Grow Smart Business


Search Articles

Posts Tagged ‘retail’

Friday Small Business Roundup: Retail Tips and More

August 30th, 2013 ::

Got a retail store? Read Karen Axelton’s How Do Local Customers Find Your Business? to get tips on driving more foot traffic.

Got a retail website? Don’t miss Rieva Lesonsky’s post 6 Secrets to Decreasing Shopping Cart Abandonment.

Then check out our infographic to help you get ready for Holiday Retail 2013.

The Hottest New Market for Your Restaurant? It’s Not Who You Think. Learn more in Karen Axelton’s post.

Learn from the experts in Monika Jansen’s post 12 Valuable Marketing Lessons from 4 TED Talks.

Showrooming, Meet Webrooming

May 6th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What do customers want from their retail experiences today? Well, if your business includes both an ecommerce site and a physical location, then you’re one step ahead of the game. A new study from Accenture found what customers want most is the ability to shop anytime, any way and anywhere they want to—so the more options you can offer, the better.

Some 89 percent of consumers in The Accenture Seamless Retail Study say it’s important for retailers to let them shop for products however is most convenient for them. But retailers still have a way to go to accomplish this goal. While 94 percent say shopping in-store is easy, and 74 percent say online shopping is easy, just 26 percent say it’s easy to shop on a mobile phone.

While online shopping is growing, and 43 percent of respondents say they plan to shop more online in the future, it’s not necessarily growing at the expense of in-store shopping. In fact, although 73 percent of shoppers engage in showrooming (examining products in a retail store and then buying them online), a whopping 88 percent participate in “webrooming”—looking at products online and then heading to a physical store to make the purchase.

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73 percent of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

The biggest takeaway from the survey: Consumers expect the same pricing, promotions and products in your physical store and your ecommerce site. They also expect the same level of service and ease of use in both places.

How important is speed to online and offline shoppers? Well, that depends:

  • 25 percent would wait up to 2 weeks to get the product if it means they get free shipping.
  • 24 percent say a same-day delivery option is important.
  • Of those, 30 percent will pay $5 to $10, and 19 percent will pay $11 to $20, for same-day delivery.

Asked what they would do if a store had a product they wanted but it was after business hours, 39 percent would wait for the store to open and buy it there; 36 percent would buy it online from the same retailer; and 22 percent would buy it elsewhere online.

What type of advertising influences retail shoppers? Physical and email coupons and offers ranked number-one, cited by 56 percent of respondents. Almost half (49 percent) were influenced by in-store offers. The least effective ads were online popup or banner ads, with 69 and 62 percent respectively saying these ads “never” influence what they buy.

What’s the lesson from this research? Far from being a drain on an ecommerce business, a physical store is still a “crucial asset” in differentiating your business from purely online retailers, the report contends. If you have both online and physical locations, the key is to make sure your brand and your shopping experience are consistent at every stage of the purchase process, and every place the customer might encounter it.

Image by Flickr user lululemon athletica (Creative Commons)



How Your Small Business Can Compete With Big Retailers in 2013

December 24th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

This holiday shopping season, big retailers did a lot of things differently—and the changes they made will continue into 2013 and beyond, posing new challenges for small retailers and ecommerce companies seeking to compete. The BDO Retail Compass Survey of CMOs polled 100 chief marketing officers at the nation’s leading retailers and found:

Big retailers rely on social media. Social media has become an essential marketing tool, used by 86 percent of big retailers, up from 4 percent in 2007. Overall, social media made up 10 percent of holiday marketing and advertising budgets this year.

Big retailers are playing catch-up when it comes to mobile. Half of the retailers surveyed are including mobile in their marketing strategy, up 39 percent from 2011, but still short of 100 percent participation.

Big retailers are going digital. Although two-thirds of big retailers report their holiday marketing and advertising budgets were flat this year, they are shifting where they spend those dollars. While print is still the top advertising expenditure for 42 percent of companies, 31 percent spent most of their marketing dollars online. That’s a 35 percent increase from last year.

Big retailers are struggling with big data. With tons of customer data available through in-store purchases, email, social media and ecommerce and mobile sales, a whopping 93 percent of retailers admit it’s a challenge to integrate and manage the data, and 40 percent say it’s “very challenging.” But two-thirds plan to increase their use of customer data for targeted marketing efforts in the next year.

Big retailers are moving beyond Facebook. While Facebook is still the top social media marketing channel for 99 percent of retailers surveyed, one in five is marketing on Pinterest, and 51 percent are using Twitter.

Big retailers are trying a variety of mobile tactics. Many different mobile marketing tactics are being used, with flash sales and daily deals the primary mobile marketing tool for 30 percent of retailers, text messages the main focus for 23 percent, and mobile coupons for 20 percent. Less popular are mobile apps and QR codes, each cited as the main tactic by 14 percent. Big retailers are also rolling out new tools for mobile engagement, such as in-store GPS and product review apps.

Will your small retail or ecommerce business be able to keep up with the big guys? It’s not going to be easy – but it can be done. All of the tactics they are using can be used by a small business, too. Whether it’s advertising online or developing an app, look into how you can engage your customers in the ways they want to be reached.

Image by Flickr user coolinsights (Creative Commons)


How You Can Use Social Media to Spur Holiday Shopping

November 26th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you had any doubts that social media is playing a growing role in consumers’ shopping habits, a new study from Research Now should help dispel them. The survey, conducted by ConsumerSearch.com, looked at what influences consumers to buy when they’re shopping for holiday gifts.

Some 62 percent of respondents report that they regularly use social media to get gift ideas. However, while you might think of social media as simply sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, it also included online reviews and wish lists shared by friends and family. Of all the social options, online reviews were the most popular social source, used by 41 percent of people seeking gift ideas.

That doesn’t mean you should give up on other marketing methods. The study found traditional methods of getting gift ideas were still slightly more popular than social media, with 64 percent reporting they look to ads, company websites and emails from businesses to get ideas for gifts.

While consumers are doing a lot of research before they buy gifts this year, more than one-third (37 percent) report that they rely equally on online and in-store research before committing to a purchase. One-fourth (24 percent) prefer to both research and shop online, and 17 percent prefer to both research and shop in physical stores.

What does it mean for your business this holiday season? To capture your share of the average $500 consumers will spend on gifts this year:

  • Create an integrated marketing plan that incorporates the methods most likely to reach your customer, whether that’s email, online advertising, offline advertising, social media or some combination of the above.
  • Some 65 percent of respondents say they rely on word-of-mouth to get gift ideas—so make it easy for customers to share your marketing messages, whether by encouraging them to “forward this email to a friend” or posting deals and offers on social media. Consider creating “tell a friend” or “bring a friend” shopping discounts and deals.
  • Make sure your products and your store can be found on ratings and review sites. Build your presence online by encouraging your customers to review your store.

Image by Flickr user ivanpw (Creative Commons)

The Holiday Retail Outlook Is Positive. Here’s How to Grab Your Piece of the Pie

October 22nd, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

While the surging cost of gasoline and the upcoming presidential election are still wild cards that could affect holiday spending, so far the retail outlook for 2012 is positive, according to a Deloitte forecast.

Total holiday sales are projected to reach between $920 billion and $925 billion, a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in holiday sales (November through January) compared to last year. Although that forecast is below last year’s increase of 5.9 percent, Deloitte is also predicting an increase of 15 to 17 percent in non-store sales. Three-fourths of that is online; the rest are from TV and mail order catalogs.

Not only are nonstore sales outpacing overall retail growth, Deloitte says, but they are increasingly influencing what consumers do in-store. “From trip planning, to in-store product research, [to] post-purchase reviews and sharing, this holiday season, retailers’ most lucrative customers may be the ones they engage across physical and virtual storefronts,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader.

Consumers will still be price-conscious this year, making your digital marketing and retailing strategy even more important. What do you need to know?

  1. Offer more price transparency. Your pricing should be the same across mobile, online and in-store channels.
  2. Get mobile. Deloitte says mobile-influenced retail store sales will account for 5.1 percent, or $36 billion, in retail store sales this year during the holiday season. Even if you don’t yet offer m-commerce, make sure consumers can find your store on local search, ratings and review sites, and that your website is mobile-friendly so customers can find the information they need.
  3.  Don’t fear showrooming. Deloitte reports that shoppers who have smartphones are actually 14 percent more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who don’t use smartphones in-store.  Make sure you engage with smartphone-toting shoppers to answer any questions they have and provide relevant information.
  4. Use analytics. Pay more attention than ever to how customers are getting to your business website, where they’re coming from and what they’re doing while they’re there. Tweak your site as needed to drive purchasing and respond to customer needs.

Image by Flickr user Steve Snodgrass (Creative Commons)



Is Your Ecommerce Site Ready to Capture Holiday Sales?

October 15th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Good news for ecommerce retailers: Online shopping is projected to grow by 20 percent this holiday season as compared to 2011, according to a Citi Research study reported by AllThingsD. But before you rub your hands together in glee, know that the reason for the increase is because there are two more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year—so Americans will have more time to shop.

Of course, that doesn’t mean ecommerce isn’t growing. Citi says ecommerce is seeing significant increases, as more consumer spending moves from offline to online. However, the report did offer a reality check: As of last year, ecommerce made up just 8 percent of overall retail sales, with 90 percent or more of retail sales taking place offline.

While the effect of social media and mobile devices on consumers’ holiday shopping habits is making news this year, Citi’s report reminded retailers that these areas are still growing slowly. For instance, it cites Forrester data that smartphones will account for 3 percent of e-commerce this year, then grow to 7 percent by 2016. Given that mobile and social are still emerging areas of shopping, Citi urges ecommerce companies not to get distracted by mobile and social at the expense of their core technologies.

What should you do to make sure your ecommerce house is in order?

  • Test your site. Make sure the nuts and bolts are working and that load speeds are up to par.
  • Help ‘em out. Can consumers quickly see how to contact you (by email, phone or chat) in case of a question or problem? Can they easily find shipping rates, tax info and other things they want to know before they buy? Shoppers are busy, so keep it simple.
  • Integrate. If you have a brick-and-mortar location in addition to your ecommerce site, make sure the two are integrated. Do consumers see the same prices in-store as online? Make sure your databases sync properly so they don’t see price variations.
  • Offer choice. Consumers have myriad shopping options this season, so make sure you offer them lots of choices. Can they order online and return or pick up in-store? Can they search your site in-store for a product that’s not on the shelf, and have it shipped?

A separate Deloitte forecast predicts holiday sales of $920 billion to $925 billion, or a 3.5 to 4 percent increase compared to last year, but warns that rising gas prices could put a crimp in sales.  With customers still watching their wallets, the key to retail and e-tail success this season is what it’s always been: Make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you, not from the other guy.

Image by Flickr user Mae Armstrong (Creative Commons)

How to Capture Halloween Sales

October 12th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

For retailers who cater to the Halloween crowd, 2012 looks to be a very good year. More than 7 in 10 Americans, or a record 170 million people, will celebrate Halloween this year, reports NRF’s 2012 Halloween consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight. That’s the highest number in the 10 years the NRF has been conducting this survey.

Consumer spending will surge, too. The average American will spend $79.82 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $72.31 last year. Overall, total Halloween spending is projected to reach $8.0 billion.

“There’s certainly pent-up demand for having some fun this year,” said BIGinsight Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Phil Rist. “Shoppers are planning to spend their hard-earned dollars on items that help them get into the Halloween spirit.”

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said Americans are now spending about two months preparing for the holiday, and that the hottest purchases (besides costumes, of course) are home and yard décor.

More than half of those celebrating Halloween will decorate their home or yard, up from 49.5 percent last year, and 45 percent plan to dress in costume, also up from last year. More than one-third (36.2%) will throw or attend a party and 33.2 percent will take children trick-or-treating.

Halloween costumes aren’t just for kids anymore: Adult costumes are popular as well, and 15.1 percent will dress their pets in a costume.

Even though this Halloween will see record spending, about 25 percent of U.S. consumers say the economy is affecting their Halloween plans and that they’ll be spending less overall.

How can your business profit from Halloween spending?

  • Get creative. The number-one place Americans look for costume ideas is retailers—so feature plenty of visuals in your store windows, marketing materials and website to get their creativity flowing.
  • Get social. The survey found 15.2 percent of Halloween celebrants plan to look to Facebook for costume ideas, and 7.1 percent will check out photo-oriented site Pinterest. These can be great ways to promote home décor and party ideas, too.
  • Get online. One-third of Halloween celebrants say they get their costume ideas online. Consider purchasing PPC or Facebook ads with popular Halloween-related keywords to attract customers searching for a particular costume or costumes for different demographic groups (kids, women, dogs).

Try these marketing methods, and your Halloween sales will really be something to celebrate.

Image by Flickr user wwarby (Creative Commons)

How to Capture Holiday Sales by Offering Layaway

October 10th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Remember layaway programs? If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember your parents paying for purchases like the family’s winter coats, a new dining room set or other major purchase “on layaway.” Here’s how it works: The customer essentially puts a product “on hold” with a retailer, then pays a certain amount per month until the entire cost is covered, at which point he or she picks up the item.

With the wide advent of credit cards, layaway pretty much died out since it was no longer necessary. But ever since the Great Recession, layaway programs have been having a resurgence–which makes sense, since they first sprang up in the Great Depression, as this JWT Anxiety Index on the topic explains.

According to JWT, Sears and Kmart first started the layaway ball rolling back in holiday 2009, and retailers like Best Buy and Toys R Us have since joined the game. What’s more, layaway isn’t just for brick and mortar retailers—ecommerce companies are getting into the game, too.

How can your retail or ecommerce business benefit from layaway? Using layaway can help you make sales you might not otherwise make, eliminate credit card fees since customers aren’t using the cards to buy, and increase customer loyalty and spending. All pluses, right?

It’s not too late to get your layaway program going for the holidays. Here’s what you’ll need to do.

  1. Create a policy. You need to create a layaway contract that spells out terms and conditions, including what happens to the product if the customer doesn’t pay, when payments are due, and any fees involved.  Visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection website for guidelines on what type of information should be included in your layaway policy.
  2. Keep costs low. Stores typically charge a fee for layaway, but more and more major retailers are waiving their fees. If you don’t want to eliminate the fee altogether, consider refunding it when the purchase is completed. That way, you know you’ve made the big sale and can afford to lose smaller fee.
  3. Implement online tools. Forget about tracking customers’ layaway purchases by hand—now there’s software to help streamline the system. eLayaway and LayawayPro are two layaway management programs to consider; both can help you track layaway customers, manage payments and more, and work for ecommerce, too.

One more thing to do? Don’t wait—holiday shopping season is almost here!

Image by Flickr user julesxt (Creative Commons)

The Truth About Showrooming (It’s Worse Than You Think)

October 1st, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you scared of showrooming? If you’re a small retailer, you have reason to be. The trend in which consumers visit a physical store, look at products they like, use their mobile devices to find better deals online and then buy the products elsewhere, has spurred a frenzy in the retail world.

Showrooming & The Cost Of Keeping Buyers In-Store, a new study from GroupMNext reported in MediaPost, isn’t going to calm the frenzy. The study found that a discount of as little as 2.5 percent online will spur 45 percent of brick and mortar customers to leave and complete their purchase online. For a savings of 5 percent, 60 percent of customers will leave and buy the product online. Up the online discount to 20 percent, and a mere 13 percent of shoppers will stay to make their purchase in the store.

While the Internet used to be the first step in research conducted at home and leading out to the retail location, the report concludes the process is now reversing itself, with customers doing research in stores and returning home to make their purchase.

The study also found some surprising things about showroomers. While you might expect them to be young, tech-savvy men, in reality they’re most likely to be young women who frequently shop online. Also surprisingly, the customer most likely to stay and buy in-store is an older man.

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, what can your business do to keep customers there?

  • Customers who look at product reviews on a mobile device are the most likely to showroom. Keep an eye out for people checking a mobile device in the store, so you can have salespeople approach them and offer help.
  • Offer help to everyone—the study found that customers who interacted with an employee in-store were 12.5 times more likely to make a purchase there.
  • Focus on the immediacy of purchasing in-store. Even a customer who wants the online discount may be swayed if you can sell her on the benefit of having it in-hand quickly instead of waiting for it to be delivered from an online retailer.

In addition to the core 10 percent or so of shoppers who seem unlikely to ever stop buying at physical stores, there’s also a “marginal showroomer” group that has high potential for retailers. The report says these constitute about 10 percent of customers and that they are price-sensitive, but can be convinced to stay in-store too. The average “marginal showroomer” is male, age 52, with an average income of $60,000 and a tendency to shop online at least once a month. You can reach out to these customers with targeted emails, direct mail and other marketing efforts to encourage them to come into the store, knowing that once there, they’re less likely to leave.

Image by Flickr user jheffrey swid (Creative Commons)

Is Your Small Business Ready for Free Shipping Day?

September 18th, 2012 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Is your ecommerce business hoping to compete with big retailers and e-tailers this holiday season? If so, you already know that offering free shipping can make all the difference in whether customers click “buy” or just leave items sitting in their online shopping carts.

More than 250 ecommerce companies, including Lands’ End and Kohl’s, have already signed up for Free Shipping Day. This one-day, online event offers consumers free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. This year, Free Shipping Day will be Monday, December 17. Since Mondays are typically the busiest online shopping days of the week, event founder Luke Knowles says he expects Free Shipping Day sales to match or exceed sales on Cyber Monday.

In 2010, Free Shipping Day beat Black Friday’s online sales by nearly $300 million, and last year, Internet Retailer reported Free Shipping Day had the lowest shopping cart abandonment rate of any day in the last six months of 2011.

You don’t have to be a big company to participate in Free Shipping Day—you just have to guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve. You can offer free shipping with restrictions (such as only on orders over a certain dollar amount), or free shipping with discounts (like 10 percent off plus free shipping) to help drive additional sales. You can even limit your offer to end at a certain time of day or when supplies of products run out.

Now in its fifth year, Free Shipping Day continues to get lots of publicity in outlets from The New York Times and “O” Magazine to Fox News, as well as regional newspapers and news broadcasts. Participating companies get listed on the Free Shipping Day website.

The National Retail Federation estimates imports of merchandise in August, September and October will be 8.9 percent higher than last year—forecasting a strong holiday season ahead. Joining Free Shipping Day can help you be part of it.  Visit the website to fill out the merchant signup form.

Image by Flickr user VFS Digital Design (Creative Commons)