11 Tips To Keep Your Retail Business Thriving

There are many ways to make your retail business stand out if you’re willing to rethink the customer experience and get a little innovative. The key is to do something…something bold, different and innovative now. Otherwise, your existing and emerging competitors will act and win the day and the future.

11-trends-in-the-future-of-retail-according-to-brian-solis-12-638The concept of future retail is constantly evolving. But what isn’t evolving as quickly is the understanding and widespread experimentation to bring the future to life today.
“This is an incredible time to see things differently to do things differently. The future requires a new blueprint and we are or can be its architects” states Brian Solis from Altimeter. Mr. Solis gives us an overview of the top trends that retail businesses can use to survive and thrive in today’s environment.

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, a Prophet company, world renowned keynote speaker, and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Invite him to speak at your next event.

Strengthen Your Retail Business Marketing With Snapchat

Interested in ways to use Snapchat to strengthen your brand?

With Snapchat, you can increase community engagement and brand awareness through innovative marketing campaigns.
With over 100 million daily active users and 400 million snaps per day, Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social networks. As you might already assume, 71% of Snapchat’s U.S. users fall into the 18 to 34 age range. Even if your audience doesn’t fall in that demographic, Snapchat is becoming a vital part of retail marketing strategies.

Brands and content creators are using Snapchat to produce daily stories that engage and excite their customers. Snapchat stories, which last only 24 hours, are a string of snaps used to create a video narrative.

Add IvystoneSocial on Snapchat

Add IvystoneSocial on Snapchat

 

Ivystone has jumped on this popular bandwagon and will be using Snapchat during our markets.
There are over 1 billion views of stories each day!

Here we are sharing ways to strengthen your retail business marketing using Snapchat.

13 Step Road Map to Maximize Business Results with Hyper-Local Marketing

It’s a no brainer. Local businesses that want to maximize their business results should implement hyper-local digital marketing.  Identify your most critical local markets, and deliver compelling localized  messaging, content, programs, offers, and calls to action based on the area or  neighborhood.

 

In this article, you’ll learn…

  • 13 tips for effective local marketing
  • How reaching a local audience can drive business results

More folks turn to the Internet than any other medium—including newspapers, TV, or word-of-mouth—for local information, according to the Pew Research Center. Furthermore, a whopping 83% of local search users contacted businesses offline, with 46% of consumers making contacts over the phone and 37% visiting the businesses in person, and half of all local business searchers eventually made purchases, according to TMP (15miles) and ComScore. Numbers like those demonstrate how digital marketing can take local businesses to a whole new level.

If you are a local business looking to grow (and who isn’t?), follow this digital road map and get hyper-local (with amazing results).

Read more here

 

Learn and Earn Word Of Mouth Marketing For Your Business

If you could master what has been identified as one of the most valuable forms of marketing, the one that most people trust above all others Word of Mouth Marketing 4and the one that is most likely to deliver sales for your company, would you instead choose to ignore it or leave it to chance?

Why would you simply choose to sit back and hope conversations will just happen organically about your brand? If you want to win the marketing race you need to unleash the power of word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

Most of the time, your talkers will come from the everyday actions you take to be a great business – they recommend their friends because they really like you. But sometimes you have to be more proactive about earning those talkers and getting them to spread the word.

Word of Mouth Marketing-GraphLook at the facts. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. In a recent study, 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of  marketing.

According to Susanne Fanning, President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official trade association for the word of mouth and social media marketing industry, marketers need to focus on the three E’s: Engage, Equip, Empower.  If you can master these, you can become the most beloved and talked about product in your category, which will ultimately lead to increased sales. “We’ve seen a good WOMM campaign generate thousands of conversations, recommendations and triple sales in just a year (yes, even for the boring products).”

Engage—Give your fans the gift of you. Engage with them. Listen to what they are telling you. Be part of the conversation about your brand. Be a presence in your fans’ lives. @NikeSupport is a prime example of customer service done well. They constantly respond to followers on Twitter, whether it’s about their apparel, Fuel Band or other products. Every few minutes, you can watch them respond to someone new.

Equip—Give them reasons to talk. It can be amazing products, great service, insider knowledge, social elevation, incredible stories, unbelievable facts or even funny disclosures. It’s on you. It really depends on you understanding your consumers and what they like about you and providing whatever it is they need from you. Apple revolutionizes technological devices and delivers amazing products to its consumers, allowing them to naturally rave about the newest iPhone. Another area to excel in and that’s on the rise is social customer service.

Empower—Give consumers different ways to talk and share. Let them know that they are important to you and that sharing their opinions is important to you. Help them find ways to share within their circles and find ways to help move their conversations around. Lay’s is an excellent Word of Mouth Marketing 2example to highlight how they empowered their fans to “Do Us a Flavor,” and allow consumers to create a new flavor of potato chips to hit store shelves. Over 3.8 million submissions were sent in 2013 making it one of the biggest marketing campaigns for PepsiCo owned Frito-Lay.

As is typically in these times, technology has increased social connectivity making it easier for consumers to do your marketing for you. A post Word of Mouth Marketing 3that takes just a few minutes for a fan to write will be seen by hundreds of friends who trust them, and it can rapidly travel out to thousands more. Very well planned messages have been shared by millions within the span of days.

Look at the Epic Split video by Volvo featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, the video was released on YouTube on November 14, and on the first day the film was viewed over 6.5 million times and shared over 32 thousand times. Then in four weeks it was shared over 6 million times across social networks. It quickly became the most shared film on YouTube. The clip has received extensive media coverage from all over the world as well, and has been the subject of approximately 20,000 editorial pieces online thus far.

It is simply not possible to achieve these kind of results without technology. The results are undeniable; consider the fact that those who read these posts as well as yours could potentially have hundreds of offline conversations with friends, families and acquaintances.

Engaing, Equipping and Empowering  your customers will fuel conversations and drive passionate Word of Mouth marketing that will make a huge difference for your brand and your sales.

Send us examples of your Word of Mouth achievments and be on the look out for Part 2 next week as we share these and more powerful WOMM success stories.

 

Suzanne Fanning is the President of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official trade association for the word of mouth and social media marketing industry. Her social strategies have been featured in Advertising Age Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, and PR Week.

 

Gifted Women

Monica_Loving_Ivystone_VP_Vendor_Relations2015

Monica Loving | VP Vendor Relations- Ivystone

Gifts and Decorative Accessories recently interviewed 9 inspiring women who are making a difference in the Gift and Home industry.  These women brimming with drive and passion have been placing their indelible stamp on the Gift and Home industry for many years.

Read on to discover what drives women such as Monica Loving and many others to work tirelessly to make the Gift and Home industry a great place to work and build a lasting career.

 

Are You Providing An Exceptional Customer Experience?

Busting the Top 7 Customer Support Myths

Customer support is everyone’s business – from the CEO to sales, marketing, tech support and product development.  At its best, customer service is a collaborative exercise that leverages the shared knowledge of everyone throughout the business.

Five stars service

Company leaders who understand the true nature of customer support are in a better position to communicate the vision and to consistently provide an exceptional customer experience. When companies allow customers to contact them via multiple channels and effectively apply knowledge and data to resolve problems quickly, the business will surely grow, emphasizing the importance of customer service excellence. Business 2 Community. (6/13)

Technology Trends That Can Level the Playing Field

Writing an article about technology can be quite challenging as the pace of change in today’s tech world is difficult to fathom. By the time many of us feel we are on top of things, we encounter a whole new series of apps and devices that we “must try”. In many cases, technological developments can save us time and money but other times we seem to get bogged down in attempting to grasp it all.

Doug Cofiell blog image

Doug Cofiell CEO Ivystone Group LLC

Three short years ago I wrote an article about prioritizing technology in your business. The major topics in that article included the importance of your website, the permanence of social media and rise of tablets as a business tool. While the adoption of tablets in our industry has been slower than expected these three areas have certainly increased in importance in most businesses. More trends continue to emerge and there are countless developments that can be highlighted.

In an attempt to summarize some of the broader ideas without going into exhaustive detail I’ve highlighted three areas that are important to understand when making decisions about your business. These are not new trends but they will drive business decision making for many years.

  1. The Continued Rise of Mobile. Whether it is the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and “phablets” (those huge phones we are seeing out there) or the emerging Wearables market; the world is becoming more mobile. With WiFi networks readily available and costs falling there is no slowing down this trend. According to a recent study by Millennial Media and comScore, the ratio of mobile devices to people on earth is nearly 1:1.  Mobile is changing the way we work, shop and interact. We are no longer tied to a desk but we are more connected than ever; putting in more hours as our devices allow constant connectivity. With the computing power of today’s smartphone being greater than the computing power that ran the Apollo Space Missions, expect commerce to continue to be transformed as applications get more sophisticated.
  1. Shifting to the The Cloud is certainly an overused term but the shift to this type of computing does have profound effects on business. Because programming is centralized and can be accessed on any device it fosters the mobile culture and provides scalability to smaller organizations. The easiest way to think of the cloud is as a big shared service where you can pay as you go rather than making big infrastructure investments. Most of us use cloud based services everyday whether its photo sharing or music streaming. This trend will continue to grow in importance as businesses attempt to become more flexible and innovative
  1. Use of Big Data or more accurately Smart Data. Another term that is getting tossed around quite a bit and is relevant to most decision makers. As the cost of storing data continues to drop towards zero, companies are using these big databases to analyze patterns and customer trends. The implications of this are not completely downstream yet but all this data will help us understand our customers better and allow us to reach the audience we truly want to reach.

You can find many different cases of where companies use large quantities of data to make decisions. Here’s an example of smart data use on the product development side from Techtarget.com. Express Scripts, which processes pharmaceutical claims, realized that those who most need to take their medications were also those most likely to forget to take their medications. So they created a new product: Beeping medicine caps and automated phone calls reminding patients it’s time to take the next dose.

These three trends fit together with our mobile lifestyle being enhanced by the power of cloud based applications providing data that enhances the user experience. As each area grows in importance, they become more intertwined. The best part for an industry like ours that is made up of small businesses is that these trends all level the playing field; allowing small companies access to the same programs as larger competitors. Businesses can look and feel much bigger than they are by taking advantage of services that are readily available in the cloud on their mobile devices.

Lastly, a note of caution about technology in general. Back in the early 1900’s Gertrude Stein said “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense”. I am afraid of what she’d say in today’s world given that the amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Technology is transforming the way we do business but it is important to maintain the core tenets of what makes you successful. If we remember to disconnect every once in a while maybe we can keep our common sense!

 

Doug Cofiell is CEO of Ivystone Group LLC, a professional sales agency providing wholesale gift, home and fashion accessories to retailers across the United States. Selling to independent retailers, large national chains and designers under two distinct brands; Ivystone and Simblist Group.

Got Thieves? Customer Service is Key

JoyceWashnik_Giftbeat

By Joyce Washnik, Editor, Giftbeat

How would you feel if one of your longtime customers, someone you knew by name and were even affiliated with through your local chamber of commerce, turned out to be a thief?

It happened to a New York retailer, who says the woman stole from her for 10 years before she figured it out. Now the customer’s picture is posted on the store’s back door so employees see it every day. “We never ‘caught’ her, but  she never came in last season, so she must know we’re onto her,” she says.

Dealing with theft is an ongoing challenge for retailers, but it’s especially hard to catch when carried out by your store’s “best” or most frequent customers. Or by the well-dressed woman who chats with everyone and compliments your merchandise, only to drop items in her purse when your back is turned.                  Woman Shoplifting

A number of our retailers have installed camera systems to stay on top of would-be thieves, especially as their inventory has shifted to more desirable categories such as jewelry and apparel. Others have moved expensive items to protected cases, or even installed alarm gates.

But experts say you already have what you need to make thieves less likely to frequent your store: customer service. “Customer service is the first weapon in the anti-shoplifting arsenal,” says Bill Bregar of Loss Prevention Systems. “Shoplifters hate attention! To do what they do, they must have privacy, even for a few seconds. Customer service negates their ability to steal.”

Here, retailers offer additional ways to thwart thieves:

  • Cite local ownership. A Louisiana retailer confronted a shoplifter last year and asked, “Why do you hate my kids?” The customer looked stunned when the retailer explained to her that the jewelry and shirts in her purse were how she paid for her children’s education, food, clothing and house note. The thief drove off with the stolen items, but the next morning, they were all in a bag at the store door. Now, the retailer plans to post a large family portrait in each location so customers see who is behind the business.
  • “Can we hold those for you?” A South Carolina respondent doesn’t hesitate to approach someone who appears to be a shoplifter (or has stolen before) and say, “Would you like me to hold that at the counter for you?” It sends the message that you’re watching them.
  • Telltale signs. If a person is wearing a coat on a hot day, a New York retailer says to watch out: He or she could be a shoplifter. She also trains sales associates to look for other red flags, such as big purses/totes or trips back to the car for a “forgotten” item.

If you have discovered creative and effective ways to thwart retail theft, send us your story, we would appreciate hearing about and learning from your experiences.

Note: For more than 20 years, Giftbeat has been the “bible” for independent gift retailers who want to make smarter product selections, slash costs and increase profits. Each issue includes in-depth articles covering business news and trends; ideas and inspiration from your retail peers; “what’s hot” gift sales data; and interviews with industry experts. Best of all, Giftbeat brings you the expertise of successful retailers from across the country to help you get — and stay — ahead in today’s competitive marketplace. Visit Giftbeat to download your free sample issue. In addition, sign up today for editor Joyce Washnik’s free Top Tips & Picks alerts.

Google Maps-A Big Deal for Small Business

Leverage Google Maps in a way that can benefit your small business.  Check out the obvious Google Maps function (Google Places), to the more creative ways to navigate your small business to bigger and better things -all within Google Maps functions.

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Dominate With Google Maps

 

google 3 Ways Small Businesses Can Dominate with Google Maps

Source: Business-Management-Degree.net

How Satisfied Are Your Customers?

The more information you have from your customers, the better your opportunities for growth and capturing the all important holy grail of business, customer loyalty.     Customer Satisfaction

When you have accurate and worthwhile information from your customers, you put yourself ahead of your competition. Here are 6 actionable ways to get information and feedback from your customers to help improve your standing with them:

1. Ask Them. The simplest way to find out what people want from your service or product is to ask them. The problem is that many businesses owners often assume they know what people want.  Assuming and really knowing are decidedly different.  Always ask and act on the answers.

2. Be Your Own Customer. One of the most obvious ways to find out what a customer experiences when they use your business is to be a customer yourself. You can do this by walking the customer journey one step at a time and seeing things through your customer’s eyes.

3. Focus Groups. These groups gain information and insights as to how the target audience is using or reacting to a service.  Information gained from focus groups open up the opportunity for your business to see what it is customers expect.  Recent results from a focus group survey used by a bakery to review their customer needs discovered that they had three different types of customers: locals who wanted personal attention; after-work shoppers who wanted convenience; and tourists who wanted something special.   You can also use social media to gather this type of data.  Collectively it is great information to tailor products and services toward.

4. Questionnaires and Surveys. Getting customers to put their thoughts in writing on a questionnaire or survey is one of the best feedback techniques.  When well-conducted, the information can be invaluable.  As Volkswagen was designing the new Bug, they sent their existing customers a detailed survey stating, “We want you! Your ideas, preferences, and constructive comments will be evaluated and fed into the development process. So tell us about your impressions and ideas for the new Beetle. We’ll do our best!”  The result:  air-conditioning is standard and lighters and ashtrays are optional. Who would have guessed?  Car companies and manufacturers of high ticket items are consistent in getting this type of customer feedback, why can’t you be as well?

5. Use the Results (and real data). The most important  information on whether your customers are satisfied with your service or not is whether they continue to buy from you. While sales information may be a first line indicator of how well you are doing,  it is no guarantee that you are delivering the product or service the customer really wants.   Use the data from one or more of these steps to assess the real story and take action accordingly.

6. Customer Service aka Your Staff. Your personnel is the most resourceful and reliable, as well as the least costly, of your customer feedback sources.  Your staff should be encouraged to build strong relationships with customers so that they feel free to share how they feel about all facets of your business from the product selection to the check out process. Make certain they have an easy way to feed back important information for improving customer service and for managers to make use of what they tell them. There is also value in taking good care of your staff.  Recently a grocery chain, through their annual customer and staff satisfaction surveys discovered a direct connection between customer satisfaction levels and staff satisfaction levels.  Those stores where customer satisfaction is high are consistently the same stores where staff satisfaction is high.

You may deliver what you think to be the best service in the world, but if it is not what people want, your time and talent is being wasted.  Finding ways to get customer feedback is vitally important to your business, why do you think a majority of websites consistently ask for survey participation upon exit?  You should be doing the same and plan to implement one, two, three or all of the above techniques – your business can improve overnight.

Here are steps to help you get started:

6 Questions to get actionable feedback from customers

From Retailwire.com