4 Reasons Why Retail Stores Fail

A major brick-and-mortar retail store closed recently in the town where I live. The problem for those of us who live here or in the surrounding area is that it was one of the few stores like it for over a hundred miles.

If I want to buy any of the kinds of products they were selling I now have to either do it online, or jump in my car and drive at least an hour and a half. One way.

That’s a lot of time wasted driving back and forth when I could be doing something else, like running my business.

But, the retail chain I am talking about is not alone. Every few months I hear about other retail businesses that are closing some of their store fronts.

Why Retail Stores Fail

I started wondering why so many businesses are closing their brick-and-mortar locations. After some pondering, I feel like there are 4 main reasons these retail businesses may be dying out.

1. Prices of Brick-and-Mortar Retail

When I shop these days I do a lot of it online. There are several reasons for this, but one includes price.

Many physical stores simply can’t compete with their online counterparts when it comes to what they charge.

Trying to save money in your personal budget causes you to be more selective with your shopping. Retail customers are more focused on stretching their budgets these days than ever before.

It stands to reason, then, that you aren’t going to waste time and gas money to go to a brick and mortar store. Why would you when you can get the same or similar products online for less money? This is especially true since many online retailers are also offering free shipping to your doorstep these days.

2. Choices

Another of the reasons most brick-and-mortar retail businesses are dying out is simply that we now have more choices. Again, the internet has completely changed the way consumers used to buy their products.

With the touch of a few buttons on your phone or computer you can find the products you want and need. In fact, the same products are usually available at anywhere from a few to a thousand or more different retailers.

Anytime you needed something in the past, you had to go to a store to get it because you had no other choice. Now, if you don’t need it immediately you can order it online and still have it at your door within a couple of days.

3. Convenience

I don’t know about other people, but my time is extremely valuable these days. Because time is a factor in how I make my living, I am forced to make the most of it.

This compels me to shop in the most convenient way I can in order to optimize the number of hours in my day. Therefore, I can take a quick break from work and do part of my personal and household shopping online whenever I want.

I am sure convenience drives other consumers to shop online as well. Rather than going to a brick-and-mortar store, you can shop any time you want and get what you need.

4. Customer Service

Have you ever gone into a store and been treated rudely or ignored by the sales people? Everyone experiences this at one time or another, so I’m sure you’re not an exception.

Poor customer service just doesn’t cut it anymore in the brick-and-mortar world. If a retailer wants to keep your business, they must treat you well and be willing to give you their time.

They must do this because otherwise you can go somewhere else or order online to get the same products for the same amount of money or possibly less.

With everything said, are retail stores going to continue to die out until there are none left? I don’t think so.

My feeling is that the world of retail is evolving and will continue to evolve. It may even become better despite the fact that it may be due to necessity.

But with all of these reasons most brick-and-mortar retail business are dying out, retailers have no choice. They either change to give customers what they want, or they’ll eventually die.

Image: Due.com

This article, "Brick and Mortar Business Failing? Here Are 4 Possible Reasons" was first published on Small Business Trends

Hobby Lobby Marketing Controversy Shows ANYTHING Can Cause a Crisis for Your Brand

Hobby Lobby has gained some viral attention recently — but not necessarily the right kind.

A Facebook user named Daniell Rider posted a photo of a vase containing some decor resembling raw cotton stems being sold at a local Hobby Lobby. The caption to the photo read: “This decor is WRONG on SO many levels. There is nothing decorative about raw cotton … A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves. A little sensitivity goes a long way. PLEASE REMOVE THIS ‘décor.”

The photo has since been shared more than 16,000 times and has more than 175,000 comments. Not all of the comments are negative though. In fact, a fair amount of commenters seem to support Hobby Lobby and not see anything offensive about the decor. Others called for a boycott of the craft store chain.

This isn’t the first time a business has faced controversy over something that might seem innocuous to the average customer. But if you’re thinking about releasing a new product or service or even changing up your marketing or branding, it’s important that you consider how those changes might appear to all of your customers.

Clearly, not all Hobby Lobby customers are offended by the decor. But some are. And the company could have potentially avoided the controversy altogether if it had considered the historical context of raw cotton and how selling such a product might appear to the public.

Consider the Potential for a Marketing Controversy

Others might argue this controversy is simply the result of oversensitivity and something that will blow over with time. Business owners must decide individually what image they want their brand to project. And that means considering any potential controversy that might come your way. When those controversies do come up, you must quickly and deliberately come up with a response that will fit with your company’s values and goals.

Hobby Lobby Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Hobby Lobby Controversy Shows ANYTHING Can Cause a Crisis for Your Brand" was first published on Small Business Trends

what do shoppers want?

Business owners who understand the different touch-points their customers interact with will be successful. Because shopping channels are not siloed and consumers shop wherever it is most convenient. This is the conclusion of the new comprehensive report and infographic by Bigcommerce.

Today’s consumer has more options than ever before, and this has made the buying process more complicated and protracted. So it is essential to understand consumer behavior across these touch-points, or omni-channel selling.

Titled, “The Complete Omni-Channel Retail Report: What Brands Need to Know About Modern Consumer Shopping Habits,” the study is a must read for all small business owners looking to understand consumer behavior now, and moving forward.

The Methodology

In order to appreciate the data, it is important to recognize how Bigcommerce, Square and Kelton Global, a leading insights firm, conducted the study. A population of 1,002 nationally representative Americans ages 18+, and an over-sample to reach 1,005 Americans ages 18+ who have made an online purchase in the past six months were included.

Their responses were segmented into retail categories: generational, parents vs. non-parents, gender, and city size.

How Do Americans Buy?

While 96 percent of Americans shop online, 65 of their shopping budget is spent in stores. There are many different reasons for this, but 58 percent said it was because of shipping costs, not being able to try the product, a difficult returning process, and privacy concerns. Another 38 percent said it was because of the waiting for the delivery of their order.

When customers were ready to make a purchase, what they bought seemed directly related to where they shopped.  For example, 44 percent of customers purchasing something from Amazon Marketplace spent on entertainment, while 47 percent of those buying from large retailers purchased apparel. but for apparel 47 percent said large retailers. Meanwhile, 19 percent of health and beauty products are bought from web-stores and the same percentage go to a category specific store for flowers and gifts.

One of the better recommendations from the report comes from Morgan Jacobson, Ecommerce Sales Manager at HubSpot. He says, “Use the information you have about buyers to personalize your outreach to fit their interests.” Small businesses can up-sell and cross-sell with product recommendations, whether it is on-site or with digital marketing.

What Influences Shoppers to Buy?

Not surprisingly price comes in first, with 87 percent identifying it as the primary factor  in  purchasing decisions. Other factors include shipping cost and speed, discount offers, variety of options in stock, and trustworthy reviews.

What do Shoppers Want Online?

There are also different kinds of content small businesses can include to make their eCommerce sites more shopper friendly. They include images of products, product review, side-by-side comparisons, customer testimonials and video product demonstrations.

Dominating the Omni-channel Strategy

As a small business, your brick and mortar and online stores have to be seamlessly connected and function as one. Bigcommerce asked 31 experts their best advice to dominate an omni-channel strategy.

Experts suggest mastering one channel before moving to another one, and following up with a message while monitoring and tracking your customer’s journey. Most importantly, experts say small business owners need to avoid trying to do everything by themselves.

Emil Kristensen, co-founder and CMO of Sleeknote, recommends defining your ideal customer, goals and acquisition funnel, followed by knowing your metrics and tracking (almost) everything from day one.

Takeaway for Small Businesses

As the report points out, “The buying habits of individuals are somewhat fickle, but they are not impossible to influence.” As a small business owner, you have more access to your customers than a multinational retailer.

You can meet the needs and behaviors of your customers on mobile, desktop, or within apps. With the right proactive omni-channel strategy, you can get in front of the customer when they are ready to make a purchase.

Download the free report from Bigcommerce here or see the infographic below.

What do shoppers want?

Images: Bigcommerce

This article, "Omni-Channel Retail Report Shows Results of Bigcommerce Study (INFOGRAPHIC)" was first published on Small Business Trends

Introducing Shopify Shopcodes -- QR Codes Connected Directly to Ecommerce Items

The easier you make the checkout process for customers when they shop online, the more they are likely to buy from you — or so the people at Shopify believe. Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) recently introduced Shopcodes, a service taking customers to a product or cart in your Shopify store when they scan a QR code.

The choice to use QR code is in great part driven by Apple’s decision to finally add QR reading to its camera in June of 2017. Apple’s influence in the mobile segment is undeniable, and the company’s decision has prompted marketing platforms for brands, companies and developers to do the same.

Shopify took  a similar path, and with Shopify Shopcodes it wants to make mobile shopping much easier than before. What makes it different is the QR codes can only be generated within Shopify stores, and they are only used for shopping.

Creating and Using Shopify Shopcodes

Creating the QR codes is as simple as downloading the app and going to the dashboard in Shopify. When you create the code, you can customize it with links to a product’s page or the shopping cart page.

You can add discounts to the Shopcodes or make changes through the app dashboard with additional information or promotions. And each transaction can be tracked through your Shopify Analytics dashboard to see where the traffic and sales are coming from.

Once the codes are created, they can be used in the digital or physical world. You can download the codes, print them and place them on products, offline ads, or windows in your brick and mortar store. When customers scan them, they can find out more about your store, products or be directed to your Shopify store.

Shopcode is one more tool to make your small business more accessible to your customers. In highlighting one of its features, Corey Pollock, Product Manager at Shopify, said on the company blog, “Instead of manually typing in your website’s URL on their mobile devices, shoppers can be taken directly to the product in your Shopify store instantly.”

If you are a Shopify merchant, you can get the Shopcodes app for free through the Shopify App Store.

Image: Shopify

This article, "Shopify Introduces Shopcodes, QR Codes Connected Directly to eCommerce Items" was first published on Small Business Trends

Coffee Business With Bikini Employee Uniforms Sues Over City "Dress Code"

A new set of ordinances in Everett, Washington has led to a lawsuit from “Hillbilly Hotties,” a chain of coffee stands in the area.

The new ordinances serve as a sort of dress code for workers at cafes and quick service restaurants, stating that employees must wear at least tank tops and shorts. The measure includes some more specific descriptions about what skin must be covered up. But the lawsuit claims that the descriptions are confusing and could potentially lead to humiliating and offensive searches for workers. The second ordinance redefines the city’s lewd conduct ordinance and outlaws the facilitation of lewd conduct.

The city has stated that the measures were necessary due to “a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands throughout the city.”

But the owner and employees of Hillbilly Hotties, where baristas typically serve coffee while wearing bikinis, claim the ordinances take away their right to self expression and unlawfully target only female workers.

The lawsuit states, “Just like Starbucks with green aprons, UPS with brown trucks and outfits, and Hooter’s with short-orange shorts, the baristas’ attire evokes a message at work.”

Employee Uniforms Can Be … Complicated

Whatever you might personally think of the idea of “bikini baristas,” the idea of using attire and similar factors to differentiate a business and create a unique experience is something that a lot of businesses can relate to. So while curbing crime is certainly a noble goal for a city, doing so at the expense of business and workers’ rights might not prove to be the answer.

There are certainly a lot of different factors to consider in this case, and not a simple answer for either side. But most businesses likely wouldn’t appreciate their local governments stepping in to determine what sort of attire is appropriate for employees to don at work. So the outcome of this lawsuit could be one to watch for small businesses.

Latte Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Bikini Themed Coffee Business Sues Over City “Dress Code”" was first published on Small Business Trends