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Low-Hanging Fruit for the Grabbing

Five actionable retail tips from the first day of the NRF Big Show 2016

An axiom in business is to go after the low-hanging fruit first: Before or as you begin investing resources in complex plans that might not provide an immediate payoff, be sure you're going after the obvious, easy wins.

 

With that in mind, for this roundup of the first day of the U.S. National Retail Federation Big Show 2016, being held in New York this week, I complied some of the more-actionable advice I've heard today. Yes, I'll be covering sessions in greater depth, but first let's consider some of the tips and tactics you can implement sooner rather than later.

 

 

"You need your entire product catalogue online, whether you sell it there or not,"

said Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research (RSR), in a session titled "Punching Above Your Weight: Technology Innovations for the Small Retailer." She cited the example of Costco, which sells grapes, among many (many) other products, but does not include grapes on its website. Consumers often go online to ensure that a retailer carries what it wants before heading out to the bricks-and-mortar store; failure to show the merchandise online could lead a shopper to think that the company doesn't offer it at all.

 

 

Effectively blend content and commerce.

Baird gave two examples. When you search for recipes on the website of U.S. supermarket chain Kroger, you can automatically add all the ingredients from a recipe onto the shopping list function of your Kroger app—how easy is that for the consumer?

 

And in an application that's relatively easy for the retailer as well, Baird advises indexing on your website all your online content as well as all your products so that when a customer searches for a term, articles and blog posts featuring that term will be called up as well as merchandise. For instance, when you search "sandalwood" on the website of cosmetics merchant Lush, the results page lists 33 products, 14 articles, and 10 additional items that include sandalwood even though it's not a primary ingredient. The inclusion of relevant content—a guide to fabric types for someone shopping for bedding, say—can help close the sale.

 

image: Search terms on the Lush website provide relevant content results as well as product listings.

image: Search terms on the Lush website provide relevant content results as well as product listings.

 

 

Go ahead, ask customers to share their experiences with your business on social media.

In the session "Big Social/Mobile for Small Retailers," Rick Wolfe, executive director for North Market Development Authority,a shopping area in Columbus, OH, noted that "everyone loves free stuff, being famous, and voicing their opinion." You're not in the business of giving goods away, of course, but you can help customers have their moment in the sun by encouraging them to voice their opinion. So remind them to post a review of their experience with you and your products on your social media, such as your Facebook feed; on their social media feeds, such as their Twitter or Instagram account; and/or on a third-party channel, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. Don't be shy; give customers a nudge: Ibiza Tapas, a restaurant near my home, includes a business card with each bill that flat-out asks diners to post a review on at least one of several review sites, whose URLs it helpfully includes. (The approach worked on me; I gave the restaurant a deservedly glowing review on TripAdvisor.) Amanda Kinsella, director of marketing for HVAC company Logan Services and Wolfe's co-presenter, noted that even for her admittedly unsexy business, she and her team have encouraged satisfied customers to post on Facebook.

 

image: If a provider of heating and air-conditioning can persuade customers to submit photos of themselves with their units, surely you can do the same with your undoubtedly more photogenic products.

image: If a provider of heating and air-conditioning can persuade customers to submit photos of themselves with their units, surely you can do the same with your undoubtedly more photogenic products.

 

 

Get creative with your in-store experience.

"Everyone is shopping online, so when they do go into a store, make it memorable," said Andrea Bernholtz, CEO of Titan Industries. Even small changes can make a big difference; for instance, Bernholtz suggested including in dressing-room areas magazines for the parents/significant others of those trying items on as well as toys for kids accompanying their parents. Global furniture retailer Ikea goes so far as to have a supervised play area in many of its stores, which allows parents to take their time shopping—and as Bernholtz said, "the more your customer is in your store, the more they're going to buy."

 

Launa Inman, CEO/managing director of Australian marketing agency Inman and Associates, shared another example in the same session. Winning Appliances, a 12-store chain in Australia, decided to go beyond the usual approach of displaying row upon row of nearly identical appliances. It added to its stores a dream kitchen, outfitted with every conceivable appliance, of course, to provide shoppers with an aspirational view. The kitchens also host cooking demos, so that shoppers can see the appliances in action. Consumers can even book the kitchens to prepare their own three-course meals, which they can then enjoy in the store's equally well appointed dining room setting, complete with a bottle of wine. Not only does this give shoppers hands-on experience with the products, but it also distinguishes Winning from the competition. The addition of the kitchens resulted in a 46% increase in traffic and a comparable rise in revenue.

 

 

Make your store easy to find.

Rhonda Abrams, president/founder of small-business consultancy PlanningShop, emphasized in her session, "Five Key Tools to Grow Your Business Now," that you should list your stores in all the free directories at your disposal. These include Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places, and Yahoo! Local. Such directories are particularly effective in reaching shoppers via their smartphones who may find themselves in your neighborhood. And have we mentioned that the listings are free? Talk about low-hanging fruit!

 

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.

 

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