Is Lowest Price the Right Price?

pans with prices marked down

Many e-retailers use price-monitoring services to check prices of their competitors, and then adjust their own prices accordingly.

Often a product’s price will change more than 10 times in a single 24-hour period, according to data from the price monitoring firm, Profitero Inc, but does that mean that you have to change your prices 10 times as well?

There is no doubt that retailers are well aware of the price cutting strategies employed by Amazon, and other large retailers such as Sears, and Walmart, but is price cutting the best strategy for your business?

Being informed is essential, however, many retailers believe that they need to find the right price for their business model, and rather than simply slashing prices, prefer to find ways to offer their unique services and quality to win a customer’s business.

If you have researched similar products to those you are offering, emphasize the superior quality of your products, excel in customer service, and offer a fair price (though not necessarily the lowest).  Anything that sets your product apart can win you the sale – custom-made, free alterations, personal shopping advice.

Building up your email list and tailoring offers to each buyer’s personal taste is a great way for you to personalize your shopper’s experience.

Once a shopper has built a relationship with your store and loves to shop there because of service, quality and personal recommendations just for them, paying more for an item will be worth every extra penny!

Research has shown that retailers who can figure out how to price their products using some of these strategies are still able to sell plenty of products, and make a profit.


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.


Amazon robots lead to better fulfillment

image of robotAmazon revealed today that it had deployed 15,000 robots in ten of its fulfillment centers throughout the US. This will allow Amazon to increase the performance of its already super fast fulfillment centers.

After purchasing Kiva Systems Inc, a logistical provider of robot technology, Amazon anticipated it would have approximately 10,000 in centers by 2015. The retail giant estimates that the introduction of robots will not only increase the speed of fulfilling orders, but also eventually reduce operating costs by as much as $450 million.

Amazon is really raising the standard for retailers with super-fast shipping, and super-fast fulfillment. So what can smaller retailers to do attract buyers to their store when confronted with this competition?

Small businesses need to automate as many of their processes as possible to improve the service they offer to shoppers, and also to free up some of the time their associates would otherwise spend on routine tasks.

Retail predictions for 2015 are betting on a customer-centric year, where customer service, customer interaction with products and services and custom items for customers are a high priority. Small and medium sized businesses focusing on personalized products can make a big impression on shoppers with superlative service and the clever use of technology.

Contact xocbox to learn about automating your business processes.


Cyber Monday was a winner!

holiday decorations in storeFigures just released by comScore show that retail sales on Cyber Monday were over $2 billion, and these figures do not include sales made through a tablet or mobile device.  Wow!

The report went on to say that consumers spent 26% more in 2014 than they did in 2013 over the holiday weekend, and online sales are continuing to outstrip those of bricks and mortar stores.

Any retailer who has still not been able to get their products online, or has a website that doesn’t have mobile and tablet capability for shoppers is losing out on valuable revenue.

Contact xocbox if you are struggling to keep up with listing your products, and running your business – our tools can help you manage your store, and we have a great new product coming in the new year!


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.

 


Free Shipping

shipping options in store

I have just returned from the WooConference 2014 in San Francisco, and came away with lots of ideas and information.

With a host of great speakers, we didn’t know what to expect, and the interesting thing is they all offered great new ideas, and reiterated some of the concepts we know we should all be offering.

One of the things all store owners must be thinking about at this time of year is Free Shipping, and is it really worth it? Well the answer is, a big YES!

Speaker after speaker mentioned the value of having free shipping available in your online store.

One speaker stated that 73% will shop with Free shipping offered, and that 90% will buy more from your store if free shipping is offered.

Another speaker said that research showed 44% of shoppers will drop out without free shipping, and go elsewhere.

So how can you make free shipping work for your store?

If you can’t sell all your products with free shipping, try offering free shipping on the total value of an order over a given amount, such as $100. This not only attracts shoppers, but entices them to spend over the $100 amount in order to benefit from the shipping offer.

Another way is to offer free shipping on products that you are planning to mark down in the next few days / weeks. You may sell them at full price, simply because you are offering free shipping.

Try offering free shipping on combined purchases in a certain category or categories.

Set up an email campaign offering free shipping to those who buy a product / products before a certain date.  This way you will benefit from receiving revenue quicker.

Show a FREE SHIPPING label on your home page, so shoppers know it is available as soon as they land on your store. If possible, have free shipping in your header, so it appears on every page.

There is no question that competition is stiff in the online marketplace, but free shipping is here to stay and it is what shoppers have come to expect, not just from the big box stores, but from any online store or marketplace.

So don’t despair – in the long run, the more you sell, the better rates you can negotiate with your shipping service, so figuring out how to get started is crucial to your ongoing success.

Why not start by talking to your local shipping store?  By passing more work their way, you may be able to solve your own shipping problems as well.


Improving Supply Chains

shopping
 
 
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.


Apple makes headline news again

apple introduces apple pay

 

This week Apple announced that it had sold an astonishing 39 million iPhones in the quarter ending September 2014, up from 33.8 million sold in the same quarter last year.

There is no doubt that we love our smartphones, and yesterday the iPhone just got smarter with the introduction of Apple Pay, described on their website as “Your Wallet. Without the Wallet”.

Many major banks have already signed up to parter with Apple, and more are scheduled to follow.

The convenience that Apple Pay presents for shoppers, and the huge number of iPhones sold, suggests that consumers will readily adopt this new way of paying.

Apple Pay can be used with retailers and chains such as Open Table, Panera Bread, Target and Staples, with more scheduled to follow.

What About Your Store?

So can your store use Apple Pay yet?

Most retail stores that accept contactless payments that are based on wireless-chip technology, or NFC, should be able to use Apple Pay. If your store has the hardware in place, but has not activated the functionality yet, now may be a good time to do so.

Shoppers can also use Apple Pay within store apps, without having to enter card numbers, or any other personal information, using fingerprint ID to authorize a transaction.

Research indicates that the majority of stores in the US are not equipped at this time to do contactless transactions, and smaller retailers may be wondering how they are going to keep up with yet another new piece of technology.

However, due to a requirement coming into force in 2015, merchants will need to upgrade equipment to include an enhanced security system or EMV, so now may be a good time to also enhance the system with NFC capability.


What is Drop Shipping?

shipping boxes and suppliesWhen you open an online store, the main thing you need is inventory.

Without any products to sell, you don’t have a store.  This seems pretty obvious.

However, many people are surprised when they start listing products online, as it often takes many more product lines and categories than first anticipated to fill an online store.

So if you don’t have the funds to buy hundreds of different product lines, or simply don’t have the storage space, then drop shipping may provide the answer.

How Does Drop Shipping work?

Basically, you do not purchase products to store in your own warehouse until sold.  Instead, you make arrangements with a wholesale supplier to list their products on your website, and when a product is sold, the supplier ships the product.  Sounds simple.

The arrangement is straightforward enough, however, there are a few things you should be aware of.

  • Firstly, you lose control of the inventory, and this may ultimately cause customer service problems.  For example, if there is a delay in shipping, or a product is damaged on arrival.
  • Also, since drop shippers usually sell to many retailers, keeping track of their inventory, as well as your own is difficult.
  • Profit margins on sales are also lower than if you were to purchase products and sell them directly to your customers.

The benefits of drop shipping are:

  • You can add more products to your website, and give your customers greater selection.
  • You don’t have to deal with the packing and shipping of products yourself.
  • You can begin your retail store without the expense of buying inventory to stock your store, so this can be a good way to get started.
  • You can “try out” a new product or new category, just to see if it’s a good fit for your store, without actually buying the product.

In conclusion, drop shipping has many advantages, and some disadvantages.  Retailers often find a combination of products housed in their warehouse, and those shipped directly from drop ship suppliers is a good way to go.

Once you have elected to work with a drop shipper, always monitor their performance in regard to product fulfillment and customer service.  If you find that a particular supplier does not perform well for you, it is better to stop selling that product, rather than risk your online reputation.

For information about selling through drop ship vendors, and how xocbox systems can help you keep track of shipments and inventory, please contact xocbox.

 

 

 

 


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.

 

 


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!

 

 


Are you ready for the holiday season?

holiday cardsBack to School is behind us, and the Holiday Season is just around the corner, so now is the time to make sure you have everything in order for that traditional increase in sales during Halloween and Christmas.

The short shopping season of 2013 meant that many etailers had difficulty fulfilling orders in time, and some unlucky shoppers received their gifts long after the holidays were over.

The 2014 holiday season will again be short, with just 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, only one day more than 2013, and predictions indicate that online sales will increase, with consumers spending more time shopping on mobile phones and tablets, and less on retail sites.

Thanksgiving falls during the last week of November again this year, and Cyber Monday will be in December.  So if you’re feeling behind schedule with your store planning, what can you do now to make sure you don’t miss those all important holiday sales?

  1. Most importantly, don’t panic!  There is still time to do some last minute planning.
  2. Make sure you have all your holiday orders placed with your suppliers, if you don’t already have products lined up in your warehouse.
  3. Ensure you have all your packaging materials and boxes ready to go.
  4. Plan out your holiday promotions and add these to your website in October.  Be ready for early gift shoppers by suggesting gifts by product type or gender, and create gift baskets or sets under a specific dollar amount.
  5. Make sure you have plenty of accessories, and gift-type products ready for your site by October.
  6. If time permits, make some seasonal color changes to your website and theme, however, products and promotions are still your main focus.
  7. Decide how you will cope with the extra workload – do you need to hire temporary staff for the season?  Think about the extra strain on your resources such as customer service,  product fulfillment, and gift wrapping.
  8. Plan your email marketing campaign, and social media strategy.
  9. Plan your delivery cut-off dates and make sure these work with your shipping carrier.
  10. Think back to what worked best for you last year, and repeat that process.

The Holiday Season is the most exciting time for shoppers and retailers alike, and even with last minute planning, you can still create a great experience for your shoppers, and a profitable holiday season for yourself.