• Retail Round-Up: Holiday Predictions and Social Media Stars

    There have been mixed predictions about how holiday sales will look this year, but recent strong sales at Best Buy, Target, and Williams-Sonoma might be foreshadowing a hopeful holiday season for retailers. The reason might be lower gas prices, or more overall optimism compared to last year. (Bloomberg)

    Looks like global warming affects apparel sales, too. Erratic weather in Europe is causing retailers to buy from vendors more often, rather than the usual seasonal buys. They’re also buying garments from manufacturers in countries that can provide shorter lead times, such as Turkey as opposed to China. (Reuters)

    Which retailers are leading the way when it comes to implementing the newest tech? Online jewelry seller Blue Nile has deployed an app that allows shoppers to see what an engagement ring would look like on their own hand. Macy’s, Rebecca Minkoff, Lowe’s, and Sephora have adopted mobile apps, virtual reality rooms and features that bring shopping to a whole new level. (CNBC)

    Patagonia’s marketing strategy should be an inspiration for all. The socially-conscious brand releases short films that convey the story of their brand, and urges people to share their own stories about their Patagonia products. They use inspirational film-making to urge their customers to take action and contribute to environmental preservation. Talk about a strategy with a purpose. (Fast Company)

    Celebrities aren’t the only effective brand ambassadors. Social influencers, or people with a very large social following (who aren’t necessarily Hollywood celebrities), are attracting companies who want them to get their products exposed over social media. These “popular people” on social media are followed by millions, are key tastemakers and a dream for  lifestyle brands looking for organic consumer engagement. (Huffington Post)

  • New to Lightspeed Retail — Customer Facing Display and Multi-Store Pricing

    Today, we’re excited to introduce two new features to Lightspeed Retail: customer facing display and multi-store pricing. Both of these have been among the most popular features requested, and we want to make sure that they work perfectly for every retailer that uses them. That’s why we’re launching them in private beta.

    If you’d like to be among the first to use them, send us an email at feedback@lightspeedpos.com — your feedback is invaluable to making these features perfect.

    Continue Reading >>
  • Buying Tips From the Experts

    There’s no reward without risk. Retailers can tell you all about risk, and that when it comes to buying, sometimes you have a take a chance and follow your instinct. From a new line of dog toys to a different brand of jeans, retailers have to take risks to find out what works for their customers, and what falls flat. But how much of the buying process should be based on instinct, and how much should be based on metrics?

    Former Harvey Nichol’s buyer and CEO of Modalyst, Jill Sherman, weighs in on what it takes to be a great buyer.

    Q: In your opinion, what are the most important things retailers should keep in mind when it comes to buying?

    A: The two most important things you can do as an independent retailer are: 1) know your customer, and 2) know how to differentiate yourself. Your product is what sets you apart — find the core products that make up your basics, then add highlight pieces that make you shine.

    Q: Is there something out-of-the-box that retailers can do to get great results?

    A: For many small retailers, product sourcing is the most time and energy-consuming part of the job. Consider joining up with other retailers to do group buys — not only will you get better prices, you’ll also get access to hot new items.

    Q: How often should retailers make buys?

    A: It depends on the retailer and the industry. There are the main buying seasons in fashion, but the in-season buy is becoming more and more important to the independent retailer. Buying in smaller amounts throughout the season allows you to buy closer to the trend. Analyze trends in your store at least once a month, ideally once a week, and make your buys accordingly.

    Q: What should a retailer think about when choosing a vendor?

    A: When trying out a new brand, look for consistency in a collection. It’s hard to capture your customer’s attention with the same brand if there’s a lot of diversity between seasons. Check out their past seasons lookbooks to see if the collections have consistency, or if each collection is completely different from one another.

    A great buyer has their ear to the ground when it comes to new trends, as well as a deep understanding of who their customer is and what they’ll buy. Along with good instincts, a retailer can guide their decisions using historical data and a systematic approach. Our latest guide deconstructs the buying process and separates it into three steps, with easy-to-follow directions on how to get the most out of your next buy. Click here for a free copy of The Independent Retailer’s Guide to Buying Inventory.

  • 7 Ways to Convert Online Browsers into Buyers

    These days, setting up an online store isn’t very complicated; tools like Web Store can help you start selling in just a few clicks. But once your store is up-and-running, many retailers find that despite their kick ass social media following, spot on SEO and excellent in-store promotion, their online store’s checkout isn’t getting the kind of action they had hoped. The Lightspeed Web Store product team shares their seven tips for maximizing your e-Commerce conversions based on their research.

    1. Let Your Products Shine

    As a retailer, you know that your store is more than just a place where people buy goods; it’s an experience. But sometimes, when retailers bring their store online, they aren’t quite sure how to re-create that experience.  One way is through large, high quality images that help users glean more detail and encourage them to buy. But these shots shouldn’t only be reserved for your product pages. Make sure your category pages also include larger images so that customers can start evaluating a product’s details earlier on in the buying process. For instance, if a woman is searching for a dress on your site, she’s likely navigate to the category page. With large, detailed images, she right away starts picturing herself in one of your dresses and builds an emotional connection to that dress making her more likely to click through the product’s listing and then the checkout.

    2. Don’t Bury the Discount

    Hands up if you’ve experienced this phenomenon before: you sign up for a store’s newsletter and are stoked to use the coupon code that came in the “mail”. But when you go to make your purchase, you have to wait to the very end of the buying process to apply your discount. By including coupons earlier on, say in the shopping cart preview, customers get a sense of what their discount translates to in dollars and cents right away. This reduces the perceived expense of the item, encouraging them to add more to their cart and builds trust. After all, nothing is worse than having a coupon and feeling like a site makes it difficult to use on purpose.

    3. Give Customers Choice

    Many e-Commerce websites allow users to view what’s in their cart through a mini-cart function that they can hover over while perusing the product pages. However these mini-carts don’t always paint a full picture of your activity. Research shows that online shoppers use the cart as a kind of holding area where they park items they are considering buying, and many online retailers don’t provide a dedicated check out page where customers can compare items and budget. Instead they must do this while deep in the checkout process, where the focus should be on purchasing, not eliminating. By providing a dedicated checkout page, customers make all their buying decisions up front and are focused on actually purchasing as they complete their transactions.

    4.  Make it Easy to Add and Remove Items

    Because customers use the shopping cart as a holding area, it’s reasonable to assume that once they actually decide to buy, some items won’t make it through the entire checkout process. As a retailer, it’s in your best interest to facilitate this process. Allowing users to reset a product’s quantity to zero is an easy and intuitive way for them to make changes. Although you might think that you’re discouraging them from making purchases, you’re actually helping to keep them focused on what they really want and will realistically buy.

    5. Let Customers Enjoy a Bit of Anonymity

    While your goal as a retailer is to know as much about your customer as possible, you also have to allow for those individuals who don’t want to create accounts every time they shop someplace new online. Using a guest checkout, you can collect valuable information like email addresses, which you require in order to send the eReceipt, while still providing an unobtrusive experience. Also, you’ll want to keep a data collection for the end of the experience, rather than forcing users to create an account upfront.

    6. Indicate shipping costs EARLY

    Most customers express “sticker shock” when they get to the final stages of a checkout and see the shipping costs. It’s one of the top reasons users abandon their shopping cart late in the process. Displaying shipping costs, even estimated, early on significantly improves overall conversion rates. It’s also a great way to leverage free shipping as a big marketing/sales incentive for shoppers.

    7. Keep shoppers focused

    Creating a step-by-step, easy to navigate checkout process keeps shoppers focused on completing the purchase. In other words, don’t distract them with lots of other offers or product pages, which reduces the likelihood of closing the sale.  Most importantly, never ask for the same information twice, especially for registered users. Existing shipping addresses and other stored information should be filled out automatically to reduce the overall friction in the checkout process.

  • Retail Round-Up: From Mobile Apps to Smart Dressing Rooms, Retail is Forever Getting More High Tech.

    In the next few years, mobile with be the fastest-growing part of internet advertising. More and more companies are developing apps to help engage and delight customers. To help solve some of your customers problems, companies need to look to mobile technology for the answer. (TechCrunch)

    Amazon isn’t the only business offering same-day shipping. Macy’s customers can now expect their online purchases to be dropped at their doorstep in just one day — right in time for the holiday season. This might help boost sales, as well as create demand for more startup delivery service companies. (Chicago Business)

    Consumers know how valuable their eyeballs are, and choose to ignore ads unless they feel they’ll be rewarded for paying attention. A new study focusing on Brazil, China, the UK and USA reveals how demanding consumers in all four countries are, and how they expect a seamless cross-channel experience. (MediaPost)

    Changing rooms now offer more than just privacy. The Rebecca Minkoff store in SoHo boasts a “smart” dressing room with a special screen that recognizes items being tried on, offers suggestions and the ability to purchase items in the room on the users PayPal account. (VentureBeat)

  • Sell more with a better online checkout — Lightspeed Web Store 3.2

    As customer expectations evolve and grow, the idea of omni-channel commerce — providing a consistent experience across all shopping channels, like in-store and online — has become critical for brick-and-mortar retailers. That’s why retailers are spending lots of time designing their online stores, with keyword-rich item descriptions and testing different calls-to-action.

    But perhaps the most prevalent issue that online retailers face is shopping cart abandonment — in other words, when customers add items to their carts but don’t finish the sale. The hard truth is that most customers who add items to their cart will leave them there, un-purchased.

    We set out to fix that. We studied the best-of-the-best in online retail, and brought everything we learned to Lightspeed Web Store 3.2: the only eCommerce solution made just for brick-and-mortar retailers, now focused on helping you close every single sale.

    Continue Reading >>
  • What Cloud Means to Brick and Mortar

    Think about the last time you turned to the Internet for a service. Maybe it was to order groceries, pay a parking ticket, or watch a movie. Almost every industry is turning to the web, and retail is no exception.

    More and more, store owners are looking toward web-based technology solutions to help them manage their business. In our latest webinar, part of our Big Picture series, we look at how cloud software can play an important role in every aspect of your business. Some of the themes we tackle are:

    Staying current
    With cloud-based software, all data is automatically updated in real time. This eliminates the need to manually back up all your data and upgrade your systems every time a new software version is released.

    Lowering costs
    Many small retailers don’t have the budget to invest in IT specialists or server software. Cloud-based tools basically allow you to plug in your device and go. You’ll reduce your spend on hardware and other expertise traditionally required with onsite technology.

    Universal access
    A cloud point-of-sale solution easily connects retailers to vendor catalogues, which makes purchasing more efficient. And regardless of where you are, you can access reports and store performances so you never have to wait to get the information you need.

    While it may seem daunting to switch over your systems or to put your faith in the cloud, making the transition can be quite seamless. Good solutions prioritize security so that you don’t have to worry. If you’re thinking about switching to a cloud-based POS, check out this 30-minute webinar.

  • Retail Round-Up: Retailers Making a Difference in West Africa, and American Eagle Outfitters has Gone to the Dogs.

    What will holiday spending look like in America this year? Some predictions state that spending will increase, but not for everyone. The average American family is feeling the pinch of the rising cost of living while wages have remained flat. As the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow, it seems big holiday spending will be enjoyed by fewer Americans this year. (NBC News)

    American Eagle outfitters is having a hard time re-capturing the teen market, but might have better luck with dogs! This holiday season, pet-parents can dress up their four-legged babies in classic all-American cable knit sweaters and puffy jackets. (Bloomberg)

    Neiman Marcus’s Last Call Studio chain will implement new digital signage in their stores based on recent research by Scala. The software company discovered that running video playlists on big screens in-store increased conversion rates dramatically. The digital ads inspired shoppers to seek out the items they saw on the screens, but only if the inventory aligned well with the images. (Digital Signage Connection)

    Will new technology help Urban Outfitters be “cool” again? They’ll soon find out, as they’re rolling out beacon technology in stores in six cities in the U.S. By downloading an app, shoppers will get offers on their mobiles when they enter, and invitations to take selfies as they try on clothes in the fitting room, and at the checkout line. (ADWEEK)

    Ebola has been in almost everyone’s conversations this year, and retailers can respond with their hearts (and wallets!). The Retail Orphan Initiative is an organization making a big difference in the communities where Ebola has devastated families and left children orphaned. Will retailers respond to a cause that won’t likely yield any positive PR or customer loyalty? (Forbes)

  • Getting Ready for the Holidays: How To Make the Most Profit From Your Inventory

     

    While retailers are looking forward to big profits this holiday season, consumers are preparing to score deals on discounted items. Between Black Friday and Boxing Day, there’s plenty of opportunity to make room for fresh inventory. Markdowns are essential for inventory control, but should be done systematically and with thoughtful deliberation. Here’s how.

    Continue Reading >>
  • Retail Round-Up: Holiday Retail Must be Omni-Channel, and New Ways to Market Stores on Social Media

    There’s a new acronym retailers need to get familiar with. “IWWIWWIWI” stands for: I want what I want when I want it. Consumers will choose to shop online or in-store when it suits them, and they want a high-level of service at any channel. Not every retailer will be able to meet same-day shipping demands, but they must offer seamless and consistent experiences across the board. (Forbes)

    Macy’s is a trailblazer when it comes to omni-channel retail. With Google’s proximity marketing platform, consumers can now see in-store inventory on their mobiles, allowing them to see how many of each items in a specific size are available at a location nearest to them. Talk about convenience in time for the holidays! (AdAge)

    Social Media is playing a big role in boosting sales–particularly during the busy holiday season. Instagram and Facebook are popular platforms, but retailers are extending their reach beyond the usual methods. Socialized e-commerce (think Twitter’s ‘buy’ button) is becoming increasingly important, as is curating consumer content like photos, videos, and reviews. (SmartBlog)

    Connected home gadgets are going to be hot ticket items this Christmas. Lights and thermostats that can be controlled remotely from a mobile device have started to fly off the shelves, and Christmas consumerism will only boost sales further. (The New York Times)

    Every entrepreneur has a unique story, as is the case of Linda Lightman, whose online consignment business skyrocketed in a few short years. The former attorney and mom started selling used items on eBay in the late 1990’s, and became a full-fledged business by 2001. She now partners with flash-sale sites like RueLaLa and companies like Sears. Her secret? Attention to detail and an amazing staff that have been well trained. (Fast Company)

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