By Ben Golder
The concept of real-time retail, which can provide real-time POS, product and consumer data, is nothing new to entrepreneurial business owners. In a small amount of time, real-time retail has evolved from being considered a handy ticket booster – and a luxury resellers can pin onto systems – to a tactic geared toward survival and longevity.
With the ever growing presence of well-informed shoppers, it has become difficult for merchants to just smile, suggest options to consumers and expect them to buy something, especially when merchants often rely on strangling return policies to protect profit.
Changing from traditional retail to real-time retail systems can be done seamlessly. This applies to both merchants and payment providers. Considering the menial cost in time, energy and risk included in making the leap – front-end and back-end – to real-time retail, nothing should inhibit ISOs from offering this opportunity to merchants.
Also, with the increasing number of modern and low-margin payment options available, payment providers must do their best to remain attractive to retailers while improving their systems to increase profits, cut costs and continue putting more retailers under their wings. Switching to real-time retail allows a larger margin for ISOs while also saving merchants money.
Following are five tips to help payment providers and small to midsize businesses (SMBs) remain competitive in a changing retail environment:
Over 50 percent of SMBs do not have a web presence because they believe it's not what their customers want. Businesses that believe customers would be discontent with the convenience a web presence provides risk losing business to competitors that are more accommodating.
Help comes in many forms, and someone who facilitates the checkout process for customers is more useful than someone who knows how to fold customers' receipts to fit their wallets. It's important to focus on what will bring customers back into the store, which is what matters. Having a web presence is one of the greatest aids a business can provide to its consumers.
Furthermore, merchants need to be open to their customers' concerns and requests, melding tailored solutions into their business models and storefront layouts to satisfy their customers' needs and keep the name of the business relevant to them.
The majority of sales today happen before products are purchased: the kindness, consistency, and helpfulness of the salespeople; the layout of the merchandise; and the efficiency of the payment system used are all deal makers for most people now that the Internet offers the ability to stock up on trend items before they go viral and become either overpriced or out of stock.
Not every store can be the same; there is never a "one size fits all" when it comes to displaying products and services designed to satisfy customers' needs, but one can get close to fitting customers' desires like a glove by finding ways to understand what the customers want and implementing them into the store's layout or procedures.
When it comes to a store's survival, availability of anything – be it support or products – is paramount. A majority of people will walk out of a store that has what they want if the salespeople are rigid, boring and unwilling to facilitate customers' transactions. This is true even if store clerks are well-informed people who have the desire and flexibility to help customers, but do not make this clear to shoppers who enter the store.
It's best to interact in ways that comfort buyers than to respond lackadaisically to people who are entering stores and spending their valuable time, energy and money searching for what they need. If shoppers are not tended to properly, the likelihood of them returning is close to zero.
Communities can be drawn together by common interests, geography or a number of other criteria. In those that are sizable enough to form a forum or network, there will always be representatives to answer questions and calm qualms people may have. Businesses can participate in this type of helpful interaction through many mediums such as mobile web, regular web and through mobile applications.
The more available and active a company's name is in this type of endeavor, the easier it is for the business to become a preferred reference point and mainstay name for community members. This instantly garners a lead in sales over the competition and provides participating merchants more business opportunities.
Customers love knowing they're valued. If it's as simple as a loyalty program or bonuses offered to buyers through multiple channels of communication, so be it. Real-time retail allows merchants to invest their energy efficiently into ensuring that customers are happy and remembering the store's name. This is because when a system is streamlined, centralized and connected, merchants' time is freed up for more direct and personal issues brought forth by the consumer. This leads to quicker response times and procurement of goods for customers, creating a win-win situation.
The more comforting a company's return process, the fewer qualms people will have about buying from its stores. This is why, for example, even though certain big-box retailers handle a massive quantity of returns, they still manage to have high levels of customer loyalty, satisfaction and profit per customer.
Real-time retail systems are logical and simple to implement and can garner the huge boosts in ticket sales that are needed to push any SMB to the next level and stretch the cost-revenue gap. It's time to spend less time on defense and more time attacking the five points described herein.
Completing them successfully is only a matter of ingenuity and time, not money or liability as many have come to assume. The steps will require some cognition to nail, but business owners who know how to garner success understand that anyone can easily tackle them in a timely and efficient manner.
Ben Golder is the resident writer for retailcloud and has extensive experience in the fields of customer support, product design and idea generation, as well as in writing content, blogs and articles for various companies and publications, particularly in the realms of commerce and paintball. An avid paintballer and snowboarder at heart, he looks forward to being able to move to Japan to open a paintball complex by the time he retires. Ben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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