Price Your Products To Sell This Holiday Season

Pricing for the Holidays

Terms like “big data” and “revenue management” can seem intimidating to some small-business owners, but big data has revealed some great insights that are applicable to businesses of any size. Here are some insights small business owners can use this holiday season.

The Power of Price

One important thing big data reveals is that “price sensitivity,” or how much a customer cares about changes in price, drastically differs depending on the product and time of year. Here is an example which small businesses can use this holiday season.

“There are at least two types of customers shopping for Christmas gifts. You have what are called deal-seekers who are out early and are looking for the black Friday deals and for those deep discounts at the very beginning of the season. Then there are the procrastinators who are shopping on December 24th. Their priority is to get something and to get it as close to what their intended recipient wants, and to be able to do it quickly. So you can infer just from those two descriptions that there are different levels of price sensitivity for those two different types of customers.”

Capitalizing on Price Sensitivity

Smart businesses can make more money by approaching the two differently. Offer deep discounts at the start of the season to capture those deal seekers, and make sure to hold onto some inventory at the very end to capture procrastinators at higher prices.

The type of product also matters a great deal. There is a subset of products known as “key value items.” Key value items are the products that a retailer carries that best represent that brand’s price perception. So those key items are front and center in a consumer’s mind when they think “Oh, retailer X is expensive” or “retailer Y is a good value.”

Outside of those core products, customers don’t care quite as much. Keep a close eye on the price of core products related to online and local competitors, but see if there’s wiggle room in other places.

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma

Christmas Is ‘aComing Sooner Than You Think

Planning For The Holidays

Less than 80 Days until Christmas with Halloween and Thanksgiving coming in between. So now is the time to start managing your Holiday Markdowns. 

It’s hard to imagine not getting full price on that brand new merchandise that you’re just unpacking and putting on your shelves. But eventually you’re going to discover that some of it isn’t selling like you thought it would and you have to mark it down. It’s just part of doing business. 

You can minimize markdowns but you can’t eliminate them completely. If you’ve made a poor assortment choice (and everyone does at one time or another), turn that excess merchandise into quick cash and reinvest it in a better selection that you can sell at full margin. 

Holding on to bad merchandise in the hope that it will eventually sell at full price just doesn’t work. Bite the bullet and mark those “Dogs” down. 

Don’t wait to take your markdowns – especially if the items are seasonal. The sooner you do it, the more likely it is that you’ll have to take a smaller percent off. 

And now for the plug! If you had been using a retail product like CounterPoint Point of Sale software, you could have run a Sales Analysis report that would have shown what was selling and what wasn’t –  how fast it was selling and what was giving you the best profit margin. What a big step in aligning your merchandise with what your customers want! 

Enough said. 

Talk to you soon  ~Norma

‘Tis The Season – For Flu And Other Dreaded Employee Bugs

I’ve published this article before, but I believe a timely reminder is always in order for the dreaded “bug” season just when many of you are going into the busiest time of your year. You can’t keep your employees from being exposed but you can take steps to lessen the effects. What you need to do is:

Practice Preventive Medicine
Money, paper money in particular, is covered with viruses, bacteria and things you don’t even want to think about. Stores can have a real staffing problem when employees get sick. So, what do you do?

Keep an "anti-bacterial wash" on the counter. These products require no rinsing and only take a few seconds to use.

Clean the telephone and register keys. Do this periodically throughout the day and definitely at the end of the night.

Equip bathrooms with anti-bacterial soap and paper towels. Stock extras during the cold and flu season. Encourage frequent hand washing.

Consider paying for flu shots for your staff. Give them time during their shift to go get it. A few dollars and an hour or two of payroll could save you a lot of lost time and productivity.

Make employees stay home when they’re sick. Infecting the rest of your staff will only cause bigger scheduling problems later on.

Everything starts with management. If the staff sees you taking care of yourself, they are more likely to do the same. Provide them with the tools and set an example. Chances are you will all have a good shot at lessening the winter illness battle.

Talk to you soon. ~Norma

"Excerpted from Whizbang Training ‘Tip of the Week`"

Cyber criminals target SMBs

Small and Medium Size Businesses (SMB’s) should focus on ‘a risk-based’ approach to threat

 

A large majority of big businesses have heeded the decades-long warnings from information security experts and have  invested enough in security to make it difficult, expensive and risky for cyber criminals to attack them.

So criminals are seeking easier and safer ways to make money.  According to Verizon’s 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, they do it by attacking smaller businesses.

Cyber criminals are mass producing their attack techniques and targeting SMBs. Wade Baker of Verizon’s Security Division says SMBs are "easy targets" for organized cybercrime compared with larger enterprises.

"Cyber criminals have figured out that if their goal is to make money, attacking a large organization that’s well defended and probably has ties to law enforcement that is going to pursue them, is a high-risk solution."

A mass-produced attack against smaller organizations with fewer defenses is, "a very low risk," Baker said.

What can smaller organizations do?
Obviously SMBS don’t have the same level of resources, but the potential cost of a breach means you can’t afford to ignore the risk either. It has been estimated that the average organizational cost of a data breach was $5.5 million last year, and the cost per lost or stolen record was $194."

 
The short protection answer is to determine which threats present the greatest risk to the business. In a recent risk assessment done for an SMB, risks were ranked in the following order:


Vulnerability management:

Find and fix software vulnerabilities on servers and desktops. Focus on critical systems first and don’t forget about third party applications.

Endpoint protection:

Use anti-virus software, host intrusion detection/prevention tools, host firewalls, e-mail scanning and web security technology. A Note For Our CounterPoint Customers: CCS can set up these protection devices for you and makes sure they will work well with your CounterPoint software.

Strong password policies:

Rigorously enforce changing of default passwords, no sharing of passwords, use of complex passwords and frequently changing them. CounterPoint has built in features that administrators can set to enforce these policies.

 

Security awareness:

Train workers on company security policies and common threats. Make sure they know how to respond to suspicious activity, how to recognize social engineering attacks, and how to use their computers safely. CCS can help you here also.

 

Access controls:

Minimize the number of staff with administrator privileges.

 

Denial-of-service mitigation plan:

This is imperative for any business that relies on the Internet. Talk to a CCS tech for information and help.

 

No system is every completely impenetrable but good practices will greatly lessen the risk. As a former Navy Admiral and National Security Agency director stated, “85% of the security risk to businesses could be eliminated with good cyber hygiene."

 

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma

Marketing – Planning Is The Key!

Planning is the key!

Good news! There are lots of people out there with money to spend on what you sell. 
And marketing is the activity that connects you and your store to all those people who are spending money on the things you’re selling. Think about that very carefully…

Marketing connects your store to the money

Here’s the problem. There are a thousand different marketing options, a thousand great offers, a thousand nice ad salespeople, a thousand possible ways to market your business.  Some of those thousand possibilities would be good for your business – some might not be.But doing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that and HOPING that some of it works is just grasping at straws.

HOPE is not a good marketing strategy!


Your Retail Marketing Road-trip

Think of your marketing like a road trip for just a minute. A road trip from, say, Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California.



One type of road trip is to get in your car, pull out of the driveway and HOPE you get to Los Angeles eventually. You don’t really know where you’re going; you just drive around for a while going here a little bit, there a little bit and maybe end up in Arizona until someone points you west again. You’re likely to run out of money, time, and interest before you ever get to L.A. 




Just hoping to get there – trying to get there without a plan – isn’t effective or efficient. Do you see where I’m heading here? That type of road trip is like trying to connect your store to the money without a marketing plan. 

Now a different kind of road trip would be if you knew you had to get from Seattle to Los Angeles in 5 days and you had $2000 to get there. The first thing to do would be to buy a map and plan out the shortest route between Seattle and Los Angeles. Then you’d figure out how much you had to spend on gas and that would be the first expense that would come out of the $2000.


You’d plan out how many nights you’d need a hotel room and how many meals you’d have to buy. Finally, if you had any money or time left over, you could think about doing something fun like taking the Coast Highway south along the Pacific and through Big Sur. Or maybe stop off in San Francisco.

Do you see how that changes things?


The person with the plan gets the most things done, the best things done, the right things done. They make it to Los Angeles with the least stress and have the most fun.
And that’s what a marketing plan can do for you! It’s how you get from where you are now in your business to where the money is…

The right plan leads you down the highway – smooth and fast and straight. Marketing without a plan is like driving the back roads hoping you’ll get from Seattle to Lost Angeles via Bryce Canyon, Utah. You can do it, but it’s not the easiest, fastest or the best way to get there.

 
If your marketing isn’t working, if you feel like you’re beating your head against the wall, you can make changes. You can create a new road-map, a new marketing plan.

 
When all the pieces of your marketing plan come together, good things happen.  Just remember the key words – Plan Plan Plan.
 

Talk to you soon ~ Norma

Using CounterPoint? Need A Good Accounting Package?

PBS SQL Integration With CPSQL
 

 

If you’ve been looking for an outstanding Accounting Package and one that has been built to work extremely well with NCR’s CounterPoint SQL then wait no longer. 

Customers using both PBS™ SQL by Passport Software and NCR’s CPSQL® can now enjoy an enhanced integration level between the two packages. Prior PBS versions were integrated to CPSQL on an import/export basis, but starting with the release of PBS V12.02, the following direct integration has been added: 

General Ledger valid account synchronization with CP SQL

In CounterPoint SQL when a GL account is added, a Valid GL account will automatically be created in the PBS Valid GL Account File and will show up as "*NEW*" in PBS to alert accounting personnel that a full GL Account File entry is needed. 

The Valid GL Account File is used to validate transactions in sub-ledgers and will provide the perfect vehicle to communicate the need for a new account by the Purchasing Department to the Accounting Department. 

This will facilitate the Create Distributions function in CP SQL when sending distributions to PBS General Ledger, as the account will be recognized and not create an error message for the Accounting Department to handle. They will have known of the new account and prepared the way they choose to handle it, speeding the process of posting distributions. 

Vendor account synchronization with CP SQL

When vouchering inventory receipts in CP SQL, the PBS Vendor File will be checked to make sure that there is a vendor on file and if there is not, a vendor will be added with the basic information from the CP SQL vendor record and the "*NEW*" designation so that the Accounts Payable Department may fully set up additional vendor information needed. 

This will reduce the redundant entry of Vendor information and improve the flow of payables transactions.   

Bank deposits created for CP AR & POS update directly into PBS SQL Check Rec checkbook

In CP SQL Accounts Receivable, the cash receipts for the day will create a deposit total for entry into Check Reconciliation, the PBS checking account management solution that helps track bank account activity and balances. 

CP SQL POS also creates deposit information for the drawer summary totals by pay type which, along with the AR cash receipts, may then be combined to create the deposits to the correct checking accounts. 

This means that if credit card transactions go to one account while cash and checks go to another account, the deposits may be constructed from the appropriate amounts. This feature greatly simplifies the preparation and tracking of deposits and ties back directly to the CP SQL history files and audit reporting.   

In addition to the integration features listed above, PBS SQL tables may now be accessed directly through CP SQL “Views”.  This feature allows drill downs into vendor history to show payments of vendor invoices. Drilling down into GL transactions allows viewing of GL activity by account.   

Can your current software do that? Take a look at: http://www.pass-port.com/sql

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma

Conflict Resolution Revisited

How should you react when asked to play Solomon?

How should you – as an owner or store manager – react when asked to play Solomon? I’ve discussed this before but I feel it bears repeating. If there are conflicts between employees, it is bound to affect your customers and the service they receive.

 

So again: How should you react when asked to play Solomon? It happens. Points of contention develop and often escalate until they finally reach the person in charge. When that happens, remember that there is a process for every situation.

 

I’ve listed some ideas below for clearing up misunderstandings and reducing tension among the troops. If issues aren’t resolved, they can disrupt the cohesiveness of your staff and will most likely affect your bottom line.

 

On-going issues are difficult to resolve by e-mail. This means you either pick up the phone or schedule a quick meeting. It’s generally best to schedule a meeting rapidly to prevent further misunderstandings.

 

Build a reasonable path forward: Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. Develop reasonable next steps or actions that can include short-term wins for all parties involved.

 

Instead of saying "No," say "Not now": Sometimes it’s tempting to just say no. But a better approach is to say "not now, but it’s something we can look at in the future."

 

Be the honey, not the vinegar: It’s easier to resolve issues if you remain calm and polite rather than confrontational (no matter how tempting it is). Use as much humor, optimism and enthusiasm as you can muster. Yelling or using intimidation might work in the short term – after all, you ARE the owner or manager. But in the long term it will undermine the trust and loyalty of your employees.

 

Don’t throw people under the bus, and don’t let your staff do it: Blame is not productive. And generally, one person is seldom solely responsible for a problem. There may have been a misunderstanding and/or incomplete information or instructions given. Whatever the reason, the important thing is to make corrections and move forward. There is absolutely no benefit in shooting the messenger or pointing fingers.

 

Remember – With a little bit of effort, you can always find a process for every issue without resorting to emotion in order to counter emotion.

 

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma

 

Four Ways To Sell Gift Cards Using Social Media

Ways you can use social media to sell and promote your gift cards.
 

Gift cards can boost sales during the holidays and help you generate revenue through the year – but all of your competitors are going to be competing with you for a big slice of the pie this season. Of course, you can place the cards by the registers and put marketing materials in your store – but are you doing anything your competitors aren’t?

Here are four ways you can use social media to sell and promote your gift cards.

Ask A Question

Do a hash tag contest on Twitter or a trivia contest on Facebook to help generate conversations. From the participants, choose one person at random to receive a free $5 gift card. When the card is redeemed, the winner is very likely to spend more than the value of the card and will most likely tell his/her friends about the experience he/she had with your business. Just make sure you follow Facebook’s promotion guidelines. 

Hold A Secret Giveaway

People love to be part of something exclusive. Encourage your fans and followers to purchase gift cards with a “secret password” giveaway on a consistent day of the week. You could name it Terrific Tuesday, Super Saturday or Thank You Thursday. Choose your day and a catchy name. On that day each week, release a password for a free $5 gift card awarded with any gift card purchase and when the customer says the secret password. For example: 

“Hey! It’s Super Saturday! For being our Facebook fan, you’ll get a FREE $5 gift card with any gift card purchase when you show up and say ‘geranium’ to our cashiers! See you soon!” 

Make Them Find It 

Hide a loaded gift card somewhere around town. Once it’s been carefully secured, begin giving hints about its whereabouts on your social media pages. As you continue to release clues, you’re reminding your fans that you have gift cards and you’re also increasing interest in your audience. Once the gift card is found, the winner must post or tweet a photo of the location before the card can be used. This will let the rest of those who are looking know it’s been found.  But don’t stop there. Tell your fans to keep watching for the next contest. 

Sign them up

Create an email marketing sign-up form on your Facebook page. If you’re not sure how to do that, you can use any one of a number of third-party applications that will walk you through the steps. Promise to give a $50 gift card to one lucky winner who signs up for your email campaign during a certain time frame. You can then take those email addresses and add them to your database. The first email campaign you should send? That’s right, gift cards! 

As a business person, you’re want to know how you can judge the success of these campaigns. Have they improved your bottom line? Well, if you’re using retail software like NCR CounterPoint the answer is easy! Run a comparison report! Check sales for the item, or the time period last year or the year before or the year before that and this year. This is the simplest of reports. You may want to see if the store’s overall sales increased, and if there was any marked change in which items – other than gift cards – sold the best. This is just one example of the many options NCR CounterPoint has to help you run your business profitably. 

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma

Customer Complaints Can Be Good For Business

Dealing with customer complaints

Dealing with customer complaints is part of doing business.  Handle them correctly and you look like a hero. Handle them badly, and there’s a good chance the customer is out the door and on the phone (or worse yet – the Internet) telling everyone they know about what a terrible business you run.


In his book, ‘How To Win Customers And Keep Them For Life’, Michael LeBoeuf cites some powerful statistics…

·        96% of people who experience a problem with a small ticket item or service, do not complain.

·        This means that for every person who complains, 24 feel the same but do not say anything.

·        91% of those people who do not complain, do not do business with that company again. 

When someone complains, they are giving you a gift – a chance to make what’s wrong, right.


Here are four steps to help turn almost any customer complaint into a positive experience.


Step One:  Say, “Thank you.”
By thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention you are showing your willingness to listen. You’re also removing a lot of the anxiety people feel when they have a complaint.   They’re probably prepared for a confrontation. A genuine, “Thank you for letting us know!” sets a better tone.


Even if you disagree with your customer, you can still be grateful that they told you about the problem. Remember, their complaint is a gift. Treat it like one.

They may be saying, “The color is wrong,” when they mean, “It makes me look fat.”  Don’t judge or jump to conclusions. Continue the conversation until you think you’ve discovered the real reason.

Step Two:  Ask questions and LISTEN.
Some people are hard to read, or may not be telling the truth. But do your best to understand their real problem.


Step Three:  Be empathetic.

Acknowledge how they feel. Apologize if it’s appropriate. People can tell if you are trying really trying to understand, or are just pretending to understand.


Be on your customer’s side, even if you think they are the cause of the problem. If you get into an argument with your customer, you lose.  You might win the argument, but you’ll lose the customer. 

 

A simple and sincere, “What would you like me to do?” is the best way to handle it.  Experience shows that if you give your customers the power to pick a solution they will almost always be reasonable. Of course, there may be an occasional idiot who makes an outrageous request, but deal with these situations on an individual basis.


As a rule, give your customers the benefit of the doubt. Don’t treat it as though they’re taking advantage of you – treat it as a gift they’re giving you!


One final statistic…  “A customer that has their problem satisfactorily solved will provide 3 times the revenue as a customer that has never had a problem.”


Note:

It pays to empower your staff (at least your managers) to make things right. They may make an occasional mistake, but the benefit of amazing service far outweighs the occasional error that comes from inexperience.

 

Talk to you soon.  ~Norma
 

Step Four:  Solve the problem!

Start Thinking Now About Your Holiday Gift Cards

Gift Cards

There are158 days left until Christmas – 21 weeks! But of course, Christmas shoppers have been buying for a month or 3 before that December deadline. If you haven’t started thinking about your holiday gift cards, get busy. These will be one of your biggest sellers.

Why You Need Gift Cards Especially during the Holidays, Gift cards are a top holiday purchase. The trend continues to grow year after year. According to a Holiday survey, 66% of consumers planned to purchase at least one gift card during the season, placing gift cards as one of the top holiday purchases. Here are a few key reasons gift cards are a key ingredient to a retailer’s holiday success:

·        Everyone loves to receive a gift card Gift cards are an easy, convenient purchase for shoppers. Gift cards also target last minute shoppers, as well as people who don’t want to participate in the shopping bustle. Place your gift cards by the POS terminals as a last minute reminder.

·        Redemption increases sales According to a study, 61% of gift card recipients spend 20% more than the value. And those shoppers are shopping off-season, primarily in January, which extends your holiday shopping season. In fact, over 60% of gift card redemption’s occur in January

·        Interest-free business loan Selling a gift card is like getting an instant loan, and sometimes you don’t even have to pay it back. Another survey found that nearly half (47%) of consumers have at least one unused gift card. In addition, it is estimated unused gift cards equate to $8 billion and up each year. Now that is an economic stimulus!

And remember, Gift Card processing is included in your CounterPoint Point of Sale system.

Talk to you soon  ~Norma