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!


Improving Supply Chains

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In a recent study carried out by Boston Retail Partners that surveyed 500 North American retailers, one of the main areas of concern was supply chain.

Of those respondents, 93% were working towards solutions that would allow them to integrate operations and sales from physical stores, and online sales from desktop and mobile devices.

Ensuring that the flow of products to customers is seamless from the purchase order issued to a supplier, right through to delivery – whether via drop ship or through the retailer’s own store has been made more efficient through the use of electronic data interchange, or EDI.

In fact, many of the major big box stores will not work with smaller suppliers if they do not carry out their operations in this way.

Rigid guidelines and standards must be followed to enable EDI to work smoothly, and universal forms and messaging formats, for example, Invoice 810, Advance Shipping Notice 856, are recognized formats.

There is no question that EDI is efficient as a business to business tool.

However, if you are a retailer trying to respond to customer demand as indicated by social media, Google data or other web signals, you may need additional monitoring tools to meet your company’s demand.

If your company is facing challenges with any aspect of its supply chain, drop ship or delivery, contact xocbox who would be pleased to discuss your business needs.


Communication drives customer satisfaction

pensI recently read an article about the top five drivers of customer satisfaction in the remodeling industry, and at the top of the list was communication.

Others in the list included sticking to a schedule, being professional and organized, trust and problem resolution.

In reality, the list above could be applied to any type of business, including retail.

How many times have you purchased something online, and waited patiently for your item to be delivered, only to receive an email ten days later saying the item is on back-order!

Don’t let this be the experience your customers receive when shopping on your site.  Nothing will drive customers away from your site more than poor customer service.

No matter how busy you are, by setting a routine that you and your staff follow when customers purchase or call in for help, you can avoid disappointment, and gain a loyal following of happy customers.

What your customer wants

  • Promptly confirm purchases via email
  • Confirm that payment has been received
  • Advise when item purchased will be shipped
  • Once shipped, let them know package is on the way, and confirm tracking details
  • Provide updates and status on late or delayed shipments
  • Always include a packing slip or invoice in every package you send out
  • Include a returns policy in the package
  • Include a phone number or email address that customers can call with questions
  • Include a FAQ page on your website
  • Return customer calls within the same day, if possible
  • Resolve issues promptly, avoiding arguments
  • Issue refunds and credits promptly

What your customer doesn’t want

  • No confirmation that order has been received
  • Difficult to find company contact information
  • No tracking information
  • Poor returns policy
  • No return phone call or email
  • To be kept on hold
  • Product doesn’t arrive
  • Slow or no refunds policy
  • Goods not as described
  • Unfriendly service

Unfortunately, sometimes a customer will have a negative experience, no matter how hard you try.  If that is the case, don’t try to hide behind your policy, don’t lose your temper, and don’t take the complaint personally.

If this happens to you, work with the customer to provide an alternative product, a refund, and even offer a small gift or discount coupon off their next purchase.  You will be surprised how an unexpected gesture of generosity on your part can suddenly change the whole dynamics of a situation.  Your upset customer then becomes your biggest fan!