Creating Effective Social Media – 5 Easy Steps to Creating Social Media That Reaches Your Target

Effectively creating a social media presence is not as hard as it seems. Use five easy steps to improve your online presence now.

1) Know your target audience: You know your customer (or you should) – that’s your audience. All audiences have diversity: age, economic background, style, and interest areas. Now, when you create content, do it as if you are directly speaking to them. Start a conversation. Spark your target’s imagination. Use humor and remember that being too formal can seem inauthentic. Don’t forget to be online with your audience. Explore what they talk about, what they like, what they share, what they hashtag. Interact to get to know them. Tip: use hashtags to research the climate around a topic and see what’s trending.

2) Intentionally set boundaries: After you have visualized your target audience you will need to set up “Go” and “No-Go” areas for your content. These parameters are simplistic yet, paramount. Setting social media boundaries will help you keep your target group happy. Your goal is to create content that is professional and pleasing to your audience. Remember, what is appropriate for one audience, may not be relevant for another. Areas to carefully consider: politics, profanity, slang verbiage, etc.

3) Find a graphics tools that work for you: Creating graphics will serve you well, as visuals are an integral part of all social media platforms. Even Twitter is now more visually based; they have made it easier than ever to share graphics and animated gifts, right at the point of creation. You can put your best visual foot forward by utilizing any purchased, or free, graphic software like Adobe Suite (purchased) or Pixler (free). You will want to research which programs work best with your skill level; there are many online to explore.

4) Consider your platform: Create visual content with limited text, to show/say something significant and inspirational. Know what rules apply to the platform you are using. For example, Twitter limits you to 140 characters or less. These rules will shape your content. Research platform parameters online to familiarize yourself with each structure.

5) Use color: Don’t forget to utilize color; it draws the eye! You can also create a theme of colors that you will use to represent your brand. Using colors enhances what someone feels, for example, Greens and Blues are said to create trust and a fresh feeling, while yellows, reds, and oranges are said to excite, or even make the viewer hungry (think fast food chains). Create content that welcomes your audience to take a closer look. Tip: add your logo to most of the content you create.

By using the five steps above: knowing your audience, setting boundaries, optimizing graphics, mastering platforms, and through utilizing color, you are well on your way to creating social media that effectively reaches your target.


Stephanie Newby is the owner of Newgreenie Inc, an Entrepreneur, Writer, Current Graduate Student and Social Media Enthusiast. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission if this article is shared in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2017 by Stephanie Newby, Newgreenie Inc. newgreenie.com

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13 Top Restaurants That Have Adopted a No Tipping Trend

No Tipping Trend

The no tipping policy trend in restaurant chains and eateries is slowly gaining traction across the U.S. According to a recent restaurant trade survey (PDF) released by American Express ahead of the 27th annual American Express Restaurant Trade Program, 29 percent of restaurant operators plan to adopt the no-tip policy in their establishments, while 18 percent report they already have.

Why is the No Tipping Trend Taking Hold?

Well, according to the 2016 American Express Restaurant Trade Survey, one of the biggest technology trends predicted by restaurant operators for the restaurant industry in the next 12 months is mobile payments. Mobile payments are taking off and could be complicating tipping.

Moreover, new economic realities and government regulations are also helping dismantle the deeply entrenched tipping culture in the country. For example, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration hiked the minimum wage for tipped workers by 50 percent last year, it exacerbated the pay disparity between servers and kitchen staff, for whom minimum wage inched up by only $.25.

Restaurant operators felt they needed to do something to offset the inequality in restaurant workers’ pay for servers and kitchen staff, such as cooks and dishwashers.

Offsetting Pay Disparity among Restaurant Staff

Wages for “back of the house” workers like cooks has remained stagnant at $10 to $12 an hour for years, while servers’ tip-based take has risen with menu prices and government regulations. As a result, there is always some level of dissatisfaction among the “back of the house” staff, especially when servers celebrate a big night and cooks are left behind, some restaurateurs have observed.

To address this long-simmering inequality, an increasing number of restaurant chains and eateries are choosing to go gratuity-free, raising menu prices to make up the difference. Some restaurants have even implemented revenue-sharing to keep servers’ wages stable after they lose tips.

So, which are these leading restaurants that have adopted a no tipping policy?

Restaurants and Eateries that Have Gotten Rid of Tipping

When it comes to tipping, we may be nearing a tipping point in America. Below are some high-end restaurant businesses that have adopted the no-tipping policy across the country.

California

1. Brand 158

Located in Glendale, CA, Brand 158 says it adopted a no-tipping policy to create a less competitive workplace for servers, and, as such, a better experience for diners. “If people came to work and didn’t know what they were going to make for the week, that tension would eventually translate to the customer,” says owner Gabriel Frem.

2. Comal

This chic restaurant serving Mexican cuisines says it automatically tacks on a 20 percent service charge to all bills in order “to move to a new model of compensation that will be sustainable and fair in the long run for our entire staff.”

New York

3. Café China

The midtown Sichuanese spot is one of New York city’s first high-end traditional Chinese restaurants to defect to the no-tipping camp. Prices shot up 10 to 15 percent, and servers receive $15 an hour plus commission based on dine-in sales. Kitchen workers receive bonuses based on takeout, dine-in and delivery sales.

4. Riki

The Japanese restaurant adopted a no-tipping policy in 2014, citing the need to be more in line with Japanese customs. It features signs posted at each tatami table that reads: “Riki Restaurant is now a non-tipping establishment. Tipping is not required nor expected.”

5. Dirt Candy

Owned by Amanda Cohen, who is also head-chef extraordinaire, the inventive vegetarian restaurant in New York reopened in a new, bigger and bolder space early 2015 with a new no-tipping policy. It also introduced a new price plan, subbing in a 20 percent service charge on each customer check.

Chicago

6. Alinea

Alinea and its sister restaurant, Next, add a 20 percent service charge for their special dinners so that patrons don’t have to tip extra.

Denver

7. Abrusci’s

This high-end Italian restaurant located just outside of Denver in Wheat Ridge banned tipping and introduced a 20 percent service charge to bills. Servers now are guaranteed at least $20 an hour, while kitchen staffers receive a minimum of $14.50 per hour.

Philadelphia

8. Girard

Girard says its business model is “similar to many European restaurants” with staffers receiving a fair wage plus paid time off. It includes a 15 percent service charge to all bills, explaining that the removal of gratuities from the equation “eliminates the pressure on the guest to worry about paying our staff.”

Pittsburgh

9. Bar Marco

The minimalist hangout in Pittsburgh adopted the no-tipping policy saying the policy would “bring consistency to everyone’s lives” and ensure “people aren’t making $200 one week and $1,000 the next.” The policy has been so successful that Bar Marco’s founder Bobby Fry says he’s expanding it to sister restaurant, The Livermore.

Kentucky

10. Packhouse

The buzzy hangout (PDF) with creative cocktails, all-meatball menu and no tipping in Newport, KY says it established the no-tipping policy to “provide income security for our servers.” Servers earn $10 per hour or 20 percent of their individual food sales per shift, whichever is greater. “No tipping” signs are posted prominently in the restaurant and on the menu.

San Francisco

11. Bar Agricole

A contemporary tavern situated on an industrial block of San Francisco’s SOMA district, the Bar Agricole lists all prices on beverages and food with “Service included,” making it easier to accept the no-tipping policy and to stomach the high cost of $15 cocktails.

12. Manos Nouveau

The artistic Latin-French restaurant and wine bar in the heart of Castro added a 30 percent surcharge to all checks beginning May 1, 2015. The fee, billed as an “equality allocation” to all of their checks, covers taxes, gratuity and a “Healthy San Francisco Surcharge.”

Seattle

13. Ivar’s Salmon House

One of Seattle’s best seafood restaurants, Ivar‘s eliminated tipping and increased its menu prices by about 20 percent across the board in 2015. All workers got a boost in wages to a minimum of $15 an hour.

Image: Comal

This article, "13 Top Restaurants That Have Adopted a No Tipping Trend" was first published on Small Business Trends

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15 Flea Market Booth Display Tips

Flea market setup tips

Flea markets offer an easy outlet for product sellers to reach local customers. But if you want to be a successful flea market seller, you need to do more than just find a product to sell and sign up at a local market. By using care in setting up your flea market booth, you may be able to make a significant impact on your sales. Here are some flea market setup tips to make your next flea market booth as effective as possible.

Flea Market Setup Tips

Set Up In a High Traffic Area

You already know that location is an important factor in the success of other local businesses. Well, the same is true for flea market booths. If you can set up your booth in a high traffic area, like near the front of the market or at the end of an aisle, you may be able to catch the attention of more potential customers. If possible, try visiting the flea markets you’d like to sell at beforehand and scout out the best locations.

Place Popular Products Front and Center

The location of your actual products is also important. If you have a product that is particularly popular or eye-catching, you want to make sure to highlight it as much as possible. You can do this by placing those items toward the front of your booth, or potentially even on a special platform or in a unique display case.

Utilize Cases to Display and Organize Items

For smaller items or those that are potentially breakable or valuable, display cases can be incredibly useful. Display cases come in all different shapes and sizes, so you can shop around to find ones that fit with your specific products.

Keep Fragile Items Toward the Back

You should also use care when placing any items that may be fragile. Those items probably shouldn’t go right on the front edge of your table, unless you’d be okay with people reaching over them and potentially knocking them off the table. So consider keeping those items closer to the back of your flea market booth so people have to really go out of their way to even get to them.

Consider Using Racks for Clothing

Racks can also be useful for displaying flea market items, especially if you sell clothing or accessories. They allow your customers to easily browse through your offerings without messing up your neatly arranged table.

Create Clear Signage

Having great products only helps you make sales if your customers know what those products are and how much they cost. Of course, flea market customers often love to negotiate prices. But if that’s your policy, you should outline that in some kind of sign as well. Making your process and products clear to customers can make those who aren’t flea market veterans feel more comfortable buying from you.

Keep Your Table Clean and Covered

If you have a bunch of nice products but they are on a dirty old table, it could deter some customers. Instead, make sure that your table is clean and uncluttered. You might also consider using a table cover to make sure it looks nice and clean.

Make Sure Products Are Clean

Your products themselves should also be clean. If you sell clothing or any fabric items, make sure to remove any stains and wash your items. And make sure any other products are free of dust and dirt when you put them out on your table or in your display cases.

Protect Your Products From the Elements

You might also consider including some sort of covering for your flea market booth, especially if it’s particularly sunny or if it’s supposed to rain. This can protect your products from getting wet or damaged but it can also help make your customers more comfortable while they shop.

Have a Designated Line Area

Another part of making your customers comfortable while they shop is making sure they have a place to stand while completing their purchases. If you have people just blocking your entire flea market booth while they wait in line, you could be missing out on sales. Instead, designate an area where people can stand while they pay and/or wait in line.

Pack Items in the Order You’ll Need Them

When packing for your flea market booth, think about the things that you are most likely to need first and pack those so that they’re easily accessible. For example, you’ll probably want your table covers and display cases out before the actual products that go on them.

Use Protective Packing Equipment

It’s also important when you’re packing your products and display items that you keep items safe, especially those that are fragile or potentially breakable. Use bubble wrap and other protective materials to ensure that you can transport all of your items safely.

Make Sure You Have Enough Help

Part of a successful flea market booth means having enough people there to help your customers complete their purchases. Especially if you’re at a flea market that has fairly high traffic, you may have to hire a few people to check out customers, pack items and answer customers’ questions.

Consider How Your Customers Will Transport Their Purchases

You’ll also need to make sure that you have some bags or boxes available for customers who purchase multiple items or large items so that they can easily carry their purchases.

Keep Your Essentials In a Designated Space

And regardless of what you sell, you’ll need to bring some essentials with you like change, a cash box, pens and price stickers. So you’ll need an area of your flea market booth for those items, without taking away from how you display your actual products for sale.

Flea Market Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "15 Flea Market Booth Display Tips" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Mobile Shoppers More Likely to Make In-Store Purchases, Study Finds

online marketing drives in-store sales.

For many, online marketing is a tool to drive online sales, improve customer engagement and boost brand equity. But what many small business owners may not realize is that online marketing can play a significant role in driving in-store sales too.

French clothing brand Petit Bateau discovered more about just how customer online interaction drive its customers in-store purchases by combining in-store data with information from Google Analytics.

In a recent case study shared on the Google Analytics Solutions blog, the Google Analytics team explains:

“Petit Bateau customers in France can shop in 153 physical stores as well as on Petit-bateau.fr. Users log into the website which makes it possible to later match the traffic of logged-in users with subsequent in-store transactions made with a loyalty card.”

How Online Marketing Drives In-store Sales

By comparing the data, the company found 44 percent of in-store buyers had visited the site within seven days before making their purchases. About 9 percent of in-store buyers had visited the site on the same day as their purchase in the physical shop.

Further data analysis revealed the online-to-offline effect was particularly strong on mobile. To give an example, mobile visitors converted within stores at an 11 percent higher rate than desktop visitors.

Moreover, mobile visitors’ in-store spend was 8 percent greater than desktop visitors.

What Businesses Can Learn from Petit Bateau

Using Google Analytics to measure online-to-offline purchase behavior paid off for Petit Bateau as it could better understand the impact of online marketing on in-store sales and target customers who research products online. The company was able to use the data to reassess AdWords return on ad spend, which proved to be six times greater with in-store sales incorporated.

A deeper understanding of its in-store transactions is enabling the company to optimize its digital marketing programs and make more informed decisions about its media budget allocation.

For small businesses, understanding how to make the right decisions on marketing budget allocation is an important lesson to be learned. It becomes all the more important for them because they don’t have a lot to spend.

What Petit Bateau has also done really well is shifting budgets from offline to online marketing, with a significant focus on driving new customers through generic search terms. The company has increased its investment on Google Search by 60 percent year-over-year.

Small businesses can take a page from Petit Bateau’s book and learn how focusing on online marketing drives in-store sales and lead to desired results.

What’s more mobile bids have gone up by 20 percent, and mobile’s share of search budget has reached 43 percent, above the current share of mobile traffic. Meanwhile internal communications is now helping store teams to understand digital’s role in the customer journey and to appreciate the growing importance of promoting browsing, digital shopping, buying and comparing.

Petit Bateau is a French fashion house famous for creating high quality, stylish clothing and undergarments. Founded in 1893, the company operates an online store and an international network of 400 shops.

Mobile Shopper Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Mobile Shoppers More Likely to Make In-Store Purchases, Study Finds" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Business Travelers, Click on Google Maps for Third Party Hotel Reviews

google adds third party hotel reviews

Google now shows third party hotel reviews in a quest to provide the best hotel reviews to travelers.

Previously, a search for hotel reviews on Google would show you Google’s own hotel reviews only, but now a quick search for hotel reviews brings up Google’s reviews as well as third party reviews.

Google Now Shows Third Party Hotel Reviews

Google has added an additional section on its reviews page, highlighting reviews from other websites such as Agoda, Priceline, and Booking.com, among others.

One of the reasons that might have forced the tech giant to add third-party reviews on its site is credibility. Many people who are searching for hotels online are now accustomed to reading reviews from different websites.

Google adding third party hotel reviews to their search results might have as well solved the longtime problem where travelers had to search for reviews from a whole lot of websites. The new feature is also linked with Google maps so you get to kill so many birds with a single click.

This additional search feature will probably rub hoteliers the right way. Every hotelier wants direct bookings and now that customers can read a whole lot of reviews from one place then the chances of direct online bookings are going to increase.

Third Party Hotel Reviews – And More!

Besides adding third party reviews, Google has also gone ahead to provide suggestions of other hotels that people frequently searched for within the area. Keep in mind that all this is happening within your Google Maps interface, so you can see directions, read reviews, see nearby hotels and get to compare a variety of reviews across the board.

Both businesses and customers benefit when a service or business is reviewed on Google. Businesses get the chance to directly strengthen their relationship with customers by responding to reviews while customers are able to make informed decisions based on reviews from past customers.

Google has even gone a step further to show you how you can encourage reviews for your business.

Image: Google

This article, "Business Travelers, Click on Google Maps for Third Party Hotel Reviews" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Proper Inventory Management Means Customers Get What They Want and When

inventory management issues

Without a doubt, retail is hot in the United States. According to recent statistics, Americans will spend approximately $182.6k online and $1.8 million offline — in just 20 seconds. People want to buy things, and the sooner they receive their purchase(s), the better.

Although they may want instant gratification when it comes to making purchases, many Americans are buying what they want online. People don’t mind waiting, but not for too long. Plus, they expect to receive exactly what they order.

Unfortunately, inventory management issues can and do wreak havoc on the overall online shopping process. Rather than scaring shoppers away, however, they are more likely to feel frustrated or angry. And where do irate customers often go to vent? Your website or social media platforms, of course.

Inventory Management Issues

These are the top customer complaints, each of which correlates with challenges in inventory management:

  • Receiving the wrong item
  • Not being able to order
  • Shipping delays
  • Being put on a waiting list
  • Receiving broken items

Five of the largest problems in inventory management – which are associated with the top customer complaints – include the following:

1. Mispicks: Picking the wrong item that looks similar to the correct item
2. Overstocking: Purchasing/forecasting that’s not backed by good data that a warehouse management system can provide
3. Understocking: Inaccurate forecasting of product demand
4. Inventory tracking mistakes: Using outdated methods to manage inventory
5. Improper warehouse training: Having all warehouse staff trying to understand the entire system; rushing through training to get orders filled more quickly

Infographic design agency, NowSourcing, along with SkuVault Warehouse Management System, which is a state-of-the-art web-based inventory and warehouse management solution provider, created the infographic, “Where’s My Package?” This infographic details the issues many Ecommerce providers face with delivering online purchases.

One primary way for retailers to identify and track its inventory, or stock, is by using what’s known as a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). Shopify, which is a popular eCommerce software and online store builder,further defines the SKU as “a unique code consisting of letters and numbers that identify characteristics about each product, such as manufacturer, brand, style, color, and size.”

A reliable inventory/warehouse management system, which uses SKU along with other inventory and tracking measurements, resolves or completely prevents the issues mentioned above. And what this means for you and your business is more satisfied customers and repeat business. Maintaining inventory and meeting customer demand is critical for keeping up with buying trends, keeping customers satisfied and voiding inventory management issues. 

Find out more in the infographic below how the right inventory management system helps your Ecommerce business by ensuring your customers get what they want when they want it:

inventory management issues infographic

Image: NowSourcing

This article, "Proper Inventory Management Means Customers Get What They Want and When" was first published on Small Business Trends

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3 Ways to Attract Women to Your Retail Store

how to attract female customers

Every small retailer knows the importance of attracting female customers. Making purchases not only for themselves, but also for their spouses, children, friends and extended families, women wield massive purchasing power and influence, making them a desirable target customer no matter what your store sells. So how can you attract female customers?

How To Attract Female Customers

Eight years after the Great Recession, price continues to be women’s overriding concern, according to a recent study, How Women Shop: Shopping Habits of American Women. Despite a recovering economy, women shoppers have not gotten any looser with their purse strings in the past year. A whopping 97 percent say they are just as sensitive — or more — to price as they were in 2015. In fact, price is the number-one influence on women’s buying decisions — trumping quality, brand, store and availability as the deciding factor.

 This might sound like serious bad news for small retailers — especially when combined with the fact that women love to compare prices and regularly use technology to do so. More than 70 percent use smartphones daily, meaning that as they stand in your store, they can easily buy from Amazon with one click of their fingertips.

But all’s not lost. To lure these desirable customers away from the siren song of online discounts and overnight shipping, try these three strategies:

Rebates, Rewards

Women in the survey love getting rebates — 69 percent say an in-store rebate is an attractive offer. Surprisingly, given their reliance on smartphones, women actually prefer to get post-purchase rewards in the form of plastic prepaid cards rather than digital redemption codes. That doesn’t mean they’ll turn down digital deals, however: Eighty percent say they would accept a $25 promotion on a $100 purchase even if it’s only offered as a digital reward.

Loyalty Programs

Women are also big fans of in-store loyalty programs: Eight out of 10 women in the survey belong to at least one, and overall, they’re very happy with them. There are a wide variety of loyalty programs available that will work for a small retailer, including digital-only programs and those with a plastic card component. Whichever option you choose, loyalty programs benefit you by capturing detailed customer data about each person’s purchasing behavior. You can then use that information to create very targeted and personalized loyalty offers. When sending women loyalty notifications, email is best, preferred by 82 percent of women in the survey. However, 37 percent of women also like getting loyalty offers through apps, while 36 percent like to get them by text message. Ask your customers what method/s they prefer.

Gift Cards and Prepaid Cards

If your retail store doesn’t sell gift cards/prepaid cards, you’re missing out on a huge potential source of revenue. I already mentioned that women would rather get a prepaid card as a post-purchase reward than any other type of reward, but it doesn’t stop there. Three-fourths of women have purchased gift cards in the last year. Two in 10 (19 percent) buy gift cards for themselves; throw in a bonus, gift or reward for purchasing a gift card, and that number doubles to 38 percent. In addition, 70 percent say they would take advantage of exclusive values that require using a gift card, and 54 percent would buy gift cards that can be converted to e-gifts.

Women Shopping Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "3 Ways to Attract Women to Your Retail Store" was first published on Small Business Trends

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eBay Valet Program Lists, Sells and Ships Products for You

eBay Valet Program

Even though ecommerce sales grew at 14.6 percent year over year in 2015 to a grand total of $341.7 billion, it still accounted for only 7.3 percent of total sales. The segment has a long way to go before it catches up to brick and mortar stores, which is why companies are continuously trying to integrate both worlds so consumers can shop without much differentiation.

The expansion of the eBay Valet program to more than 1,600 FedEx Office stores looks to do that by making it more convenient for businesses to ship their items without any hassles.

In addressing the availability of more drop off points, Laura Chambers, Vice President of Consumer Selling, eBay, said:

“We’re investing in solutions and offerings that streamline every stage of the selling process — from listing, to shipping, to successful sales. Our relationship with FedEx Office allows us to offer even more choices to consumers looking to get the most money for their items with the least amount of work … and the peace of mind it will arrive safely.”

eBay Valet Program Handles It All

Just in case you are not aware of the eBay Valet program, it is a professional service that takes care of the entire selling process for its customers.

So how does the eBay Valet program work?

All you have to do is mail in a request for a free postage-paid shipping label, and once you get it, you print it out and attach it to any box. You then take it to your nearest eBay Drop-Off Center, which you can find right here, and that is it.

There are some guidelines as to what type of items the valets accept or don’t accept. These include, items in poor condition, items worth less than $25, breakable items, high-value items that require authentication and more. But once they accept it, the valets will list it for sale within two business days for up to 60 days. When it sells, you will receive payment within two business days.

There is a fee, which is deducted from the sale price of your item. If it is less than $50, it comes out to 60/40, with the largest share going to you. But as the price of the item increases, you get a larger share. It goes up to 70/30 for items that are between $50-$200, and 80/20 if it is more than $200.

There are no shipping costs, and if the item doesn’t sell, the valet will return it to you for free.

Launching a business with just a digital presence is not easy, considering there are more than 800,000 online stores that are vying to get customers through the same gateways. However, if you compliment your small brick and mortar business with an online outlet, you can extend your reach almost anywhere. The eBay Valet and FedEx expansion to 1,600 locations makes that possible without having to be physically present in more than one location.

Do you sell items online? If so, have you used the eBay Valet Program? Please let us know if it has simplified the way you ship your items, and whether the fee is worth the service?

Image: eBay

This article, "eBay Valet Program Lists, Sells and Ships Products for You" was first published on Small Business Trends

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7 Retail Turnoffs That Send Customers Away Screaming

retail turnoffs

Today’s retail environment is more competitive than ever. With big retail chains launching their own apps, installing the latest technology in their locations and offering an omnichannel shopping experience, small retailers have a lot to keep up with. Fortunately, some of the effective ways to put your retail store on a level playing field with the big boys are also the easiest, according to a new study.

Retail Turnoffs

A recent Harris Poll surveyed U.S. customers to find out what their biggest retail turnoffs are, and the results may surprise you. It seems the basics — such as a clean, well-maintained store — make a huge difference in whether customers will return to a particular store. Overall, “general bad odor” is the biggest retail turnoff, cited by 78 percent of those surveyed. Close behind on the list of retail turnoffs:

  • Dirty restrooms (e.g., floors, stalls, mirrors, odor) – 66 percent
  • Dirty surfaces (e.g., dust on displays, dirt on floors) – 65 percent
  • Entryway cleanliness (e.g., cigarette butts, overflowing trash cans, unkempt appearance) – 60 percent
  • Dressing room conditions (e.g., dirty mirrors, dirty floors, broken locks, lighting issues) – 56 percent

Women are more likely than men to be turned off by stores with poor dressing room conditions (65 percent compared to 47 percent). Baby boomers age 65 and up are least likely of any age group to return to a store with physical facility problems.

This study is good news for small retailers, because the problems that drive customers away are easily solved or avoided. You might not be ready to develop your own retail app to compete with the likes of Amazon.com, but you can keep your store clean and well maintained.

What’s the takeaway for your retail store?  Here are some suggestions to help you avoid having retail turnoffs:
1. Keep it clean. Use a janitorial service and/or assign employees to keep the store clean. Pay particular attention to restrooms and dressing rooms. You can institute a schedule and assign employees to monitor these areas and clean them up each hour. Employees can do basic cleaning, such as dusting displays, during slow times while the store is open. Save bigger cleaning jobs, such as mopping or vacuuming, for the end of the day or before the store opens.
2. Make it functional. Broken locks in dressing rooms and plumbing problems affecting toilets or sinks are among the functionality issues that drive customers away. Promptly repair any problems, and maintain a list of preferred plumbers, electricians, locksmiths and other professionals so you and your employees can get help quickly when needed.
3. Light it up. Lighting matters more than you might think. Problems with lighting, such as dim lighting in dressing rooms or flickering lights, turn off 40 percent of customers. If your store isn’t properly lighted, your products won’t be shown to their best advantage. More than that, however, dim lighting can be a safety hazard for senior customers and poorly lighted parking lots or entryways will make female customers wary of visiting your store after dark.
4. Don’t forget the façade. Even if everything inside your store is spic and span, the outside of the building can still turn customers off. Trash in the parking lot or near the store entrance, overflowing trashcans and a run-down look won’t exactly have customers crowding into your store. Do a quick visual scan of your store exterior every morning, and let your landlord know about any problems immediately — before they negatively affect your sales.
4. Safety first. Slippery floors are a turnoff for 52 percent of customers. Unsafe conditions like this not only keep customers from coming back to your store, but can also lead to costly lawsuits if a customer or employee is injured as a result. Have your employees immediately report any safety problems so you can take action.
5. Keep it quiet. More than four out of 10 customers say too-loud music, ringing phones and loud employees are a turnoff. Of course, this may vary depending on whether your target customers are teenagers or seniors, but in general, maintaining appropriate noise levels will ensure everyone stays happy.
6. Take your temperature. A store that’s too cold or too hot will turn off 30 percent of shoppers; more men than women find temperature issues a deal-breaker. Maintain your store at temperature that’s comfortable, while still keeping your utility costs within reason. For example, turning your air-conditioning on early in the day (instead of waiting until it’s sweltering inside) can keep your store cool without forcing your air-conditioning unit to work too hard.
Scream Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "7 Retail Turnoffs That Send Customers Away Screaming" was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Customer Service Tips For Modern Businesses

exceptional customer service

Customer satisfaction is an elusive concept for every business, be it a huge corporation or a small startup. Companies have spent millions compiling statistics, research, interviews, focus groups, etc. trying to determine the magic formula for a loyal customer and repeat visitor.

Every client is different and therefore will be pleased or disappointed by a myriad of personal exchanges and outcomes. Needs are different for every customer. A single person generally won’t have the same needs as a business. A small business will most likely have different needs than a large business. There is one thing in common for everyone though; they expect exceptional customer service from the business they are dealing with.

Exceptional Customer Service Tips

Every person wants to feel important, and like their needs and issues are being met with sincerity and competence.  Customer service in the past meant greeting a customer when they walked in and addressed any concerns or questions in person. We are immersed in an almost entirely digital world. It is guaranteed while you may understand why your online business is unique and important; and you or your company are the right person for the job, that’s hard to tell for an average consumer.

If your company is entirely online, whether a startup or an established corporation, you can’t risk a bad customer experience. According to this American Express study (PDF) having exceptional customer service and satisfaction not only correlates to existing clients spending more money; it also means attracting new clients. Loyalty, word of mouth, and satisfaction are things that can sometimes make or break a business. A good reputation is important for growth and success.  That’s why the customer experience should be one of if not the most important keystones of your marketing platform.

Start Off On the Right Customer Service Foot

If a potential customer has received no personal recommendations from a friend or colleague, they open up their computer, search for the product or service they want, and start to narrow down the data to find what might work for them. While your website or app might be sleek and beautiful, engaging and easy to use, people will still have questions. Your team may be impressive and come with high accolades, people will still have questions. An individual embarking on a new career path they might not be familiar with yet, will appreciate customer service the most. For instance, someone trying to grow their small business online with a mobile app or website design would appreciate feeling welcomed and encouraged the second they open your page.

This is where the opportunity to provide exceptional customer service experience from the very beginning first presents itself. A live chat option can be immensely helpful. It has the personal touch of speaking to a real person with the convenience of distancing yourself from a product you aren’t fully invested in yet. It makes a customer feel heard and acknowledged without the pressure of feeling the need to buy or upgrade. Often just a simple live chat icon somewhere visible on the page helps let the customer know right from the second they discover your page, you are willing to help.

Not all businesses implement live chat and not everyone needs to. However, having a Contact Us tab or a FAQ link viewable when first browsing a site is important. The customer has only begun to consider your business, and they already feel important and appreciated. Which is hopefully how you want them to feel!

Follow Through

A customer is interested in your business. They hopefully want what you are selling. You have already answered most of their questions with a help option of some kind. If it is an item they are buying you need to make sure the entire process is seamless. A person shouldn’t have to select purchase, enter in their card information, and then find out the item is out of stock or discontinued. Purchasing an item already decided upon shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.

For an online service such as design, app building, marketing, etc. alongside a website that shows your work and success; accessibility is key. For an optimum customer experience, you need to be accessible. Respond in a timely manner. It’s infuriating to submit a question online but not receive a reply for three days, or worse an automated message that addresses zero concerns.  After all someone is paying you for a service.

If you are a larger start up company and can’t keep up with all the communication, hiring a third party site, a part time assistant, or even an intern can help. A customer who feels as if his needs are met during the process is more likely to use you for all their needs in the future. And as their business grows, so does your likelihood of good word of mouth from them to their colleagues, friends or family.

Recognize and Engage Feedback

It is reported that 88 percent of customers look at other reviews when deciding to buy an item or commit to a business. Of those over half will take some sort of positive action whether it is visiting the website or searching for further content.

Whatever social media your company utilizes; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., it is important to acknowledge a customer or client’s recognition, either good or bad. It takes an instant for someone to post a status or tweet an opinion about a company. It takes an instant for hundreds of people to see it. A business looks engaged and invested when they respond publicly to a compliment or complaint.

Alternatively, a poor response or none at all can tend to gain momentum, and can forever link your business with a poor opinion in a reader’s mind. Responding positively will be seen by others and place your brand in their mind for future choices. It doesn’t hurt to remind the public of your business and likability. And often times it pays off with recognition and appreciation when businesses treat their clients as a priority.  And let’s be honest, it feels good as a client to be endorsed by a company you’re working with.

Customer Dissatisfaction

Problems will happen. Things will go wrong. The most important part of a small online business is personal engagement and creating loyalty. Whether it is questions or complaints, to build a superior customer experience you need options. Some clients don’t have the time to call in for a simple question or issue.

Other clients might not feel comfortable typing all their concerns and questions online. The most important thing is a response, preferably an engaging response. A person shouldn’t have just one choice on how to reach a company. Ideally, there should be a social media option, an email option, and/ or a direct phone contact option. Live chats and additional strategies are added bonuses. When someone is dissatisfied they often just want recognition, an explanation, or a product exchange or refund. Providing a prompt and concerned response can settle a dispute and convince a customer they are valued and should keep their business with you.

Stay Innovative

As your customers grow and change, grow with them. Staying on top of their evolving needs is important. Once you’ve developed a client following and a method for attracting new business you are on the path to a successful future. Having a loyal client base means you get to take the kinds of innovative and exciting initiatives for the direction you want your company to head.

Customer Service Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "5 Customer Service Tips For Modern Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends

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