Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How To Use Technology To Provide A Better Customer Experience


By Scott Kreisberg, One Step Retail Solutions

I’ve been in the retail industry for more than 20 years and I can tell you that today’s modern shopper is tech-savvy and constantly on the go. With the use of technology implemented in society, shoppers expect retailers to be just as up to date, if not more, when it comes to their retail experience. It’s imperative to rapidly and effectively service your customers and maximize their in-store experience so they turn into long-term customers. In order to combat the issue of living in today’s fast-paced society, it’s vital to utilize the technologies available to you, so you can stay relevant and provide a lasting impression with your customers.

Mobile POS
There’s no secret, exceptional customer service is still the key in creating a lasting and positive shopping experience for your customer. However, 50% of shoppers today price check online, and 32% expect a retailer to be able to order an item not in stock and have it shipped to their home. Mobile POS allows sales associates to provide an in-store experience the consumer can’t get online, giving the retailer a better chance to make that sale. By using a mobile POS, sales associates can effectively move through lines faster to create a quick and positive customer service experience. Sales can be rung up at the point of decision with a mobile POS and associates can up sell by suggesting accessories to buy with a purchase. Customers feel valued when an associate can locate an item not in stock and either have it sent to them directly or at a nearby store, offering the item they’re searching for. Long checkout lines are the quickest ways to lose a customer, so having a mobile POS allows an associate to hop in and make that sale. Reduced transaction time equals more sales and happier customers.

E-Receipts
E-Receipts are booming in the retail industry because it gives you an opportunity to strategically market your campaigns with customized emails to your customers, based on what they like. A customer email address provides you powerful information because it is a fast way to learn and connect with your customers. Sending an E-Receipt allows you to send targeted email offers and advertisements based on past purchases. With HTML you can embed videos, provide web site links and consumer analytics so you know what customers are responding to. Additionally, you can assign each line item on a receipt to social media tabs, so customers can instantly post and share with their friends what and where they just made a purchase. E-Receipts are a great opportunity to connect with customers; by sending them relevant information you can position the customer to continuously come back.

Customer service innovation is being highly driven through technology today. It is key to stay up to date on current technology trends, while continuing to provide excellent customer service, which is the foundation of your business. As a retailer, you can offer discounts and specials to tempt customers, but at the end of the day the in-store shopping experience trumps all of that. The modern, tech-savvy consumer is the one driving the paradigm shift, so position yourself to the future and keep your customers coming back.

Scott Kreisberg is the Founder and CEO of One Step Retail Solutions. After graduating from college with a double Bachelors of Science degree in Finance and Marketing, Kreisberg established One Step Data in June of 1985. He consulted businesses, selling them computer hardware and software that made it easier for them to run their businesses more efficiently. In 1987, after some investigation, Kreisberg soon recognized that the retail POS/Inventory Control market was a niche yet to be developed for the small to medium-sized retailers. He came to the realization that with his passion for retail and knowledge of computer technology he could help many retailers.

View the original article at: Retail TouchPoints

Friday, September 12, 2014

Apple Pay Is Here — and There’s Just One Big Problem

Merchant Warehouse® and top retail technology reseller One Step Retail Solutions recently won the Innovative Solution Award for Best Partnership by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) and Vertical Systems Reseller (VSR) Magazine. This award honors both companies for bringing Merchant Warehouse’s Genius™ Customer Engagement Platform™ to One Step Retail Solutions’ retail customers. Read below about how Merchant Warehouse feels about Apple Pay and what it means for retailers.

@JakeD

While many consumers are ready to embrace the new mobile-payments service, most retailers are not. At least, not yet

On Tuesday, Tim Cook took the stage to announce — in addition to a few other things you may have heard about — a brand new mobile payments service called Apple Pay. Instead of swiping a credit card, users of the service will swipe their iPhones (or Apple Watches), which can be preloaded with customer’s debit and credit cards using the Passbook application.
courtesy of Apple
 

Having one phone to rule all our cards sounds pretty great, and Apple is certainly positioned better than any other company to make mobile payments finally catch on. But there’s one issue the company still has to surmount before it can kill off plastic for good: Right now, the vast majority of retailers lack the technology to accept the company’s new payment service.

As CEO Tim Cook acknowledged during Apple’s announcement, only 220,000 stores will work with Apple Pay out of the gate. That’s about 2.4% of the roughly 7 million to 9 million merchants in the U.S. that accept credit cards. The remaining 97.6% of businesses do not have point-of-sale systems that work with near-field communication (NFC), the technology Apple Pay relies on. Merchants will have to upgrade their checkout process for Apple’s service to catch on, and the expense of such an endeavor has—thus far—left many businesses reluctant to do so.

Michael Archer, a partner leading the Global Financial Services practice at Kurt Salmon, thinks the major indicator of whether an Apple payment service will succeed is the number of locations prepared to accept NFC. According to Archer, who spoke to MONEY just before Apple Pay was announced, the service would need to be usable at about 20% of U.S. retail locations to reach critical mass of acceptance. So far, Apple isn’t close to hitting that number.

However, Archer points out that credit card companies may have an incentive to help stores acquire NFC technology to give their own cards an edge. “This could be a way to lock someone into the card if you can make it extremely convenient to use in the device,” said Archer. Another development he thinks could work in Apple’s favor is that merchants will soon be forced to upgrade their point-of-sale systems to accept EMV, a new card technology meant to reduce fraud. Card companies have given their customers until 2015 to make the transition, with laggards bearing increased liability for credit card fraud, but stores have dragged their feet. With the deadline approaching, more merchants may finally decide to upgrade and choose to add in NFC compatibility while they’re at it.

But not all experts are rosy on Apple’s chances for mobile payment domination—at least in the near term. George Wallner, co-founder and CTO of LoopPay, an Apple Pay competitor that uses existing point-of-sale infrastructure for mobile payments, predicts a slow acceptance of Apple Pay, and other NFC-dependent services like Softcard and Google Wallet. While Wallner was impressed by Apple’s demonstration, he says it will take more than the promise of Apple compatibility to get merchants to change their ways, especially when the status quo works just fine. “It’s not an easy change,” says Wallner. “It is a long, drawn-out, careful, extensive process. It can take six to eight months to even certify a new system. Retailers look at the bottom line, and they see nobody is offering a financial incentive for them to change.” According to the LoopPay founder, even increased fraud liability may not be costly enough to spur a jump in NFC adoption.

That said, Wallner believes that over time, merchants will gradually upgrade their equipment to support Apple Pay. In a decade, he sees NFC having significant market penetration and co-existing with both older and newer payment technology.

One feature that might convince merchants to upgrade ahead of schedule would be a way for businesses to use Apple Pay to reward loyal customers. According to Archer, a slightly more convenient way to pay, by itself, doesn’t provide enough value to customers or merchants to force a change in behavior. Integrating loyalty programs into Apple Pay, on the other hand, would give merchants a reason to upgrade their terminals and consumers a reason to use the service. Passbook, which powers Apple Pay, also integrates with multiple retailers’ loyalty cards.
Apple “is going to be playing on the cool factor on the first round of this,” said Henry Helgeson, CEO of Merchant Warehouse, a company that helps retailers implement mobile payments. “The real value is when merchants can put loyalty in those wallets and get repeat business. It’s something that they know and retailers know is very important to them. We’re going to see version 2.0 with some of those things.”

Overall, Helgeson anticipates Apple Pay being a huge success. His company recently outfitted 3,000 retailers with upgraded point-of-sale systems that included an NFC reader. “I’m pretty happy about that decision right now,” said Helgeson.

To view the original article visit: http://time.com/money/3311917/apple-pay-iphone-iwatch-passbook/

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Key to Event Marketing Success

From our friends at SnapRetail
 
A successful in-store event is the perfect way to drive traffic, get to know your customers and have a great time doing it! Follow these tips to host a store event that will be one for the books.

 

Choose a theme

In the beginning stages of planning for your event, first choose a theme. The possibilities are endless, but could be based off of a holiday or special occasion - like your store's anniversary. To make an even bigger impact with your event, consider pairing up with a charity. Any avenue you choose when selecting a theme will make promoting your event easier and more enticing for your customers.
FBEvent Example

Choose a time and date

Plan your event far in advance to allow you enough time to promote your event and gather all necessary materials for the big day. If you're planning your event around a holiday or special occasion, choose a date and time that is most convenient, not only for your store, but for those attending as well. You could host events during store hours, but also have the option to stay open late with an "after hours" event. To determine which option is best for your event, take everyone's preferences into consideration.

 

Develop your marketing plan

Promoting your event is one of the most important parts of the planning process and is a huge reason why choosing a date far enough in advance is important. Rushing a promotion will make it less likely to be successful. Plan out enough time to allow you to draw in and hook your audience.

Tease your audience on social media, email and in-store to generate excitement. Make statements and ask questions that get customers interested. Consider using messages like, "Something big is happening at our store! Want to know more? Stay tuned!" or "Sign up for our email list if you want to be the first to know about our big surprise!"
 
FBEvent Example2


Invite your customers in every way possible. Tap into social media, email, traditional advertising, print advertising and any other way your creativity takes you, to spread the word. This step in your marketing plan is crucial to make sure your event is well-attended. Inviting your customers and their friends goes hand-in-hand with teasing your audience. You will be adding to the excitement by providing the details they have been waiting for.

Another way to invite customers is to utilize Facebook. Create a Facebook event page to bring everyone invited together before your event. This will serve the purpose of sharing updates and all details in a centralized place for those attending.
 
FBEvent Example3


Remind your customers of your event. After generating all of the excitement and releasing the details of your event, you need to seal the deal with reminders. You can remind your customers by sending out an email and scheduling posts to your social networks at several different times of the day to reach as many people as possible. Remind your customers on social media five, three and one day(s) prior to your event.
 
FBEvent Example4
 

Pull out all of the stops

There is a lot that needs to go into making your event successful. Don't leave any stone unturned when making your store event the best of the year. Add elements that take your efforts above and beyond.

Provide live updates by uploading photos and videos in real time for your social media following who were unable to attend. This is an easy way to encourage them to come to your next event!

Encourage customers who have attended to also upload photos, tag your store and use your hashtag to their own personal social networks. This will allow your awesome event to reach an even broader audience and create (free) buzz.

 

Document your event

In addition to live updates, document photos and videos that you can upload to social and send in an email at a later date. Documenting your event will serve multiple purposes. You will be able to show off what a wonderful time you had with your customers, and bring more customers to your next event. Additionally, updates serve as a way to reflect on your event and aid in planning/improving your next event.

 

Give thanks and follow up

After all that has gone into planning this spectacular event of yours, it wouldn't have been possible without your customers who have attended. Once your event has passed, thank your customers who have attended in addition to those who didn't, but have been supporting your brand all along. A little thanks goes a long way and customer appreciation should become a habit.
 
FBEvent Example5


 Despite the planning and effort that goes into hosting a successful event, it will be well worth your while. Events give you the opportunity to get to know and interact with your customers, while giving them a chance to appreciate all that you do. For everything you need to know to make your event the talk of the town, download our Event Marketing Success Bundle!
 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Connect with Your Customers Using Social Media

Peter Pishko VP of Operations at One Step Retail Solutions

Recently while researching a prospect, I visited their web site and read an interesting time line on the origins of the company. It was very witty and clearly demonstrated the lifestyle of the founders and accurately portrayed the atmosphere of the company namely fun. It was quite a read, but the timeline stopped in 2006. Now, I know that the company still exists and is in very healthy shape (kudos these days) but the company history on their website was incomplete. I wanted to know more and was interested in the more recent history. As we all gravitate towards these new marketing tools, that is exactly what they are on a personal and business level, it is really important that they are updated regularly. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are great methods of keeping in communication with your customers, but they must be maintained.
Think of it this way, a customer takes the time to become a fan of your business or sign up on Facebook because they are interested in what is new and exciting with your operation. As you are opening boxes and merchandising new product on your sales floor, send out alerts, let them know. Add photos of your staff modeling the new assortment, your staff will love it. We used to send out direct mail to our best customers and it was tough to be timely. We had to schedule and print postcards and mail them out to ensure that the customer received the notification with enough notice so they could attend the trunk show etc. E-mail blasts were a great alternative until the SPAM gods came along and made it very difficult to stay out of the spam filter especially when attachments are involved. Now you can give notice of an upcoming event and remind them multiple times. Just as your customers have shown you a commitment by signing up for your information updates, show interest in them by maintaining and continuing the exchange of communication. Customer service is all about commitment, so assign a dedicated individual to maintain your social networking site and reap the benefits of this instant and free communication with your most valuable of assets.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Small Biz Suggestion Box

 

Your store may not have a physical "suggestion box," but there are many new ways to find helpful feedback that may not be so obvious. The more you know your audience, the better you can tailor your messaging to resonate with their interests and needs. Owning and/or operating an independent business is hard work, and sometimes it's easy to be too close to the project to see the bigger picture.

Customer feedback is the key to a successful business. In the age of social media, chances are if a customer has a bad experience, you can say goodbye to that customer AND their friends. That's why embracing customer feedback is the key to keeping your business alive and well. A cardboard box sitting on your retail counter can't always get the job done. Here are some suggestions on getting productive feedback:
  1. Use Email Marketing. Send regular emails to customers about sales, new products and store updates to keep them involved. You can simply send out an email campaign that says, "Tell us what you think!" for an open-ended approach. Depending on your mailing list size, you can prompt your customers to reply back with feedback or an answer to your open-ended question. Another option is to provide a small survey for customers to fill out online using a free tool such as Survey Monkey. Asking for feedback through email gives customers the time to think through their answer rather than putting them on the spot.
  2. Include Incentives. When asking customers to give feedback, try to incorporate an incentive, "Please take the time to fill out this customer survey and automatically be entered to win 50% off of your next purchase." This way people who may not have thought about giving their feedback initially, may reconsider. You can give away prizes such as gift cards or a basket filled with some of your most popular products. These incentives can help boost online engagement and drive more customers into your store. Incentives can be used for more than just feedback. If you're gathering donations for a charity or hosting a contest; be creative!
    artisan basket.PNG
  3. Ask Your Employees. More often than not, employees have great suggestions but aren't sure if it's their place to speak up. Encourage your employees to submit any ideas they might have to boost sales or improve business. Have a "brainstorming" meeting with your employees and encourage everyone to speak freely about their new ideas.
  4. Use Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are the perfect ways to reach a massive audience in one or two simple sentences. Update your social media sites with a status or tweet reading, "We want to hear from you! Comment below (or tweet us) your favorite product that we carry. Those who comment will be entered to win our latest giveaway!" Give a deadline to create a sense of urgency and encourage more people to participate. On a Facebook Page, there is an exclusive tab for customer reviews built into the profile. Customers can give your business a rating based on a five star scale as well as write a brief testimonial. First time visitors to your Facebook Page will see your business's average rating on the left-hand side of the page.
    Pats -Monograms1
  5. Let customers stock the shelves. There is always a chance that there are great products out there that you have never even heard of. Have a "Stock Our Shelves!" event, where customers come and submit their ideas about products they believe would be a good fit for your store. Take these new products into serious consideration because it's a great way to keep customers coming back if you are the only store in the area that carries their favorite brand.
  6. Build a presence on review platforms. There are websites that serve the purpose of an online suggestion box. Add your business's information to websites such as Yelp, Google Places, Truelocal and more. Refer to our roundup below and update your listings.
 
Encourage customers to give your business a review. Include links to these sites in your monthly newsletter or in-store signage. The more reviews and traffic you receive, the more likely you are to appear in search results. This is a great way to gain new customers through the feedback and loyalty of existing ones.
 
Try out a few different ways to get customer feedback to figure out what works best for your store. Whether you host contests, develop email campaigns or build your presence on review platforms, you'll be sure to hear a lot of suggestions to implement into your marketing.  
 
To view the original article visit: The Small Biz Suggestion Box