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Friday, 11 November 2016

Trends retailers need to invest in

Evolution is key to sustainability and every business needs to evolve in order to survive for years together. Retail businesses also need to adapt to their fast paced, dynamic, highly competitive and challenging environment to be able to progress in today’s day and age. This can certainly seem like climbing a huge mountain. Hence, to be able to achieve this feat, below are a few trends that retailers can invest in now, before it is too late for them.

Omni-channel is the way to go: If a retail business is still banking on one or a few channels to stake its claim to the market share, well, it is time to realize that such a strategy won’t work in the long run and sooner or later, the business would be biting the dust. Omni-channel retailing is the way to go forward and any retailer who is not adopting an omni-channel strategy should invest in it right away, else the business’s survival will be jeopardized.

Same day delivery or it is a ‘no-sale’: Gone are the days when retailers could take weeks and months to deliver products to their customers. With the intense competition in the e-Commerce market, everyone is trying to be better than the others. One of the latest features big giants have started providing to their benefit is ‘same-day delivery’ to their customers for the products purchased. Fulfilling this kind of a commitment requires a pre-planned yet flexible and comprehensive supply chain management. Retailers need to invest in it or else face no sale situations.

Customer expectations is not the limit: If the focus is not the customer, the retail business is sure to perish. Customer experience today is an extremely competitive battle ground. In order to stay in business, retailers, however big or small, need to ensure that they are leaving no stone unturned in providing their customers with an experience that would drive them to come back. Retail business owners have to ensure they invest in the right resources so that they do not limit their offerings to merely fulfilling the customer expectations, but aim to exceeding them.

Mobile is the destination: Retail businesses need to be where their customers are and one of the most favorable destinations where retailers can engage with their cusomers is on mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets are the new norm for the consumers today. If retailers need to keep up with this norm, they have to invest in the right mobile technology. This will enable them to be where their customers are and not fade away because of obsolescence.

If retail businesses want to make a lasting impact on their customers, they have to be armed with the right resources – people, products, processes, technologies and so on. Retailers must get ready to invest in the right trends at the right time as this will help their businesses to evolve and keep-up with the quick, ever changing needs of the retail industry.

Friday, 28 October 2016

10 Tips to add that extra bling to the festive season sales and profits

As the festive season is in progress, there is a lot retailers can do to bank more sales and boost profits as much as possible. The key is to be proactively prepared. If retail businesses expect to grab larger portions of the festive shopping cake, it is up to the retailers to take charge and make it happen.

1.    Have enough product on hand
Plan for sufficient buffer stock to meet the targeted sales volume for the season. Keep the warehouse inventory handy and the display amply stocked so customers have feel spoilt for choice.

2.    Focus on cross-selling and upselling
Identify which potential products can be coupled for sales to add value to a sale (cross-selling) and products that have big-ticket or upgraded models that can be suggested for customers to consider (upselling). Slow-moving items can be offered as complementary products or repackaged as a special buy in combination with best-sellers to get the slow movers out the door.

3.    Stand apart from the competition
Highlight the most distinctive features of the mainstream merchandise with the right communication or offer some new and unique products that cannot be found elsewhere, to attract the attention of curious customers looking for the latest in the season.

4.    Deck the stores to a “happy place” to encourage sales
Set the festive ambience at the stores with the right paraphernalia to match the season – merchandise displays, lighting, colours, music and such other means to delight customers. Focus on creating a space that is shopper friendly.

5.    Collect all the customer data you can
The festive season will bring in new customers. Capture every customer’s data. Further, track and analyze their buying behavior and preferences to spot which products are trending up and which are getting eluded to be able to personalize offerings and boost loyalty.

6.    Know your customer
Know what customers are really looking for in terms of shopping experience in the festive season. Take the time and effort to ask questions and receive actionable feedback from all channels. Understand the demographics of the region and choose your product offerings accordingly.

7.    Keep product knowledge a priority
Make sure in-store salespeople know the product features and benefits thoroughly. Moreover store staff should be well versed with the technology at the counters to be able to service customers faster. Ensure product features and USPs are clearly highlighted for easy reference.

8.    Improve customer service
Focus on customer centricity by understanding customers better and then servicing them accordingly. Employ technologies to enhance customer service particularly during peak business periods and to ensure safe transactions. Enhanced customer experience can help induce repeat purchases.

9.    Plan for the last-minute frenzy
Employ the right skills and technologies to handle in-store as well as online traffic on the e-commerce website. Keep the supply chain engine running through the season to ensure sufficient stock is always handy through careful planning and allocation of stocks across all retail touch points.

10.    Manage finances to last the season
Plan the pre-season stock allocation and in-season procurement of inventory to last through the entire festive shopping season, which is starting earlier and lasting longer each year. This makes it crucial to handle budgets accordingly.

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. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

What retailers need to understand about the Omni-channel Customer Experience

ETP Blog - What retailers need to understand about the Omni-channel Customer Experience

Retail has undergone a major transformation in the digital age, and today customers demand better, quicker and seamless experiences. Therefore, brands need to provide omni-channel experiences that allow customers to engage from wherever they are – brick-and-mortar stores, mobile apps, online, kiosks, catalog and more.

However, simply operating multiple retail channels does not constitute an omni-channel strategy, unless done right. Today, customers may start in one channel and switch to another as they progress to a definite buying decision. Omni-channel implies making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be effortless for the customer.

Omni-channel is not just a mere buzzword. It is essentially a cluster of strategies that need to deliver results. So what do retailers need to know to create a superior omni-channel customer experience?

360° Omni-Channel customer view
Collecting customer information such as shopping preferences, demographics, buying history, preferred modes of payment and so on is absolutely vital for creating a single unified view of the customer no matter which they use to research and purchase. When acquired, consolidated and leveraged fittingly, this analysis can provide a roadmap for retailers to define and deploy more personalised and effective communication and promotions, eliminating much of the guesswork.

Offer consistent and continuous experiences
Today, consumers have instant access to an extensive range of buying options, they will not think twice while letting go of a brand in search of a superior experience. Even if one of the channels is lagging, the retailer will likely see a drop in customer loyalty. Hence, the value of a complete, continuous and consistency is priceless.

Leveraging emerging technologies
The right technology investment is vital to enabling an outstanding omni-channel customer experience. Retailers should equip their business operations with the right mix of emerging and effective technologies to fulfil consumers’ high expectations in this fast and frugal omni-channel age. Brands that can stay on the cutting edge of technology such as mobility, geo-targetting, smart devices for payments, augmented reality and many more are likely to emerge victorious.

While every retailer will bring a distinct omni-channel customer experience strategy to the table, brands will have to strive to provide a seamless, noteworthy customer experience across channels to meet consumer expectations.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Innovating retail business in the age of disruption

ETP Blog - Innovating retail business in the age of disruption

Disruption through technology has revolutionized many industries and one such industry, perhaps, where the impact has been most visible is retail. At the turn of the millennium, technology has brought about a huge shake-up in retail, in two ways:-
i) By bringing about a change in the perception of retailing and its customers,
ii) By adding more dimensions to the traditional methods of retailing

This disruption could very well prove to be a destruction of many retail businesses if they are unable to innovate and get it right. Every retailer has to think about getting better in a way that is different from the rest and work towards getting it right in this fast changing retail environment.

But what does innovation in retail really look like? Below are a few insightful perceptions;

-    Bridging the offline-online gap: Customers, frankly, don’t care if the retail business operates its brick-and-mortar stores and an e-commerce portal, separately or not. For them, it is only about getting their order fulfilled. It is up to the retailer to figure out the process to make sure they meet the customer expectations on time, budget and quality, no matter what channel they have used to make the purchase. 

-    Predicting the problems in advance: The importance of being proactive cannot be stressed upon more, considering the dynamics at play across the retail business. Retailers need to use the art and science of forecasting not only sales and profits, but also pain points that could surface in the future.

-    Data driven retailing: Any retail business can be successful if it has the required resources to track, collect, measure and analyze data. The outcome of the analysis would definitely equip retailers to take calculated risks rather than simply going by their intuitions. Greater the risk, better would be the returns.

-    Going beyond the customer experience: Great customer experience is no more the ‘be all and end all’ of retailing. It should be a relationship that every customer has with their preferred brand or product, and thus other entities involved. Of course, the service and experience will help build and strengthen this relationship. Hence retailers need to provide a better and distinguishing experience for customers to get hooked on and stay loyal.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Omni-channel fulfilment is the biggest retail challenge

Fulfilling the demands of cross-channel operations is the biggest challenge for retail businesses. According to a recent study that involved 400 retail CEOs across the globe, failing to meet omni-channel demand and being unable to sustain 'brick and mortar' sales was the most significant business impediment, cited by 42 per cent of respondents.

The cost of fulfilling orders across channels has increased for 67 per cent of retailer business.

Fulfilling customer returns from orders in-store and online was the biggest challenge, 76 per cent, with 71 per cent of retailers citing it as the most expensive aspect of fulfilling orders.

The research also showed that only 29 per cent retailers consider themselves to be multi-channel, while 26 per cent say having shipping options was very important to meeting customer expectations.

Globally, meeting omni-channel expectations of customers was the biggest priority for the future. It was also the biggest challenge, with 35 per cent citing failing to meet the demands as the biggest concern, and 84 per cent saying they could not currently fulfil omni-channel demand profitably.

The cost of fulfilment, especially returns, was cited as the most expensive aspect of omni-channel operations.

Chief executives surveyed are investing an average of 29 per cent of capital expenditure this year on improving omni-channel fulfilment capabilities.

Globally, CEOs are more upbeat about long-term growth as opposed to growth in the near-term, with most expressing rising confidence in revenue growth over the next 12 months compared to last year.

Source: http://www.cips.org/supply-management/news/2015/may/omni-channel-fulfilment-is-biggest-retail-challenge/

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Knowing the New Age Consumer

The New Consumer is a values-aspirational, practical purchaser. He or she aspire to purchase with a purpose but is unwilling to make practical trade-offs, especially in a tough economy. By and large the New Consumer represents a younger, female, educated demographic.

ETP Blog - The New Age Consumer

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Helping retail associates sell better

Retail store staff that have the right customer facing skills can prove to be an important asset for the retail business as they are the ones dealing with the customers’ directly, Hence, they need to be the face of the retail business as well as brand ambassadors of the retail brand so that they are able to influence the customers and drive them to making purchases, thus generating sales for the business.

At the end of the day, the aim for a retail store staff is to achieve high sales. However, selling does not mean they have to be ‘salesy’ and pushy. Effective selling is all about their ability to help the customers with the necessary information which they may be seeking, helping them find the desired product, and ensuring that the customers are genuinely happy with their purchase. 

To achieve this, retail businesses need to ensure that their store staff are equipped with 2 important aspects – knowledge and technology:

•    Knowledge – Retail store staff need to be armed with thorough and complete information regarding the products. In fact, it would be of additional value if they possess the information about the competition as well. Importantly, every store staff should know their customers so that they can tackle them accordingly. Hence, it is necessary to have recent and relevant customer data. The store staff also need to be trained and groomed in order to imbibe the values of the business so that the brand attitude may be reflected through the interactions they have with the customers. Also, providing proper training for obvious factors like communication skills and other soft skills will go a long way in the overall grooming of the staff. Having substantial knowledge of the business, its products, customers and also, the competition will allow the store staff to face the customers confidently and deliver the service effectively.

•    Technology – Along with knowledge, it is also essential to equip the store staff with the right softwares and tools. Having the right technology at their disposal will allow them to go about their daily chores efficiently. For example, a POS software at the check-out counter that is able to not only capture customer data but also reflect it during billing will allow the staff to provide the customer with the right offers at the time of purchase. Also, providing store staff with mobile POS devices will help them assist customers during peak hours, thus negating the chances of a walk-out. Having a powerful order management tool that can manage inventory real time will enable the staff to handle situations accordingly, if the desired products are not available at the store.

Certainly, the utilization of a good retail solution will ensure that the retail business as a whole, can reap the benefits through improved performance and profitability. To sum up, the right knowledge and the right technology will help retailers and their store staff to get it right in retail.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Retail is Dead. Long Live Retail!

- Naresh Ahuja

The Retail industry is suffering. Most retailers are struggling to maintain any growth; profitability is compromised, and the future looks gloomy. As I travel across the many countries we work in, I hear the same story. And I also hear the same questions: Is this because of eCommerce? Is this because of the economy? Is this because of geo-political strife?

So let’s break it down. In Asia Pacific, India and The Middle East (we call it the AIM market), eCommerce has between 2 % and 10 % market share. Is this enough to cause the stress in the retail industry? Maybe, and we can do something about it.

Are the economies really doing so badly? Yes, some of the more developed ones like Japan, Singapore, HK, etc. are finding growth difficult. China is slowing down. But some economies like Thailand, Indonesia, India, Philippines, etc. are coming through.  Is the geo-political tension between the powers that be, hurting customer sentiment? Maybe. But what can private enterprise do about it?

The key question to ask is which brands are performing and which are not and why? We have many customers and friends in the retail industry who carry scores of brands. And they would do well to examine their brand portfolio. Customer tastes have shifted; all the above factors have driven a changed customer who is willing to spend a lot of money on holidays and mobile phones but will look for value while buying lifestyle items. Value being defined as a great price for a good quality product that is a trend setter. Gone are the days of such products demanding a premium, today that’s the baseline for the customer.

The king is dead, long live the new king, the customer! Sounds obvious? It’s not, with the retailers’ primary focus being location and brand, there has not been much focus on the individual customer. The recognition and acceptance of this will be the change that will drive success and growth in retail and eCommerce. Though I must admit, eCommerce companies have done a better job at personalizing their relationship with customers in a short time.

In the new omni-channel commerce paradigm, the customer is planted firmly in the center of the lens, serviced by any channel that she chooses to interact with, when she chooses, and where she chooses and at the best value. The customer wants hassle free experiences interacting with the brand, recognition, rewards, and superior post sales service.

At ETP, as we work with retailers across 22 countries and over 25,000 stores and 500 brands, here’s what we’ve observed: a tremendous depth in their skills in Merchandising, Brand Management, Sales and Supply Chain Management, their understanding of diverse customers and employees, their ability to manage cycles and seasons and still produce a profit, their infrastructure management, their cash management, among other things.

In the last one year, we are now seeing these giants waking up to the need to focus on the individual customer both in retail and in the eCommerce space. With all their powerful management and execution capability they could be the game changers of this new “Omni-channel” retail world. Like all large organisations with a legacy and systems & processes in place, they may not be as nimble as the pure play eCommerce players, however they seem to have got it now, and are ramping up their organization’s technology, culture and capability to play the eCommerce game. At the same time the eCommerce players have grown and are struggling with the lack of the same competencies that the larger retailers have. You will see many of them opening stores, to better service their customers.

It’s a fascinating new battle front and the next couple of years will tell all. My guess is that the winners will be the ones who leverage the core competencies of retail and deploy the technology savviness of eCommerce companies. Somewhere in the middle, focused on customer service, the successful companies will emerge, after all, isn’t retail a service industry?

ETP blog - Retail is Dead, Long Live Retail

This article has been written by:

Naresh Ahuja, Chairman and CEO, ETP Group

Naresh as the Founder, Chairman and CEO of the ETP Group leads the company with a clear focus on bringing enduring value to customers through best practices mirrored in software applications. Spanning 25 years of focus on retail domain expertise and IP development, ETP today, has a strong customer base of market leaders in more than 20 countries across Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East, and is on its way to becoming a global leader in Retail Software Solutions.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Knowing your Omni-channel Shopper


For every retail business, it is very important to know their omni-channel shopper in order to be able to provide the right customer experience they desire across all channels. The above video highlights the importance of mobile devices used by shoppers to research for inventory availability from their home, on the way to the store and even while in the store.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Why are store staff important even in the omni-channel age?

ETP Blog - Whya are store staff important?

Retail, as a business, is highly customer-centric. Every process or operation in the retail business has to be carried out with the customer in mind. And when the focus is the customers, there are some important aspects related to them such as experience, satisfaction, branding, and loyalty. All these can be addressed by the retailers through ‘service’ which is the essence of retailing. Customer service in retail does not just start and end with the transaction, but it initiates much before that and goes even further beyond the purchase.

One of the traditional methods of doing retail business is through brick-and-mortar stores. Latest trends in technology such as e-commerce and m-commerce have added new dimensions to retailing. They offer customers the convenience of researching for products, buying and having them delivered at their doorstep with convenient and secure payment methods in just a few clicks, from their homes or offices. Yet, the brick-and-mortar store based retailing still prevails and will continue to do so.

94% of total retail sales are still generated in brick & mortar stores.Many consumers still look at shopping centers, malls and stores as their preferred location for shopping, so that they can not only see the products but also touch and feel them, try them out, and compare them live. That is not all; another important factor for such shoppers is the human interaction they get to experience by communicating in-person with the store staff regarding various aspects related to shopping.

The store staff have the opportunity to influence and inspire customers and peers, thus being the difference between a sale and a no sale situation. Although their primary objective is to achieve higher sales by driving the customers to make a purchase, their role in the store should not be restricted to merely that. They must also act as an assist to the customer by providing the right information and helping them select the product that best fits their needs and aspirations. Further, store staff should also build a relationship with the customers in a way that would encourage customers to visit the store again.

Thus, store staff that are equipped with the right customer facing skills can prove to be an important asset for the retail business.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

4 Important benefits of a good POS Software

ETP Blog - 4 Important Benefits of Retail POS softwate

The retail arena is getting immensely competitive and increasingly dynamic. The need to have a solid system in place that can give retail business owners a view of their sales, inventory, customers and employees, can’t be overlooked in today’s day and age. The right point-of-sale (POS) software brings with itself a lot of benefits which retailers need to make use of for enhancing the productivity of their business.

Below are 4 important benefits that a POS software solution should offer to retailers to address the needs of the modern day retail business:

•    Automation of processes: An efficient POS solution will facilitate automation of various processes including tedious admin tasks such as keeping track of sales, inventory and staff. If it is integrated with other modules, retailers can have a better view of their customer data at the POS, which will enable them to build and sustain customer loyalty. POS solutions will automate the process of cross channel inventory look-up to help in cross-selling and up-selling.

•    Business modernization: Undertaking in-store activities manually can be detrimental in terms of enhancing retail business operations. In this digital era, retailers have no choice but to upgrade from their traditionally followed processes and inadequacies, and modernize their business to optimize operations. POS software that allows automation will definitely serve this purpose.

•    Speed up operations: A point-of-sale solution that has the ability to enhance retail operations by modernizing processes and automating functions would not only help save time on various tasks but also facilitate in increasing the speed of operations. Important customer facing processes like billing can be completed in a few seconds with the help of a solid POS technology.

•    Save costs: Retail POS solutions that can automate time consuming tasks,  thereby increasing the speed of operations and enhancing the business through modernization will essentially save operational costs and allow retailers to channelize the budgets elsewhere, thus making it possible to optimize commercials. An effective POS software solution will therefore help save more than it costs in the long-run.

Retailers need to take cognizance of the above benefits and look for them whenever they are planning to invest in a new POS technology or enhance their existing systems to gain that competitive edge over their peers.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Innovative Solutions with Solid Foundations


ETP’s value proposition is its unique ability to create innovative retail software solutions. ETP delivers domain expertise through it's best practices, knowledge base and a team of consultants adding up to 1800 man years of retail experience in various retail verticals such as apparel, footwear, electronics, mobile phones and accessories, furniture and home furnishings, luggage and handbags, books and stationery, jewelry, timepieces, sports goods, health and beauty and convenience stores. ETP helps its customers get it right in retail.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Focus on the Consumer, Not the Channel

Mono-channel retail and the digital shopper are yesteryear. Today’s consumer is a 360° omni-shopper who researches for and makes her purchases from all angles, as she considers an quickening set of content, payment methods and offers.

Retailers and manufacturers alike must cease to focus on an exclusive channel. In fact, their target must not be the channel, but the master of multiple channels: the omni-shopper. The retailer who does so intelligently will know where to place the next bait. Because the consumer is already looking around and in all probability, is already a step ahead.

Focus on Consumer, not the Channel

Thursday, 7 April 2016

How do you WOW your Customers?

- Ross Stokes

[Image courtesy: Bain & Company]

Ever since I've been spending my "pocket money" I've been a collector of retail stories and experiences.  There's only 2 primary experiences that stick in the memory...  Both involve a WOW

WOW, that was awesome, I'm so happy!!
... and I want to go back and experience that again and share it with my friends, or WOW, that was horrible and can't believe I wasted my time and money!!! ... and I never want to ever experience that again and I don't want anyone else to have to experience it either.

What MEMORIES are being CREATED?
I remember going into my favourite sports store as a kid and being welcomed by the owner like his buddy. He knew what sports I played, always had a new racquet to show me and would give me the "secret" details of why this was the one to have. He made it his business to know me and what I liked.  That was over 40 years ago and I still remember those special days when I got to visit his store of sporting treasures with my savings to happily buy my next racquet.  He knew the value of caring enough and making a connection.

10 years ago I visited the Louis Vuitton store in Paris with some friends.  What a WOW experience.  We were given a guided tour and a lot of attention while our group browsed and tried on shoes.  We were made to feel special in a store designed to evoke a feeling of WOW.

[Image courtesy: highsnobiety.com]

I walked out of there with a new pair shoes, not the best value for money shoes I've bought but definitely the most memorable pair.

So did I buy just a pair of shoes OR did I buy an experience wrapped into a pair of shoes?   Even after 10 years when I put on those shoes on I still get reminded of my time in Paris and that LV store experience. Buying is an emotional experience.

We all have horror stories and memories from bad retail purchases and store experiences.
These experiences are the antithesis of building customer loyalty and have a negative impact on a retailers profitability, particularly in today's connected world of social media where stories and experiences are shared instantly.

I believe a retailers return policy experience is usually a good insight into how they value our loyalty.  They can choose to make a WOW experience that has us coming back for more or saying "never again!".  There is no excuse using today's technology for this to be a negative experience. 

All these WOW experiences and the mediocrity in between are the result of people.  When leaders are engaged at all levels of a retail business, magic can happen. 

Bain has written an article "A fresh look at store labor"


The article highlights "Winners adapt their store labor model to what matters most to customers, they zero-base their operations instead of relying on what worked for them in the past, and they are systematic in mobilizing store labor for the required changes in behaviors, activities and processes."

They include 8 useful starter questions to help a retailer explore whether they are empowering their store operations.

Are Store Staff Enabled and Empowered?
When I go into a store I'm always interested to see who is more informed about the products...  the store staff or me.  The irony is that most store staff have the technology skills and often the devices to be well informed and educated so they can add value to the customer experience however its not the norm.  Often store staff are distracted on their smart phones or the POS browser and the customer isn't their focus.

The essence of retailing hasn't changed.   Give a customer a positive WOW experience and they will reciprocate with their loyalty and cash!  Online retailers have used technology to set new benchmarks in customer experience. Taking what is that essence, putting the customer at the center of their business and making it the best, most seamless buying experience possible. 

Nothing new other than the enabling technology.

The right technology solution with training can turn stores into 
productive, profitable WOW experiences.  

This article has been written by:

Ross Stokes, Regional Director, ASEAN-ANZ, ETP Group

Ross brings a diverse corporate and personal set of experiences to his role of Regional Director, Asia Pacific, for ETP. His business experience aids in understanding the various challenges retail owners and executives experience while growing their business and successfully supporting their desire to improve retail management processes and systems to achieve optimal profitability.