ShoppinPal to Speak at Independent Retailer Conference

ShoppinPal will be joining the Independent Retailer Conference in Las Vegas in March as one of several retail experts to host educational sessions filled with the latest retail insights and trends for attendees of the ASD Show.

RetailMinded’s Independent Retailer Conference is dedicated to helping indie retailers succeed by providing rich educational content from industry experts. And for the first time, the event will be held at the ASD Show in Las Vegas March 16-19.

The ASD Show is one of the largest and most comprehensive trade shows in the country where retailers buy inventory for their stores. Now, with the addition of the Independent Retailer Conferece, attendees can not only find the right items for their stores, but learn how to make their store more successful, from operations and store layout to marketing and mobile commerce.

ShoppinPal’s Sriram Subramanian and Jason Trout will be hosting discussions with retail decision makers, along with executives from other companies focused on helping independent retailers, including Constant Contact, Shopify, Snap Retail, Vend, and Independent Retailer Magazine. Check out the complete speaker lineup.

Need an excuse to go to Vegas? Register here and let us know you’re coming.

Here’s what ShoppinPal will be sharing with conference attendees at ASD:

The future of the brick & mortar store: What retailers need to know

Technology is changing how shoppers shop and how retailers cater to their customers’ wants. Advancements in point-of-sale systems, mobile payments, shopper tracking, personalized offers, location-based marketing, customer loyalty… the future of the brick & mortar store is full of exciting changes and new opportunities for retailers to delight their customers.  Learn about these new innovations and how to create a connected shopping experience inside and outside of the physical retail store.

How to keep your store relevant with today’s tech savvy shopper

Spoiled by the convenience of online shopping and armed with the power of smartphones, your customers are shopping differently today, and retail stores must adapt. Learn how your customers’ shopping habits are changing, their new expectations of a retail store, and how you can stay relevant with today’s tech savvy shopper.

Showrooming: how to fight back and capture lost sales

Shoppers’ phones can be a retailer’s worst nightmare, enabling them to browse your carefully selected in-store merchandise only to buy it cheaper online, sometimes even while standing in your store. But is showrooming to be feared? Learn the truth about showrooming and how retail stores can win the battle.

As Fall Arrives, Retailers Are Already Prepping for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is more than a month away, but many retailers are already busy planning for the holiday shopping season. The launch seems to arrive earlier every year, but a lot of planning and preparation goes into the busiest shopping season of the year. After all, the National Retail Federation says the holiday shopping season accounts for around 40% of annual retail sales.

A new prediction from the professional services firm Deloitte says holiday retail sales are likely to grow about 4.5 percent, which is about the same rate as last year. Trend monitoring firm eMarketer revised its holiday sales projections upwards recently and reported that it now expects 2013 U.S. retail ecommerce holiday season sales to grow about 15.1 percent to $61.8 billion, up from $53.7 billion in the 2012 holiday season and $46.6 billion in the 2011 holiday shopping season.

Consumer income has been flat this year. Shoppers may be cautious about overspending and will head out to shop armed with their smartphones looking for the best deal. But some retailers “are completely ignoring mobile,” says consumer behavior expert Eric Holtzclaw, CEO of Laddering Works. “They should have a mobile app and they should have social media campaigns that really interact with their consumers so that they can help them along that decision-buying process and then they’ll go ahead and purchase the product,” says Holtzclaw.

According to eMarketer, U.S. retail ecommerce sales from mobile devices are projected to reach $9.8 billion in November and December of this year. Ignoring mobile could be an expensive mistake, but it’s not the only one retailers could make this winter . Here are some key factors retailers should consider in their holiday season plan.

Start Promotions Earlier

Way before the holidays, people make their shopping lists and sometimes set their sights on acquiring items they’ve desired all year before the holidays. A recent Google consumer survey found 30% of consumers are expecting to start shopping for the holidays before Halloween.

With early bird shoppers eager to buy, retailers need to provide earlier deals, specials and promotions to meet that need to capture early season sales. Don’t be last to the party with your customers. Be the first amongst your competitors to launch your promotional schedule and singled yourself out with your customers.

Price Matters Big Time

While many of the 2013 holiday shopping season predictions have been generally positive — more ecommerce sales, more mobile sales — it’s pretty clear that shoppers will use price to make buying decisions.

A Google Consumer Survey from July 2013 found that consumers are generally not loyal to a particular brand when shopping for gifts, with 40 percent of those surveyed saying that they simply look for the best price. Finding the best price is getting a lot easier for modern shoppers, who can check online marketplaces like Amazon and shopping price comparison sites, including Google Shopping and PriceGrabber.

If you can’t beat your competitors on price, you’ve got to find another angle with your customers. Offer them a mobile shopping app where they can make easy wish lists, receive special discounts and provide quick self checkouts to avoid notoriously long lines around the holidays.

Or try offering a customer loyalty program to take advantage of all of the new faces visiting your store during the busy holiday shopping season. Try opening an hour early one day only for frequent shoppers in the loyalty program. These shoppers can enjoy a hassle-free shopping experience before the general public joins them as a reward for being a loyal customer.

Offer Layaway

A lot of major stores offer layaway programs to their customers because they generally encourage customers, especially those operating on a holiday budget, to spend more than they originally would’ve during the holidays. If you’re concerned about losing revenue from holding items for customers who might end up cancelling before payment, institute a reasonable cancellation fee that’ll help you recover those losses. Customers generally appreciate being given the option for layaway. A satisfied customer is usually always good for business.

Prepare for Inventory Needs

Popular items will fly off the shelves fast during the holiday season. You don’t want to miss out on sales just because you didn’t anticipate the rush. After looking for the best price, shoppers prioritize retailers with the best selection to choose from when deciding where to shop. If your customers can make wish lists, take into account the most wished for items, make sure they’re generously stocked and be prepared for those customers to finally purchase those items.

Technology Investment Priorities for Small Retail

How much confidence do small merchants have that the technologies and business tools they are currently using can fuel future growth?

Retailers are navigating their operations in dynamic times, infused with change and significant pressure, to meet increasingly complex business challenges. Customers carry more influence than ever before, and their growing expectations are impacting how retailers manage their strategic and technological planning.

As many as 80.3% of retailers said they plan on implementing technology enhancements that will enable them to enhance and expand their sales channels, more efficiently manage the customer relationship and provide them with the flexibility to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

As consumers’ options for researching and purchasing products or services have expanded, retailers are taking notice and planning strategic improvements to the cross-channel shopping experience.

To differentiate from competitors and capitalize on growth opportunities, merchants are investing in new technologies, services and business tools that empower them with more control and greater agility to improve the customer experience. Retailers are now focusing on various improvements, particularly in the areas of mobile, online channels and inventory.

Online Technology

Today, fast-growing companies are targeting the online channel strategically as crucial to their business growth.

While online giants are offering low prices and turning a profit, brick and mortar sales still make up $0.90 of every retail dollar spent. Customers aren’t abandoning physical stores, but brick and mortar numbers are slightly declining as customers are enjoying more of the advantages of shopping online.

Investing in your online experience is a huge priority for retailers of every size. Retailers can’t afford to forfeit that revenue because they’re not investing into the online store, online customer loyalty programs, a cross-channel selling strategy and utilizing the cloud.

Online technology provides a lot of productive opportunities for retailers and they’re not limited to offering online services to customers. Retailers have the ability to easily collect and analyze feedback through online channels.

In a recent survey of retailers, CRM was given the highest priority ranking for future technology investments. 63.3% of retailers said workforce management was the most productive benefit of technology investments. 40.5% of retailers said improved inventory management was the most efficient benefit of technology investments.

Going Mobile

We’re reaching a point where we are are spending longer on our phones shopping or using social media than making calls.

This isn’t a fad. Mobile usage is continually growing. People are gravitating away from traditional computers in favor of smartphones and tablets that allow them to access information, interact and conduct business wherever they are.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 9 out of 10 Americans now own a mobile phone and 57% of them have smartphones. In 2009, only 22% of mobile users accessed the web through their mobile device. Now, 60% of mobile users access the mobile web. Also, 50% of mobile users download apps, which is up from 22% in 2009.

Cross-channel selling is a huge opportunity and a worthy investment for retailers. Improving mobile compatibility on different platforms is a crucial area of focus for retailers right now.

If you don’t offer a compelling reason for your shoppers to not fire up their Amazon or Ebay app, consumers will use you as a showroom for another retailer’s benefit and buy from the retailer with the lowest price. By providing your own effective mobile experience, you’ll reduce lost sales from your customers buying from your competitors while shopping in-store.

Retailers will need to adopt a more connected retail model to stay competitive, merging the physical shopping experience with a mobile one, such as offering customers your own retail app so they can redeem rewards, browse product info, discover other items and pay by phone while shopping in-store.

To find out how ShoppinPal’s mobile commerce app would work in your retail stores, request a demo today.

Modern POS Systems

Traditional, inflexible and old POS systems are no longer the most functional options for retailers. Modern POS systems are the wave of the future for small-to-medium sized retailers. These new POS systems are often cloud-based and compatible on either computer, laptop, tablet or anything else with a with a web browser. With their ease of use, simplicity and affordability, they remove barriers to making a sale.

These modern POS systems can easily take payments, but they can also streamline sales and inventory processes, making all around operation much simpler. Digital inventory management simplifies purchase orders, transfers and stock-takes.

Reduce human error with automated reordering based on specified stock levels to make sure you never have too much or too little stock on your shelves. Also, you can seamlessly manage stocking at multiple locations with multi-location stock control. Cashiers can check product levels at other stores from the point-of-sale. Managers can order items from other locations, which will automatically adjust inventory at both locations.

Retailers have a million things to worry about without adding their POS to the list. In modern times retailers need to run their businesses on the go and a lot of digital POS systems automatically store day-to-day business operation information in the cloud, so it can be accessed anywhere all the time. If you’re looking for a kick-ass cloud-based POS system, we recommend checkout out our friends at Vend.

Get Digital

Technology is making everyone’s lives easier. Retailers have advantages and challenges that couldn’t have been imagined decades ago. Investing in your businesses future with the right technology at the right time could make a huge difference in your business success. The technology you need is available to compete at a higher level. What are you waiting for?

Strategies for Brick and Mortar Stores to Drive Sales

There’s a new retail game and the customer determines the rules of engagement. Matching online prices or bulking up product SKUs is not enough to keep pace with a today’s savvy shopper. To stay in touch with this new smartphone shopper, merchants must give customers the ability to shop the way they want to shop, and do it well.

Wise retailers are striving to provide a shopping experience where every customer feels that their individual preferences, wants and needs are a priority from the minute they engage with the store, whether online, through mobile, or inside the store.

If retailers choose to sit on their hands right now and do nothing they risk losing relevance with customers. Retailers need to focus in on their inherent advantage — the ability to be locally and individually relevant through the products they sell, how they sell them and the shopper’s experience buying them. Staying relevant with customers means giving them the opportunity to shop the way they love to shop. Realizing that vision requires employing online and offline strategies based upon the modern customer’s expectations.

Mobile

With the widespread use of mobile devices, it’s no longer optional to have some type of mobile presence. According to RSR Research, 87% of retailers see the value in smartphones’ ability to drive consumers into their stores. Mobile is a huge conversion opportunity for local retailers to gain a competitive advantage over competitors. Having a mobile presence will increase the possibility potential customers will find your store on their device and get the information they need to shop with you.

Millions of shoppers discover stores through popular location-based mobile apps, such as Google Maps, Yelp, Foursquare to name a few. Not only is it critical for local retailers to claim and manage their local listings through these services, but it’s crucial to give these shoppers a quick and easy way to buy through these channels. After all, mobile shoppers using these local apps are close to a purchase decision. ShoppinPal specializes in turning these popular location-based apps into powerful retail sales channels.

Merchandising

Merchandising and display is still crucial to influencing customer purchasing decisions in-store. By using attractive displays and store arrangements that optimally display products, retailers can persuade consumers to make a purchase decision.

Also, retailers can ask for exclusive product deals from manufacturers agreeing not to offer certain products/models online. This strategy seems to be working for Target, which has made some exclusive product agreements with technology and clothing suppliers.

Customer Service

76% of customers purchase more products based on merchant recommendations. Provide better customer service through well-informed sales associates. Retailers can leverage their built-in advantages of customer service and immediacy. An assisted sale vs. online self-service sales gives brick-and-mortar stores a huge advantage for certain types of sales. But don’t forget do include quick ways for shoppers to get recommendations as they shop on their phones, too, through views of the store’s most popular items, sale items, and specific product recommendations based on products they like.

One of the most popular ways for large brick & mortar chains are highlighting the benefits of a physical location is the ability to buy online and pick up in store. This allows customers to shop the way they want to shop (in this case, away from the store), and still get their items the same day instead of waiting for the order to be shipped.

When stores stress the benefits of immediate fulfillment vs. online shipping fees and the hassles of returns/exchanges for online sales combined with superior product knowledge, this can go a long way toward driving sales in-store and ensuring return visits.

An Online and Offline Strategy

Sometimes, there’s no substitution for the personal touch. Brick and mortar retailers can be more profitable by adapting to modern changes in consumer behavior to drive in-store sales. Today’s retailers must not only know how to sell, they must integrate smart online-offline marketing tactics available to gain an advantage over local and online competitors.

Biggest Opportunities for Retail Stores in the Digital Age

Think back, to a not so long time ago, when shoppers compared prices by consulting the latest weekly circular ads or pounding the pavement. That all seems like a distant memory compared to the shopping experience the modern customer expects.

Technology is reinventing the way we act, think and shop. Customers are adapting quickly. Retailers can’t afford to sit idly by and try to catch up later. Now is the time to be aggressive and proactive, adopting technology that can transform your customer experience in a big way to drive sales.

Efficiency

In the age of big data, technology makes it possible to accurately process large and varied volumes of data to make real-time decisions in an instant. These analytics can drive top-line and bottom-line growth, especially for small to medium sized retailers.

Digital POS systems have streamlined managing inventory, customer loyalty, analytics and processing sales. Some systems, like Lightspeed POS and Vend POS, can be accessed by computer or tablet. Retailers can literally run their business, with ease, from an iPad.

Cross-Channel Selling

According to a RSR Research study, 87% of retailers see value in smartphones’ ability to drive consumers into their stores. Some retailers are choosing to size down physical locations and focus on online sales. That’s a big mistake. Successful retailers utilizing technology are doubling down on physical locations and embracing a cross-channel selling strategy.

There are limits to what online-only retailers can accomplish when customers can’t view the physical product before purchase or have the option to return without shipping hassles. Customers want options. Don’t underestimate how heavily customers weigh these type of options in purchasing decisions. The customer wants a universal experience through online, mobile and in-store.

Self-Service, Interactive Possibilities

52% of global consumers prefer self-checkout stations if they can avoid waiting in line to make a purchase. These days, everyone expects immediate gratification. We can blame the Internet and social media for that. Customers would rather do something quickly themselves than wait for service.

Leverage what you know is working online. Offer customers a self-service mobile experience that fuses the convenient features of the online shopping experience with the benefits of shopping in a physical store. Employing a mobile app can solve a lot of customer and retailer challenges. Retailers want to encourage customers not to use their stores as showrooms and customers don’t want to put down their mobile devices or wait in long lines. If your customers are using your mobile app throughout their in-store shopping experience to add products to a wishlist, find out more product information or check themselves out by paying with their phones, it’s likely they’re not surfing your competitor’s mobile site. 48% of retailers already realize the need to bring more of the digital/online experience to stores and are making that a top priority this year.

As RSR Research put it, “Now is not the time for sitting on hands. The customer is already well ahead in the race, and it is well advised to be aggressively pursuing pilot programs that bring more of the digital experience into at minimum, a few test stores.” It’s in your hands.

Offering interactive digital features in-store will help you differentiate your brand in diverse and competitive markets. It’s so important to act now on implementing a digital experience in-store. Don’t wait to hop on the bandwagon when in-store technology integration is the industry standard, and everyone’s doing it. Be the brand that went there first in your market. Customer loyalty is up for grabs if you want it.

Competitive Advantage

Keeping tabs on your competitors and adapting quickly to remain competitive has never been easier than it is right now. Retailers are embracing technologies that allow them to make rapid-fire price changes on an hourly or even minute-by-minute basis.

Big data has really opened doors and offered new insight into customers. Real-time analytics can help you see a side of the shopping experience brick and mortar retailers haven’t been privy to until the Digital Age. Retailers can make bold decisions to improve the customer experience, supported by real statistics.

The opportunities retailers have in the digital age depend on vision. There’s no time to waste. Big brands like Walmart and Starbucks have already realized mobile’s potential and have implemented mobile programs, but for small to mid-sized retailers you have a chance to trailblaze amongst your competitors and distinguish yourself with customers.

Stopping Online Giants Like Amazon from Stealing Your Business

Equipped with mobile technology, consumers have unprecedented access to retailers. Online giants, like Amazon, offer a wide range of products at low prices and an easy 1-click ordering process that provides customers a high level of convenience. Amazon constantly stocks products in quantities somewhere between 100 and 1,000. The company’s centralized warehouses and bulk orders enable it to offer almost unbeatable prices. Currently, Amazon prices sit between 9% and 14% lower than most retailers. It’s not surprising that brick and mortar stores are sweating.

To add salt to the wound, Amazon’s price check app makes it very easy for brick & mortar shoppers to participate in showrooming and for the online shopping powehouse to steal sales from the physical store. Shoppers can scan a store’s own barcodes using Amazon’s app, compare prices, and instantly buy from Amazon.

However, for a multi-billion dollar company with software development centers in multiple countries, total retail dominance isn’t definite. Most people still live close to a mall or shopping center, and in-store shopping is a hobby or activity most people still enjoy. While Amazon is raking in a lot of dough online, brick and mortar sales still make up $0.90 of every retail dollar spent.

The Hurdles of Online Shopping

The online shopping experience fails to dazzle the customer when it comes to delivery. The delivery experience has hardly changed since the first online transaction in 1994. Shoppers still wait at least a day or more for delivery. Most internet retailers have restrictions on how customers receive free shipping. Often, free shipping offers mean the customer will wait weeks for what they want. Packages arrive when it’s convenient for the courier company, not for the shopper.

Delivery is a huge factor for consumers not shopping online, and even when people shop online the vast majority abandon their carts before checkout. From the average of 22 studies on cart abandonment, 67.75% of online shopping carts are abandoned without purchase. Two-thirds of these consumers blame delivery prices or timing as reasons for not completing their online transaction.

There are certain products consumers can’t or aren’t willing to wait for. When online retailers can only guess when a package will arrive, paying a few extra dollars to pick it up immediately doesn’t seem so bad to a lot of customers. This is one of Amazon’s largest hurdles. If Amazon ships from local warehouses, it loses its ability to offer a wide range of product choices and its level of profitability. Amazon can’t offer same-day delivery from a distant warehouse at an affordable price point.

Opportunities for Local Retailers

Amazon’s disadvantage is the brick and mortar store’s opportunity. Leverage your local presence and turn Amazon’s strengths upside-down. Prevent shoppers from using your store as a “showroom” for future internet purchases with an innovative and customer-centered strategy. Focusing on providing for customer needs and adapting will help you win the customers that matter most.

Improving the In-Store Experience

Each retailer might answer this differently, but how can you make your store a destination? How can you make shopping in-store a more compelling option for your customer?

Let’s be honest, brick and mortar retailers can’t usually compete on price. However, they can offer customers the best shopping and browsing experience possible. Make your store worth visiting. Try redesigning your store layout or stocking smaller, specialty brands customers probably won’t find on Amazon.

One brick and mortar store that’s getting the in-store experience right is the Disney Store. Recently, Disney unveiled a new outlet store with revamped features including trails of pixie dust, a magic mirror for kids to find out who’s the “fairest of them all” and a mini theater for watching Disney movies and shows. With the new store design, Disney executives strived to make visiting the store an adventure and the best part of a child’s day. Disney’s successfully creates an in-store experience that makes people want to shop in-store.

You don’t need magic mirrors to create a destination store. Radioshack recently unveiled a new store layout that’s designed like a playground for technology. Take your specialty and get creative. Shopping should be an enjoyable and even fun activity for your customer.

Use Employees As a Resource

Successful innovations rarely come from one person. Go to the people on your front lines, your employees, and get their suggestions for improving the customer experience. They will know where customers struggle and when they get frustrated. Don’t accept a customer’s frustrations, find a way to continuously improve. You can’t fix everything, but you can continuously work to improve the customer experience while remaining true to your brand identity.

Mobile Solutions for Brick & Mortar Store Challenges

What do giant internet retailers do well that keeps customers coming back? They offer quick, 1-click checkouts, additional product information beyond what’s on the packaging, great deals, and they effectively anticipate what the customer will want with personalized recommendations. Your customers can receive all of these benefits while shopping in your store with an effective mobile shopping app. Offer customers a mobile commerce solution that levels the playing field.

What can you give your customers so they choose NOT to open their Amazon price check app while shopping in your store? With a mobile app designed for the brick & mortar store, customers can scan products with a smartphone to view more product information or add items to a mobile shopping cart for a quick self check-out when they’re done shopping. Your mobile app can analyze what someone has scanned and automatically display recommendations of related products they might want using a built-in recommendation system. To combat low online prices, your mobile app can apply reasonable automatic discounts at checkout, and they can pay by phone inside your store. Customers enjoy being rewarded for shopping in-store.

Sound overwhelming? ShoppinPal has already built this functionality to make it easier for brick & mortar stores to have a mobile commerce app up and running quickly. Request a demo to see how it’d work for your store.

If something’s good for shoppers, it’s good for retailers. You can win back customer loyalty with innovations. Despite what some say, customers still enjoy shopping in-store. Make your store a popular destination with amenities that keep shopping fun and enjoyable for shoppers.