Retail Gets Back to Work

While many organizations had planned to bring employees back into offices by September 2021, the Delta variant reminded them yet again of the pandemic’s watchword: agility. Many employers have now delayed re-opening.

It’s yet another challenge for retailers responding to changes in products ordered online as employees prepare to return to the workplace.

“Retailers have to be nimble because things are changing fast and it’s not always obvious which way they’re going,” says Craig Ross, vice president of sales for the e-commerce platform offered by TrueCommerce.

Even so, retailers already see an uptick in certain types of “back to work” products purchased online by both businesses and consumers. Some products, including cosmetics and workplace apparel, are in categories that saw a significant drop in sales when people began working from home. Others, such as computer hardware and other technology gear, see changes in who’s making the purchase, the size of the order, and where it’s being delivered.

The challenge for some retailers is the flip-flop between business-to-consumer and business-to-business ordering, reports Samuel Parker, product evangelist at inventory management platform provider Cin7. For example, work-from-home employees who needed to outfit their new remote workspaces typically ordered what they needed online for home delivery and were reimbursed by their employers.

To meet that demand, some brands that typically sell wholesale to retailers began shifting to direct-to-consumer fulfillment. Today, with offices staffing up again, those brands need to maintain that option for those working remotely while returning to filling wholesale orders, too.

Parker is seeing this play out at his Colorado workplace, where people who returned during the summer had new monitors waiting. “During the pandemic, the manufacturer wasn’t selling these monitors wholesale to Office Depot and Staples—it had shifted to selling directly to individuals,” he says. Now they have to resume pallet shipping alongside pick-and-pack fulfillment.

Amazon Business reports an increase in office furniture orders as organizations ease the transition back to the workplace with creature comforts that include ergonomic chairs and standing desks. They’re also purchasing other tech products such as videoconferencing headsets for office use.

“Video conference-based work is still going strong and will continue to be strong even with a return to the office because most people will still be in virtual meetings from here on out,” notes Petra Schindler-Carter, director and general manager for Amazon Business.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS 2.0

Retailers are also struggling to understand whether workplace dress codes are relaxing after 18 months of remote work hoodies and pajama bottoms.

Wall Street workers have ditched suits in favor of a more casual look—jeans with a blazer, for example, the New York Times reports. And apparel retailers who figure it out can’t get inventory quickly enough because of supply chain challenges.

“Before the pandemic, retailers could switch seasons and get new apparel from Asia to shelves in four to six weeks,” says Ross. “Now, it’s not only a question of getting the right mix, but they also have to be right about that earlier because lead times are a lot longer today.”

And where do those products get delivered? Pre-pandemic, many online shoppers had orders sent to the office for reasons that include protecting their goods from porch thieves. With hybrid work schedules and fluid delivery timelines, it can be difficult to decide which delivery address to select for that new business-casual outfit.

The delivery location decision could lead to a facilities challenge. “What happens if your mailroom isn’t fully staffed every day?” asks Krish Iyer, head of industry relations for ShipStation. “This can have a cascading effect on receiving and loading docks. I don’t think enough employers have thought about it, especially small to mid-sized enterprises with limited space.”

Retailers can reduce anxiety about delivery dates by giving e-commerce customers in-cart delivery timelines to help them make more informed decisions, Iyer says. Make it possible for shoppers to change delivery addresses or dates mid-order with intercept tools such as those offered by UPS and FedEx.

Iyer also advocates for moving inventory as close to the customer as possible so that it’s easier to pinpoint delivery timing.

But warehouse space is at a premium (see sidebar). Kaspien, which sells private label products and assists other brands selling on large retail platforms, had to make warehouse adjustments to meet back-to-work and other seasonal demands after Amazon reduced its available warehouse space.

“We had to diversify our warehouse and fulfillment options to two to three other dropship locations rather than using Amazon,” says Denise Abraham, Kaspien’s director of private label sourcing.

As part of this strategy, she uses sales data to create “heat maps” that help determine what inventory to place in which warehouses. It’s a strategy that Inna Kuznetsova, CEO of 1010data, recommends because product demand is shifting based on regions that are and aren’t returning to offices.

“There’s a huge need to look at the data on a granular level,” she says. “The big chains have started looking at this by state, ZIP code, and community to drive adjustments on a granular level.”

LABOR DAY

Warehouses and fulfillment centers are getting creative to address a labor shortage, too. “Companies struggling with a labor shortage might consider temporary workers, going to agencies for help, or outsourcing a portion of their operations to a third-party logistics provider,” advises Angela Jones, assistant professor of supply chain management at Howard University School of Business.

Agile. Nimble. Resourceful. It’s more than gymnastics commentary. It’s the strategy e-commerce retailers need in place to help people return to workplaces that might look a little different than before—in more ways than one.

 

Originally published by Inbound Logistics here.

“How Cin7 saves us $130,000 a year.”

Jennifer Xidias on how Cin7’s inventory management integrations saves Peta+Jain time and hundreds of thousands of dollars, every year.

One of the most quantifiable things in my decision to go with Cin7 as my software choice was not only its futuristic focus, but also the amount we could save on our IT spend.

 

Most companies allocate a spend for marketing or IT improvements. We spend a lot of money on marketing. As one of Australia’s fastest-growing fashion companies, we have to keep relevant with competing brands. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, everything was postponed.

So, when I was looking for an inventory management solution, I needed a good IT product that suited what we did and was great value for money.

Cin7 is that product. It has seriously saved us about $130k this year alone, through not having to employ extra warehouse and admin staff. And when it comes to time savings, with our Shopify, The Iconic and Starshipit integrations now operational, it saves hours every day not having to key in the data manually or create spreadsheets to import.

 

Over the last 12 months, orders through our own website (powered by Shopify) and the Iconic Marketplace have steadily grown, from around an average of 50 orders per week to well over 200 per week. At sale times, this can reach around 100 per day.

Before Cin7, we were manually entering the shipping details into Australia Post and Excel to create consignments and picking lists, and then updating the tracking numbers in The Iconic and Shopify. As you can see, this was extremely labour-intensive during peak volume times!

We then moved to downloading the orders and creating spreadsheets to upload into Australia Post and update the tracking numbers. This was less labour intensive, but still a time-consuming process. It would still take at least one hour of time twice a day for the warehouse to just do the paperwork. The other downside of this system was that someone would generally have to then key all of the Shopify and The Iconic orders into MYOB to remove the stock and record the sale. This could then take at least another hour of time per day or if 100 orders, several hours.

The last issue that we had was that we would then have to remove The Iconic invoices every two weeks, and re-key their invoice to align with the actual statement from The Iconic, so that our records matched with what we were getting paid.

 

Our Cin7 implementation has removed all these issues. With our new, automated workflow, we’re saving at least 30 hours a fortnight. Also, with Cin7 integrating directly with The Iconic, reconciling orders from that channel only requires a two-second journal, each fortnight, to take up the commission amounts as all orders and stock are automatically taken care of. This makes for an additional saving of three hours a fortnight.

As well as the colossal time saving, we’re also saving $130,000 a year on not having to hire employees to do hours of tedious work. If we hadn’t used Cin7 to integrate our systems to deal with our rapid growth, and replace those manual processes, we would have required an additional two employees (one in the warehouse, and one admin person) to assist with all of the paperwork. Shopify and The Iconic are only part of our business, and we’d still need to deal with all of the other wholesale customer orders each day, and pack and ship their orders too.

The cost of each additional employee is approximately $65k per year, which gives us a cost saving of $130k a year.

The Cin7, Iconic, Shopify and Starshipit integrations give the warehouse manager and I approximately two day’s worth of time per week to concentrate on other parts of our business, without having to get other staff. I love Cin7. I think it’s a fantastic product.

3 Examples of Creative Brick-and-Mortar

What is retail in this day-and-age? eCommerce has changed the landscape so quickly, it may be difficult for small or new businesses to see how or if a physical store fits in their strategy.

Yes, the customers are out there and they continue to shop in store more than online, at least for the time being. But there has to be a good reason and that’s where creative brick-and-mortar comes in.

For people like me who’ve never made and sold our own product, this seems like a big challenge. And I have to admire anyone who can marry their passion with a great product to come up with a creative brick-and-mortar solution.

True, there are plenty of valid retail formats that businesses can explore to stretch their creative brick-and-mortar thinking. Pop-up shops, markets, the store-within-a-store.

But creative brick-and-mortar goes beyond opening a door and hoping customers will step inside. It’s about knowing who that customer is first, what they want, and how best to get it to them. At least that’s what some recent examples of creative brick-and-mortar thinking seem to accomplish.

Creative Brick-and-Mortar in the Right Location

New York City commuters are always on the go and there are a ton of choices for them to quickly pick up a snack or a drink on their way. But New Stand launched its chain of convenience stores in 2015 to target millennials looking for healthier options when in a rush. New Stand set up small but sleek shops at busy locations where they sell snacks and a mix of other items, like natural beauty products, headphones, and greeting card, and ties in its brand with an app that signs customers up as members to receive special deals. The strategy has attracted customers and the company plans to open 20 more locations this year.

The Unique Product Offering

You probably know people who have eaten dough before it was baked into cookies. You may even be one of those people. Kristen Tomlan knew and launched an online business called DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections to match the public appetite for such a, well, decadent treat. When she realized there were no other stores in New York City that offered a similar product, she decided to open a brick-and-mortar flagship store, capitalizing on a niche market with a recognizable brand and a creative product experience.

Creative Brick-and-Mortar is Also Digital

Physical retail has to adopt digital strategies to unify their online and in-store shopping experience and customers expect it. A recent survey of 2,000 shoppers showed that 78% will buy or reserve a product before going into a store. While the above examples focused on small creative brick-and-mortar, a US furniture chain called The Mine has adopted technology to give customers 3D views of their luxury home furnishings products, with the goal of “wow”-ing customers over their products, whether they come to the store or shop online.

5 Best Ways to Attract Customers to your Retail Shop

5 sure-fire tips for getting more shoppers through your door.

The primary goal of any retail business is to attract and retain customers. A steady flow of new customers will allow you to grow your business. Here are five tips to help you improve in-store traffic.

1. Store layout

Having an effective store layout is essential to keep customers in your retail shop for longer. According to Shopify, the threshold area is the first space the customers will step into upon arriving at your store so you need to make sure that this area stands out the most- in terms of lighting, display, and color, to draw customers in.

It is a known fact in the retail environment that 90% of customers will subconsciously turn to the right when entering a store, therefore this section will give the most impact on their first impression and needs extra attention in terms of what you choose to display and how you display it.

Another thing to keep in mind: create a walking path that leads customers through the whole store. This will allow them to view more of your products, increasing the chances that they will make a purchase. Bob Phibbs, an owner of the Retail Doctor, also suggests minimizing store counters as they are often seen as psychologically separating the store owner or sales clerk from customers. This tends to create an “us vs. them” mentality and sends the wrong signals. The employees should be walking the floor to make your store less intimidating, more welcoming, livelier and packed.

2. Online presence

According to Retail News, many consumers won’t even consider shopping with a brand that doesn’t have a strong online presence.

A website is just the start. In this day and age when social media has taken over the internet, businesses have the opportunity to reach thousands of customers instantaneously. By using social media, you are allowing yourself to reach a wider range of target customers.

It is essential to maintain your online presence by regularly posting on your social media accounts and updating your website. Interesting content, imagery and exclusive deals will help you build a loyal following.

Auckland fashion store, Glamour Boutique created a way to bring online and in-store together- they provide a FaceTime service for customers. With computers set up in their store, the staff is able to chat with customers, face-to-face, show them the latest arrivals and give them a more personalized shopping experience. Their customers love this feature as they are able to make their online shopping experience more enjoyable. As a result, Glamour Boutique also noticed a significant increase in sales and repeat business because of this.

Customers tend to remember their experience while shopping more than anything. Since the employees are the ones representing your shop’s image, it is important that they deliver outstanding customer service and professionalism, according to Insider Monkey. This can be done by first building a relationship with your employees, developing a bond, listening to any of their suggestions and possibly implementing an incentive reward for motivation. Satisfied employees are more likely to put in more effort while working and achieve noticeable results.

3. Training staff consistently

Customers tend to remember their experience while shopping more than anything. Since the employees are the ones representing your shop’s image, it is important that they deliver outstanding customer service and professionalism, according to Insider Monkey. This can be done by first building a relationship with your employees, developing a bond, listening to any of their suggestions and possibly implementing an incentive reward for motivation. Satisfied employees are more likely to put in more effort while working and achieve noticeable results.

4. Having a sale

Sales always tend to be a big appeal to any customer. They can be easily swayed by that sense of urgency that comes with limited time offers. Start by contacting your customer database through an email newsletter informing them of upcoming sales and other events they might be interested in. As for your retail store, make it obvious that there is a sale going on by posting up huge sale signs in red.

Ever wonder why the color red is always used for sale signs? According to a Shopify, a study was done to show that people tend to react faster when they see the color red due to the fact that it is programmed in our minds as the cue for danger. This is why retailers use this color to grab customers’ attention.

Remember to also use a strong call to action for effective results such as “Be quick” or “Buy now”. This should get customers rushing through your door in no time. According to Shopify, a case study was done by the team at ConversionXL which showed that by adding a bit of urgency to their offers, they were able to increase sales by 332%. All sales promotion series have a positive consumption effect, which clearly confirms the assumption that sales promotions increase the average sales due to the consumption effect of stockpiling.

5. Loving your customers

You need to make customers feel valued and appreciated so that they will become loyal customers of your company. According to Forbes, Christopher Barnard, President, and Co-Founder of Points a company dedicated to making loyalty programs more valuable and engaging believe that offering points or rewards are a key to attracting repeat business.

Not only do customers feel like they are part of an exclusive group but it gives them an opportunity to save money and keep them continuously purchasing at your retail store. Building relationships with customers and delivering excellent customer service should be the priority and eventually, more people will learn of your company through positive word-of-mouth.

If you run a brick and mortar store or are an online retailer, a reliable and efficient inventory management software is critical to the success of your business helping you easily track all inventory activity, avoid costly errors, and stay well-organized. Ensuring that your warehouse operations run in the most productive way possible, and everything remains ordered and controlled within your warehouse is another important aspect of warehouse management and maintaining an effective online presence. To optimally control this part of their supply chain, most online merchants go for powerful warehouse management software.

If you would like to know how Cin7 can help you with retail inventory management, then sign up for our Free Trial now.