Since 1999, empowering retailers and store owners to "Turn on your financial headlights!"

  • Get Retail Financial Know-How

    Free each week from The ROI • Specially for busy retailers
The technology even your customers expect
Ready or not, here they come. What shoppers expect from YOUR technology | Adding a store? Doing a makeover? | Make room for the customer in customer service
Monday, January 27, 2020

From The Co-Founders

Patricia M. Johnson & Richard F. Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists, LLC  •  Retail Turnaround Experts

Ready for this digital transformation?

We were struck by an in-depth blog post* from U.K. based Ocasta Studios.

"Many successful retailers are discovering that the purpose of their store is to create a more interactive experience. This is where customers don’t just buy products, they discover new things, try new experiences and get personalized offers and deals.

"They are also starting to recognize the value of technology for employees to speed up operations.

"Retail has suffered a tough few years and it’s only going to get harder if they can’t keep up with the digital changes and trends."

Ocasta then provides a brief overview of ten companies/technologies that already are being applied in retail (with helpful links to each firm, and case studies.) 

Suffice to say, this is no time to be asleep at the switch. The array of digital applications available to brick-and-mortar stores is breathtaking, from augmented reality to visual search. 
  • Last Christmas, Harrod's in London used Augmented Reality to send shoppers throughout their store, discovering immersive experiences unlocked by their phones, "creating a magical blend between physical and digital."
  • Meanwhile, there is "visual search." For example, a customer in your store takes a picture of an item they like (or uploads a picture!), and immediately are shown similar items which they can buy from their phone.
  • Or receive recommendations to "complete the look."
  • Sound too complex? Well, consider the value of digital displays. Digital window displays (sometimes repurposed content from your website) can be more compelling than static displays, and can be interactive (QR codes, etc.)
  • Or, how about attention-grabbing video content projected onto the headers of inline fixtures? May be coming soon from some of your vendors. 
Other technologies, of course, are focused on time savings, not only for the customers but for employees.
  • Self-scanning/self checkout (making the in-store experience match the online one);
  • Electronic price tags and shelf labels;
  • Automated lockers for customers who Buy Online, Pickup In Store. 
  • Mobile POS, both instore and offsite. (Indeed, some retailers  that converted to mobile POS reported a 20% increase in selling space by eliminating cash wraps counters.)
Make no mistake, customer expectations are being raised wherever they shop. True, for now, these technologies are driven by the Big Guys.

But soon enough, there will be opportunities for any retailer, anywhere, to take advantage. Best to be ready!

* Retail predicted 1% growth in 2020 here’s the top digital technology. Hayley Biggs, Ocasta Studios, January 6, 2020. 
Webinar of the Week - Free Access

Technology Has Re-Invented Customer Service

So, now what?

WEBINAR OF THE WEEK  •  Now thru Sunday, February 2


Thanks to big box and online retailers, the concept of "customer service" increasingly means "customer SELF-service."

In fact, some businesses use technology to transfer to the customer more and more of the "customer service" work: product research; comparison shopping; even self checkout (Yes, we're looking at you, Amazon!)

So, how is a retailer to stand out? To be special? To matter to the shoppers? To have a competitive edge?

Well, there are ways! And in this challenging and thought-provoking TOPICAL TUESDAYS Webinar of the Week, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt, Co-Founders of The Retail Owners Institute®, will show how specialty store retailers (e.g., all retailers) can:
  • focus on and sharpen your particular competitive edge;
  • create and implement a training program to sharpen and maintain that competitive edge;
  • and, know when it's working!
Be sure that you and your key staff people take advantage and gain these insights. (Your customers will be very grateful!)

Expanding? Adding More Stores? Congratulations! 

Exciting, isn't it? And maybe a little daunting.

So, as you are dreaming and scheming, here are four key reminders to keep in mind.

Minimize expenditures on leasehold improvements

Treat it like a stage set. This is a store you're building out, not your home (even though you may spend more time in it than your home.)
  • Flexible, changeable, and, since it's your nickel, as little as possible built in.
  • Remember, whatever is "built in" is a leasehold improvement. It stays with the landlord when you move out.

Make lighting one of your spending priorities

Customers are drawn to light.
  • Learn to use lighting to create the atmospherics of your store, and to highlight the merchandise (not the fixtures, or the floor, or....)
  • Lighting is a powerful ally when creating your store's "Wow!" effect.

Spend money on systems. Get information, not just data

  • Accounting programs and point-of-sale systems are not just for the big guys. To manage the investment you have put into your store, you need reliable systems for bookkeeping, accounting, sales, and inventory.
  • Then, spend the time to learn these systems!
    You, the decision-maker, must have direct access to the perspective they offer on "the big picture" of the business.

Hire people for their attitude

  • Anyone can learn the merchandise, and everyone has to keep learning about the latest.
  • When hiring, look for those qualities that are essential, but harder for employers to teach: responsibility; honesty; respect for the customers; a positive, upbeat attitude.

Go here for more resources for growth-minded retailers.

Pro Tips for Using Retail Benchmarks 

As you examine the trends in any retail segment, here are some pro tips for you.

  • An upward trend is usually a good sign - with one exception. That is the Debt-to-Worth ratio, where lower is financially stronger, as it indicates less debt.
  • There really are no right or wrong ratios. However, examining the trends over time can provide early warnings of potential trouble spots.
  • "Connecting the dots" of the cause-effect connections can be very revealing. 
Wait. "Connecting the dots?"  Go here for more details about that last one.

Retailers: Questions? Concerns? Let's talk!

Facing disruptive changes? Have concerns about growth? Feeling stymied?

Talk with The ROI Co-Founders! (Remember, their "day job" is Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists.) Get objectivity and perspective. Private. Confidential. Specially for owners. And first hour is free. 

Go here to reserve your free phone consultation. 
Talk with the Co-Founders
The Retail Owners Institute®


Retail Business Insights


Here's a fun fact

Lots of folks track their busiest days, whether instore or on their websites. When do the most people show up?

In doing that, guess what else we discovered? The two days each year with the fewest number of site visitors to The ROI's website.  

And those two least-busy days at The ROI? Christmas Day. And Super Bowl Sunday.