Thursday, January 30, 2014

Common Hurdles of Operating a Retail Store

Thinking of opening a retail store or business? When it's done right, retail is a lucrative and rewarding field that allows you to build strong professional relationships with clients. Whether you intend to sell apparel, sporting goods, pet supplies, groceries, electronics, cell phones, convenience items, etc., you'll be able to communicate with clients on a daily basis. Of course, this is just one of the many reasons why so many entrepreneurs prefer the retail industry. Like all businesses, through, there are certain hurdles you must tackle if you wish to succeed in this ever-growing industry.

Customer Data Security

If you keep up with news and current events surrounding the retail industry, you may recall a massive security breach where 110+ million Target shoppers had their data stolen. Anyone who shopped at a Target store (excluding the company's website) over the holidays and used either a credit card or debit card are at risk for having their data stolen. Thankfully, Target quickly identified the security breach and notified shoppers, banks and financial institutions.

You can read more about Target's security breach, and the 17-year-old Russian hacker who's believed to have caused it, at this article. According to the New York Times article, there were six other retailers affected by the same software.

Customer data security is a subject that each and every retail store owner must address. With hackers being able to steal data from one of the nation's largest retailers, you shouldn't take data security lightly. Take with a security expert to determine which method is best suited for your business.

Seasonal Changes

Regardless of your store's particular niche, you're bound to experience some seasonal changes in the retail industry. It's difficult to determine exactly how seasonal changes will affect a retail business. Store owners should closely monitor their traffic and sales throughout the year so they can go back and analyze the data later. Doing so allows store owners to see when sales went up, and when sales went down.

If seasonal changes are negatively impacting your business, perhaps you should optimize your store for the new season. For instance, retail apparel stores typically offer more sweaters, jackets, long pants and thermals during the winter months. And once spring and summer rolls around, they shift their inventory towards lighter clothes. This is a prime example of how retailers adjust their operations according to the seasons.

Monday, January 27, 2014

How To Encourage Employees To Take Initiative

Trying to micromanage each and every employee in a retail business is a difficult, if not impossible, task that will quickly drain your time and energy. This is why it's important for workers to take the initiative to perform tasks without the instructions or guidance of their boss. Once the wheels start turning and employees begin to perform these tasks on their own, the entire business will run more smoothly. So, how exactly do you encourage employees to take initiative in a retail business? Keep reading for some helpful tips and tricks.

Empower Your Employees

"Employee empowerment" is a technique that's becoming more and more common in today's retail industry. As more retailers look to improve their productivity, this technique continues to offer an effective solution. Employee empowerment, as the name suggests, involves empowering employees so they are able to make professional decisions themselves. 

In traditional workplace settings, employees must ask their boss for permission before handling certain tasks. If the employee is empowered, however, they'll have the authority to make these decisions using their own judgement.

Employee Empowerment Tips:
  • Define the boundaries of your empowered employees.
  • Spend additional time training empowered employees on how to perform their new duties.
  • Mistakes are bound to happen, so don't get discouraged when an employee slips up.
  • Monitor your employees to ensure they are making the right professional decisions.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement goes a long ways in the retail industry. Unfortunately, it's also something that many retail store owners and managers seem to overlook. If you want to encourage employees to take initiative, you must create a positive environment. Constantly going through the day-to-day routine with a general sense of negativity sends the wrong message to employees.

One form of positive reinforcement is an employee-of-the-month program. Perhaps you could reward employees whom go out of their way to excel at work with a trophy, plaque and/or gift card. Doing so is a small way to say "thanks" to your employees for everything they've accomplished and given to the company. And by rewarding employees for excellence, they'll naturally want to continue pushing themselves on the job.

Encouraging employees to take initiative isn't an overly difficult task. Retail store owners and managers should focus on creating a positive work environment while empowering employees to make their own decisions. Hopefully, the tips listed here will shed some light on the subject. Be sure to check back with our blog here at for more retail tips and strategies!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Advanced Branding Strategies For Retail Businesses

In a previous blog post, we talked about the basics of retail store branding. This includes choosing a unique, memorable and relevant store name, along with designing a universal logo. Far too many entrepreneurs open up new businesses without taking the time to choose a unique name. This ultimately places places their business in the red zone long before the doors even open. As a retail store owner, you must constantly work to brand your business so that your target audience knows and trusts you. For some advanced retail branding strategies and tips, keep reading.

Create Branded Apparel

One of the easiest ways to brand a retail store is to create, and sell, business-branded apparel. Ever notice how the top retail apparel stores sell a large portion of items which contain their own brand. Each time a customer wears one of these garments, they are essentially helping out the business. You can even lower the price of business-branded apparel to encourage customers to choose it over non-branded items.

Of course, you don't have to be in the retail apparel industry to take advantage of branded apparel. Whether your store sells groceries, convenience items, electronics, jewelry, sporting goods, pet supplies or practically anything else, you can still use this method to spread the word about your business.

In addition to selling branded apparel inside your store, you can throw monthly giveaway contests on social media. For instance, each month you could choose one person who "liked" your company's Facebook page and reward them with a business-branded t-shirt, hat or some other piece of gear.

Magazine Advertisements

Even with all of the smartphones, tablet computers and other internet-enabled devices today, magazine advertising remains a highly effective way for retail businesses to brand themselves. And with more and more businesses focusing their marketing efforts online, you can scoop up magazine ad spots at rock-bottom prices.

If you haven't done so already, contact magazine publishers whom you believe would be a good match for your target audience and ask them for a more detailed list of their demographics and adverting options. If their readers match your store's demographics, consider placing purchasing an ad here with your company's branded logo. In addition to the direct sales it brings, your business will also benefit from the brand exposure.

These are just a few advanced building strategies for retail stores and businesses. Check back with our blog here at for more branding strategies!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mobile Marketing In The Retail Industry

The mobile landscape is growing at an exceptionally fast pace, exceeding predictions set by analysts. Retail business owners should take advantage of this massive growth by incorporating mobile into their overall marketing strategy. Whether you offer e-commerce transactions or not, mobile can help you achieve your professional goals. To learn more about mobile marketing in the retail industry, keep reading.

Why Mobile Is Dominating

Mobile phones have been around for decades, so why is the field dominating now? There are several different factors which have recently bolstered the mobile market, one of which being the technological advancements. Mobile phones today aren't used strictly for sending and receiving calls. Sure, they perform this task just fine, but they are also capable of browsing the internet, using email services, SMS messages, playing games, accessing social media and much more.

Another reason why the mobile landscape is dominating is because carrier service has improved. Cellular carriers are building new towers, offering 4G speeds for their customers. This means fewer dropped calls and faster mobile internet speed.

Is Your Business Website Mobile-Friendly?

If you have a website for your retail business, you should check to make sure it's mobile-friendly. Just because your website loads fine in a traditional desktop web browser doesn't necessarily it will perform the same on a mobile phone. Mobile phones render webpages differently, and you could be losing huge amounts of traffic due to incompatibility issues.

There are several different options for creating a mobile-friendly website, but Google recommends webmasters use a responsive web design. On the search engine company's official blog, they state:
"Responsive web design is a technique to build web pages that alter how they look using CSS3 media queries. That is, there is one HTML code for the page regardless of the device accessing it, but its presentation changes using CSS media queries to specify which CSS rules apply for the browser displaying the page."

Use QR Codes

Another near little mobile marketing strategy that more and more retail businesses are using is quick read (QR) codes.  Ever notice a square-shaped bar code on a store window, magazine, bus stop, or even the back window of a car? These are QR codes, and they're an effective, modern way to market a business to mobile users. Basically, the consumer scans the QR code with his or her smartphone, at which point it sends them to a website.

Retail store owners can use QR codes to offer discounts and promotional codes to customers. Rather than sending consumers straight to your official website, you can connect the QR code to a special coupon.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How To Increase Foot Traffic To a Retail Store

Foot traffic is defined as shoppers whom reach a store by walking rather than driving. If you own a retail store in a bustling suburban area, you should take advantage of the high number of nearby pedestrians by trying to draw them in. Even if they are originally headed elsewhere, you can oftentimes pull them into your store by using the right marketing and promotional material. For a closer look at how to increase foot traffic to a retail store, keep reading.

Turn Up The Music

You might be surprised to learn just how much of an effect music has on generating foot traffic. When the music is turned up, more pedestrians will notice your retail store. And when pedestrians notice your store, your foot traffic goes up. It's a simple technique that can yield huge gains for a retail store.

Start by raising the volume of your store's music just slightly and then walk outside to see if you can hear it clearly. If it's still quite or difficult to hear, turn it up a little bit more. You obviously don't want to blast your store's shoppers with obnoxiously loud music, but you want it clear enough to capture pedestrians attention.

Flags, Banners and More, Oh My!

It oftentimes takes more than just music to encourage pedestrians to enter a store. Another tip that's helpful to generating more retail foot traffic is to hang flags, signs, banners and other promotional material outside of the establishment. When it's done right, pedestrians will notice the signs and feel like they must check out your store. When it's done incorrectly, though, exterior signs will have little-to-no effect on the amount of foot traffic your store receives.

Exterior sign display tips:

  • Face the signs toward the oncoming pedestrians.
  • Use bright colors, such as yellow and red, along with bold letters to achieve greater visibility.
  • Use words like "sale," "clearance," "blowout," etc.
  • Experiment with new exterior signs on a regular basis to see what works and what doesn't.
  • Hang flags and banners in the wind for a natural source of movement.
  • Don't over do it. Using an excessive amount of signs could have a negative effect on foot traffic.
  • Make sure your exterior signs are made with a waterproof material.
These are just a few tips on how to increase foot traffic to a retail store. It may take a little trial and error, but keep experimenting with new setups until you find the magic formula that works for your business.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Benefits of Taking a Retail Business Online

Retail businesses that focus strictly on local sales are leaving tons of untapped potential on the table. Even if they are able to turn a profit, chances are they could grow and expand by leveraging the power of e-commerce. If you own or manage a retail store that relies strictly on local sales, keep reading for a list of some of the top benefits of going online. While you may already know some of them, chances are there are others that will surprise you.

Benefit #1) Reduced Overhead

Arguably, one of the greatest benefits of taking a retail business online is the reduced overhead. Since everything is done over the internet, there's no need to set up a shop specifically for selling product. You can ship it directly from your distribution center or even from the manufacturer (known as dropshipping).

With lower overhead costs, you can spend more money on advertising and marketing, which of course helps your business grow.

Benefit #2) Larger Audience

A second benefit of taking a retail business online is the simple face that it allows you to a reach a much larger audience. Running a retail business out of a small shop limits your audience to locals, but taking your business online allows you to reach the entire world. And with a larger audience, you'll end up making more sales.

Benefit #3) Fewer Employees Needed

Let's face it, e-commerce websites tend to run themselves. Taking your retail business online will reduce the number of employees necessary to perform normal professional operations. You'll still need some employees to pack, ship and fulfill orders, but the labor required for this is less than a typical store.

Benefit #4) Creates a Sense of Professionalism

In today's high-tech age, there's really no reason why a business shouldn't have an online presence. It takes minimal effort to set up a functional, working website for your business, but doing so create a level of professionalism that potential customers are sure to notice.

With a website up and running, customers will have a greater sense of trust and confidence in your business.

Go Local and Online For Maximum Exposure

Ideally, retail store owners should operate both locally and online for maximum exposure. Focusing all of your efforts on just one of these outlets leaves an entire medium of customers for your competitors to grab.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Illegal Marketing Techniques That Local Businesses Frequently Perform

Marketing plays a major role in the success of a retail business. If you aren't actively promoting and spreading the word about your store, you're essentially 'hoping' that customers will find it through word-of-mouth. Unfortunately, word-of-mouth will only take you so far; it's up to you to kick your retail business up to the next level through marketing and promotions. But there are a few things you should know before you begin a local marketing campaign. For a list of some of the most common illegal marketing techniques, keep reading.

Handing Out Flyers In Person

I think we've all been bombarded by someone trying to hand us a flyer in the parking lot of a grocery store or department store at some point or another. With so many people performing this type of marketing, it must be effective right? Even if handing out flyers yields some value for a business, it's illegal is most jurisdictions. This marketing technique falls under the category of solicitation, which is illegal unless you have the property owner's permission. And guess what, chances are slim to none that the property owner of a busy shopping center will permit you to advertise your local business.

Note: depending on your location, you may be able to hand out flyers on public streets. Again, this is something you'll need to check your local laws and statutes to determine whether or not it's legal.

Placing Flyers on Car Windshields

This marketing technique also falls under the category of solicitation. It's not uncommon for small business owners to promote their store by placing flyers on cars parked in a busy parking lot. While the laws vary from city to city, most have ordinances prohibiting this type of marketing. Disobeying this ordinance will likely result in a warning on your first offense, but continuing to place flyers on car windshields could result in a hefty fine. Save your money and resources for more effective, legal forms of advertising.

Placing Yard Signs at Busy Intersections

Ever pull up to a red light only to notice half a dozen or more small yard signs cluttering the intersection? For whatever the reason, this has become a popular form of local marketing for small businesses. And while it may offer some value when performed correctly, advertising your business with a yard sign placed at a busy intersection is typically illegal. City ordinance enforcers will scoop them up and throw them away faster than you're able to make them.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Branding Basics For Retail Businesses

Branding is a fundamental component of running a successful retail store or business. Among other things, it helps customers remember your business, which in turn increases your number of returning customers. Regardless of what industry/niche your retail store is based around, you should invest  some of your time and energy into branding it. Doing so is a smart investment that will prove well worth the money in the long run. To learn more about the basics of retail branding, keep reading.

Store Name

Branding a retail store starts with choosing the right name for it. One of the biggest mistakes new retail store owners make is choosing a generic name. Here's a scenario to consider: let's say you shop at two different clothing stores; one's named "Big Al's Threads" and the other's named "Clothing Store." Which store are you most likely to remember in the future? Chances are you chose the first simply because it's unique, while the second one is more generic.

There are a few elements a retail name should contain, including the following:

  • Unique (don't choose the same name as your competitor)
  • Memorable
  • Relevant to your industry/niche
  • Keep it short
Creating your store's name using the elements mentioned above will naturally help brand your business. Arguably, the worst thing you can do is choose a name that's generic, as people won't remember your business. Stick with a unique, memorable, relevant, and short name to increase your brand exposure.

Marketing and Promotions

You can't expect to run a successful branding campaign for your retail business without investing some of your resources into marketing. Remember, the objective of branding is to make customers know and remember your business. The only way you'll accomplish this is with LOTS of marketing, so get out there and spread the message about your retail store.

You read through some of our previous blog posts for more retail marketing tips, but your goal when branding is to make people remember your business name. Local television commercials, radio commercials, and billboard advertisements are just a couple highly effective ways to band a business. You may not see immediate results from investing in these marketing mediums, but the benefits of branding is sure to creep up over time.

Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of branding and how it plays such as a critical role in the success of retail businesses.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

4 Ways To Improve Shopping Experience In a Retail Store

Is there a particular retail store that you just DREAD visiting? Perhaps it's the layout, or maybe it's the poor customer service. Whatever the reason, some stores suffer from a general 'bad' shopping experience. And common sense should tell you that stores such as this suffer from a loss of customers and sales. If you run or manage a retail store, you should take a step back to analyze the shopping experience from a customer's perspective. Using this information, you can make changes to make shoppers feel more comfortable in your store.

#1) Greet Customers at The Door

Greeting each and every customer that walks into your store is one of the easiest ways to improve their shopping experience. It only takes a second to say "hi, how are you doing?" but greeting customers leaves a lasting impression while setting the tone for a positive shopping experience. If you haven't done so already, train your employees to greet every customer that enters.

You can read more about how to greet customers in a retail store by checking out our previous blog post here.

#2) Keep It Clean

Another important tip for improving the shopping experience in your retail store is to keep it clean and free of clutter. Filling the aisles of your store with rolling racks, displays, gondolas or other items may restrict customers from comfortably browsing. Ideally, your store should have clear, well-defined paths for customers to travel. Keeping these areas clean and free of obstruction is critical to creating a positive shopping experience.

#3) Lend a Hand

If a customer needs assistance, lend them a helping a hand. There are dozens of ways retail store owners can help customers, such as finding clothes in a particular size, answering questions, placing unwanted products back on the shelves, etc. As a retailer, pleasing customers is your top priority. Going the extra mile with customer service creates loyal customers who will come back to your store for future purchases.

#4) Watch The Checkout Lines

I think we can all agree that waiting in a long retail checkout line is comparable to the DMV. In fact, I've seen customers leave their belongings and walk out the store due to long lines. Unless you want this type of image places on your retail brand, you must keep the checkout lines short and moving fast. There are elements which affect checkout lines that are beyond your control; however, you can control things like checkout procedures and the number of employees working during 'peak' hours.