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Aug 01

The Benefits of e-Commerce for Manufacturers

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


 


Guest Post by Unleashed

The proliferation of e-commerce has been a game changer in the world of retail, and if adopted correctly can be hugely beneficial for manufacturers too.

Increased sales are obviously a major benefit for manufacturers using e-commerce, but this is only one perk. A successful e-commerce platform will also enable digital marketing efforts, integrate with other business solutions, and free up sales and customer service so that they can focus on more value-added tasks. In this article, we explore how e-commerce can benefit manufacturers beyond simply increasing sales.

Why Adopt e-Commerce?

Our world is increasingly digitised, and most importantly, consumers are increasingly shopping online. We now have constant access to the internet through smartphones, and each day we spend hours browsing on social media websites like Facebook and Instagram.

This means that manufacturers must think about how consumers access products. Since consumers spend so much time on their phones, it is vital that when creating a website for example, you ensure that it is mobile friendly. A website may be fine for consumers browsing on their tablets or laptops, but it must be mobile friendly as well. Buyers want to look online and call if they have questions. Click to dial is another must-have feature if you want to provide a seamless e-commerce experience.

The increased consumer traffic online means that businesses are increasingly adopting e-commerce platforms to get their products out there and increase sales. Small businesses looking to expand should follow suit to capitalise on the digitisation of our world.

Access to New Markets

Adopting a successful e-commerce platform will drastically improve your digital marketing efforts, and moreover, give you valuable access into overseas markets otherwise difficult to penetrate.

As your small business begins to experience some growth, you need to be thinking about getting access to markets beyond your local customer base to create more revenue opportunities. However, physically setting up manufacturing overseas or employing representatives elsewhere is costly and risky. A successful e-commerce platform will allow you to branch out on the world wide web right from where you are based. This is especially useful if you manufacture products which are dependent on seasonal demand – if it’s the wrong season where you’re based, somewhere in the world it will be the peak season for sales.

Customer Focus

e-Commerce is also great for improving customer satisfaction because it can allow customers to track the whereabouts of their orders. Using a digital tracking system means customers simply enter their tracking number to find out where their orders are, keeping them in the loop and most importantly, keeping them happy.


 


Aug 01

Top 7 Tips for Finding the Right Business Software

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


 


Guest Post by Float

You almost certainly started your business for one of two reasons: you can do something better than anyone else, or you have a burning passion so deep you cannot focus on anything else.

You didn’t start your business because you wanted to track cash moving in and out of your bank account. Nor to complete complicated forms for the government. You hadn’t even contemplated how business software could help you do these tasks, mostly because you didn’t know you need to do them.

But once you realise you need software to help you, how do you go about finding the right solution? Here are my top 7 tips to help you make the right choice.

1. What do you want to achieve with business software?

We progress and achieve great things by facilitating and embracing change. However, change for change’s sake is counterproductive. So exactly what is it you hope to accomplish by changing your software? Increased efficiency? Lower costs? Paperless office? There are many reasons why you should review your technology, however without a good understanding of the desired outcome, you may not find the right solution.

2. Build your business processes

Before you even start thinking about the tasks and workflows you need your software to help you with, you need to ensure that you have the right processes for your business. Automating or building upon the wrong workflow will not help your business to run efficiently. Don’t be precious…just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way of doing it!

3. What are your “must have” and “nice to have” features?

It’s very easy to get carried away when thinking about all the things technology must be able to do. Think about what is so fundamental to the smooth running of your organisation that you cannot do without it and separate these requirements from the features that would be beneficial, but that you could cope with out.

For example, when buying a car 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds and a convertible roof may be nice to have, however space for 2 children’s car seats and plenty of room in the boot for a pushchair may be essential.

4. Review your existing technology and software

Review if and how your existing applications help your workflow. Every organisation is different, however there is almost certainly one application or function that is more important than the others. This could be managing customers, sales and marketing (CRM), maintaining financial records (bookkeeping/accountancy applications) or reporting on key metrics or cash flows, like Float.

5. Make a shortlist of business software you want

You will now have a very good understanding of what your ideal process is, what functionality is already served and what is missing from your software stack. It’s time to start plugging these gaps! Let’s assume your accounting software is the one thing you do not need to change. You need to have better control of your sales process and need to improve your cash flow. To remain lean and efficient your software packages need to be able to talk to each other, using APIs. Start by looking at your accounting software’s website for existing integrations – there will almost certainly be many. Review the features these “partner” apps have and short list the ones that meet your essential features. If there are none which do, a wider internet search, asking questions in your network or an independent business software company can help.

6. Demos and trials

Many software vendors will offer free trials or will arrange a demo with one of their team. Use these opportunities to see how the application could work for your organisation. Ask lots of questions and ensure you have a great understanding of how the software will work for you and understand what the cost will be, including any setup or implementation fees.

7. Implement your business software stack!

Once you have selected the right applications you now need to get it up and running. For cloud based software there may not be any installations required, however it is likely you will need to set and configure it, especially if you plan to link with other programs. This can be time consuming and costly if you get it wrong. The software vendor may offer support with this, or charge for implementation for more complex solutions.

Summary

With many hundreds of business software applications and integrations between them, finding the right flow for your business can be time consuming and daunting. It may take several days per application to get it right, however following the steps above will help you get the right solution. Or of course, you could contact the business software experts at Octopus Blue!

Andy Bailey will be speaking in more detail on this subject at Accountex at 10:15 on 11 May.

About Octopus Blue
Octopus Blue help SMEs optimise their processes and software, enabling you to operate in the most time efficient and cost effective way. Octopus Blue are uniquely independent, whole of market, business software experts. Our experienced consultants will implement and configure your entire software stack, empowering you to laser focus on what you do best.


 


Aug 01

When to engage a debt collection agency

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


 


Guest Post by Debtor Daddy

At Debtor Daddy, we’re firm advocates for giving customers reasonable time to settle their debts. Go in too hard, too soon and you’ll burn your relationships; leave it too late and you’ll waste a disproportionate amount time and money trying to collect what’s due. So when is the right time to engage a third party debt collection agency?

Most late payers don’t want to be bad payers

After sending thousands of emails and making thousands of phone calls, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the most common reason for late payment is your customer lacks the cash to pay right now. Offer them a workable payment plan and most times they’ll be back in your good books within a few weeks.

When does a good payer become a bad payer?

This is where a good accounts receivables specialist is worth every penny. Not only are they experts at coaxing your troublesome payers to lift their game, they also have excellent ‘bullshit detectors’ to know when your customer is acting in bad faith.

We typically know by the second or third phone call whether a customer genuinely wants to pay. That’s the benefit of having thousands collection calls under our belt – it gets much easier to spot the bad eggs and start a formal debt collection process earlier.

When should I use debt collection?

Statistically, the best time to send a customer to debt collection is before their account reaches 90 days past due.

Keep in mind if you gave them 30 day terms in the beginning, then they’ve already had use of your money for 120 days! So 90 days is ample time to follow a robust credit control process, leaving you with little doubt that debt collection is the appropriate next step.

Which debts should I send to debt collection?

Here are the key considerations for sending a debt to debt collection:

  1. Is the debt owing from the customer more than $500? Most debt collection agencies won’t consider collecting debts under this threshold.
  2. Is the debt disputed? Debt collection agencies cannot lodge a default against disputed debts, leaving legal action or the Small Claims Court your only remedies.
  3. Have you followed a good process? Have you sent email reminders and made some phone calls to try and resolve any issues and confirm the debt is not disputed? Is the customer aware that you’re taking further action that might affect their credit rating and cost them thousands in legal and collection fees?
  4. Can you on-charge collection and legal costs to your customer? Your terms of business should include a clause that allows you to pass on all collection and legal costs to your customer. If you don’t have this option then you might think twice about using a debt collection agency if you have to foot the bill.

Technology can help

Cloud-based receivables management software like Debtor Daddy makes it easy for any business to follow a great process and outsource parts of accounts receivables when the organisation does not have the expertise, time or resources to handle internally.

Try Collect today

 


Aug 01

Working From Home – Managing the Risks to Reap the Rewards

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


 


Guest Post by Employment Innovations

Working from home is becoming increasingly common as many employees look for flexibility and work-life balance.

Employees who work from home are often more productive and happier, while businesses experience higher retention rates and employee loyalty.

There are some legal risks employers should be aware of before finalising a working from home arrangement in order to achieve better, safer outcomes for both businesses and employees.

Is Working From Home the Right Option?

Not every employee will be in the right position to have a working from home arrangement. Some key things to consider when an employee requests to work from home are:

  • Is the employee involved in a lot of face-to-face work with clients? If they worked from home, would this enhance or hinder the business’ client relations?
  • Is the employee required to work closely with a team on a day-to-day-basis? What communication processes would need to be implemented?
  • What level of supervision or monitoring does the employee’s role require? Are they self-motivated and able to work autonomously?
  • Is the employee’s home environment safe and free from distractions?

Open and consistent communication between employer and employee is key to making any arrangement successful. Employees should be able to articulate why they want flexibility and how it will enhance their productivity. Employers should set clear expectations before consenting to a working from home arrangement to ensure everyone is on the same page going forward.

The Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements

Under the National Employment Standards, some employees are entitled to request flexible working arrangements, including working from home. Employees are eligible if they have worked for their employer for 12 months and if they are a parent or carer, have a disability, are over the age of 55 or are experiencing domestic violence.

Employers must seriously consider any request for flexible working arrangements. A request can be refused on reasonable business grounds, which could include that it would be too costly for the employer, be impractical to accommodate or would negatively impact customer service.

Work, Health & Safety Obligations Still Apply in an Employee’s Home

Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for their staff, whether they are working on-site or at home. Under work, health and safety legislation, an employer’s duty of care extends to wherever an employee is performing an activity that is part of their employment.

This means that if an employee physically injures themselves while working at home, it can be considered a workplace incident. Employers may be liable under a workers compensation claim.

Having a Working from Home Policy and Checklist can help to ensure an employee’s home complies with WH&S requirements.

Employers also have an obligation for their employee’s mental well-being, even if they are working from home and psychological injuries are covered by workers compensation. Stress, struggles with workload, bullying, harassment and job dissatisfaction are still issues that arise with employees who work from home. This risk can be minimised by having regular office days when the employee comes into work and checks-in with managers and other staff.

Confidential Information

If an employee is working from home, company property and intellectual property will often be put on personal computers or taken home in hard copy. This inevitably creates risks of confidential information being shared outside the business.

Employment contracts, codes of conduct and policies can assist with protecting your business’ confidential information. They can also ensure employers are able to request access to information and property (such as laptops or phones) at any time, including termination of employment.


 


Jul 04

11 Unique Sales Promotion Examples to Help You Stand Out and Attract Foot Traffic

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 
 


Guest Post by Vend

These days, it seems like every retailer is running some sort of sales promotion. 25% off, $5 off a purchase of $50 or more, buy-one-get-one-free — these approaches are becoming so commonplace that it’s easy to get lost in the mix.

Some outside-the-box creative thinking can help you come up with unique ideas that will differentiate your sales promos from the rest. We’ve compiled 11 ideas to help get your creative juices flowing.

1. Collaborations

Partnering with other brands and/or local businesses is one way to expand your reach and leverage others’ resources and experiences (while sharing your own). Retailers can collaborate to execute unique sales promotions with a variety of angles.

One such example is City Workshop Men’s Supply Company, a menswear store in West Orange, N.J. They co-hosted a giveaway with ani ramen, a restaurant in the next town over, and the winner would receive $100 for a dinner date night.

Customers had to visit City Workshop to enter, and if they made a purchase, they’d be entered twice. “This introduced our people to the restaurant, and the restaurant introduced their people to our shop,” says Josefina Stevens, co-owner of the store. “This cross-promotion was a lot of fun, and people were excited about it. We had a lot of customers coming to enter and purchasing products.”

2. Do something good

Consumers are increasingly demanding more corporate social responsibility from brands. According to various studies and surveys, 90% of consumers want to see more “responsible” products from retailers, and more than half will pay more for those goods. So you can actually run a sales promotion without decreasing the price if you don’t want to.

Here are some ways your sales promos can give back:

  • Donate to a cause or organization for every in-store purchase made during your promo
  • Sell products made by local artisans
  • Host a pet adoption fair, during which time customers can shop your store too
  • Reward customers with a discount for proof of their doing good

Chick-fil-A and Amazon, for example, have both awarded me with $5 gift cards for donating blood to the American Red Cross.

3. Direct mail

In today’s digital age, it’s easy to forget about old-school methods of marketing and advertising. And that’s just as well, because that means that those businesses that do leverage traditional promotion tactics may have an opportunity to be more impressionable.

Chad Rubin, CEO at Skubana, also believes that direct mail is a largely untapped opportunity for retailers. “Direct marketing has been vastly underutilized, as companies have been transitioning to email,” he told us. “You may consider a postcard in the mail as a way to retarget 2nd-time buyers.”

Many grocery stores still use direct mail — in fact, my apartment building has an entire recycling bin next to the mailboxes dedicated to disposing of this stuff. However, I recently received a postcard from Blue Apron that was more eye-catching, and didn’t immediately end up in the bottom of the bin.

If you execute it well, on-brand and with the correct imagery and messaging, your direct mail campaign can drive lots of shoppers to your store. A well-designed invitation to shop could be all you need to reignite interest in your store.

4. Meet the maker

Consumers love to know what, and more importantly who, is behind your products. Nearly half of Millennials, for example, are more likely to purchase from your store if they know who made the merchandise. Meet the maker events are one unique sales promotion that can drive in-store sales.

We see this example frequently at book stores, which often host book signings with the authors. You can discount the products or not — regardless, you’re providing added value to your customers. They get an intimate and immersive product experience, plus a fancy signature to show off to their friends.

Retailers who don’t sell books can also take this approach. If you sell wine, bring in the guy who stomps the grapes at the winery to lead an educational session, followed by a tasting and free glass. Or maybe you bring in a designer from one of the clothing labels you carry so they can debut their new line and host a Q&A. Whatever your product, get creative and think about who made it come to life and how that’d be interesting to your audience.

5. Bag sale

This next unique sales promotion idea is also a really fun and sometimes challenging one: a whatever-you-can-fit-in-this-bag-is-a-single-price sale, for lack of a better word.

Here’s how it works: You provide a shopping bag, cart or other container for shoppers to use to hold their items while shopping. They can then purchase everything that fits inside said container for a single flat price. You’ll set this price based on the cost of your merchandise and how much you can afford to markdown (don’t forget to think about the size of your products, too).

Arc Thrift Stores has run this sales promotion before. Their items are very low-priced, many things even under $1. They sold the bag of items for a flat $5 to in-store shoppers.

6. Pop-up

Pop-up shops are a great way to build buzz and awareness, plus test new markets and products. It’s also a unique sales promo that you can use to spice up your run-of-the-mill sales.

There are two main ways that brick-and-mortar retailers can get involved in pop-ups:

  1. Host another brand’s pop-up with an in-store pop-up
  2. Open your own pop-up in a different location than your brick-and-mortar store

United By Blue is one retailer that has hosted brands that it sells for in-store pop-ups. For the Oxford Pennant pop-up that they hosted in April 2017, they drove 250 people to the event and increased month-over-month sales by 155%.

7. Used and returned product sale

When a customer returns a product, it can amount to more than just a single lost sale. Depending on the item and its condition, you might not be able to salvage and resell it — which means you’ve lost the initial sale and you’ve lost the capital invested in the product. Double bummer.

But one unique sales promotion idea that you can use to mitigate losses from returns or even damaged merchandise, you can host a used and returned product sale. Or, as outdoor goods retailer REI calls it, a garage sale.

The first time I went to an REI Garage Sale, I thought I had mistaken it for an Apple launch. There were tents outside with music, coffee (it was 7 am) and food — plus a line around the corner. The deep discounts draw hundreds (thousands?) of shoppers hoping to score a sweet deal, and it helps REI get rid of product that they otherwise might not be able to sell.

8. Put a twist on events and holidays

Robert Barrows runs R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations, where he does a lot of marketing and advertising promotional work with car dealerships. For him and his clients, putting a fun twist on events and holidays has proven to drive foot traffic to the showrooms.

For Father’s Day, for example, a San Jose, Calif.-based Dodge dealership hosted an ugly tie contest. Customers would bring in their ugliest tie which were then judged in-store, the winner receiving anywhere up to $500 in cash prizes. “The promotion was always a lot of fun, and it generated some good publicity, too,” says Barrow.

And on Halloween, the dealership put a spin on your standard costume contest and gave away a free car. They challenged shoppers to come to the dealership dressed as certain characters, the first five of each costume to receive prizes ranging from $5 to $20. They posted pictures of the participants in the showroom, where they hosted a drawing for the “Win the Pumpkin Car” raffle. The dealership painted a used car orange and gave it away free to one lucky winner.

9. Celebrate small milestones

The idea for this unique sales promo is rather broad, but it’s still relevant: The smallest milestones and events that happen at your store can be cause for celebration with a sale. Let’s explain this through a few hypotheticals:

  • You have a sales associate hitting their 10-year anniversary of employment — that’s a lifetime for hourly retail workers. To celebrate their dedication to your company, run a promotion where you discount their favorite product by 10% for the entire month.
  • You’ve recently upgraded your POS, and one new feature that you’re excited about is email receipts. Why not celebrate this upgrade with your customer base? For everyone who opts for an email receipt, they can get a discount or free gift.
  • Your local area is just getting through the rainy season, and sunshine is in the forecast for Friday. Welcome the sun and shoppers with a sales promotion to celebrate. Serve lemonade to in-store shoppers and discount sunglasses and sunscreen.

10. Scavenger hunt

In-store scavenger hunts are unique sales promo ideas that leverage gamification to encourage engagement with shoppers. Scavenger hunts can be executed in a variety of ways, ranging in degrees of complexity. And despite what you think, this tactic isn’t just for children’s stores.

Bloomingdale’s is one example of a retailer that has used scavenger hunts to drive in-store traffic and sales. Integrating social media, in-store associates and products into the experience, shoppers learned more about the brand and its story.

11. Exclusive sales

Everyone loves exclusivity. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a select group that has access to things that others don’t? When you host exclusive sales promotions, you make those customers feel special and valued. For example, REI’s Garage Sale that we mentioned before is only open to their customer loyalty program members. It’s one of the perks that members have come to love.

But exclusive sales also allows you to target and personalize your promotions to the group’s characteristics and interests. 64% of consumers want personalized offers from retailers, according to Salesforce, so it’s definitely worth experimenting.

You don’t need a customer loyalty program to run exclusive sales promotions either. Maybe you open your sale to a local group or organization. For instance, if you sell sports goods, perhaps you run a promotion for anyone who plays in the local soccer league. You can also get some cross-promotion from your partner organization, who can spread the word about your store to the members of their community.

Conclusion

Though these unique sales promotion ideas are vastly different, they have on key component in common: They add value to the customer. Whether through a monetary discount, free gift, enhanced experience or something else, the most effective promotions are the ones that provide added value.

Which unique sales promotions have you tried in your store? What worked and what didn’t work?


 


Jul 04

8 Reasons Why You Should Outsource

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 
 


Guest Post by DebtorDaddy

Outsourcing ‘business as usual’ tasks can bring focus and efficiencies your business needs in order to succeed in today’s fast paced environment. A new level of agility and access to quality analytics and expertise can be brought into your business. To get ahead of the competition, consider outsourcing.

Drum roll… The benefits

1. Affordable access to experts

Specialists in companies offering outsourcing solutions are experts in what they do. They regularly deal with thousands of clients similar to you and can provide sound advice based on experience and trained expertise.

2. Peace of mind

Your mind can be at peace with an extended team member on the job. While there can be uncertainty around a new outsource partner, once a relationship is developed, and a contract negotiated, companies often feel a sense of relief and assurance that the job is getting done. Enjoy a new world that is more stress-free.

3. Employees can focus on core business

Free up time to focus on core business activities. Without having to run an accounting department or an IT operation with permanent staff, companies can direct their work effort toward what really matters, increasing productivity and enabling the team to finish projects faster. For example, a plumbing company would prefer to hire new employees who are plumbers. Office staff can be positioned to focus on bringing in a consistent flow of new work as this is what grows the business. What can be outsourced to increase the value of their time?

4. Improved service for your customers

By ensuring essential operational services are in care, you can focus on delivering value to your customers. Your extended outsource team can also help deliver a more professional service to your customers which is incredibly beneficial. Improved services help you develop a proactive, mutually beneficial relationship with your customers.

5. It is cheaper

Using well paid account managers or accounting staff on your team to do tasks that could be outsourced to experts who are more efficient, saves time and money. The experts also use the best tools of their trade to assist them. Gain access to these tools at a fraction of their cost. These experts can also provide game changing, unanticipated advice to improve your business.

6. Employees are happier

There are some routine tasks that smart employees don’t enjoy doing. They’re boring (to them) and time consuming. They are not expert at these tasks and procrastinate when they need priority. If the core team could outsource these tasks, it allows more time and resource to focus on the stuff they love. This is rewarding to the employee and provides greater job satisfaction.

For example, recruitment companies task their account managers with following up on overdue invoices. Is is this the best use of their time? Is it the best strategy for their relationship with the customer? Is this something they enjoy? Likely, the answer is no.

7. Easy to use APIs

Often outsource service providers build their own app, providing these smart tools as part of their service. The reporting and analytics that you need can be a few clicks away. These are specialised, curated tools, unlike your excel spreadsheet. These tools are developed with input from thousands of users. They have efficient user interfaces and are baked in best practice that has evolved over time.

8. Flexibility

With the uncertainty surrounding today’s global economy, companies need greater ability to expand or downsize quickly. Unfortunately, it is not always possible with the present employment law and lawsuits are prevalent. By outsourcing, companies remove that risk, allowing businesses to adapt quickly to the changing market dynamics.

Have you considered outsourcing your accounts receivable?

Many areas are now commonly outsourced including payroll, human resources, recruitment, health and safety, and meeting scheduling. Often an overlooked area that can be outsourced, is accounts receivable management. Afterall, good cashflow is what keeps an organisation afloat.

Receive expert support managing cashflow. It can be stress-free.

  • Have a dedicated, experienced receivables specialist working for you
  • Trust that cashflow is managed proactively in a way that is best practice
  • Have greater transparency, quickly get an overview on what’s happening and jump in when you want
  • Have control without hassle
  • Setup is fast – completed in a few clicks

Interested in outsourcing your account receivables and debt collection? Learn more at www.debtordaddy.com

Activity

Note down:

  • What are the core business tasks that help your organisation be the best in industry, worldwide?
  • What are the ‘business as usual’ tasks your organisation could outsource?

Why wouldn’t you? If not, you’re missing out.

How would you spend your extra time? It could be working on strategic activities that will motivate your team, increase sales or bring operational efficiencies. It could be more time with your family and friends, enjoying the fresh air.

Hire for the core, outsource the rest – gain the time to do what you do best.


 


Jul 04

9 Back to School Marketing Tips to Fuel Your Campaigns

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 
 


Guest Post by Vend

Students in the US won’t be flocking back to campuses until September, but for retailers, it’s high time to ramp up back to school (BTS) and back to college (BTC) marketing campaigns.

To help you capitalize on back to school (aka the second biggest shopping event of the year), we’ve compiled pointers and real-life examples of BTS and BTC marketing best practices you can use as inspiration.

Let’s dive in!

1. Start with the right products

First things first? Make sure your merchandise is on point. Your back to school campaigns won’t be effective if you’re marketing the wrong products. So before crafting your campaigns, be sure to figure out which items to highlight in your store and collateral.

There are two main ways to do this. First is to look at your historical data. Which items were popular during last year’s back to school season? What did people end up buying? You can usually find this information using your POS or retail management system.

In Vend, for example, you can quickly dig into historical reports by selecting a date range and pulling up the numbers for specific products or brands.

Another way to get product insights is to loom at trends in your market. Google has a free trends tools that can help you do this. Go to trends.google.com and explore trends in your area or niche. You can also enter specific products or brands to view search trends overtime.

For example, if you sell back packs in your shop, you could enter a term like “Herschel Supply Co.” or “Jansport” to gain insights into consumer interest. You can then use that info to determine what to stock and which items to promote in-store and online. (Note: in both cases, search volume has gone up around July to August for the last five years, indicating that consumers do search for these terms around the back to school and back to college shopping periods.

2. Boost sales by demonstrating how your products fit into people’s school lives.

So you’ve stocked up on trendy and useful back to school merchandise. That’s great, but how are you planning to entice shoppers to buy? If your answer is to simply put your products on a shelf or rack, then you’re not going to stand out from the many merchants doing the same thing.

Instead of just putting products out there, showcase your merchandise so they appeal specifically to back to school shoppers. A good way to do this is to point out how people can use your products in school.

If you’re selling say, pens and notepads, consider setting up a desk in your store and show off those products together with other school supplies. If you’re selling furniture, why not showcase your products in a dorm room setting?

If you can’t build an actual dorm room or desk display in-store, then photograph your products in back to school settings and use the images in your marketing collateral.

Here’s a great example from Staples. To market their “classroom essentials,” Staples went beyond displaying their merchandise as standalone products. Instead, the photographed different items together with school props so customers can see how the products can be used in a classroom setting.

Screenshot 2016-07-25 11.12.48

Or check out apparel store Buckle is doing. Rather than just displaying photos of their clothes with generic captions, they’re showcasing back to school outfits to appeal to relevant shoppers.

Screenshot 2016-07-25 13.41.53

Apply the same thinking to your back to school campaigns. Figure out how your products fit into people’s school lives, and use that as your marketing angle.

3. Make your back to school marketing more relevant to the hottest trends.

What are kids (or even parents) crazy about these days? Think about the latest trends or events that your customers care about and incorporate them into your back to school marketing.

For example, back in 2015, Pokemon Go took both the app world and real world by storm. In response, many retailers rode the Pokemon Go wave to drive sales to stay relevant. 

Screenshot 2016-07-31 12.44.18

Check out what The School Box did. The retailer launched a Pokemon Go Back to School series where they showed off educational Pokemon-like creatures that they created.

When planning your back to school campaigns, consider incorporating a hot trend to grab people’s attention. Again, you can do some digging on Google Trends to see the latest trending topics. If you’d like to explore the trends and popularity of specific products, you can use Think with Google’s Shopping Insights tool.

4. Make campaigns more compelling by getting the kids involved.

Back to school is about kids, so it makes perfect sense to get them involved in whatever it is you’re doing for the season. This could be as simple as you asking kids and teens what they want to buy for the coming school year, or if you’re serious about involving the kids, why not seek their help in executing your campaigns.

That’s what Target did, and the results were tremendous. For its back to school effort in 2016, the retailer decided to let kids carry out the entire campaign. Children and teens did everything, from writing and directing Target’s ad to creating props and starring in the commercial.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at what happened.

 

5. Reach more shoppers by marketing on digital channels.

Shoppers are increasingly using online channels to shop for back to school products. Create a unique banner promoting your back to school campaign. And if you can manage it, set up a back to school section on your website, so you have a dedicated space for all your back to school merchandise.

Expect site traffic to increase this season (and continue to do so til the holidays). If you haven’t done so yet, fix any issues that could be causing your site to slow down. These could include unnecessary plugins, images that aren’t optimized, or too much above-the-fold content.

Do note that back to school shopping won’t just take place in-store and online. Mobile shopping is also on the rise this season. A study from The Rubicon Project found that 60% of parents surveyed are “planning to use mobile devices for some back to school shopping” and “30 percent plan to do at least a quarter of their total shopping on mobile devices.”

Needless to say, you need to ensure that you’re providing a superb mobile shopping experience to your customers. Optimize your website, keep an eye out for shortcomings, and strive to provide a seamless experience across channels.

6. Generate buzz through giveaways.

Having a giveaway could be an effective way to generate buzz and excitement around back to school. If you have the time and means to do so, consider running a giveaway that you can promote on social media or even in-store.

You can use the contest to gain buzz and PR, or even to capture people’s information (especially if you’re using raffle tickets or online forms).

Perhaps you could put together a pack consisting of your top back to school products and give it away to people who engage with your brand. Get creative. There are plenty of seasonal giveaways going on right now, use them as inspiration for what to do (or what not to do) in your store.

And to further promote your contest, partner up with social media influencers and brands. Find ways to tap into their audience so you can generate excitement, awareness, and ultimately traffic and sales.

Take a look at what Boogie Wipes did. In 2015, the company teamed up with other brands and bloggers to offer a huge back to school giveaway. Winners took home a backpack filled with school supplies, gift cards, Boogie Wipes products, and more.

7. Team up with mom bloggers or influencers

Speaking of which, teaming up with influencers or bloggers could be a great move for your business.

Back to school season is a great time to get into influencer marketing because parents and kids alike are on the lookout for shopping ideas and you can bet that they turn (at least in part) to influencers. In 2016, a Rakuten Marketing study found that “Almost a third (30%) of parents are willing to spend more on an item of clothing for their child if it has been endorsed by an online influencer” and more than a quarter (27%) “of parents have bought an item after seeing a celebrity’s child wearing it.”

Want to get started with influencer marketing? Do some research into teen influencers that your students are following then see if you can strike up a partnership. Could they wear some of your products and show off some photos to their followers? Would they be willing to collaborate on social media stories and posts? If you’re targeting moms, there’s no shortage of mom bloggers and influencers in the market, so search around a bit and see what you find.

IKEA is one retailer that leveraged influencer marketing for back to school. Last year, the furniture retailer teamed up Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying (of Superfruit and Pentatonix) and launched a Snapchat campaign featuring their dorm room products.

EcommerceGuide.com offers some helpful tips on influencer marketing that you could apply to your campaign:

  • Start with your existing customers
  • Tap into micro-influencers
  • Use influencer tools such as Peg, Reachbird, Scrunch, etc.
  • Build relationships
  • Respect the fact that some influencers need to be paid

8. Don’t just push your products, offer something customers could use.

Your campaigns shouldn’t just be about getting people to buy; you should also make it a point to help your customers.

In addition to showcasing your products, find ways to become a helpful resource for back to school consumers. A simple way to do this is to put together back to school tips. Perhaps you can offer a campus survival guide to students. If you’re trying to reach moms, you could offer advice to help them get their kids ready for school faster.

One merchant doing a great job at his is ALDI. The food market has a back to school section on its website that features recipes to help moms save time on busy weekday mornings.

Screenshot 2016-07-25 11.26.03

Besides tips and information, you could also provide tools. Why not provide calendars, planners, or templates that people can use in school or at home? Offer them as incentives to add value to each sale, or use them as giveaways.

9. Not selling back to school products? Use “change” as a marketing theme.

Just because you’re not selling traditional BTS products like school supplies, doesn’t mean you can’t use run BTS campaigns.

As retail expert Bob Phibbs says, back to school “is a transition time that brings a harbinger of change. It’s a time of new beginnings, changes in the weather and changes in the way we see ourselves.”

Bob notes that retailers who aren’t selling back to school products can piggyback on this theme by figuring out what this season of change means for their customers. He gives some excellent examples of how stores can use back to school to their advantage.

Consider the following:

  • Back to school time for a music store means… time for anyone to learn a new instrument.
  • Back to school time for a home improvement center means… time to fix up that forgotten spare room.

These are just a couple of examples. Be sure to check out Bob’s full blog post to learn more about how you can position your store during this season.

Over to you.

We’ve offered several pointers to help you capitalize on this year’s back to school season. Now we’d like to hear from you. How will you engage parents and students who are stocking up for the upcoming school year? 


 


Jul 04

A Bookkeeping Revolution

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 
 


Guest Post by Float

The world of accounting and bookkeeping is changing. It was a decade ago that I decided to upgrade our small business from spreadsheets and Word documents to a proper accounting system.

Thankfully, cloud accounting had just become a thing, and companies like FreeAgent and Xero were coming of age. Ten years ago it was perfectly normal for small businesses to hand over a shoebox full of receipts, invoices and bills to their accountant at the end of the year. Our faithful accountant would take them away, then come back with a report that we never looked at. It always felt slightly wrong to me. So much work went into producing something that was essentially just for compliance so we could pay our taxes.

Surely there was more value to be garnered from this great data source?

Being a process person, I was frustrated by the inefficiencies of our financial reporting. But the reward for changing to a better process was never clear. We’d still get historical data that we probably wouldn’t look at. In the early days of running a business, cash, in my opinion, is the only financial metric that really matters.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a successful small business based in Glasgow that works with an established accountancy firm in Scotland. They told me that at the end of the month they send over a spreadsheet to their accountants, who enter everything into their cloud accounting system. Meanwhile, they maintain a spreadsheet to figure out who to pay, and who to chase for payment. A lot of work is required to maintain this spreadsheet, and consequently, there are two sources of truth, the client spreadsheet, and the accounting software.

Ten years in and cloud accounting software is now mainstream. Even Sage, who dragged their heels for so long, have relaunched their “Sage Business Cloud”. Cloud accounting has become table stakes.

Businesses are now looking for integrated solutions and real-time reporting. They’re looking for accountants and bookkeepers who really understand technology and how to deploy it effectively. They need trusted advisors to educate their clients on what an efficient system should look like. They need to introduce bookkeeping practices, and bookkeepers, that can make their clients’ financial processes run simply and efficiently, with one source of truth and complete visibility on cash flow.

Welcome to the future

A well run business needs good data, and financial data is a huge part of that. Good data needs to be two things: accurate and timely.

For too long financial data has been one, but not the other. It has been accurate, but not timely. The key way for this to change is to start with bookkeeping.

It used to be OK to reconcile the bank transactions every month or even every quarter, but now it’s just not enough. Weekly, or even daily, reconciliation is the new normal.

What has changed?

Bookkeeping software has been a huge help in bringing about this change, and that’s been made possible by the advancement of text recognition software and the fact that everyone has a camera on their smartphone. Tools like Receipt Bank and AutoEntry have led the way to become a platform that all bookkeeping can be managed from. With more and more invoices being sent via email, it’s easier than ever to forward them on to the bookkeeping software of choice. This software then imports the data, down to line item detail, and sends it on to the accounting software of choice.

But life can be made even easier. With the addition of tools like HubDoc, which logs in to your suppliers’ website to grab your bills and automatically save you time.

Beyond that, the world of expense reporting is also changing. Expensify makes handling and submitting expense claims as easy as just taking a picture – no other data entry required! In the US they are even reimbursing claims automatically within 24 hours!

The next stage of this lies in tools like Pleo, Expend and Curve, which all give even more control to the budgeting and management of expenses. These tools issue employees dedicated cards, with software to track all the expenditure, budgets, and receipts.

What does this mean for bookkeepers?

It’s an incredible opportunity!

Tell your clients you’re moving on. Give them a choice to come with you.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a great time to do this.

Speak to your customers and ask them what they really want. Show them what is possible.

Become an advisor, or work with someone who can help with this.

What does it mean for businesses?

Don’t stand for less. If your bookkeeper is holding you back, find one that wants to embrace all the technology required to generate the up-to-date reports you need.

Real-time financial reporting (especially around cash flow and cash management) is something you should have access to.

You’ll also have happier employees from an expense claim point of view. No one likes filling in arduous expense claims.

Start the budgeting process, and track budgets to actuals each month.

Use a reporting tool like Fathom or Spotlight if you need to take the insight further.

Summary

Solid bookkeeping is the cornerstone of your financial data. If you don’t have up-to-date data you can make decisions on, then you’re not taking advantage of all that the cloud accounting revolution brings.

Finding the right bookkeeper and accountant is crucial to help connect the dots and build the software solution you need to grow and manage your business.


 


Jul 04

Combining Digital with Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 
 


Guest Post by Unleashed

The shopping habits of consumers has changed significantly over the past 10 years and will continue to change over the next decade too.

The use of smart phones and the radical increase of online stores has been an industry game changer for traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. With the ability to purchase at the buyer’s convenience in one click, secured payment methods and short delivery times has had many traditional brick-and-mortar stores fearful about their place in the retail industry. However, combining digital with the in-store experience is having huge effects on the future of retail. Here we look at some interesting game changers that many retailers are implementing to simplify the way we find and buy products in stores, revolutionising the shopping experience.

The Internet of Things

Almost 60% of the American population own a smartphone device, and out of those, 80% use it for purchases online. However, there is still a need for consumers to go to brick-and-mortar stores for reasons such as trying before you buy. Mobile connectivity changes shopping habits. Some people will use their phone in-store to check out product reviews, or share a picture of their outfit with friends to see if it suits them. Consequently, retailers are incorporating the Internet of Things to enhance the shopping experience. For example, consumers can download a store-specific app and based on their activities they will be sent notifications about relevant products or specific deals. Another example of using the Internet of Things in store is scanning a QR code and directly get information about that product, such as where it was made, features and also showing people who purchased this product other items also purchased. This has seen to lead to an increase in sales.

Robots and Artificial Intelligence

A major challenge for store owners is keeping shelves well stocked and having inventory in the right place. Now retailers such as Lowe’s are using robots to do this work. The device, by Fellow Robots, rolls through the aisles checking for misplaced items and empty shelf space. If it sees, for instance, that a store is running low on an item, it will alert employees to reorder inventory. By connecting to their inventory management system, this robot helps them save time and money, allowing employees to focus on more difficult and creative tasks. Robots can also answer shoppers’ questions and help them find what they’re looking for, creating a shopping experience like no other.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have opportunities to leverage the distinct benefits of traditional, in-person shopping. Retail winners will be those who are able to blend the digital world into their stores in a manner that delights customers, builds loyalty and generates brand value. The way in which data can be collected can directly impact marketing communications in a relevant way that supports a personalised and positive shopping experience.


 


Jul 04

Dream big: Making it easier to reach your financial goals

Posted by Axis CPA Group on Wednesday, July 04, 2018


 
 


Guest Post by Employment Hero

Over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle said “ First, have a definite, clear and practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end.”


We all have dreams, goals, objectives but more often than not, we struggle with the means and adjusting those means – particularly when one of those means is money.

Without a plan in place to adjust your means, it’s all too easy to see your money eaten up by small expenses, nights out and the odd treat. On their own these may not seem like big purchases at the time, but they can quickly add up to make a dent in your ability to save.

Over the next three blog posts, we’ll give you some tips and tricks to help you get there starting with the motivation for saving. Here are three tips on how to set your financial goal:

Make your goal big

If you’re going to dream, why not dream big? We’re not going to lie, there are times when saving is hard so make sure it’s something that you really want to save for. We’ve all heard of S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) but don’t forget to include a little bit of magic to make it worth it.

Make your goal personal

When it comes to financial goals, having a lump sum in the bank is great but giving yourself a reason makes it real. When you know what you’re savings for, it can help reinforce your willpower and motivation.

Change your focus from just saving a number each week to “getting debt free” or “holiday to Bali – travelling business class”. The more real and important you can make it, the better.

Write your goal down

According to a Dominican University of California study, people who wrote their goals down and did weekly updates were more likely to achieve them then those who kept their goals to themselves.

Writing your goals down makes them real and is the easiest thing you can do to get yourself started. Not into writing? No problem. Why not make a dream board to visualise what you want to achieve? Whether you chose words or pictures, stating a goal and visualising the end result can be a huge motivator.

Use simple tools to bring your goals to life – whether it’s your dream house, the trip of a lifetime or the latest iPhone – will help set you up with the motivation you need to start saving. In the next post, we’ll show you to start to form up your budget to get you there.