Tips for Retail Branding, Focus on the Basics, POS and Loyalty, Starting a Small Retail Business, CIT Impact Uncertain


istock_000003361587xsmallThis week’s roundup is full of tips and suggestions for small retailers and point of sale users. Bringing you ideas to increase your retail brand message, retaining customers by focusing on the essential basics and tips to help you start a small business of your own. We finish the weekly retail news with and important article about CIT and the impact it may have on small businesses.

1. Eight tips for better retail brand messaging – There is no fluff in this great article posted at Retail Customer Experience. The author goes straight to Tip #1 following through with seven more fantastic ways to help deliver your retail brand message in an effective and receivable way.

2. Retailers can weather economy by focusing on basics – Another informative article posted at Retail Customer Experience to help you focus on the basics to ensure your small business can continue to compete. The author demonstrates how focusing on three basics: People, Product and Productivity will help you weather the current economic situation. The three basics may seem elementary, but we all lose the appreciation for the simple concepts.

3. Build Loyalty Through Your POS – Although this article is written for garden center POS systems, it applies to all areas of the small retail industry. There are some clever tips for using your point of sale system to gather customer information and reward your top customers by reviewing that information.

4. Top 4 Things to Know When Starting a Retail Business – Most of you may already have a small business that you run, but this article will help with the four basic things you need to start a retail business. Guidelines are provided for choosing a location, merchandising, selecting employees and indispensable technologies including a POS system that will help manage almost every aspect of your business.

5. CIT troubles could hurt; widespread impact uncertain – There were many news stories this week that gave details about the troubles CIT are facing. This article posted on Reuters was the most fact filled that I could find. It looks like CIT may not receive the funding it’s requesting from the government which could have a hard impact on many small retailers that receive funding for their business through them. Continue to read the article for the most up to date information.

Small Retailer Bailout, POS Security Upgrades, Customer Loyalty, Improving Sales Conversion, Retail Surveys


istock_000001167945xsmallYou hear the word “bailout” on a daily basis but it never pertains to small retailers. The feature article is about a fantastic program to help small retailers with a customer based bailout and it’s a must read. The next feature goes on to inform you about MasterCard pulling the plug on important point of sale security upgrades and we end this weeks round up with three articles that give tips on improving your overall small retail business.

1. The Day: A Bailout for Small Businesses? – The author reveals an incredible program aimed at helping small businesses with a “bailout” using customer loyalty. The project called 3/50 was created by Cinda Baxter, a former retailer now consultant. The object is simple and affordable for all consumers making it a superb idea!

At the 3/50 Project website the consumer chooses three of their favorite local small retailers and are asked to spend just $50 a month between the three stores. That’s less than $20 a store, per consumer, per month. According to Cinda Baxter, if half of the employed people do this, it could generate $42.6 billion dollars annually for local community businesses. Cinda offers ways to pass the word around the web to inform consumers how they can save the brick & mortar stores our nation was built on.

2. MasterCard halts remote POS security upgrades – For a reasons they are not disclosing MasterCard has halted the use of remote key injection (RKI) to upgrade POS systems. This means that merchants will not be able to automatically upgrade the encryption on their point of sale terminals via the network. This will have to be done manually, one terminal at a time in a secure off site location. The timing could not have been worse, the deadline looms for merchants to migrate their existing POS terminals from DES to Triple DES by July of next year.

3. How Successful Retailers Earn Customer Loyalty – This extensive article is full of invaluable insight into the consumers view of loyalty. The author talks about many retailers focusing on prices to retain customers but in reality over 68% of customers would prefer a knowledgeable and friendly staff.

By personal experience I can say that is the truth. I recently purchased lumber for a home improvement project from two different local home improvement chain stores. The first store had cheaper prices, saving myself over $40 versus buying at the second store. The issue was the customer service! The staff was not helpful or informative, a couple of the staff members did not even know where some of the products were located that I needed to complete my project. When it came to retrieving the lumber from the “outdoor back lot”, two staff members watched as my son and I loaded 10 large boards onto a cart from the second floor.

Needless to say I needed more lumber a few days later and decided for convenience arriving at the second home improvement store. Although I paid a higher price for the lumber, the staff was incredibly helpful asking if I needed help the minute I entered the lumber section. They also offered to help me choose and load my products not to mention the lumber itself was a much better quality. The moral of the story, next time I will pay the higher price for better customer service.

4. Improving Shopping Cart Conversions – Hints and tips on how to avoid the dreaded shopping cart abandonment and improve conversions. A helpful article for any online business with detail steps on improving your overall profits and your customers overall experience.

5. Writing Effective Customer Satisfaction Surveys
– The best way to improve customer service and the consumer shopping experience is to run a customer satisfaction survey. Whether you’re a brick & mortar or online small retailer this is a perfect way to find out what your customers want, need, like and dislike. The article goes into ways to start, what questions to ask and what to do with the information afterwards.

5 Common Employee Hiring Mistakes, POS Loyalty Programs Jump, Lasting Impression of a Retail Checkout, Retailers and Smartphone Uses, Greentailing for Small Retailers


Deals OnlyA little guidance in this weeks roundup with tips on hiring staff for your business, leaving a good lasting impression when a customer reaches your point of sale and using a loyalty program to retain customers. Learn what uses your customers could get using a smartphone and what greentailing really means for small retailers. Happy 4th of July!

1. The Five Most Common Hiring Mistakes – This is a must read article posted on The Specialty Retail Expert website. These are five mistakes that you can avoid while hiring new employees. Spending more time finding the right staff to work in your retail business will improve customer service, profits and make your job much easier.

2. Participation in loyalty programs jumps 20 percent – Another article about the effectiveness of loyalty programs. Consumers are looking for new ways to save money and earn a little extra credit for making purchases.

The article states: “In fact, U.S. consumers clearly see value in program participation, and continue to leverage their activity as an antidote to hard times – seeking added value and using rewards to stretch dollars.”

Loyalty programs can be easy to set in place whether you give a discount or use a points system your customers will enjoy the added benefits of shopping with you.

3. Retail Checkouts – The Best Last Impression – A true story of a checkout experience from a real customer. The compliant is similar to many you will hear from consumers visiting various retail locations. They are in a hurry, 14 checkout lanes, one open with 8 customers ahead of them and they end up walking out without purchases their products. Read on to learn what NOT to do at your point of sale checkout.

4. In-Store Uses for Smartphones – Wonderful article about how small retailers can enact the use of smartphones by their customers. This is up and coming technology that needs to be looked at closely. The article gives great ideas like in-store maps, Movie/Cd previews and even starting the checkout process while still shopping.

5. Greentailing For Small Retailers – This article presented by Premier Packaging discusses that 8 out of 10 Americans make going green a priority in their lives, although few of them act on it when making purchases. The article goes on to give ways that you can help your customer make effective “green” purchases and to promote your retail environment as green friendly.

2D Bar Codes, Excess Inventory Solutions, Cross Selling, 5 Myths of Customer Service, POS More Than Inventory Control


Coffee, Newspaper and Mouse on DeskExpand your profits with some amazing tips in this weeks round up. Learn how to cross sell the proper way, learn the truth about how customers look at service and how to use your POS to boost profits using one simple feature. If you have products that didn’t sell well and they are stored in boxes in the back room take a look at a few creative ideas to sell them. Don’t be crazy like Cracker Barrel and store items for years to bring them out every couple months at their porch sale just to repack them again to be stored for the next sale.

1. New ’2D barcodes’ puts info at the tip of your camera phone – An interesting concept developed by ScanLife and Jagtag puts versatile information in the hands of the consumer by using a cell phone camera. The 2D bar code could deliver a vast amount of information if implemented and used in the United States. The company advertising a product puts a 2D bar code in place, the consumer snaps a picture of it with their cell phone and receives information about that product on the cell phone.

At first I was thinking there is no way I would walk through the grocery store snapping pictures of bar codes. Then as I continued to read the article they offered some innovative suggestions such as newspapers displaying them for recipes, placing the bar codes on promotional posters and Sears using them for product reviews. Now that’s a concept. I could see myself using it for a product review or an informational how-to video.

2. How Small Retailers Can Clear Out Excess Inventory – Short but sweet article with a few great tips on clearing out excess inventory. Don’t tuck it away in the stock room for next season use one of the four solutions given by this article to actually make a profit from items that don’t sell as well.

3. Cross-Selling’s Time Has Come – Cross selling can either fail miserably or work like gangbusters. To increase your overall profits and make cross selling a breeze there are a few lessons you need to learn about the correct way to approach your customer. Although the author of this article uses the example of selling software type products, the general tips and information applies to any retail industry.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and approach them using one or all of three angles of product problem solving. The article also goes into the two most common pitfalls that you must avoid when cross selling.

4. The five myths of customer service: What you don’t know is hurting your business – This is the most compelling article of the week and a must read for any small retailer. John Goodman not only gives you the 5 myths of customer services but also gives you the fact that debunks the myth, a short example and an action to prevent it!

Do you think the lowest price drives customers? Do you think out of stock and discontinued items are ok with your customers? Do you think that complaints and returns have dwindled so your customers are satisfied? Read the facts and Think Again!

5. Take the Next Step with Your System – This article may be geared towards the dry cleaning industry, but it applies to any company that uses new or old point of sale equipment in their business. The key point is capturing customer data not just any data, but the correct information needed to track sales and promote growth in profits. Many small retailers use their POS as an inventory control device rather than using it to their advantage collecting customer information.

Train your staff to enter the correct customer name, address and email address and you will have a new marketing venue at your fingertips. Take full advantage of your point of sale equipment to help improve management, simplify operations and get to know who your customers really are.

Frogtek helps “Mom & Pops”, Small Retailers and the Mall, Relevant Email Marketing, Expanding Convenience Store Technology


istock_000001955242xsmallUsually in the first paragraph I give an insight to the articles in the weekly round up, but not this week. Today I am using the space to say Happy Birthday to the Bar Code. Without it where would we be? Hard to believe that it was 35 years ago that NCR demonstrated it’s first scanning system. In less than two months after that, Wrigley became the first company to produce a product (a pack of chewing gum, of course) with a UPC that could be scanned at the local supermarket.

Lee Nicholson VP of MIS puts it best

“When that package of Wrigley’s gum moved across the scan window, and a laser beam ‘read’ the bar code imprinted on the package, it was the beginning of a new era for retailing.”

1. Smartphones and Emerging Markets: A New Technology Revolution? – The introduction of the smartphone (Blackberry, iPhone and G1) has transformed the way that consumers have access to so many things via the ability to download new software applications. Who will build these applications that could bring a whole new world together? That would be Frogtek, a project that began in the classroom at Columbia Business School.

Doing what students do best, they plan to develop an application that will be used for “mom & pop” retail stores. We all agree that many of these small retail shops keep inefficient sales records, so their first application will be an inventory and accounting management tool. This will allow small retailers to use a smartphone as their point of sale device and the camera will double as a bar code reader. The phone will then generate sales, inventory and profitability reports that will be uploaded and securely stored on Frogtek servers.

2. Malls court smaller, private retailers on temporary leases – As a small retail business you might have never thought of opening a shop in the Mall along the side of large retailers like Sears or Macy’s. Think again! This article outlines the need of malls to pull in small mom and pop shops to keep their malls alive. Almost every mall in the country has vacancies due to large corporation bankruptcies or cut backs. Who else to offer that prime space too…Small retailers. Many malls are offering short term temporary leases with favorable rents, sometimes as much as 50% less than long term tenants. The article goes into detail with many testimonials from small businesses around the nation that are taking advantage of this great opportunity.

3. Interactive mall game aims to bring in patrons, get them to stay longer – While you’re opening a new branch in the mall think about this amazing way to keep customers wandering the mall looking at all your great specials. BarZ Adventures has created a interactive mall video game called Ranger Quest. It operates through a handheld device and encourages consumers to walk through the mall and explore their surroundings. It’s a type of choose your own adventure where they will follow clues to find hidden locations in the mall, then  collect evidence to complete the mystery. The game is extremely customized on the consumers shopping preferences and retail locations can be written into the software to encourage traffic flow. For example a hidden clue on a giant sign that has a One Day Only Special Sale at your location.

4. Email Marketing Success Is About Relevance – As I have said before email marketing is a remarkable way to keep a long term relationship with your customers. It’s effective, low cost and profitable if you keep it relevant and targeted. Customers enjoy receiving email from companies that they like and trust. According to a recent study by Forrester Research 84% of customers look forward to the sales and deals form their favorite retailer. The author Lisa Barone gives 6 awesome tips on keeping your email marketing campaign relevant to the customer.

5. Role Of Technology Expanding – With the PCI compliance deadline fast approaching, convenient stores must evaluate their current POS systems to ensure that they are up to date with the latest technology. If the current point of sale system supplier has not developed a way to comply with the new standards or have not validated their testing the POS must be upgraded. Convenience stores should not look at this in a bad way. Although it may be expensive to upgrade, it will be far less than the fine imposed if they are not compliant and with a new upgraded point of sale the store will run much more efficiently.

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