50 Best Tips of 2016
1. By giving affiliates commissions on an in-store-only sale (albeit less than their online commissions), they’ll be much more motivated to promote it within their distribution channels. Providing a small commission for an offline/in-store-only sale allows you to test the campaign while keeping costs in check. It also strengthens your relationship with the affiliate, gives them a reason to promote the in-store offer and creates data that help you evaluate online-to-offline sales.
Robert Glazer, Acceleration Partners, “How Affiliates Can Help Your In-Store Business,” Jan. 25, Total Retail Report
2. Catalogers need to test the difference in sales between mailing a catalog and not mailing a catalog to their housefile. Savvy catalogers will quickly learn from this type of A/B test that catalogs produce a very defined incremental layer of sales that are simply not realized when the same RFM segments do not receive a catalog. Testing shows precisely how much sales are generated as a result of the catalog vs. the sales that are realized without the catalog.
Jim Coogan, Catalog Marketing Economics, “Can Catalogs Be Replaced With Only Internet Marketing?” Winter, Total Retail
3. Remember that your website information architecture is itself a critical form of content. You may have to redesign the whole web experience from a user-centered perspective. However, once you do, the site architecture can serve as additional market research if your navigation is based on the important roles and tasks of your audience. Specific navigation choices can be noted for later lead scoring and personalization.
Tim Ash, SiteTuners, “‘Writing’ a Wrong,” Winter, Total Retail
4. Respond to micro-interactions. By “liking” or “checking in,” the user is offering the content owner an opinion, which is an acknowledgement that their input has had an effect. This is key to starting two-way digital communication between the retailer and customer. The user finds that very satisfying, and the content provider can gather data to make the content richer and more relevant in the future — and dump the content that isn’t working.”
Mark Lister, Ness Software Engineering, “Using Digital Storytelling to Improve Customer Engagement,” May 17, Total Retail Report
5. Shoppable content paves the way for brands to leverage the content they’ve already created and generate higher sales. By incorporating shoppable content, brands are reducing the amount of clicks it takes for a consumer to go from their content to making a purchase.
Marla Schimke, Zumobi, “Shoppable Content Transforms Mobile Shopping Behavior,” July 8, Total Retail Report
6. Some customers prefer to solve their own problems without additional assistance, and will do everything in their power to avoid having to speak with customer service representatives. Empower these customers with a variety of options to go about the returns process on their own with minimal effort, and lay out clearly defined policies that address several types of return situations.
Laura Pappas, Avalara, “Bring Joy to Holiday Product Returns,” Jan. 15, Total Retail Report
7. Be predictive. If you’re getting the same question or complaint over and over again, it probably makes sense to either fix the problem — that may or may not be possible — or take greater measures to prevent that problem from occurring, because obviously there’s a pattern. I think there’s a real opportunity to tie content marketing and customer service together. Say, ‘Look, we’re getting this customer complaint over and over, maybe we can explain this with a blog post, video, podcast, infographic, signage in-store, etc. Knowing that this is a pain point for our customers, how can we run ahead of that and not constantly be in reactive, complaint-answering mode, but try and message it ahead of time to prevent that stream of complaints from happening in the first place.’
Jay Baer, Convince & Convert, “Jay Baer Talks Digital Customer Service,” Feb. 1, Total Retail Talks, episode 22
8. Respond within 18 hours of receiving a review. This shows you check your feedback frequently and are willing to address issues sooner rather than later. No one wants to wait around for weeks for a question to be answered.
Jordan Garner, Trustpilot, “How to Turn Negative Reviews Into Better Customer Service,” Feb. 17, Total Retail Report
9. Implementing an ironclad process for opt-in will go a long way in building trust and ensuring that customers don’t get surprised by any communications or services. What’s more, there are several simple methods that retailers can use to improve the likelihood of customers opting in to a campaign, including point-of-sale offers and discounts, in-app push notifications, and social media posts.
Mary Clark, Syniverse, “Making Mobile Privacy Paramount,” July 27, Total Retail Report
10. Always ask for CVV codes to verify online transactions. Banks are coming out with cards and mobile apps that have digital, ever-changing three-digit CVV numbers, supplanting the static ones printed on the backs of current credit cards. This helps make stolen financial data useless, but only if all retailers ask for that CVV code prior to authorizing a transaction.
Hakan Nordfjell, Gemalto, “Strategies for Ensuring Payment, Data Security,” Jan. 13, Total Retail Report
11. Start asking for photos and videos as part of your request for reviews. When you pair customer photos with product information (e.g., an item’s size), shoppers get a better sense of fit and are more likely to purchase a piece of apparel that they would likely have waited to try on in-store.
Theresa O’Neil, PowerReviews, “How Retailers Can Leverage Online Reviews,” May 2, Total Retail Report
12. Offer password-free checkout. Cart abandonment occurs for a number of reasons, but consumers who use online shopping carts as wish lists are especially problematic. Whether they’re considering an item as a gift or just creating a catalog of their own desires, they add goods to their carts and plan to come back when they’re ready to buy. However, in the days or months between visits, they forget their password and have to go through an arduous process to reset it. By the time they get back to buying, they’ve lost their flow — along with their interest in your products.
Ania Rodriguez, Key Lime Interactive, “4 Tips to Lowering Your Cart Abandonment Rate,” March 25, Total Retail Report
13. In terms of launching a retail business, it all comes down to market research and understanding your customers’ needs — and finding a balance between the two.
Jodie Fox, Shoes of Prey, “Game Changers,” Summer, Total Retail
14. Do something you really believe in. Things get really hard, and if you’re not passionate about what you’re working on, you’re going to lose motivation.
Rakesh Tondon, Le Tote, “Game Changers,” Summer, Total Retail
15. When thinking about brand elements, understand that the complexity of packaging can greatly impact your profitability. Costs range from materials and production to labor and warehousing the package materials. Companies should conduct packaging exercises to explore factors such as typical order size and assortment to determine ideal packaging materials and arrangements to control cost while still delivering your brand.”
Chris Naso, Newgistics, “Keeping Your Subscription Customers Happy and Loyal,” June 28, Total Retail Report
16. Scaling your fulfillment operations involves more than simply hiring additional staff during November and December. Consider better organizational systems for products based on anticipated purchasing patterns or converting existing packing stations into packing lines for more efficient workflows.
Maria Haggerty, Dotcom Distribution, “How Fulfillment Can Turn Holiday Shoppers Into Loyal Customers,” August 30, The Art of Delivering Style blog
17. Hire smart and ambitious people who challenge me and the status quo, empower them, and make it as easy as possible for them to do their best work.
Mary Beech, Kate Spade & Co., “Top Women in Retail 2016,” Winter, Total Retail
18. When the boss enthusiastically participates in and supports a program, everyone signs up. The same can be said for top executives or influential managers. When employees see their superiors chipping in, they’re more inclined to participate themselves.
Susan Hunt Stevens, WeSpire, “The Art of Employee Engagement and Positive Impact in Retail,” April 22, Total Retail Report
19. Piggybacking off of a user’s natural behavior is the best way to get sales. You need to get them in the moment when their interest is the highest, and it needs to be as easy as possible. Instagram influencers simply need to tell their followers to comment with their email address to buy the product that’s featured in the photo.
Sarah Ware, Markerly, “5 Ways to Track Sales From Influencer Marketing,” August 26, Total Retail Report
20. One way to capture feedback is by reaching out to loyalists post-purchase, asking them to write reviews for recent purchases. The success of your post-purchase emails depends on many different factors, including the content, design and timing of initial outreach. To generate the most reviews, make sure the process of leaving a review is simple and that your call to action is clear and direct.
Theresa O’Neil, PowerReviews, “3 Ways to Use Brand Advocates in Your Review Strategy,” August 22, Total Retail Report
21. With a defined process in place and set of analytical reports, retailers and suppliers are well-equipped to deal with out-of-stock problems. A shared view of the exact same data means that both organizations act as the stewards of on-shelf availability and, with notifications in place, out-of-stock diagnostics are easier to identify and validate.
Ted Moyer, Market6, “5 Steps to Solving Out-of-Stock Problems,” April 19, Total Retail Report
22. It’s critical we do four things to the best of our ability: have fun, think positive, lead with confidence and, most of all, inspire those around us to continue delivering the best possible versions of themselves to the brand.
Adrienne Lofton, Under Armour, “Top Women in Retail 2016,” Winter, Total Retail
23. In leadership, I’ve learned that it’s vital to understand your own strengths and areas of opportunity, and then build a team to round out the skill set that a company needs.
Shelley Broader, Chico’s FAS, “Top Women in Retail 2016,” Winter, Total Retail
24. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by always driving for perfection. At times perfection may be required, but sometimes “good enough” works and leaves you with time to focus on the bigger picture.
Mary Dillon, Ulta Beauty, “Top Women in Retail 2016,” Winter, Total Retail
25. A brand and its executives need to thrive as both knowledge centers and innovators. Your positioning as an industry expert will help drive visibility for your brand. It will also keep you and your enterprise top-of-mind for partnerships, sales channels, vendors and other opportunities.
Pam Abrahamsson, PRA Public Relations, “Thought Leadership: The Retail Executive’s Road Map,” August 5, Total Retail Report
26. A retail marketer’s job isn’t complete just because a customer made a purchase. Nor does that single purchase — or however many come after it — guarantee continued loyalty. Marketers should be reaching out to existing customers on a consistent basis, offering incentives, thanks and new products based on that customer’s past interest.
Jonathan Baron, IgnitionOne, “The New Tools of the Customer Loyalty Trade,” August 17, Total Retail Report
27. When merchandising your catalog pages, keep a close eye on your sales and conversion rates for each item, then organize them accordingly. Your best-sellers obviously don’t need as much help as those items that tend to sit around longer than others, so use these analytics to your advantage to get more exposure for some of your low and medium performers.
Teresa Zobrist, Smart Merchandiser, “The Basics of Visual Merchandising,” March 18, Total Retail Report
28. Emphasize selectability and comparison. Clarity is paramount when it comes to e-commerce, so don’t overcrowd your pages with multiple product descriptions. Instead, encourage selection by making the visitor click on a product to learn more about it. Then, take them to a new page with more information and pictures. To encourage this behavior, use micro interactions to show that product images are clickable in the first place. Don’t forget to include elements of comparison as well — e.g., user ratings and reviews to show customers what other people think of a particular product. If your e-commerce site offers similar items for sale, allow users to compare the two products in a different window to facilitate a purchasing decision.
Ellie Martin, “7 UX Tips to Improve Your E-Commerce Site,” June 17, Total Retail Report
29. Instead of a generic shopping app, consider a VIP program for your best customers delivered through an app. This will drive more revenue from these customers and make their experience better.
Ajay Kapur, Moovweb, “The Great Debate,” Spring, Total Retail
30. The basic ability to connect with others is a driver as to why businesses of every size should look to leverage text messaging to communicate with their customers. SMS marketing is a universal way of communicating with customers and has proven to be a highly reliable and personalized medium. What’s more, SMS is ubiquitous across all platforms and mobile devices, allowing businesses to reach their customers regardless if they’ve purchased the latest device or if they’re using a basic prepaid handset.
Brian Heikes, 3Cinteractive, “Why Text Messaging is Relevant for Retailers,” April 4, Total Retail Report
31. Go hyperlocal. The best way of thinking about hyperlocal is to think of contextual relevance, a concept that applies whether the retailer is a big-box outlet or a solo entrepreneur.
Brandon Logsdon, Excentus Corp., “3 Ways to Drive Mobile Loyalty,” June 17, Total Retail Report
32. At a high level, retailers can incorporate mobile by integrating online and in-app data with their brick-and-mortar point-of-sale system. Inventory levels, pricing and customer data is integrated across all channels so shoppers can move seamlessly from one channel to another.
Bobbi Leach, FuturePay, “Blending Online, Offline Marketing Strategies to Improve the In-Store Experience,” August 31, Total Retail Report
33. The absolute quickest win you can gain from your mPOS is simply allowing your sales associates to walk around with them and ring customers up on the floor or in fitting rooms. Using a mPOS like this allows sales associates to ring up customers while the customer is still focused on the benefits of the product. This cuts back on the number of customers who change their mind somewhere during the walk from the fitting room to the dressing room.
Cara Wood, Capterra, “3 Mobile POS Life Hacks That Will Change How You Use Software,” August 12, Total Retail Report
34. Promote or hire from the outside someone that can serve as the “glue” between all channels. The key here is to not simply place someone in this role. In addition to title, give them authority and backing from the company’s senior leadership (CIO/COO). This person, typically a vice president, is responsible for navigating the company’s direction throughout projects that combine to a form a long-term omnichannel plan.
Zach Zalowitz, SCApath, “Organizing for Omnichannel: Inside and Out,” Summer, Total Retail
35. Deliver a consistent and elevated experience. There are two major experience areas for retailers to concentrate on — make sure it’s consistent and uncomplicated to meet the day-to-day needs of busy millennials with young families, and continue the role of the retail store as a destination, which remains a priority across all generations.
Adam Rossow, iModerate, “Tips to Enrich the In-Store Experience,” April 26, Total Retail Report
36. Businesses need to form an intimate view of the customer — e.g., her likes and dislikes, preferred channels, etc. For this, all the data that organizations have from many different sources needs to be brought together to create a so-called ”customer persona.” This forms the foundation, together with appropriate data, that gives the customer’s current context.
Debjyoti Paul, Mindtree, “4 Keys to Delivering Next-Generation Customer Experience,” April 29, Total Retail Report
37. With the convergence of all channels into one, the company as a whole has to work towards breaking down historic silos and start communicating as “one voice” both internally and, more specifically, to consumers. What’s been successful with those leading in omnichannel is to align both online and offline departments under one person at an executive level, across all functions of the business (e.g., merchants, customer service, marketing, store operations, e-commerce).
Zach Zalowitz, SCApath, “Organizing for Omnichannel: Inside and Out,” Summer, Total Retail
38. Adding an online chat platform to your e-commerce site helps bring the personal one-on-one in-store experience to life online by allowing visitors to interact and ask questions in real time rather than having to call in or wait for an email response. And anything you can do to cut down on your customers’ waiting time is good for your bottom line.
Travis Garcia, Zobrist Consulting Group, “The Dos and Don’ts in Shifting to Omnichannel Retail,” July 14, Total Retail Report
39. As consumers’ attention spans grow shorter, personalization is more important than ever in prompting interaction. This means incorporating customers’ names, birthdays and locations into marketing content is an absolute must.
Ivy Shtereva, Yesmail, “The Mobile Commerce Tipping Point,” August 1, Total Retail Report
40. Seventy-eight percent of consumers claimed they were more likely to become repeat customers if targeted with personalization, so offer customized packaging, limited-edition lines and VIP perks when possible. Give your branding and loyalty teams the opportunity to shine by personalizing based on purchase history, buyer location and frequency of purchase.
Deren Baker, Jumpshot, “Use Customer Data to Succeed When Amazon Enters Your Marketplace,” July 12, Total Retail Report
41. Thriving retailers are those that understand their shoppers’ true motivations. Rather than attempting to grab their attention with constant free shipping offers or a “last hour to buy” message, successful retailers are looking at their cross-channel customer data to ascertain who their most profitable customers truly are and what’s going to encourage them to buy now and buy repeatedly.
Sarah Engel, DymanicAction, “How Retailers Can End the Discounting Cycle,” July 27, Total Retail Report
42. Send your return materials right along with the purchased products. I know this is really counterintuitive. It seems as though you’re telling your customers that you expect them to dislike the items they’ve purchased. In reality, the message it sends is very different: it tells your customer that you value their satisfaction above all else, including your profit. And not only that, but that you want to satisfy them with as little work from them as possible. So rather than expect your customer to print the return label off your website or (worse) just go deal with the whole thing themselves at the post office, you can send them the return label right in the bag or box.
Cara Wood, Capterra, “6 Ways Your Returns Policy Can Boost E-Commerce Sales,” March 25, Total Retail Report
43. Avoid recycling product descriptions. One of the biggest SEO sins is duplicate content. Search engines look to provide searchers with the most relevant and unique information in response to their queries. However, with product pages, duplicate content can sneak up on you fast. Consider putting all of the variants for products on a single page. For example, if you have a dress that comes in red, black and blue, dedicate one product page to that dress style and provide content on the various size and color options there.
Robert Glazer, Acceleration Partners, “4 Tips for Using SEO to Boost E-Commerce Sales,” August 29, Total Retail Report
44. By continually providing up-to-date tracking information via emails, in-app messages, social media and/or text communications, companies can keep their customers informed of their order status to balance expectations — and excitement — for their purchases’ arrival.
Brandon Levey, Stitch Labs, “Must Have Strategies and Technologies for Omnichannel Retailers,” August 4, Total Retail Report
45. Loop social and in-store actions into online loyalty programs. Instead of merely getting points for creating an account or making a purchase, shoppers can be rewarded for writing reviews, connecting with brands on social media, uploading photos, checking into stores, etc. When all these actions are integrated into one central platform, consumers are more engaged and excited.”
Al Lalani, Social Annex, “Back and Better Than Ever?,” Winter, Total Retail
46. Create “Twitter-specific” offers. In addition to promoting existing specials via other marketing channels (e.g., email, banner ads, affiliates, paid search, etc.), create Twitter-specific specials that people can only learn about by following your brand on the social networking site.
Bernard Perrine, SocialCentiv, “5 Tips for Using Twitter to Drive Sales,” Jan. 5, Total Retail Report
Social Media Marketing
47. You can hack social media to get new sales without much cost. In this case, offer the consumer a BOGO, BOGOHO or just a flat discount when they tag you in a photo they’re sharing, share a photo of an item they loved and tag you in the post, or share a status about you with hashtags.
Alex Senn, Orkiv Retail Solutions, “10 Money-Producing Retail Marketing Hacks,” August 16, Total Retail Report
48. People are very vocal on Twitter. Brands can really learn a lot from engaging consumers on Twitter at every step of the purchase funnel, regardless of whether you’re trying to get awareness or think about your customer service strategy.”
Erin Dress, Twitter, “Twitter Exec on Attracting Millennial Moms Via Social Media,” July 13, Total Retail Report
49. Technology isn’t always the answer, but it certainly is when it comes to order and inventory management systems. Today, retailers can get an integrated, comprehensive view of their e-commerce business through a centralized platform. Gone are the days of fragmented technology systems; everything can now work together in harmony.
Eric Best, CommerceHub, “The New Supply Chain: From Demand to the Doorstep,” April 21, Total Retail Report
50. Ensure natural language processing and brand voice with your chatbot. People ask questions in different ways to get to the same answer, so your bot needs to be able to understand and communicate with the consumer regardless of the language style used. Make sure your chatbot knows synonyms so users don’t get stuck at a dead end. You also want your chatbot to mirror your brand voice.
Lindsay Sanchez, Kore, “5 Tips for Implementing a Successful Chatbot,” Sept. 1, Total Retail Report