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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

How to manage customers that are difficult

With the holiday season less than a month away, shoppers are already planning their purchases in terms of products, budget and time. As soon as the holiday shopping season kicks off, retailers can expect an overwhelming rush. While this could be a good time for retailers to target more sales and boost profits, there could be other aspects that could put retailers in a spot of bother.

One of the effects of the holiday shopping rush is that customers are more demanding, have less time and attention span, and are not willing to compromise. In other words, they may become very difficult to handle and retailers could have a tough time managing them.

In order to help retailers negotiate such occurrences of dealing with not-so-pleasant holiday shopping experiences, here are some simple tips that could prove to be effective:

Listen: Shoppers who are upset need to be heard. So allow your customers to speak their heart out about anything that is unpleasant to them. Active listening would allow retailers to consciously assimilate and comprehend the issues their customers are facing, rather than being judgmental towards them. Active listening will be reflected in the retailers approach towards understanding the customers and this would leave a positive impression on the customers. They will feel that they are being given a fair importance and thus instill a sense of trust in the retail business resolving their issues.

Act: Once the customers have vented out their problems to the retailers, it is now up to the retailers to act. They need to take the necessary measures to resolve the customers’ issues. Retailers need to come up with a solution that would be feasible for both, their customers and themselves. If the retail business is unable to resolve the problem upfront, they should request for an appropriate time and respond within the stipulated time.

Repeat: There will be multiple instances where retailers will come across customers that are very difficult to handle and manage. The two steps mentioned above thus need to be employed time and again by retail businesses to reduce the chances of lost sales and the number of disgruntled customers they would need to deal with.

Fore planning, resilience, the right mind-set and treating every customer as an important asset for their business could enable retailers to effectively listen to their customers and act appropriately, making them the preferred retailer that customers go to for a happy shopping experience.

Stay tuned to know the 10 tips that could add extra bling to the festive season sales and profits.

Monday, 10 October 2016

3 P’s for Effective Retailing

Retail as a business, is highly complicated as there are numerous aspects and operations involved in its successful and smooth functioning. Right from stocking a product in the store to the customer checking out of the store with that product, the entire flow can be broken down into intermediate activities that need to be managed carefully for the overall business to be complete. Now, with the influence of advanced technology, the scope of retail has further expanded to incorporate a host of other concepts and functions, thus complicating the whole process. But from the olden days till date, to run a retail business effectively, no matter how complicated it is, there are 3 basic and important aspects that need to be taken care of:

People – Retail is all about people. The retailer or the business owner along with the other employees including the store staff and most importantly, the buying customer are all important for retail. Even in the case of online retailing or e-tailing, there are people working in the background for the business to run efficiently, as well as to ensure that orders are fulfilled right up to the customer’s doorstep. The need of the hour for retail businesses to survive is to become ‘customer-centric’, and customers needless to say again, are people. The importance of people cannot be stressed any further and the right people management, be it customers or employees, would definitely go a long way in making the business better.

Product – The core objective of retail is to ensure that customers can procure/avail the products/services they desire, when they need them. In simple words, retailing is where demand for a certain product is successfully fulfilled by the retail channels. As such, the ‘product’ is a necessary entity for the business to take place. Retailers need to be aware of the products that customers are looking for and have them readily available and at reasonable costs. Having the right product at the right place at the right time in the right quantity and at the right price is key for running a successful retail business.

Process – A business is set of processes that should be carried out effectively to achieve the objectives of the business. In retail, there are a host of processes that need to be undertaken and managed for the proper functioning of the business. The right systems in place along with pre-defined rules to guide each and every process, and timely monitoring to assess the performance of each function is highly essential for any retail business to not only sustain, but also to garner profit and grow.

The right people with the right products and the right processes, and effective management of the three will help business owners to get it right in retail.

Friday, 30 September 2016

360-degree view of the customer in omni-channel retail

Customers may use various retail touch points to purchase products and to contact a company for service and support. Companies can get a complete view of their customers by aggregating data from such touch points to acquire a 360-degree view of the customer.

Technologies such as mobile devices, online communities, social media platforms, and more, has resulted in a boom in the number of touch points for customer interaction. Without the right tools, this can pose a serious challenge in aggregating the data from the many diverse interactions that the customers may have across channels.

Nowadays, retail businesses can employ an increasing assortment of tools to obtain a 360-degree customer view to gather customer information – social media listening tools to listen to what customers are saying on various social media sites, predictive analytics tools to determine what customers may research or purchase next, customer relationship management suites to track the customers’ buying history and to reward them, and marketing automation software to offer a seamless, unified omni-channel shopping experience to the customers. Such software should have the ability and the interface to integrate with other applications to enable data sharing and attain a cohesive, up-to-date, accurate view of customers in the real-time.

The 360-degree view of customers also often requires a big data analytics strategy to marry structured data, or data that can reside in the rows and columns of a database, with unstructured data as it resides on social media platforms and so forth is becoming increasingly important.

Monday, 19 September 2016

10 Things to look for while replacing your legacy retail systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Why Invest in Omni-channel?

Meeting the complex expectations of the omni-channel shopper demands substantial investment in emerging and effective technologies. Let us look at the factors that are driving omni-channel growth before discussing the return on investment.

The number of smartphone subscriptions globally was 1.6 billion in 2013. According to a report produced by a leading mobile technology enterprise, this figure is expected to increase to 5.6 billion in 2019. 90% of the world’s population will then be able to access mobile Internet connections. This growth in Internet penetration and the immense increase in popularity of smartphones will only magnify omni-channel customer behavior exponentially. These trends point towards omni-channel being the only sustainable way of doing retail business in the future as ‘one-click shopping’ becomes a reality.

Innovation in technology is also driving the retailers’ interest in omni-channel retailing, supporting new capabilities in personalized consumer engagement. Advances in store digitization technologies, predictive logistics, virtual assistance, and customer recognition systems are game-changers. These new technologies have the potential to disrupt existing business models in the same way as e-Commerce disrupted traditional brick-and-mortar sales few years ago.

In future, diverse business models will be driven by the modern day consumer’s preferences. The point in case will be e-commerce giants who are trying to add physical presence to get closer to the customers. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers are adding online stores and also reinventing the customer experience and the role of their stores (for example, by using stores as fulfillment centers for online orders).

Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful sales and marketing channel. Online companies sit on a goldmine of rich consumer data and they can easily use this to customize offers and target consumers more effectively. 

Thus today, technology enables consumers to be present anywhere and everywhere and to meet these consumers in their comfort zone, retailers need to be present wherever they are. For this, they need to invest in modern retail technologies that allows a seamless omni-channel customer experience.