The retail apocalypse has been well documented. Major chains have had to close stores, lay people off and even go out of businesses entirely. And small retail businesses may have it even harder.

But retail businesses aren’t completely a lost causes. There are ways to make your retail business stand out and potentially save it from extinction, if you’re willing to rethink the customer experience and get a little innovative.

Brian Solis gives an overview of the top trends that retail businesses can use to survive and thrive in today’s environment. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main points.

How to Save Your Retail Business

1. Use human perspective to shape your future. Basically, you can consider trends and technology all you want. But if you want the shopping experience at your business to appeal to your customers, you need to relate to them on a human level and put yourself in their shoes. If you can come up with some common sense changes, even if those changes integrate new technology and trends, you can make the experience better for actual customers.

2. Cater to on-demand consumers. Today’s consumers want their purchases immediately and in the most convenient way possible. So retail outlets need to discover ways to get their products to customers with the fewest barriers possible.

3. Compete for customer experience. This doesn’t just mean customer service. It means the end-to-end experience that the customer has when dealing with your business. So you need to come up with ways to stand out and make the entire process as seamless as possible.

4. Become payments agnostic. Mobile payments and other high tech options have recently gained popularity with some consumers. If you can create an environment where all forms of payment are accepted, you can eliminate some potential roadblocks for customers.

5. Understand social commerce. Social commerce is mainly centered around connecting social media and shopping. And retail stores can utilize this idea to increase business by encouraging shared experiences and reviews online.

6. Invest in the trust economy. The trust economy is all about creating transparency and trust between your business and its customers. You can create genuine interactions with customers online and otherwise through content and more. And you can even utilize user generated content and reviews or referrals from other customers to create more trust.

7. Balance webrooming and showrooming. When customers come into your store to look at products, but then look for the same products cheaper online, it’s called showrooming. But when customers research products online and then go find that product in a store so they can get it right away, it’s called webrooming. Both concepts are popular with different shoppers. So your business should be prepared for customers who want to compare information or prices from both online and retail sources.

8. Blur the lines between digital and brick and mortar shopping. Because of the ways customers interact with online businesses and content, it’s important for retail stores to utilize new technology to blur the lines between retail and online shopping to make the experience as seamless as possible. This can also provide more options for customers who simply have different shopping preferences.

9. Cater to mobile customers. Many customers are turning to their mobile phones first when shopping. And some are only using their mobile devices. But technology like beacons can help you gather data and more effectively communicate with those mobile customers to create a more seamless experience for them.

10. Discover new competition and possibilities. Because of the constantly changing technology and trends out there, retail businesses need to constantly be on the look out for new possibilities and new forms of competition. There might be a new disruptive technology tool out there that competitors are using to create a better experience. And your business needs to be open to solving that problem in a new way.

11. Reimagine your space. Instead of simply adding in new technology or methods to your existing model, it might be a better route to reimagine the journey as a whole. Start from scratch and think about how to create the best customer journey from start to finish.

With credit-card skimming thieves eluding law enforcement, state lawmakers are targeting the devices themselves.

Two bills before the Florida Legislature this session, SB 766 and HB 343, would make it a third-degree felony to possess or sell credit-card skimming devices in Florida.

“These devices are designed to specifically collect and steal consumer data,” said the sponsor of the Senate bill, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-Miami. “There is no other place in the market where you need a device like this.”

Rodriguez said Thursday much of the work behind the legislation was focused on tightening the definition of the skimmer itself so it would not impede the needs of retailers and anyone else involved in credit-card transactions.

“There are two parts to this legislation,” he said. “Part of it is to precisely and better define what is legal and what is illegal. The other part is criminalizing the sale of and use. There is no legitimate need for these skimming devices.”

He added that cracking down on the installing and use of the skimmers to steal credit-card information from gasoline pump machines and ATMs, which is illegal, is difficult because police have to catch the thieves in the act.

By making the possession and sale of the devices illegal, he said police would have a more effective tool. Both the Senate and House versions have one more committee hurdles to clear, perhaps as soon as next week, before they can make it to floor votes in each chamber.

The 2017 Florida legislative session marks the second year in a row that lawmakers have sought legislation to attack credit-card skimming.

Just this past spring, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to protect consumers from skimmers at gas station pumps.

That legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, required gas stations to have security devices on pumps to combat skimmers and it toughened penalties for credit-card fraud.

It was also supported by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency has largely led the effort to crack down on skimmers.

James Miller of the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said the organizations “fully support any legislation that cracks down on gas-pump skimming devices, punishes those caught using them, and protects Floridians and visitors.”

Miller said card skimming is a nationwide problem, but Florida, with the third-largest population and more than 100 million tourists, and more than 10,000 convenience stores statewide, presents significantly more opportunities for skimming devices to be used.

He said the organization seeks other ways to combat skimming fraud. This includes training sessions for convenience store owners and their staff year round throughout the state to help them identify potential scams, and arm their employees with knowledge and steps they can take to protect their store, their merchandise and their customers.

They also regularly communicate with local, state and federal law enforcement “on tips and identifying new technology or new ways that thieves are using skimmers,” he added.

Jeff Lenard, the vice president for Strategic Industry Initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores in Alexandria, Va., said the organization focuses on federal issues so it has not specifically followed the new Florida legislation.

However, he pointed out skimming tends to a be a problem because criminal groups come to an area and “work it” until they move on to another location. Florida, he said, is one of the areas that has more problems, perhaps because there is more of a transient population and newer neighborhoods.

How to avoid falling victim to a skimmer, and what to do if you do

  • Pay inside the gas station in cash.
  • Check the gas pump cabinet to make sure it’s closed and that it hasn’t been tampered with. Look for security tape or a sticker, and see if it looks peeled or broken.
  • Use a pump closer to the front of the store. Putnam said skimmers often are placed at pumps farther away from where clerks can easily see someone tamper with them.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Most credit cards have better protection against most types of fraud, officials say. Plus, debit cards immediately withdraw money from your account. If you do use a debit card, choose to run it as a credit card so you don’t have to enter your PIN.

If you think your credit card number might have been stolen or otherwise compromised, report it to your credit card company.

If you believe you might have found a skimmer, contact the gas station manager, local law enforcement or the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 800-435-7352.

mypalmbeachpost | Antonio Fins and Susan Salisbury

Monday, 27 March 2017 14:52

C-Stores Confronting Theft

Organized retail crime (ORC)—defined as professional shoplifting by organized crime rings—is growing, with 83% of 59 merchants surveyed reporting an increase in the past year, according the National Retail Federation’s “12th annual ORC study,” conducted July 20-Aug. 19, 2016.

Sean Sportun, ICPS manager, security & loss prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores in Canada, noted ORC is an evolving issue for the c-store industry.

While ORC usually targets big box chains with high volume items “what most fail to realize is the c-store/gas industry are the initial target for these groups when it comes to fraud payment cards and robberies,” Sportun said. “C-store retailers must ensure they have a training program in place and that it is current—this will enable employees to combat these crimes and remain safe if they encounter an incident.”

Mac’s is renowned for fighting crime, from inviting communities to take ownership of neighborhood convenience stores by participating in painting a store mural to posting images of thieves to Mac’s Crime Stoppers social media pages, so members of the community can identify them for a reward.

“Mac’s is now being studied by Harvard University on the crime prevention program’s effectiveness in reducing incidents of crime,” Sportun said. The Harvard Business Study should be available this summer.

Mac’s is also using a Tobacco Tracker program to monitor stolen tobacco cartons—a “huge success,” both in the recovery of assets and in the apprehensions of suspects. Security expert Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting, said while ORC is an age-old issue, the label is often overused, especially in relation to convenience stores.

“What’s happening (at c-stores) is plain old shoplifting. It’s the same old story: if you have one person on duty and that person is overworked, they’re not going to be able to pay attention to potential shoplifters,” he said.

McGoey said he sees theft overall trending upward. There are more items today, more inventory issues to contend with and products are more expensive—which means theft dollar totals are higher—all contributing factors.

INTERNAL THEFT
C-stores must also contend with employee theft. The “28th Annual Retail Theft Survey” conducted June 2016 by loss prevention consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International, found one out of every 38 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer in 2015. The survey was based on approximately 3 million employees.

“The convenience industry is hit particularly hard with employee theft because of the nature of a c-store. They’re designed to be operated by one person often times without supervision,” McGoey said.

Mac’s is using technology to help matters.

“The loss prevention department implemented a variety of preventative measures to identify this type of crime, but our most effective initiative has been the introduction of our 24/7 monitoring room, which has the ability to remote access into stores through the DVR system,” Sportun said.

While ongoing advancements in video surveillance ability and quality continue to improve, McGoey warned some retailers invest too much capital in technology and then fail to use it, thinking just having the technology is a deterrent. McGoey said sticking to the basics of counting inventory, implementing cash controls, hiring and training well and monitoring customers are crucial in preventing theft. (read more)

Within 10 years, online food shopping will reach maturity

Within a decade, in the current climate of technology adoption and evolution, consumer spend on online grocery shopping could reach $100 billion, or the equivalent of 3,900 grocery stores based on store volume.

That’s the conclusion of new research being released by the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, which offered a preview of their “Digitally Engaged Food Shopper” analysis Saturday at the FMI Midwinter Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The findings were discussed by a panel that included Dave Bornmann, SVP of business development at Publix Super Markets; Benno Dorer, chairman and CEO of the Clorox Co.; Chris Morley, president of Nielsen USA; and Tom Furphy, CEO of Replenium. The discussion was moderated by Thom Blischok, chairman and CEO of The Dialogic Group.

The group stressed a need for greater collaboration between retailers and CPG suppliers, who need to operate “like one integrated company,” declared Mark Baum, FMI chief collaboration officer and discussion panelist. Success will come to those who collaborate effectively, embrace automation, understand consumers better and use the new research as a call to action, panel members said.

The introductory set of insights from this joint, multi-year initiative offer a comprehensive look into the behaviors, motivations and expectations of the digitally engaged food shopper. This first perspective offers recommendations on how food marketers and manufacturers should be preparing their strategies and managing the organizational change that will be required to engage those shoppers.

“While we are more connected than ever to influence what shoppers buy, the window to influence those moments is narrowing,” Baum said. “FMI and its members will need to seize the opportunity to harness new skills and collaborate more seamlessly than ever before to effectively reach these digitally savvy food shoppers. We’re building the tools to help our members assess where they are in their connected commerce strategies.”

Initial findings from this study show that within the next decade, online food shopping will reach maturation in the U.S., far faster than other industries that have come online before. Research also revealed that the center store is likely to shift online faster than other departments, suggesting a fundamental evaluation of the role the store plays in digital food shopping.

“The grocery business truly is at a digital tipping point, where every aspect of the shopper’s journey will soon be influenced by digital, and increasingly enabled by digital platforms,” Morley said. “The need for retailers and manufacturers to know the differences around how consumers shop online versus in-store is greater than ever before. Analytics will be key for retailers and manufacturers to understand the digitally engaged food shopper on a deeper level. Beyond unified insights that connect the dots across consumer interaction and platforms, the winning strategy will turn metrics into action steps towards effective digital engagement.” read more

By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
www.progressivegrocer.com/departments/technology/fmi-midwinter-digitally-engaged-food-shopper

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