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You’ve made it through the mad rush of Christmas. Your business along with the retail industry overall has no doubt learned quite a bit in the process, especially when it comes to consumer buying habits.

Although retailers benefited by increased footfall on Black Friday, more shoppers took to their laptops, tablets and smartphones, with 404,835 online orders logged versus 267,370 orders on Cyber Monday, according to Postcode Anywhere in a piece by The Guardian.

In the same article, internet retail research firm IMRG stated British shoppers spent an estimated £810m online on Black Friday, exceeding the expected spend of £650m on Cyber Monday.

Aside from the holiday spending frenzy, how did your business fare overall in 2014? What would you have done differently, more of or better?

For the past few weeks we’ve provided tips to help you prepare for a profitable holiday season. Now it’s time to prepare for a successful 2015. To help you jumpstart this process we’ve presented ways your business can improve operations for scalability, increase sales, stay competitive and provide enhanced customer service.

 

5 Key Retail Business Areas to Review for 2015

1. Revaluation of your inventory. While you monitor and manage your inventory throughout the year, the lifeblood of your business, now is a great time to get a 12-month view of sales trends, products that did well and others that may not have connected with customers in the way you’d hoped.

What about new ways to introduce new products? Try testing them out with your top customers, members of your loyalty program that love your business and will give you honest opinions. Some retailers have gone so far as to involve customers during their buying excursions. By sharing photos (a private Instagram account is one way to do this) retail buyers can see in real-time what shoppers will snap up once it hits the shelves or online store; invaluable information for any business.

Year-over-year annual multichannel sales review. Did you see an increase in your online sales versus in-store? What about sales spikes or dips for certain times of the year that weren’t expected or didn’t happen in 2013? How did one online channel perform over another?

Getting a high-level business view that brings your sales reports, inventory reports and web analytics together can provide key year-over-year trends. This includes metrics reflecting web traffic brought to your site through online advertising and social selling programs, or to your store, along with conversion rates and return on investment.

2. When it comes to choice, less can be more, especially in a retail display scenario. A study by Sheena S. Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School and faculty director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, revealed that when confronted with too many choices, most shoppers choose not to choose. As just one example in her study, when Golden Cat Corporation got rid of their 10 worst-selling cat litter products, they saw an increase in profits by 87 percent.

In her TED Talk, “How to Make Choosing Easier,” Iyengar presented four techniques for mitigating the problem of choice overload:

  • Cut - get rid of the extraneous alternatives that may make sense initially, but after reviewing your inventory may show otherwise;
  • Concretize - make it real. As opposed to just displaying pictures of the product, show them in action. A bottle of wine at dinner party, a pair of sunglasses on a women in a park, a leash and puppy coat on Sparky during a walk. Even if you’re doing this already, A/B testing different photos can reveal what resonates into sales.
  • Categorize – people can handle more categories but with less choices. By organising and breaking down products into more logical categories, shoppers can easily assess and find what they want to buy. This can work both for your physical shop and online store.
  • Condition for complexity – to put it simply, make it simple. A clean design of your website, clear descriptions with the ability to dive deeper, and a retail shop that invites versus overwhelm is the key.

3. Is your website looking and performing at its best? If it’s been more than a year since you’ve done an update to your website, not including adding or deleting products, it may be getting a bit dusty. Going back to your web analytics, you’re able to understand where shoppers are converting and when they’re dropping off, the click-through rate for one ad campaign over another, which social platforms are having the most impact and which ones need engagement improvement.

Use heat-mapping tools to see where customers eyes are traveling. Spruce up existing products listing with more succinct descriptions and eye-catching photos. Checking out other successful retailers can also provide some ideas for inspiration.

4. Mobile commerce is here to stay, evidence we’ve provided in previous blog posts and will continue to address in 2015. If you’re website is not yet optimised for mobile, now is the right time to add this to your 2015 task list.

Asos is the top UK retailer on Pinterest, beating out Amazon, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer for most ‘pinned’ products. Recently in Marketing, Asos chairman Brian McBride stated the need for businesses to recognise how people use mobile, "It's how they get their news, social media, it’s how they want to watch stuff, so you ignore that at your peril." While he was focusing on usage by a younger audience, statistics show that audiences of all ages will continue to increase their use of mobile and tablets to research products, engage with brands and buy.

5. Taking social to the next level. If you’re already having success with Facebook and Twitter engagement, have you included Instagram or Pinterest in your social media strategy? These two visual platforms have become the must-have for retailer’s social engagement with online shoppers, for referral business, and to keep connected to returning customers.

If you are short on resources, you may want to choose one or the other to begin with, but both Instagram and Pinterest have shown to be great channels for expanding your reach while each having unique strengths.

While Instagram is all about creation, where you’re posting imagery and messaging to entice and engage your audience, Pinterest is about curation of content. Both can be used as testimonials for your products, with customers capturing their shopping experiences in your store and posting to Instagram, or customers capturing your online content and sharing it with their network.

If your goal is to drive and increase clicks, sales and conversions, Pinterest is an ideal social platform to promote products while driving web traffic and sales.

Where Instagram shines is the area of branding and engagement, bringing awareness of new products, special events and parties, or inviting your audience to weigh in on the next fashion season trends.

Throughout the next year Brightpearl will continue to bring you more retail tips, helpful guides,customer stories from your fellow retailers, along with webinars and white papers to assist you in scaling and operating your business in smart ways.

If there are any areas you would like to see us tackle or do better, we would love to hear from you as well.

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About the Author

Kim Owens is a veteran digital marketer and copywriter for Brightpearl, creating engaging, customer-centric content that provides value and an opportunity to learn about the quickly evolving retail industry.