Kitting Out Your First Brick-and-Mortar Store

Making the move into a brick-and-mortar store is a fantastic achievement but it requires a lot of thought. You can’t just move into a space, put your name on the door and hope that’s enough to tempt people in. You need to think about how your brand can come across in a physical location.

Just as you should take care to organize and brand your website to suit your customers, you must do the same with your bricks-and-mortar store. The experience of shopping online and in store should mesh together neatly so that customers take as much joy from coming to visit you in-store as they would shopping from their sofa.

Floors and Walls

Though floors and walls might not seem like the most important part of your store, they form a critical foundation to build from. Once you have put up your shelves and filled up with your wares, you aren’t going to get another chance at doing these areas so you must do them first.

Think about all the shops you have been in recently and what the floor was like. Perhaps it was a simple vinyl or maybe varnished wooden boards. Epoxy floor coatings are a popular choice as they are easy to maintain and can be finished nicely. As you imagine the floors you have seen, which ones stand out and attach themselves to the brand? Was the floor a distraction or did it blend in with the rest of the interior design?

Your walls should be approached in a similar way. Bare bricks are having a moment right now but there is nothing wrong with painted plasterboard if you want a cleaner look. Consider adding your brand colors to feature walls and areas you want to highlight so your customers know immediately where they are.

Shelves and Displays

How you display your wares is a crucial factor in ensuring that your customers get the right impression of your store. Though gondola shelving is a really popular method in supermarkets, if you are feeling more creative and your shop is a little more niche, you must think outside the box.

Any business can learn a lot from the styling techniques used in boutique clothes shops. These shops are reliant on their customers picking things up, feeling the materials and immediately spotting a complimentary item nearby. Whether you are selling soaps or books, or comic book paraphernalia, this sense of flow is vital to keep people moving around your shop and exploring every nook.

Whether you are kitting out your home or your store, the lighting you use has a massive impact on the rest of your design. While you must ensure that your customers can see what they are doing and the products around them, you can make use of light and shade to draw their attention to different things. Be smart with your lighting and you will see better results.

Kitting out your first shop is about recognizing the ways that your online experience can translate into the real world. Giving your customers a seamless way to transition between shopping modes is a great way to draw them in and persuade them to come back again and again.

How to Set up Retail Employees to be More Efficient

It’s important in the retail industry that work be done efficiently. Whether it’s working at the register, restocking merchandise, or answering customer questions, there’s not a lot of time to spare. When employees are not efficient, this often leads to a significant decrease in customer satisfaction, sales, and overall company productivity. Of course, this isn’t always the employees’ fault. With various tasks comes time wasted by nature, but with modern advances in retail technology, you can help them cut down on that waste and make the most out of their most productive hours. The following are a few ways you can tackle this problem to help to ensure that your retail employees have all the tools they need to prevent any time being wasted.

Time Management

Clocking in and out in of itself can be a major time-waster. While the punch card shows when they officially clocked in, that doesn’t account for the time that they waited in line with the others on their shift to punch in, or the time it takes for them to put their card away, get ready, and get to their station. The same problem comes with clocking out, but your employees are still required to work the same set hours, which means that they’re wasting clocked-in time just working around the time management system. By leveraging the power of cloud-based solutions for clocking employees in, employees can clock in without having to wait in line or fumble with old-fashioned punch card machines. Clocking in and out for lunches and shifts will be much more efficient when your employee can clock in from their phone, saving their frustration as well as the time you’re paying for.

Organization

Organization is a critical aspect towards encouraging your employees to engage in and maintain increased efficiency. Nothing wastes time more than when an employee is constantly stuck looking for the items they need to do their job, rather than actually doing their job. Setting aside lockers or designated shelves for employees to keep their belongings and equipment will reduce wasted time and even reduce the instances of lost or broken equipment. This saves your company in both time and costs, as well as shows your employees that you are aware of their needs and working to help them succeed.

Improved Communications

One area often overlooked for improving employee efficiency is in the area of general in-house communications. The use of Motorola 2 way radios in NYC retail businesses can lead to significant increases in response time and team work from your employees. Calling out on the intercom isn’t an efficient or effective way to get the right employee to the right place for customer assistance, or for any task for that matter. Being able to address employees directly and privately through two-way radios allows for employees to address one another as a group or get the attention of an individual employee as needed. By utilizing the services of unified communication installation experts to make this type of efficient employee-to-employee communication possible, customers will be thrilled with the increase in service efficiency.

The Company Newsletter

A great way to keep your employees informed on how to ramp up efficiency in the workplace is by providing tips and insights through a companywide employee newsletter. This can be especially helpful for new employees who may not yet be fully aware of all of your company’s policies and procedures. The tips being provided can help to inform employees, both new and old, on how to improve their own efficiency on the job. This also will help with quickly and effectively alerting all employees to changes in shift schedules, policy adjustments, and extra-hours opportunities in a way that they can reference later as needed.

By taking these steps to improve your company efficiency, it will be much easier to cut down on wasted time. Retail employees are generally paid by the hour, which means that time is money in this industry, money that no one can afford to waste. If these solutions don’t appeal to you, try holding an open meeting with your employees to see if they are aware of any issues that make their job harder and impede their productivity. Maintaining open communication with your employees can help reap great benefits and give you the feedback you need to ensure optimum efficiency in your business.

Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.

Food Product Ready for the Shelf? 4 Packaging-Design Strategies

Only sell food products that are ready for the shelf. It takes some marketing skills to know what sells and good strategic skills to find out how to improve sales. Review 4 different ways to create effective packaging designs. 

Clear Design 

Your package design should clearly identify what type of product it contains, leaving no ambiguity. Also, create packaging with large fonts and images that can be seen by visually impaired people. There are millions of people who cannot see correctly either up close or far away. They are more likely to put the product back if they cannot read the labels. Also, larger images are seen as more visually appealing by shoppers. 

Bold Colors 

Some advertisers place human faces on their packages to appeal to different demographics of people. They want to appeal to people’s emotions by showing sad or happy faces. Those techniques work, but the most effective one of them all is the use of colors. Everyone enjoys looking at colors, and shoppers love buying colorful items. Use a variety of colors to represent an entire line of products. Some companies stick to one or two colors like black or gold to appeal to the visual senses. 

Eye-Catching Messages 

The best advertising is bold and catches the attention of viewers in a unique way. It’s the most effective because it gets the most amount of attention, whether it’s good or bad. Some companies and organizations are known to make their ads controversial to attract attention to certain social problems. The same idea of using specific words or images to attract people can be applied to designs for food packaging. You may also consider including messages that highlight consumer preferences. Whether your product is gluten-free or dairy-free, be sure your product undergoes nutritional profiling so you can back up these statements on the packaging.

Ease of Use 

Consumers always avoid products that are difficult to use. These include wine bottles that cannot be opened or closed easily, glass bottles that slip out of the hand too easily, and pump bottles that eject too easily. The problems may seem trivial, but companies can lose countless customers by not fixing problems with ease of use. No one wants to struggle with a complicated item when an easier, and cheaper, one is ready for purchase. 

Every product seller in every industry has many competitors to deal with. The growth of online businesses has made it harder to compete and win. Making bold packaging designs for your products is one way to grab the most attention from consumers. Make it a top priority to promote good advertising through packaging.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Should Your Business Consider Chatbots?

The business community has benefited greatly from advancements in digital communication technologies. Today, there’s practically no end to the ways companies and brand representatives can engage with, troubleshoot for, market to or otherwise stay in touch with their fans and customers.

Chatbots are a relatively new addition to a bundle of tools that already included email, video chat, SMS, social networking and more. Chatbots are the next logical step in many ways when it comes to keeping businesses and customers in constant and easy contact. But they’re not for everybody. Below are some of the advantages of — plus one or two warnings about — chatbots to help you decide if it’s the right time and the right tool for your company.

What’s a Chatbot?

This word is one of those terms that pretty much gives it all away up front: A chatbot is an audio-based or text-based assistant that can autonomously help customers find answers to questions, troubleshoot problems or carry out other business-related tasks, such as ordering or re-ordering products, changing payment information, inquiring about or renewing subscriptions and memberships and much more.

Command-based chatbots are relatively rudimentary but still deceptively “intelligent.” They can respond to customer inquiries using heuristics that match replies with the most relevant topics or sub-menus for the customer.

On the other hand, AI-based chatbots are more sophisticated but also have a further way to go before they’re available to a wider array of businesses and more consistently able to reply accurately to any inquiry. But chatbots powered by AI are undoubtedly already showing their potential: Thanks to their use of natural language processing, they can reply “from scratch” instead of using canned responses. They can even become better over time at picking up meaning and intent from conversations with human callers.

With the different types of chatbots a little better understood, let’s move on to the main question, which is whether or not chatbots are worth the investment for your business. For a start, some industries are simply a likelier fit than others.

If Chatbots Make Sense for Your Industry

Chatbots are a relatively new concept, but they do already exist out in the wild. And there are several frontrunners when it comes to the types of industries that are well-suited to adopting chatbots. Some of them are:

  • Hospitality
  • Banking and financial services
  • Retail
  • Service-based companies

Based on polling, some 80 percent of business representatives would be interested in bringing chatbots into the fold at their company. But early popularity in the industries mentioned above already indicates which use-cases might yield the best results and return on investment. In hospitality, guests and travelers often require nearly instant solutions for checking into hotels and lodging, boarding airplanes and other conveyances, choosing venues, organizing transportation for meetings and conventions and a multitude of other tasks that have to happen at the speed of business.

In financial services, chatbots can help even regional banks and nonprofit credit unions provide members with account information or help them tailor their retirement or college savings. In retail and services environments, chatbots can pick up some of the slack during high-traffic times of the day or season by taking orders, pointing customers to what they’re looking for and more.

The point is, there might be use cases in your industry, and there might not be. Industries that depend on timely, accurate, always-available customer interactions appear to be early favorites, but as the technology improves, applications will undoubtedly continue to appear almost everywhere.

If You (and Your Customers) Value Time

On the customer and the company side of things, the first major advantage of chatbots is that they’re on standby 24 hours a day and don’t take a single day off during the year, provided there aren’t any technical snafus behind the scenes.

Allowing customers to have their questions answered on their own time is great already, but chatbots also save time for the company by providing an automated solution to the “problem” of answering common inquiries all day long. Both parties can breathe easier. Customers know they won’t have to try their luck calling back during business hours or trawling through a website for answers, and businesses know their employees are a little freer to respond to other, more urgent demands on their time.

There are one or two caveats when it comes to using chatbots in extremely customer-facing industries. Human beings know — or can be trained by locals — to respect cultural taboos and avoid words or phrases that might cause offense in another country or region.

The problem of maintaining cultural propriety during international affairs is not a new problem. But while it seems to make sense to turn chatbots into public liaisons in regions where you don’t have a strong employee presence to process customer calls, those chatbots had better have been developed with linguistic and cultural input from the region they’re intended to serve.

Being mindful of potential cultural frictions and even the subtleties of respectful political correctness is key to successfully using a chatbot to fill in your service gaps here and abroad.

If You Want Additional Insight Into Your User Base

The average interaction between a human customer and a chatbot can yield a surprising amount of information about your user base — too much, potentially, for a human operator to take in all at once, much less record and pass on to interested parties.

A phone conversation is practically analog compared with a chatbot chat when it comes to the potential to take in information from your user base. When your customers interact with your chatbot, with just a couple of simple questions and basic analytics, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of how they use your products, where common sources of frustration are coming from and nitty-gritty details. These details include their location, the device type they’re using to contact you or interact with your services and other factors that might be of interest to your marketing team, your R&D team or both.

Chatbots are here already — and companies are figuring out how best to put them to work. By 2021, say industry experts, the chatbot “market” — including third-party cloud-based chatbot solutions — should reach a total value of $15.8 billion. That’s a ringing endorsement. Just remember that chatbots are a product like any other, and computing their probable ROI isn’t that much different, no matter what else you’re promised by a software vendor. In some cases, the human touch might just be the better choice for your business anyway — you’ll need to decide based on your unique circumstances.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

Master Bakers: How to Run a Top-Tier Bakery in Your Community

If you love to bake and all your friends and family rave about your creations, then you might want to think about opening a bakery. Before you sell your 1,000th product, there are lots of different decisions that you will need to make. Here is some helpful guidance on opening your own bakery.

Decide on the Type of Bakery

There are several different types of bakeries that you may want to consider. You may choose to open a retail location where you sell your products directly to customers or a wholesale location where you sell your products to restaurants and other locations in your neighborhood. If you choose to open a retail location, then you may want to think about creating delightful breakfast pastries, wedding cakes or breads. Making this choice now will help you in making other important decisions.

Find Your Suppliers and Products

Do some snooping to determine what will sell well in your area. You may even want to work in conjunction with an established business to give potential customers a chance to sample your products and see their reactions. Once you have narrowed down the list of products that you will be selling, then consider what products you need to make those delicious items and find your vendors based on price and reliability.

Decide on a Location

If you will not be operating strictly out of your home kitchen, then make sure to find the right location. Some people find it advantageous to start their business in a startup location where there are mentors and angel investors to help them along the way. You may even find government programs to help you open a bakery. Others choose to open a location in their own neighborhood opting to strike out on their own. You will need a location large enough to hold commercial equipment like mixers available from arrowmixingproducts.com. You may also discover that mixer accessories makes your life much easier when cooking in volume.

Market

You will need to market your business. Taking care of each customer is a great way to build word-of-mouth advertising. Think about advertising on social media as well. You may also want to buy advertising on a radio station or participate in trade shows.

Many people open bakeries and make a lot of money. Following these guidelines is a great place to start. Listen to each customer and learn from the feedback that they give you, and you will be very successful.

Guest author, Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and long walks in the park with her 3-year-old husky Snowball.  @LizzieWeakley

Make Your #Retail #Business Easier To Manage With These Life-Changing Hacks!

Retail businesses can be one of the hardest business types to make a success of. The reason for this is simple – a lot of organization is required to have any chance of success. Although all businesses require organization, for retail companies, it’s even more important. Because, if you’re not organized you’ll end up forgetting to do something important, such as ordering new stock, for instance. So, with that in mind, below are some handy hacks to make managing your retail store and staying organized, that little bit easier.

Have a schedule in place

retail1

Photo from Pixabay

One of the most important things when it comes to making your retail business (or any business) easier to manage is having a schedule in place. This is because by having a list of tasks to complete each day, along with a time frame to do each task in, it’s easier to keep on top of what needs to be done. You know what needs to be done and when, so it’s just a case of doing it and ticking it off afterward. A daily schedule can be a great motivator because it gives you a clear idea of what has to be completed each day. This makes it less likely that you will put off doing the important things like reordering stock. This is because you’ll have your daily schedule to remind you of everything that needs doing. To learn about the best planners to use, resources like onewomanshop.com/2014/5-best-planners-for-creative-solopreneurs/ can be useful.

Invest in the right software

The right software can have a big impact on how easy to manage your store is, so it’s worth taking the time to research the best types to invest in. There are various options on offer; it’s just a case of determining what you could use help with. Integration software, for instance, can be highly beneficial for retail businesses. This is because sites like adeptia.com/products/b2b-integration.html can offer various benefits for your business. For instance, this type of software can aid supplier on-boarding, making the process much quicker and easier. Some software might be a little pricey. However, it’s important to remember that it’s worth the investment if it makes running your business easier. After all, the easier you can make your business to run, the better.

Outsource tasks

retail2

Picture link

It’s important to remember that there are only so many hours in the day. This means that no matter how hard you work, the chances are that you’re not going to be able to do everything. If you’re not at a stage where you’re able to afford to hire some help, then your best option is outsourcing. By choosing to outsource tasks like your accounting, for example, you can ensure that they’re completed to a high quality. And also, that you’re not rushing to try and get everything done, and so, end up forgetting to do something important.

Running a retail business isn’t an easy task, as it takes a lot of time and effort to keep on top of everything that needs to be done. Hopefully, however, the handy hacks above will help to make the process of running your store, that little bit easier.