks and Costco stand out. Starbucks, for instance, has eliminated the gender pay gap at their US stores and helps pay for their employees’ college educations. Costco starts their employees at $11.50 an hour and hires almost exclusively from within. As a small business, you owe it to your employees to provide fair pay (even if you cannot provide Costco-level pay) and to do what you can to provide them with a happy work environment.

What happens after someone steals from your retail store?

As I hinted at throughout the prevention tips, employees could still steal from you, even given your best efforts. Once that happens, what do you do?

1. Collect and document as much evidence as possible.

First things first — you cannot just accuse an employee of theft. If you’re wrong or unable to prove it, your company may face legal retribution. Instead, carefully document everything that you can. Run audits, collect receipts, and put together the correct video footage.

Joseph Addams, a third party loss prevention agent, says that he will sometimes allow an employee to steal a few more times before confronting the thief, just to ensure that he has an airtight, documented case.

2. Call your local police station for advice.

Your local police station can provide you with advice on how to document employee theft and even give you interviewing tips. Don’t pass up this help.

3. Interview the employee.

When you finally have an airtight case, bring your employee in for an interview to confront them with your evidence. Be sure to do it when others are in the store and do not tip your employee off beforehand as the subject matter. (You don’t want to end up like the victim in that awful crime show I will never forget.) Addams has some interviewing tips to share as well:

  • Prepare all the paperwork in advance, including their dismissal paperwork and, if possible, their final check.
  • Keep a witness in the room. Typically another store manager or HR person.
  • Begin the interview by telling the employee you just wish to review some LP procedures.
  • Though you should already know as much as you can ahead of time, don’t tip your cards. Using various tactics, you may be able to get the employee to confess to crimes you didn’t know they had committed.
  • If you are going to prosecute the employee legally, call the cops after the employee has confessed, but continue the interview until the police arrive. And do note: your employee is legally allowed to get up and leave the meeting with you at any time, and you must do nothing to prevent them from doing so.

4. Fire them.

Unless your employee’s reasoning for stealing is along the lines of Jean Val Jean’s reason for stealing bread in Les Miserables, you will need to fire the employee. (And if the reason is as noble as Jean Val Jean’s, you should look into what you can do to help the employee get to a better place in life.) You do not necessarily need to prosecute your employee legally, especially if the theft is marginal, but you cannot have anyone working for you whom you do not trust.

Conclusion

Internal theft can cost you thousands of dollars and is one of the biggest threats to your business. But by enacting careful policies and using the right technology, you can mitigate a great deal of your loss.

May 03

How to Stay Productive When You Work Remotely

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Float

Working remotely or freelancing has its positives— working in your pyjamas being one of them— but when it comes to self-motivating and staying productive, it can be an uphill battle.

Without the traditional office space or team nearby to keep you accountable, it’s up to you to maintain your deadlines and keep proactive. Here are some tips to increase productivity when your team is remote.

Set Weekly Expectations with Your Team

Productive group communication keeps that team accountability in check. My team uses Slack and automated channels to keep everyone in the loop with any updates in real time. But we also make sure to have a weekly Skype stand-up to give everyone a brief overview of what we’re all working on, and we’ll do a quick check in at the end of the week to review if we’ve completed certain goals.

This gives me room to go with the flow that is my inbox and any other fires that might pop up during the week, but also keeps me focused on any large team projects.

Embrace Your Flexible Schedule

A flexible schedule helped me realize when I’m most productive and how to manage my time. For me, that’s early mornings and afternoons but for others, that can be evenings and late nights. To be more professional, I’ll schedule my emails to go out during the traditional work day and I’ll manage expectations by replying consistently at certain times during my own work hours.

That being said, a flexible schedule also makes me more aware of when I need breaks and how to stay energized. When I worked in a traditional 9 to 5, I stayed laser-focused on tasks and burned out by the afternoon, sometimes running the clock on unimportant tasks. With a flexible schedule, I can identify when I’m starting to fade. I’ll take a proper break from the screen, maybe take an afternoon workout class, and come back ready to focus and be present.

 

Get Out of the House

If you’re working from home, I think leaving your space and finding a space to get into the zone inspires me and puts me into work mode. For me, the same thing day in and day out can make my creativity or output feel stale. Try meeting up with fellow freelancing friends, visit a coffee shop, or check out coworking spaces in your city with Croissant. Space where you dedicate “work time” is a great way to prep you for productivity.

When in Doubt, Set Sprints

If you’re seriously struggling, sometimes the best way is to dive in by committing a full hour to work. I’ll even set a timer, jot down a few goals for that hour and jump right in. It feels great to knock out a few things right off the bat, and I find it sets that productive energy for the day.

May 03

How to Train, Manage and Motivate Part-Time Retail Staff

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Thursday, May 03, 2018

Guest Post by Vend

There were almost 5 million retail sales jobs in the U.S. in 2016. Those workers, both full- and part-time, represent a sizeable chunk of the workforce, and they’re also a key component to every growing retail business. (post by Alexandra Sheehan)

Managing retail staff is unique. There are many different types of employees, each with their own pros and cons. And when it comes to balancing full- and part-timers, it’s an ongoing challenge. Below, we offer some expert advice on the differences in managing your different retail employees, and how you can successfully motivate and engage your part-time staff.

The differences between managing full-time and part-time staff

First and foremost, it’s important to treat all of your staff equally. Harry Friedman of retail consulting and sales training company The Friedman Group points out that it makes no difference to the customer. “The customer doesn’t know how many hours a salesperson works,” he says.

Michael Patrick, founder and president of MOHR Retail which offers retail management training, echoes that advice. “Don’t treat [part-timers] differently than full-time; everybody’s an associate,” he says.

But, there are still some differences to keep in mind.

Commitment

“If somebody’s working full-time, they’re making a living at it,” says Friedman. Part-timers, on the other hand, have other commitments outside of this job. They may juggle school, another job, raising a family, sports and other activities.

That doesn’t mean you should discount the possibility of a longer-term and more serious commitment, though. “That’s a huge pool of candidates to move to full-time as an assistant or key holder,” Patrick says. “That population of part-timers may or may not move on. If you have a good relationship, they could be your next full-time person.”

Recognition 

Full-time and part-time staff both deserve recognition for their hard work and contributions, but it’s difficult to put them on the same playing field when their roles vary so greatly. And part-time staff is often overlooked, especially when it comes to sales numbers.

“Customers are shopping on nights and weekends, so pay attention to the customer wins that [part-timers] have,” Patrick says. “The correlation is not ‘because I work limited hours, I don’t have success with customers.’”

Consistency

Full-time staff typically have a set schedule, regular communication with managers, and are involved in the daily processes of your business. Part-time staff, however, have multiple managers, receive updates in different ways, and are not always privy to the latest important information.

“[With full-timers], you don’t have to work so hard at coaching moments [and] being able to give them individual feedback, and I think that that’s what’s lacking from a part-time person,” says Patrick. “It’s hard to be consistent when they’re there. They’re going to have multiple points of supervision that might not always be the senior manager.”

How to manage your part-time retail employees

Training

Whether they’re working five hours a month or putting in close to 30 every week, the onboarding and ongoing training process is essential. Onboarding is your way to welcome employees to the team. The United States Postal Service sends their employees a welcome kit with a backpack, water bottle and other USPS swag.

Initial training to acclimate staff to your brand and their role within it is also an important step to take for all new hires. The Home Depot, for example, puts all retail employees through the same training, including information about the brand, their respective store, and their role in the company. This is a common practice for many major retailers, and smaller ones can adopt similar approaches to set things off on the right (professional) foot.

Training doesn’t stop after onboarding, though. “You have to create learning and information networks,” Patrick says. Training can take many forms: managerial feedback, on-the-job training, retail consulting agencies and firms and formal reviews.

Those reviews don’t have to be too formal, says Patrick. “Buy them Starbucks. Talk to them. Get to know them personally, and even what some of their career goals are. It’s very interesting to us that some of the best managers become mentors long after the person leaves the retailer, and the reason is they had shown interest in graduations, birthdays, those kinds of things, and what their career goals are.”

Train your management as well. These are your part-timers’ day-to-day contacts, so they should be educated on what it takes to be an effective supervisor.

Communicating

“Part-timers often feel that because they don’t get information, they’re not engaged as much,” Patrick says. “They may not see the manager or any kind of senior leads regularly, so they begin to de-value the time that they’re spending there.”

Provide lots of communication

One problem many part-timers face is not enough communication from their employer and/or management. That’s why it’s important to use several modes of communication, and to over communicate whenever possible.

“There are a number of changes that [part-timers are] not aware of. Merchandise is moved. New merchandise is coming in. Pricing or promotions are changing,” Patrick says. “Retailers are becoming much more promotional and reactive to customer data, so they will do point-of-sale, discounts, and pop-up sales or promotions.”

Daniel Diamonds, a jewelry store based in Evergreen, CO that has been in business for more than two decades, is mostly a family-run business. They do have two staff on the roster, though: one full-time and one part-time, both of whom have been loyal to the company for years. Owner/general manager Kellie Alkayam says part of what keeps them motivated as great retail employees is open and transparent employer-employee communication.

Establish and follow communication processes

You can’t assume that managers have all the information and will communicate it to every part-time employee, says Patrick. “Their schedules are infrequent; they don’t overlap.” And while verbal communication is important, he recommends using other modes as well. “Think about the touch points in the store,” he says.

  • Where they sign or clock in
  • Employee spaces or break rooms
  • Behind the counter and by the cash register

A checklist of the recent highlights should be easy-to-find for all of your staff. “What are the five things you need to know? What’s changed? What’s moved? What’s new? Get some questions in a quick checklist,” Patrick says.  

Get on their level / meet them where they’re at

The most effective retail leaders and managers know that feedback should always go two ways. Just as important as it is to provide constructive criticism to help your staff improve, you should be collecting their thoughts on how you can provide a better working environment for them.

This is beneficial both because you’re making your staff feel heard, and you’re getting direction, from the source, on how to best manage your employees. “Asking them is also a way to show respect and value,” says Patrick.

“Engagement is a way to show value, and it’s at the core of motivation regardless of how many hours an associate works in retail.” – Michael Patrick, MOHR Retail

Questions should also help you gauge how informed your employees are so that you can understand if you need to make adjustments to your communication strategies. “Retail leaders need to ask more questions about what part-timers know,” Patrick says.

Here are just a few questions that Patrick recommends:

  • How can I communicate with you better?
  • Do you feel like you know enough to answer all the questions you get from customers? What else can I share with you?
  • When I’m not here, do you know who to go to? Have you had any conversations with them?
  • How have your conversations with other supervisors gone?
  • How can I support you better?
  • What can I do to help you?
  • How are you feeling about being here?
  • What’s most challenging?
  • What’s your experience as an employee here?
  • Have I given you everything that you need?
  • What would you add to the orientation that we did, that would make this even better or give you more confidence?

Scheduling

Part-timers have the unique stipulation that their scheduling is a bit more complicated than your full-time staff. Many times, full-timers are on a set schedule. With part-timers, though, those schedules can be more diverse. This is both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on the circumstances. And many times, that schedule flexibility is a major benefit in the eyes of your part-time staff.

“The fact of the matter is they are gonna have to work their part-timers schedule occasionally,” Patrick says. Establish, document, and distribute policies that clearly outline how your part-time employees can request time off, get their shifts covered, or adjust their schedule. Get your employees’ scheduling preferences before you hire them, so you can predict what you have to work around.

Consider implementing tools that can help you manage and structure retail staff schedules. Here are just a few:

Nights, weekends and holidays are the norm for part-time retail workers, which means there’s a definite loss of time with friends and family. Patrick stresses the importance of recognizing your team as another sort of family away from home. “It’s almost a source of socializing on its own,” he says.

Especially on holidays, Patrick suggests treating your employees for showing up, a sort of incentive. “It’s a way to say, ‘Look, I know you can’t be with your family, but this is your retail family.’”

Motivating and engaging

Encourage performance through fun competitions

Friedman points out the importance of treating every employee as someone who has the potential to be a high-performing salesperson. That’s why he recommends healthy and fun competitions to keep a performance-based focus in a motivational environment.

“One of the first things that we do is expose the numbers, not only to the individual, but we post them on the wall,” Friedman says. “Everybody knows what everybody else’s average sales are.”

If you have multiple brick-and-mortar locations, you could pit them against each other in a challenge. This helps bond your employees while also pushing them to perform at a high level. This is an approach that Friedman has applied in the past. “Challenge the other stores in the chain for a bet, maybe money, booze or dinner, or the losing team has to come in and clean my store.”

Implement employee programs

Some retailers also put employee programs into place to maintain ongoing engagement. These could be wellness programs with incentives like a free gym membership, or contributions to school tuition. Store discounts is a pretty straightforward and easy way to reward and incentivize your part-time workers, too. “[Part-timers] often work at stores that they would typically shop in,” Patrick points out.

Celebrate staff milestones and events

Just as you would celebrate customer milestones through a loyalty program, you can take a similar approach with your staff. It could be as simple as saying something along the lines of, “You hit 90 days! I hope we get to keep you for another 90.” If you want to go an extra mile, celebrate with gifts, discounts or other perks.

Personal milestones are also important. “Make note of birthdays and graduations and other milestones,” Patrick says. “Knowing who they are is a great way to build rapport.”