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    As follow up to the article on how to increase retail sales, in this article we will discuss six more ways to excel in retail sales. The ways and means described below are time-tested and have yielded results when planned and implemented right.

    However, please take into consideration that due to the on-going lockdown restrictions which we must all abide by, it might not be possible to implement these techniques for now.

    Standard Operating Procedure

    Standard Operating Procedure is a tool wherein all the steps involved in completing a task or operation are represented in an ordered sequence of execution. It not only covers the steps involved but also defines for each step – what to be done, who will do, how to do, where to be carried out, and when to be done. SOP simplifies complex business processes and operations and serves as an operational roadmap for the employees. It also simplifies supervision, reporting, and control.

    The benefit of retail SOP also extends to brand enhancement. Retail SOPs not only streamlines retail business processes and operations but also lends uniformity to them which helps in ensuring that the same, planned, and intended customer experience is delivered every time across the stores.

    With Standard Operating Procedures, employees have an operational roadmap for guidance. Complex tasks are broken into a sequence of tasks. This helps employees get a grip on their operational performances. Improved employee performance further ensures that retail operations are headed as planned and intended. With the internal systems working robustly, achieving the external results (higher customer satisfaction, higher sales, supplier satisfaction, etc.) becomes much easier.

    Promotional Selling

    As customers, we all love to see those flat discounts on our favourite retail stores. It does give customers an incentive to walk into the showroom or the retail outlet to have a look, try something or even buy it at a concessional price. Promotional selling is an effective mean for stock-clearance, market development, volume-based selling, etc. Pricing-related promotions are capable of eliciting a stronger response. Many big retailers like Big Bazaar offer bigger discounts on a particular day of the week and enormous footfalls are seen then. Even small and medium-scale retailers can achieve improved sales via promotional selling. Nowadays many small grocery or departmental stores sell below the printed price. Although that may qualify as a pricing strategy it also does some brand promotion.

    Also, you can come up with special promotional offers on occasions like Christmas, Diwali, Eid, etc. You may also choose to opt for personalized pricing for birthdays, marriage ceremonies, etc.  Such special occasion-based promotional selling will need some advertising efforts, say through word of mouth or a banner at your storefront and on your business social media pages.

    Understand your Customer

    The entire business thing revolves around one entity and that is the customer. What any business effectively does is create value for its customers. If that value is lost, almost everything is lost. To keep that value alive, you will always have to keep at the fore your knowledge and understanding of your customers and their needs and preferences. If you fail to understand your customers, you will fail to create the value for them. That is why it is often said in marketing that the customer is the king.

    In communication with your existing or potential customers, the message should be clear that the value you are offering can address their needs and preferences. Such communication can take place through advertising or through direct interaction with your staff or store merchandising or in any other form where customers come in contact with your business or any point in the customer experience journey.

    If you are just one step ahead of your competitors in understanding your customer requirements, it can give your retail business a significant edge. A simple example would be carrying bags. Some stores overcharge for non-plastic based carrying bags while a few stores give it away for free or at a negligible charge. The customer requirement here is environmental sensitivity. By giving carrying bags at economical rates such stores are helping customers contribute to the environment. This may not immediately reflect on your revenue but it helps create brand credibility.

    Fabien Tiburce, CEO of Compliantia observed that companies should stop obsessing over price and even the product highlighting the need to focus on customers and the customer experience. The bottom-line is your marketing approach should be customer-centric. Your marketing decisions should be made keeping in mind your customers and your target market segment. For instance, in every meeting at Amazon, there is always an empty chair which represents their customers. This is a usual practice started by its founder Jeff Bezos to ensure that the customer perspective is not missed before any strategic decision is made.

    Vendor Management

    Retail stores source their inventory from vendors/manufacturers. Vendor management is not easy and it can get tedious dealing with multiple vendors. But what is more important here is your approach. A professional way to look at suppliers and vendors is to view them as your business associates or partners. They play an important role in the supply chain i.e. of providing inventory or stock for your store.

    Through effective vendor management, you can better ensure that these suppliers and vendors understand your business requirements and function accordingly. They are not obliged to understand your customers’ requirements. So, you will have to design your systems and policies of operating with them while keeping in mind your marketing strategies and the understanding of customer requirements. Once a better vendor and inventory management system is in place, then it is easier to power up retail merchandising or to carry out promotional sales or to devise better return policies for customers, etc.

    Suppliers and vendors also play a vital role in controlling the inventory costs of a business enterprise. Better retail vendor management practices and policies contribute to better retail inventory management. With stock coming in (and returns) with higher efficiency and effectiveness, the holding and transporting costs can be reduced which can be channelled towards creating additional value to customers.

    Working Capital Management

    Capital is one thing which is extremely important in a business and it should be managed prudently for both the short and the long run. Just like capital investments are made after due diligence and proper planning, working capital (the funds required day-to-day operations) too needs a planned approach. A working capital ratio (CA/CL) of less than 1 indicates a possibility of short-term liquidity problems; anything more than 1 is considered better. Maintaining the optimum level of current assets and current liabilities becomes a necessity here. For example, salaries are a current liability in a working capital cycle and to be able to pay salaries to the employees on time, it needs to be ensured that sufficient liquidity (current assets) exists when salary payments have to be made.

    Advertisement

    Advertising (promotion) is one of the most important activities in marketing. The essence of advertising lies in improved customer awareness, generating motivation for making purchases, and ensuring continued brand loyalty.

    At the first place, your potential customers need to know that you exist or you have launched a new product/service. You will have to take your brand in front of them and a solid way to do that is advertising. Advertise relevantly as much as possible to increase brand awareness.

    Then comes how you could attract your potential customers with advertisements.  If your message (offerings, value proposition, USP, problem and its solution, etc.) through advertising is not clearly conveyed to your targeted audience, your advertising efforts are unlikely to grab customers’ attention and interest for further action (footfall or purchasing).

    You should advertise on both online and offline channels to reach a wider audience. Offline channels could be newspapers, billboards, fashion and business magazines, television advertisements, etc. Online channels include ads on social media channels in the likes of Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc. You should choose the relevant advertising channels based on your target audience and the nature of product/service in question. For instance, if you are offering professional training programs, then you should prefer LinkedIn over Instagram, primarily because LinkedIn is a social network platform for working professionals.

    Some of your advertisements will work in creating a significant buzz indicating that you have hit the right chords with the right audience while there may be some other campaigns not yielding any significant results. Thus, it is important to measure the productivity of your advertising campaigns. If more advertising is not translating to increased sales or expansion of your customer base, then you need to revisit your advertising strategies and campaigns.

    While advertisements are capable of creating a buzz, they are also capable of stirring up controversies or even hurting your brand. If you happen to advertise through online channels on social media, then you have to be on your toes all the time. Albeit being a trait of unhealthy competition, it has been observed on many occasions that companies leave no stone unturned in taking a jibe at each other. Response to offline advertising can too be creatively ruthless.

    Also, do share in the comment section about your experience and efforts in increasing retail sales and of implementing any of these solutions. Stay safe and maintain the prescribed precautionary measures.

    Read Part 1 – How to Increase Retail Sales? – Part 1

     

    PROCESS AUTOMATION

    The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

    In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

    Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

    Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

    YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

    VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

    No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

    Photography includes the following steps:

    • Cataloguing your products
    • Cataloguing your images
    • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
    • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

    DIGITAL MARKETING

    Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

    Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

    These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

    Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

    This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

    IT INTEGRATION

    Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

    YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

    IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

    This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

    Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

    WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

    • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
    • Where should your Warehouse be located?
    • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
    • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
    • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
    • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
    • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
    • How much space do I require for warehouse?
    • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

     

    At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

    We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

    Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

    UI & UX DESIGNING

    This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

    Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

    From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

    Part 2: UX Designing:

    “UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

    UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

    “As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

    An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

    Part 3: UI Designing:

    UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

    A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

    The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

    If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

    At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

    SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

    This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

    In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

    Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

    Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

    Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

    Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

    Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

    Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

    PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

    Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

    Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

    • In-house Design Team
    • Freelance Designers
    • Outsourced Design Team
    • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

    At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

    These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

    If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

    Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

    BRANDING

    Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

    Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

    It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

    ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

    Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

    SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

    At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

    CRITICAL PATHWAY

    Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

    CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

    CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

    At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

    BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

    Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

    Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

    Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

    YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

    MARKET RESEARCH

    Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.