Retail Minded

5 Best Ways to Excel in Retail in the Year Ahead

By Nicole Reyhle for Lightspeed

It’s a new year, and with it comes the opportunity to start fresh with your retail business. Retail sales hit around $5.16 trillion in 2018, and they’re projected to hit $5.32 trillion in 2019. So whether last year’s performance in your store could use a lot of improvement – or you had an exceptional year and want to break some new records – the pointers below will help you excel in the year ahead.

Increase Payments Options for Your Customers

In the ever-changing world of modern retailing, technology gives retailers the capability to accept customer payments from anywhere and at any time. Yet many merchants are missing out on sales because they only offer limited payment options to their customers.

Payment options not only improve the customer experience, but also increase customer retention and encourage repeat business. A simple way to increase revenue is by investing in the tools and technology that will enhance the checkout process by providing flexible payment methods over multiple channels.

Along with mobile paying options like Apple Pay or Google Pay, think about implementing options like Sezzle and Afterpay that give customers the option to “Shop Now and Pay Later” with simple installment plans. This leads to increased incremental sales, enabling more customers to afford to shop at your online store; increased basket sizes, enabling your customers to buy more at the time of purchase; and increased conversions, giving your customers the peace of mind from paying over time, with no interest charges. In combination with credit card payments still, this is something modern merchants should embrace in the year ahead.

Incorporate Automation Across More Touch Points of Your Retail Operations

From inventory management to logistics to digital marketing and more, you’d be hard-pressed to find any successful retailer not using automation and integrations in some form. Whether it’s brick-and-mortar, e-commerce or a blend of the two, new technologies are freeing up retailers’ resources to improve the shopping experience.

It can sound intimidating when you talk about things like AI, but by using a business intelligence dashboard, you gain insight into how every campaign does, and that information can be used to shape future campaigns for even more success. When it comes to social media, tools like SproutSocial and SocialJukebox let you create social shares that will then be automatically shared on the schedule you set, freeing up more of your time.

Chatbots are also having their moment right now, as these digital virtual assistants use artificial intelligence to interact with customers through messaging apps — no humans needed. Additionally, there are countless ways automation benefits inventory management including returns and logistics of inventory. When aiming to strengthen your operations in the year ahead, be sure automation is among the ways you do this.

Welcome Loyalty as a Top Priority Among Your Customers

It’s said that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one. That’s why the first rule of any business is to retain customers and build a loyal relationship with them… avoiding those customer acquisition costs.

The easiest way to turn every new shopper into a repeat customer is with a loyalty program built right into your POS system. This includes a highly targeted rewards program with a branded customer-facing web-app to track points, automated campaigns via SMS, a drag-and-drop email builder and customer insights that allow you to track customer spending habits and the results of your promotional efforts all from one dashboard.

Not only do you get to know your customers’ spending habits and interests when implanting a loyalty program into your business, but you can also use this information to confidently manage your products, pricing, and promotions. It’s a winning scenario any savvy retailer won’t want to miss!

Optimize Customer Communication, Store Operations & More With Analytics

An IBM survey showed that 62 percent of retailers report a competitive advantage from using information and analytics. In fact, it’s no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s not enough to just collect the data — retailers must leverage that data to gain a comprehensive understanding of markets, customers, products, distribution locations, competitors, employees and more.

By knowing your customers’ tendencies and tastes, retailers can tailor their messages and present the most compelling offers for that shopper — all through their POS.

Are you keeping the right inventory on hand? Is your team working efficiently? How often do your best customers shop? Lightspeed Analytics examines your stock, customer experience, and staff performance to suggest real business optimizations — all in one place. With retail competition tougher than ever, leveraging this data is a must.

Never Stop Learning

It’s not enough just to run the numbers every day. As retailers, you need to consistently review your operations, react to changes in the retail environment, and commit to improving each and every day to help your business grow and succeed.

To help do this, make 2019 the year you finally sign up for newsletters that distribute important retail tips and tricks, participate in online trainings for both you and your employees as well as attend industry trade shows and events where you can make important connections with others in the industry. In addition, have regular conversations with your customers to find out what they want — and what they don’t want — to better understand how you can excel at your retail goals. Don’t overlook the value of listening and learning from you employees, as well.

The real takeaway here?  To always be hungry for more knowledge that – along with data – can help you make important and more proactive decisions for your business in the year ahead.

Final Thoughts

By doing research, gathering data, embracing automation and technology, and listening to your customers, you’re on the path to making sure that 2019 will be your best year yet.

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