By The Total Retail Staff 50 Best Tips of 2017 A COLLECTION OF THE TOP TIPS FEATURED IN TOTAL RETAIL’S MAGAZINE AND E-NEWSLETTERS THIS YEAR BRICK-AND-MORTAR That’s what the secret, I believe, is for brick-and-mortar: They should own that community, they should know who the people are in the community, they should have CRM locked-and-loaded in the community to build a thorough and valued relationship. I think most brick retailers have given that up. Peter Weedfald, Sharp Home Appliances, “Sharp’s Peter Weedfald on the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Retail,” Total Retail Talks, Episode 83 Reformat store layouts to improve the customer experience, driving additional foot traffic. This may include opening pop-up shops within the store through partnerships with trendy e-tailers; creating a more local vibe by testing and carrying local brands; and incorporating artificial and virtual reality capabilities. This would allow customers a unique touchpoint with their favorite brands, all while providing traditional retailers further insight into consumer needs. Hamaad Chippa, Informatica, “Re-Purposing Retail Stores: The New Frontier of Shopping,” Total Retail Report, June 20 CATALOG MARKETING One huge advantage of postcards is the flexibility in terms of quick production time. They allow catalog mailers to avoid the long lead times of catalogs. Postcards can also be produced for small quantities of just the very best buyers, allowing catalogers to tap their best customers in between regular catalog mailings. Jim Coogan, Catalog Marketing Economics, “The Economics of Mailing a Catalog vs. a Postcard,” Total Retail Report, Feb. 22 Run a matchback requiring an address match rather than a name or household match. There are a lot of variations in names, but much less variations in addresses between a mail file and an order file. Jim Coogan, Catalog Marketing Economics, “Solving the Attribution Puzzle,” Total Retail, Spring CONTENT MARKETING Regardless of your chosen content type, don’t forget that instant shoppability is non-negotiable. It doesn’t matter how engaging and inspirational your content is if there isn’t a quick and easy way for consumers to purchase. When consumers are brought away from a rich, creative experience to a static product page or grid, they’re more likely to abandon the purchase altogether. Brian Rigney, Zmags, “How to Reach Your Content Campaign Goals, Part 2,” Total Retail Report, July 21 CRM With a membership structure, a company already knows who its customers are, and knows what a specific customer is most likely to buy. That helps focus and improve the shopping experience in several important ways. It ensures the company offers products more likely to appeal to its customer base, and it can more reliably adjust key variables such as sizing and styles. That means less waste, reducing costs for production, shipping and inventory. Shawn Gold, TechStyle Fashion Group, “Why So Many Stores Are Closing: The Changing Face of Loyalty,” Total Retail Report, Feb. 27 Align on a trusted measurement methodology for your CRM program; implement a cycle of continuous learning; employ a diverse set of offers and approaches; build and leverage a knowledge base; and staff consultative “account managers.” Eric Messerschmidt, Ulta, “Ulta’s Strategy for Winning Customers’ Loyalty,” Total Retail Report, June 8 Capitalize on millennial loyalty by catering loyalty programs to this generation. This means offering access to exclusive experiences and perks through their preferred channels — email and mobile. Also, take a page from Amazon’s book and consider offering free shipping or other exclusive benefits to your most loyal customers. Erin Gade, Yes Lifecycle Marketing, “What Marketers Can Learn From Millennial and Centennial Amazon Shopping Habits,” Total Retail Report, August 28 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE Brands can benefit from the company’s [Amazon’s] reach in retail, while continuing to maintain their own identity. To do so, however, will require more than making and offering good products. Brands will also need to come up with a commerce idea that set themselves apart and delivers an experience that customers love. Brandon Geary, POSSIBLE, “Going Rogue: Rethinking the Amazon Effect,” Total Retail Report, March 3 Having an always-on brand — i.e., one that’s able to convert sales at any time — places huge importance on one thing: availability. Retailers’ apps, websites, devices and any other digital touchpoints must work consistently and flawlessly. Consumers have lofty expectations when it comes to the digital experiences they choose to engage. Peter Blair, Applause, “Why Online and In-Store Are Outdated Retail Terms,” Total Retail Report, May 10 The retailers that find a way to create a memorable experience, elevate their cause or establish an element of exclusivity will transform the face of retail as we know it … and we’ll all be better off. Nick Stagge, Experticity, “This is the Evolution of Retail,” Total Retail Report, August 16 CUSTOMER SERVICE Part of creating an effortless customer service experience is responding to customers quickly. Studies show the majority of customers expect brands to respond to them on social channels within an hour. When customers reach out for service only to wait hours, days or weeks for a reply, they’re more likely to be disloyal. If your competition is replying faster than you are on social, you need to focus on improving response times. Krysta Gahagen, Sparkcentral, “3 Tips for Successful Social Customer Service,” Total Retail Report, April 25 DATA SECURITY Trickling security training from the top down helps ensure the brand has no obvious vulnerabilities. Include information about what to do with suspicious links, attachments or foreign emails as a whole. If employees find themselves in situations where a ransomware threat is unavoidable (e.g., they clicked on a malicious link), the most important first step to preventing irreparable damage is to report the situation. Israel Barak, Cybereason, “Avoiding Ransomware in 2017,” Total Retail Report, March 13 E-COMMERCE 14You can easily bolster visitors’ confidence at checkout by confirming that they’ve made the right choice. Commend them when they add something to their carts, indicate that something is a popular item, and praise them on their way to completing the transaction to reinforce their positive memories of the choices they’ve made. Tim Ash, SiteTuners, “The Brains Behind E-Commerce,” Total Retail, Winter Extend your brand’s luxury appeal to the online space, which will inform everything from the style and tone of social media content to the experience of perusing the online store. Allow your customers to easily change sizes, colors and quantities. Accommodate multiple payment options. Make it easy to change billing and shipping addresses. Creating a new account should be pain free. Incorporate live stylist chat (not a bot) to answer questions and provide recommendations on-site. Elaine Kwon, Kwontified, “The 4 New Rules of Luxury Fashion E-Commerce: Amazon and Beyond,” Total Retail Report, May 23 Make corporate success contingent on e-commerce success. E-commerce isn’t a niche; it’s the largest growth opportunity that exists for CPG brands today. CPG companies should devote adequate resources to this channel now to set up brands for success in the future. Samir Bhavnani, 1010data, “Applying the Principles of Category Management to ECommerce,” Total Retail Report, June 2 EMAIL MARKETING Keep your email file size under 100K (smaller if possible) for faster rendering on mobile devices. If images take a long time to download, most subscribers will delete the message instead of waiting. Bonnie Malone, Return Path, “3 Tips for Reaching the Mobile Consumer,” Total Retail Report, April 18 IN-STORE EXPERIENCE It’s time retailers usher in a new era of higher-level marketing that looks beyond static smartphone screens and considers customers’ senses holistically. From deliberately curated music playlists based on brand and target insights to personalized digital signage based on purchase behaviors and beacon technology, it’s crucial that retailers understand their targets’ unique preferences. Scott Moore, Mood Media, “Why Consumers Increasingly Crave Tangible Touch Over Touchscreens,” Total Retail Report, March 22 People go to stores to browse and/or buy. They don’t (yet) go there to just play with cool tech. If the technology isn’t woven into the shopping path and experience, it’s likely to be unnoticed and underutilized. Jinny Uppal, Retail Strategist and Advisor, “The Retail Store Isn’t Dead Yet,” Total Retail Report, April 20 Let’s consider inverting the merchandise model to give consumers what they want immediately when they set foot in-store. In all likelihood, that customer will stick around, browse and be in a better purchasing mood than if you get them lost and confused wandering around your store. Pano Anthos, XRC Labs, “Experience the Joy of In-Store Shopping,” Total Retail, Summer Successful retailers understand consumers will always want to browse physical stores to spot the latest trends, see and touch goods before making a purchase, and identify with a brand. The old-school retail setup of racks and endcap displays creates barriers for shoppers and reinforces the short-term transactional nature of brick-and-mortar stores. Experiential spaces are destinations where customers want to spend time, which ultimately opens their wallets. Jane Hiscock, Farland Group, “Retail Therapy: 3 Secrets Behind Thriving Brickand- Mortars,” Total Retail Report, August 1 INVENTORY MANAGEMENT Pricing and promotion combined with the initial markup generated by the sourcing strategy drives the sales margin. However, for many retailers the costs of liquidating excess inventory dwarf the impact of promotions on the bottom line. Planning inventory to balance the financial goals against the customer experience is critical. Robin Gray, Columbus Consulting International, “Understanding the Basics of Merchandise Planning,” Total Retail Report, April 11 If your goal is to use a flash sale to attract new customers and increase loyalty, be sure to have the right numbers and processes in place. Real-time inventory reporting will tell you which products are available for immediate shipment across all channels and locations, as well as their profit margins, so that you can make the right decision about which products to feature in the sale. Errors in stock levels prevent order fulfillment, which can lead to the opposite effect: customers tend to take out their grievances online. Derek O’Carroll, Brightpearl, “The Art and Science of a Successful Flash Sale Strategy,” Total Retail Report, June 5 LEADERSHIP I lead by inspiring, empowering and stimulating others to push themselves to a place that may not have seemed possible. I’m passionate about maximizing individual strengths, coaching and mentoring. Stacey L. Renfro, Pier 1 Imports, “The Top Women in Retail 2017: Stacey L. Renfro, Senior Vice President, E-Commerce, Pier 1 Imports,” Total Retail Report, Jan. 19 As a CEO, you have three options: You can invest in your digital business, you can invest in your high-performing stores, or you can invest in your low-performing stores. Ellen Davis, National Retail Federation, “What Retailers Need to Know About Generation Z,” Total Retail Talks, Episode 71 The move that Wal-Mart made with Jet.com, or Unilever made with Dollar Shave Club, those are transformational type acquisitions. I’d love to see more of them because I think that’s what retailers need to give themselves a shot against the juggernaut, Amazon. Scott Friend, Bain Capital Ventures, “A Venture Capitalist’s Advice for Surviving Retail’s Changing Times,” Total Retail Report, April 4 Leaders have to understand and be empathetic with their teams about the pressure of change and need for innovation placed upon them. Move smartly, train and communicate to bring teams along in the process of evolving an organization to meet the new demands being placed upon it. Jeannine D’Addario, Guitar Center, “A Q&A With Jeannine D’Addario, SVP, Chief Customer Officer, Guitar Center,” Total Retail Executive, August 30 MERCHANDISING Establish trust. It’s key for any seller to demonstrate sincere knowledge of products — not only what’s in them or how they work, but how they will address a customer’s unique needs. Sellers who can effectively communicate the quality and value of a product stand a greater chance of being perceived as trustworthy. Rajneesh Chopra, Amway North America, “Selling in the Age of Selfies,” Total Retail Report, Feb. 10 Consumers are more informed and can investigate products on their own. Simply listening to the customer is no longer sufficient. To capitalize on the new dynamic, you have to engage, and you have to manage and influence the conversation. Mark Lange, Reputation.com, “How Online Reviews Are Transforming Marketing,” Total Retail Report, March 6 Always put the most important items (determined by a number of factors, including sales, gross margin, inventory levels) at the beginning and end of a list. Items placed in the middle are likely to be scanned over and quickly forgotten. On your category page, for instance, the most important products should either be first or last when displayed in list form. That said, if the list requires you to scroll, you shouldn’t put one of your most important products below the fold. Tim Ash, SiteTuners, “The Brains Behind E-Commerce,” Total Retail, Winter Discover your buyer persona. You’ve heard that you need to know your audience when you’re writing. This is especially important when it comes to product descriptions. You need to think about what your ideal customer will look like. What do they want? Where do they browse online? What makes them click “Buy”? Doing this will help you strike the right tone in your descriptions. Mary Walton, Professional Editor and Writer, “8 Steps to Writing Excellent Product Descriptions,” Total Retail Report, July 26 MOBILE COMMERCE When thinking about mobile, you have to think beyond commerce. You have to think how can you motivate, inspire and educate the user. Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora, “Sephora’s Mobile Strategy Extends Far Beyond the Smartphone,” Total Retail Report, June 8 OMNICHANNEL We’re really promoting convenience. Our click-and-collect offering allows consumers to place a purchase on Roots.com and pick it up at one of our stores within four hours. That takes the uncertainty out of your purchase, wondering whether your product will be available for you when you get to a store, as well as ensures you have a quick and speedy experience while you’re there. James Connell, Roots Canada, “Roots Canada Goes Airborne to Find New Customers,” Total Retail Talks, Episode 76 Tomorrow’s retail winners will be those that can redefine their customer strategy, understand how to re-engage their target customers and translate that strategy into a coherent, integrated, seamless omnichannel operation. These retailers will have a clear understanding of their customers’ wants and intentions, and will architect an operating model that leverages all the possible connection points to share ideas relevant to their customers in an effort to build brand relevance and long-term loyalty. Michael Witty, Information Services Group, “New Social Trends and Digital Technologies Have Raised the Stakes for Customer Experience,” Total Retail Report, March 8 Be flexible with delivery and return options. Sixty percent of online shoppers prefer to return items to a store. Offer a wide range of delivery options to minimize the hassle of returns, including next-day delivery, changing delivery post-order, in-store returns and customized delivery dates. Stefan Weitz, Radial, “Competing With Amazon is Like Outrunning an Aircraft: Time for Plan B,” Total Retail Report, July 12 PERSONALIZATION Retail sales associates are the key to providing a superior personalized shopping experience. A strong one-to-one relationship keeps shoppers coming back to their favorite store and associate each time, especially since he or she is familiar with the shopper’s needs and wants. Oscar Sachs, Salesfloor, “Retail Personalization Trends for 2017,” Total Retail Report, Feb. 17 PRICING Regardless of what that product is, the customer needs to get value. They need to be able to say, ‘This product is worth whatever its price is.’ If something is priced too high, it’s not going to sell and that will mess up inventory. Alex Del Cielo, Camuto Group, “Camuto Group CEO Talks Product Pricing,” Total Retail Report, Jan. 18 Discounts don’t need to be the norm when targeting millennials, a demographic that will only increase its buying power in the years to come. Retailers must look for opportunities to leverage different generational expectations. Those that price products and offer discounts strategically will benefit the most through higher profits. Greg Petro, First Insight, “The Discount Divide: Bringing Value to Millennials and Baby Boomers,” Retail Revelations blog, April 13 PRODUCT PACKAGING The corrugated box is the new frontier of variable and versioned product messaging. Through recent breakthroughs in digital print, the box design can now be delivered customized and versioned to influence shoppers’ in-store buying experiences. Through retail-ready packaging, the corrugated box can also transform a store’s floor space into an efficient extension of the product using vibrant, high-quality graphics. David Murphy, Hewlett-Packard, “How Brands Can Engage Customers Through the Corrugated Package,” Total Retail Report, May 23 PRODUCT SOURCING Millennials also care about how their favorite brands are made. Thirty-two percent of respondents stated they would turn on a brand if it didn’t treat or pay its workers fairly. Twenty-seven percent said they would switch brands if the products made by a company weren’t environmentally friendly. Suhas Sreedhar, GT Nexus, “What Millennials Want,” Total Retail Report, Jan. 11 PROMOTIONAL STRATEGY If coupons are your bread and butter, treat them like content and create a coupon calendar. Instead of offering coupons whenever a sale idea strikes, follow a structured plan. You can align your coupons with holidays, product launches and seasons, making them more effective and less frequent. Jessica Thiefels, Entrepreneur, “How to Create Coupons People Actually Use,” Total Retail Report, May 26 SEARCH The longer a page takes to load, the more likely search engines are to lower the page’s ranking. Mobile users, on average, abandon a site after six seconds to 10 seconds of load time. As important as some of your heavier-loading visual content can be, optimizing or removing big data drains on your pages means decreased loading time, more visitors and happier search engines. Tony Tie, Expedia Canada, “6 Tips for Better SEO Performance,” Total Retail Report, March 14 The real challenge isn’t deciding whether you need a voice search strategy (you do), but realizing that integrating voice search isn’t as simple as cutting and pasting a voice-enabled front end to your existing site search function. To make it an effective and relevant engagement point, retailers must understand customer expectations and how best to deliver a successful voice-enabled search experience. Kurt Heinemann, Reflektion, “5 E-Commerce Marketing Trends to Watch,” Total Retail Report, April 14 SHIPPING List checkout shipping options by desired delivery date rather than specific shipping method, and capture the destination ZIP code early in the process to offer service and pricing options based upon transit times. Gordon Glazer, Shipware, “Adding USPS Shipping Services to Your Parcel Carrier Mix,” Shipping Insights blog, April 10 When looking for a shipping carrier, pay attention to the additional fees that large carriers often add on to your bill after the fact. These can be for things such as fuel, residential services, handling and more. Make sure you’re budgeting for these and are using the most efficient carrier service for the package you’re trying to ship. Devin Johnson, FirstMile, “3 Shipping Mistakes That Are Costing Your Business Money,” Total Retail Report, Sept. 8 SOCIAL MEDIA If your brand has a decent following on Instagram, double down on that investment. Instagram is the quickest way for smaller brands to reach beyond the U.S. and grow internationally. More than 80 percent of Instagram’s users are outside of the U.S. Amy Zhou, Brandboom, “A New Retail Ecosystem,” Total Retail Report, July 17 SUBSCRIPTION COMMERCE Offer marketing subscription services to millennials. Revenue increases and is predictable. With a subscription model comes regular cash flow. For smaller businesses or startups, a subscription model provides the opportunity to compete with larger incumbents. Understanding that millennials are the highest adopter of subscription services, merchants should be placing marketing dollars towards that demographic to ultimately increase company value. Bill Cohn, Vantiv, “Merchants Take Note: Millennials Are Driving the Subscription Economy,” Total Retail Report, May 12 TECHNOLOGY It’s time to stop wringing our hands about jobs lost to automation and realize that all businesses can benefit from the technological advances of the last 50 years. Parag Mamnani, Webgility, “E-Commerce in Trump’s America,” Total Retail Report, Jan. 12 In the future, you’ll see Watson answering emails, phone calls, chats, and being able to, with high confidence, respond to those requests. This gives time back to our employees to do higher-class tasks. That will generate a better experience for our customers and, ultimately, lead to increased sales. Faisal Masud, Staples, “How Staples Uses Watson Technology to Make Shopping Easier,” Total Retail Report, Jan. 18 Inventing the retail experience for Generation Z isn’t nearly as important as committing to continuous learning about how each generation behaves relative to your brand and the technologies that are constantly shaping, disrupting and reshaping our world. Retailers must embrace technology, not for the coolest experience, but for things that offer sustainable acceleration. David Baker, Cordial, “Kill Your Innovation Lab, Accelerate Everything,” Accelerate Retail blog, July 19
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