With the exception of grocery shopping, and the times that I work in retail stores, I’m rarely in them. The majority of my commerce and business transactions happen over the internet. Even when I’m walking through stores, I feel like retail is stuck in the last decade.
Between paper signage, point of sale registers that look like something from the late nineties, and paper sales flyers, it chagrins me some of the outdated tools in use by business in 2017.
Don’t let my being millennial and technology-obsessed mindset detract away from the pointers below.
Move your signage display to electronic signage
While it may be easier to print off paper signs to place in a sign holder that attaches to a shelf, it seems that with the right management of it, updating a sign electronically would be more efficient. In an age where digital advertising billboards off the freeway are now becoming common and where LED TVs are for displaying menus in restaurants, electronic signage shouldn’t be a major issue. Yes, there is a cost involved in migrating to it, but if Kohl’s can do it, anyone can. Among the benefits:
- Instead of paying someone extra time after store closing to change signage, you could have home office manage it and push the pricing overnight.
- As I’ve come to learn, you can design sales programs for different items, making minor changes as time goes on.
- Instead of chancing printing a paper sign the wrong way, generating waste, use electronic signage whose design always comes out right.
- Depending on the type of eSign, they could be easier on the eyes to read.
- Paper signs can be written on to easily deceive customers with the wrong price; eSigns are tough to hack.
In addition to having registers at the front of the store, have them be portable so that you can check out the customer where they are.
If I’m buying less than ten items, there’s no reason that the device being used to check inventory, couldn’t be used to ring a customer out. Granted, the customer needs to be using a credit card, but in 2017, plastic is the dominant form of payment. Most mobile devices still have headphone jacks in them, making it possible to attach a card swiper to them and taking payment. For those paying cash, regular point of sale registers can be used.
This can also help reduce waiting times in line. If I’m in my department, I can tell them, “I’ll save you some time up front by ringing you out here.” Receipts can be emailed from the device, or can be linked to the company’s app (see later point on this). During the busy seasons, this can also reduce the burden on the front-end registers.
Get rid of the overhead radio station
This might just be a pet peeve of mine, but for me it’s more of a distraction than it is an assist. As I walk around retail stores, the sheer number of people I see with earbuds makes me wonder why retail music is still around. While stores often use retail radio as a way to advertise promotions and upcoming sales, it’s time to start using store apps and social media to do that in a more real-time way. In fact, I made a post about this on Facebook time ago, and many friends responded that they have tuned it out. Anything relating to marketing should be done either on social media, through email, or a the store apps.
Transition from paging phone calls and calls for assistance to walkie-talkies
Customers doesn’t need to know that the Electronics lead has a call on line one. When I worked for Sam’s Club, there was no “Electronics, Line 1,” they just transferred the call to a cordless headset that we clipped to our belt. In most retail stores, employees carry a walkie-talkie with a headset so that they’re the only people who hear the calls. Walkie-talkies also let you convey sensitive information such as “I just noticed someone ripping open a package over by X department” or “I’m out on the receiving dock and I just found a little kid.” Even emergency situations, with properly trained employees, can be properly contained and handled with walkie-talkies.
Use apps and mobile devices for your marketing
I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’m sure that for every major retailer out there, there is an app to download. If your retail company doesn’t have an app, you won’t survive in this technological era. Apps can integrate with the operating system of your device to communicate almost anything needed with you. Ways in which I would use an app:
- Inform customers when sales happen on a level of real-time. Instead of telling me two weeks in advance that a sale is forthcoming, tell me about it when I am two miles away from your store from the store’s app. If you tell me two weeks prior, not only will I forget about it, but my needs might change within one week. Also, take a count of how many sales flyers people actually take and how many are left in carriages, or thrown away. One thing that could be done is to stage small digital signage in each department that cycles through sales items pertinent to that department.
- If you frequently purchase an item, use app notifications to alert the customer that the item has been discontinued while informing them of its replacement. Consider offering a coupon to incentivize the purchase.
- Companies should be able to produce a virtual map of where items are in a store. Link that to the app such that when you are looking for items in your wish list, the app can tell you where to find it. Bonus points if you can match the virtual map to the individual store.
- Phase out paper receipts and use a combination of email and/or the store app to store a record of purchase that can be linked with the store’s system for easier processing of returns. The app can generate a code that the associate scans, followed by the items to be returned. Some stores may already do this, but it should be more widely deployed.
- Instead of spending money on creating plastic loyalty cards, start using store apps to generate a QR code. If the store app was done properly, it would load that store’s ‘card’ on entrance that way when you get to checkout, you just have to open your mobile wallet for payment. Furthermore, if you use the store’s app, it can load coupons and other savings or promotions that can be used when you get to checkout.
Instead of having cashiers solicit for credit, integrate it into your marketing outside of the store
Having worked in retail most of my life, the most common complaint I would hear from shoppers was the incessant solicitation for credit. This point is 75% of the reason I seldom shop in stores, except for groceries. While it might seem like it, credit isn’t something you should take lightly. While it’s not a mortgage or car payment, it still shows up on your credit report, and having too much credit available can put a hurting on your credit score.
While it is true that holders of your store credit will spend more money with you, having a solid product offering, and good customer service will cause people to spend more as well. I don’t have an issue with stores having a credit card – in fact, it’s a nice way for college students to responsibly build credit with help from their parents, but don’t have cashiers do it at point of sale. I would recommend either having a separate section of the store dedicated to talking to customers about credit (including the dangers of obtaining it), or simply have posters throughout the store that an associate can ask about.
If you’re truly that interested in increasing your profit margins, offer me incentives along the lines of loyalty discounts for simply spending money, sales on the things I buy the most, and since shopping history is easy to track, perhaps you can entice me with an add-on item. (I.E. If I seem to buy bath towels every six months, maybe offer me a higher quality towel, along with a coupon to use with it)
Discontinue customer satisfaction surveys
Replace them with social media tracking. Go on any company’s social media pages and you’ll see how satisfied or dissatisfied your customers are, and you have a chance to interact with them.