inventory control leads to happier customers

As 2017 progresses, and retailers are confronted with the uncertainties of the border tax and an ever-shrinking labor market, staying on top of inventory is still a guaranteed way to keep customers happy.

I read recently that one of the major turn-offs for shoppers is when they have spent time online choosing a product, especially if the product requires them to spend time choosing variables, such as a piece of furniture which has fabric, finishes and sizes to consider, only to find when their purchase is added to the cart (or later) the product is not available.

Most of these companies use some type of inventory management system to track products that are in stock, sold out or coming soon, yet accurately representing inventory is still one of the most difficult areas for retailers to stay on top of.

The one size fits all approach offered by many of the inventory control products available still leaves enough friction in the process of managing stock to turn customers away.

xocbox works with many different types of retailers, and we see that all have unique business scenarios that make managing their inventory unique. We work with retailers, suppliers and manufacturers and see the supply chain from both ends of the puzzle. Whether you choose EDI, assistance with supplier feeds or are a manufacturer looking to expand your selling outlets, talk to xocbox to see how we can help you fulfill orders and keep your customers happy.


strategies stores are using to stay ahead

The latest sales data indicates that online sales are continuing to grow, while the pace of in-store sales is slowing down for many retailers.

Big box stores are adopting different strategies to deal with this shift in the way consumers shop, but there is no question they are taking this trend seriously.

Target announced recently that its fourth quarter online sales grew by 30% in 2016, while its store sales dropped by 6.1% year over year, prompting Target to cut its prices at the expense of profits. They are also planning to make better use of stores as fulfillment centers, and equipping all sales associates with mobile point of sale devices. The concept behind this strategy is that shoppers will think of Target as a great place to shop with great prices.

The brand Tommy Hilfiger who in the past derived sales not only from their own stores, but also from high street giant Macy’s, chose a different route. Tommy Hilfiger’s in store sales were lackluster and Macy’s is planning to close many of its stores, further contributing to the brand’s decline. Deciding to modernize the brand, Tommy Hilfiger looked to social media to bring the brand to the attention of younger audiences, and then debuted its latest collection with a fashion show in Venice Beach, California – an unusual move for a brand that would typically show its products in New York. The results were astonishing, with a surge in sales online in the 24 hours following the show, and 50% of traffic from first time visitors.

In line the with these stores, Kohl’s has also seen growth in its online sales and a decline in its in store sales. To counter this, they are reducing the size of their stores from around 88,000 square feet to something smaller, and reducing inventory by 3% across all stores for the next three years.

Whether it’s a price change, a new way of marketing your brand, or re-evaluating the use of the square footage in your bricks and mortar store, the pace of change in today’s retail industry requires continual assessment to keep the attention of today’s consumers.

Small and medium sized retailers also have to be innovative looking to more control of inventory, switching from in-store to online sales, using physical space not only as a store but also as a fulfillment center, and using technology to bring it all together – and who said retail was easy!


many small businesses still not online

shop online on all devicesThe results of holiday sales 2014 indicate that online retailers had a good year.

The web tracking company, comScore, released data this week showing an increase of 15% in November and December, better than their original estimates.  These figures do not include sales made on mobile devices.

The figure is expected to increase to over 17% when mobile sales are taken into account, and this falls into line with many other reports and research that shows shoppers are now very comfortable making purchases on their mobile and tablet devices.

Big box stores and large enterprises have certainly embraced this, but smaller businesses appear to be having a more difficult time keeping up with technology trends, as noted in research from the nonprofit group, SCORE, which is supported by the Small Business Administration.

Their research showed that only 51% of small businesses have a website, yet 97% of consumers begin their product search online.

They also found that the small businesses that do have a website often lacked a call to action, did not engage in social media, and were not mobile and tablet friendly.  There were even some that didn’t have a phone number, so contact by customers was difficult, if not impossible.

When you look at the volume of sales being made online and on mobile devices, it is clear that if your company does not have a website, you need to get one.  Also, if your site is not yet mobile friendly, that is something you should have on your 2015 To Do List.

If it is that simple, why don’t more small businesses have a website?

The main reasons cited for not having a web presence were:

  • Lack of time – they are working round the clock to run their business, so don’t have time to devote to new technology and / or skills.
  • They don’t feel web savvy enough to delve into ecommerce, and stick to what they know.
  • The task is just too big.  They don’t take credit cards in their store, so the jump to internet retailer is too daunting.

At xocbox, we try to make getting your business online an easier process, and one that doesn’t give you nightmares.

We can help your business, if:

  • You do not have an ecommerce site, and do not know where to begin because the large number of products you carry makes it overwhelming. We can help you get products online, and use xocbox tools to add and edit products.
  • You need to integrate your online store with bricks and mortar, and point of sale system. Manage inventory and work with suppliers / drop ship vendors to ensure that products sold online are actually available.
  • You have an ecommerce site, but find it difficult to keep on top of the volume of work involved keeping products up-to-date.   xocbox tools reduce the data entry required in most ecommerce platforms.
  • You don’t already have a catalog and SKUs set up.
  • You have products with many colors and sizes, and need to quickly create professional looking listings with multi-views and swatches.

Contact xocbox today, and learn how we can help your online business.


Black Friday Week or Month?

holiday shopping pictureLast night I purchased something from a local Banana Republic store, and at the checkout I was given a coupon called TGI(B)F which said “Early Access to Black Friday”, and had discounts I could use from November 24 through November 27.

The sales associate cheerfully told me that if I couldn’t deal with Black Friday shopping, I could shop early from Monday 24th.

I also read an article saying that Walmart plans to make it Black Friday week.  Walmart’s Black Friday begin at 12:01am on Thanksgiving and will include five days of sales online and in their physical stores, taking us through Cyber Monday.

It looks like many retailers such as JC Penney, Staples, Macy’s and Target are planning to open on Thanksgiving  – with some as early as 5pm.

Retailers are increasingly aware that shoppers are turning to the web to shop at times that suit them, not retailers, and Black Friday has become symbolic with the start of the holiday shopping season, not necessarily the one day for the best bargains.

With shoppers researching prices online, and checking spot sales in bricks and mortar stores, the 2014 holiday shopping season is going to offer bargains for weeks to come.

So don’t worry about rushing out the door to bargain hunt, as soon as you’ve eaten your turkey dinner – retailers will surprise us with flash sales right through the holiday season, and the best bargains may appear as we draw closer to the end of December.

 


do you need omnichannel retailing?

desktop-gf-storeMost retailers know that being able to offer their products online is an essential part of their marketing strategy, rather than an option.

However, a recent report by comScore revealed that 173 million people in the US now own a smart phone, and are using this device to check emails and text messages all day long.

They are also using it to shop.

As retailers, whether we like it or not, omnichannel retailing is here to stay, and marketing-savvy retailers have been making sure their websites are mobile-optimized, and ready to offer features and services to customers during the holiday season, so they don’t miss out to the shopping giants and big-box stores.

So what can you do to get your store up to speed?  Omnichannel retailing really means that all the places where your customers can buy … physical store, online via desktop, smartphone, ipad or tablet … work together seamlessly for your customers.

Put yourself in the position of your customer and try to buy something from your own store through all the channels that you offer.  How was the experience?  Did you get smoothly to checkout?  Were there frustrating delays or screens that didn’t display correctly, or not at all?  Once you have pinpointed the sticking points, get your tech team and staff to iron out the issues.

You have probably already figured out your holiday marketing campaign, but research is showing that email is still a favorite by many retailers.  In the study mentioned above,  it was found that 42 percent of emails sent were opened on smartphones, and an additional 17 percent opened on tablet devices.  So definitely make sure your site is mobile optimized.

Follow the lead of large bricks and mortar stores, such as Staples,  who are aggressively using email campaigns to drive customers into their stores, and tempting them with a series of coupons and special offers.

Keeping in close contact with your customers through all devices will be key this holiday season, and those who don’t will lose out on precious holiday sales to retailers who have planned their omni-channel strategy to create an excellent customer experience at all of their store touchpoints.

If you would like information on omichannel retailing for your online or bricks and mortar store, contact info@xocbox.com.