The start of a New Year is the perfect time for retailers small and large as well as offline and online alike to look ahead and consider new ways to strengthen their business. This is particularly important when you consider that the competition in retail is only getting tougher – yet consumers are more retail-centric than ever before, welcoming in-store and online experiences alike as they navigate their next purchases.
Keeping this in mind, consider how the below 5 tips can help you kick start the New Year right and strengthen your retail efforts to make 2018 your best year yet.
Tip #1. Aim for High Margins
Mastercard SpendingPulse recently released numbers which showed that sales grew 4.9 percent over the 2017 holiday season. Know what this means? It means no more blaming the “retail apocalypse” for low sales numbers. It also means no more blaming the category you sell in, either. Jewelry sales grew by 5.9 percent this holiday season and both department stores and specialty retailers alike saw a significant sales increase compared to years prior. Even home furniture and home improvement saw a solid 5.1 percent growth rate. Collectively, this data confirms retail is in fact alive… as well as that there is money to be made for those who are willing to evolve along with the retail industry.
To be among the retailers profiting this year, focus on finding high margin items to boost your business sales. A key factor in identifying high margin items begins with sourcing them from the right vendors and at the right tradeshow, such as ASD Market Week – your Affordable Shopping Destination. This influences your margins considerably because it allows you to connect with vendors who offer as high as 300% margin on the items they sell – directly impacting your profit opportunities. Ultimately, it’s your wholesale price comparative to your retail price that will set your business apart from making high margins or not – so when looking ahead to your 2018, make sure this is among your top priorities.
Tip #2. Incorporate Omni-Channel Sales Efforts Into Your Retail Business
Mobile shopping is on the rise, with Recode reporting that 54 percent of online shopping will take place on smartphones or tablets. This means that mobile spending is officially eclipsing desktop purchases… and that retailers who have yet to design a mobile-first website are already late to the game. After all, online sales are growing faster than any other shopping category in retail, with Mastercard SpendingPulse having reported an 18.1 percent online spending increase over last year’s numbers. Reflecting on this, it is imperative you optimize your website to be mobile friendly – including for merchants who have physical stores and are looking to gain online sales and attention beyond their traditional storefronts.
In the coming year, mobile-first websites and social media selling will empower retailers to bring traffic to their brick and mortar locations. In fact, consider this: The National Retail Federation released data that explains that “for each company closing a store, 2.7 companies are opening stores.” Yet the modern customer does their research on multiple devices before making a final purchase – even when that final purchase lands them in a store versus online. Because of this, it’s critical for retailers to offer multiple channels for consumers to experience their businesses – including in-store, mobile, desktop and via social media. Without offering customers experiences to remember in various locations, merchants risk missing out on future sales. If your business falls short in capturing customers via many avenues, consider how incorporating an omni-channel strategy can help you in the year ahead.
Tip #3. Strengthen Your Overall Company Branding
It’s a misconception to think that branding refers only to your company’s logo. While a logo is an essential component of your overall brand strategy, it’s hardly the be-all-end-all of a solid branding initiative. After all, branding is what distinguishes one business from another – while also helping to capture and keep customer attention. As you build your own brand, consider how a memorable tagline or store motto can help compliment your business, as well as what color scheme, design standards and overall brand voice you want to portray on the various outlets you communicate with customers. Don’t let this seemingly daunting task spook you from actually bringing it to life, though. Begin strengthening your branding efforts for 2018 and beyond by doing your research. Look into what your competitors are doing and what does – and does not – resonate with your target market, while also considering how your brand seamlessly overlaps from one place to another (such as via social media to in-store).
The most important factor in branding your company is ensuring your marketing materials have a consistent presence across channels. This means using the same color scheme, logo and design standards on every platform where you have a brand presence. If your social media backgrounds don’t contain the same logo that you use on your company’s website, for example, or your store is painted with a different color green than you use in your marketing materials, your customers either won’t be able to recognize your business for another or they won’t be sure that they’re working with the right company – aka yours. No retailer wants to be mistaken for an impostor, so regulate all of your brand’s platforms for consistency and make branding a goal to strengthen in 2018 and beyond.
Tip #4: Introduce New Product Categories Into Your Inventory Assortment
One stop shopping resonates with consumers… plain and simple. Not convinced? Just consider the appeal that Target and Amazon each have with customers . Keeping this in mind, consider how introducing new inventory categories into your existing product assortment can strengthen your retail business in 2018. A children’s store, for example, may benefit from introducing trend oriented jewelry to their overall product assortment targeted at their primary consumer – adult women. Meanwhile, a men’s clothing boutique can add profit to their business by introducing more accessories into their store assortment – including scarves, belts, eyewear, luggage, footwear, novelty gifts and more.
When identifying what product categories may be right to add to your business, also consider how you can source these vendors and items without adding to your buying overhead. Attending ASD Market Week, for example, allows you to explore nine shows in one – truly optimizing both your time and budget for trade show attendance.
Tip #5: Welcome Retail Technology Into Your Retail Operations
Gone are the days of pen and paper inventory tracking, guess-timating best practices on e-commerce shipments and identifying best-selling items based on observation alone. Nowadays, retailers of all sizes should invest in technology that will help them optimize their business that to the power of technology and data. Everything from in-store foot traffic monitoring (Dor Technologies) to parcel auditing (Refund Retriever) to point-of-sale software (Lightspeed POS) and more are available for merchants to help maximize their business operations – without breaking retailer budgets. Retailers who shy away from technology, however, are positioned to not strengthen their business efficiency – ultimately impacting their profit and overall retail success in the year ahead.
When looking to introduce technology into your business, consider how engaging with industry leaders face-to-face can help you identify what is best for your business. Attending educational experiences that connect merchants to retail business solution providers is a fantastic way to learn more about the various services and options available to retailers such as yourself. Additionally, without engaging in educational experiences such as the Independent Retailer Conference, retailers are unable to grasp all that is available for them to strengthen their businesses – an important factor to consider in the year ahead.
2018 is forecasted to be a strong year for retailers, with Kiplinger reporting a 4 percent growth over 2017. Fortunately, online and offline retailers alike can approach the New Year with excitement and anticipation thanks to resources and opportunities they have in the year ahead.
When incorporating the right inventory into your product mix and offering items that have strong margins, merchants will position themselves to have a rockin’ 2018 – despite the heavy competition that exists among merchants. Overlapping this strategy with an omni-channel approach and modern technology designed uniquely for retailers will only enhance the chance of success for merchants in 2018 – something businesses small and large can both appreciate. Finally, when looking into the New Year make sure that your brand is memorable no matter where your customers or potential consumers may connect with it. Collectively, these efforts will help your store thrive in 2018… and beyond.