ThinkstockPhotos 179693002In order to acquire and maintain customers, it’s vital for brands and marketing teams to leverage social media and guide customers down the purchasing path. By Jason Beckerman

Social media is ingrained in all shoppers’ lives. Well aware of this phenomenon, marketers are increasing social advertising budgets faster than any segment of the paid media mix. In fact, in 2018 social advertising budgets are expected to swell to over $50 billion.

Retailers of any size and industry must keep this number in mind; it signals the explosive growth of social media marketing—and the impact it can have on retail shoppers. In order to acquire and maintain customers, it’s vital for brands and marketing teams to leverage this massive ecosystem and guide customers down the purchasing path. But before they can do this, they need to ask “Do I have access to and control of my data? What if I don’t?”

Be Smarter (From the Beginning)

To successfully capitalize on social advertising, brands must first own their data. What does this mean? If you own your data, you have total access to all your social advertising data, no matter how many agencies, vendors or partners you are working with. Without data ownership, retailers can’t access the information they need, when they need it. And without that access, they can’t make informed, effective decisions about their social media. A lack of direct access to accurate performance information can lead to business decisions based on incorrect or incomplete data – putting social investments at risk.

Additionally, social is the perfect pair with the first-party CRM data retailers are spending large amounts of resources cultivating. Brands who take ownership of their social data, are able to integrate it with first-party data at scale, innovating in areas like targeting, creative and audience analysis. Without data ownership, marketers are not getting the most of their first-party data and leaving a ton of value on the table.

What Owning Data Looks Like

In short, data ownership provides retailers with both the security of accurate information and the assurance that they won't lose anything when changes are made.

Think of it like this: you know that serving customers social coupon ads builds foot traffic. Based on that information, your marketing team develops a new, winning campaign that drives hoards of customers into stores. Weeks after this campaign, you switch agencies. Your marketing team searches for the performance data from this last campaign, but it belongs to the old agency, and you cannot access it any more. Now you don’t know which targeted groups responded best to which ads, which dates performed best – you don’t know anything specific about that successful campaign. But with data ownership, you retain all the information you need.

Retailers who own their data can mine and map it to create powerful insights. No past learnings or best practices are lost. Adopting measurement standards and leveraging technology can ensure that you are accessing the right information on what was spent, who spent it and how it performed. This creates a holistic, trusted data repository that will enable you to continuously create successful campaigns.

Data ownership can also provide visibility into your social supply chains. Retail brands have one of the most complex supply chains; they can have coupon vendors, ecommerce solutions, creative agencies, and more working on a single social media campaign. With so many players in the mix, brands often face teams working in silos, hidden fees and limited visibility.

With data ownership, retail brands can gain the complete transparency they need into their entire social supply chain, allowing them to make better decisions on both campaign and partner budgets.

Getting the Full Picture

When conducting a campaign, marketers must see the whole picture from beginning to end, and data ownership can provide that kind of transparency.

By leveraging social media to reach audiences at each shopping stage, marketers can exceed goals at every step including delivering prospects, customers and loyalists. However, when brands rely on "wrap-up reports" about campaign performance after the fact, they miss out in the real-time intelligence they need to truly move the needle and drive the best results. On-demand transparency into total performance is critical, and the retail brands succeeding with social are tapping into it early and often.

Retail marketers must take advantage of social advertising technology that provides data ownership and transparency, and is interoperable with any campaign, team, tool or channel. Such technology completes the picture, allowing brands to control data accessibility, assure certainty about investments – and dramatically limit risk.

Jason Beckerman is the CEO and co-founder of Unified.

Homebase John WaldmannHiring informative and helpful seasonal employees are key to your customer relations and holiday sales. By John Waldmann

The holidays are around the corner. Time to staff-up and add part-time, hourly workers. Hiring terrific, informative and helpful seasonal employees is key to your customer relations and holiday sales. So, here’s what to look for when hiring seasonal employees.

See If Your Current Workforce Can Take on More Hours

This holiday season, Walmart made headlines for choosing not to hire seasonal workers and instead is giving their existing part-time employees more hours. There are many lessons small business owners can learn from Walmart’s move. Your existing employees have a wealth of knowledge. They know your products, customers, and competitors inside and out.

Before going through the long process of interviewing and training new employees who might only be with you for two months, ask your current team members if they’d like to take on additional hours this holiday season. If they have trips planned with family that you’ve already approved or have other commitments, then it’s out of the question, but it’s certainly worth the ask when it becomes clear that you need to hire more employees to handle the holiday rush.

Get Referrals

Asking your employees to refer their hard-working friends and family members is always a good idea, but this is especially true around the holidays. With customers looking to check everything off their holiday list, having employees you can trust to handle the rush courteously and efficiently is key.

Referrals come with an added layer of trust. Your loyal employees will likely only refer candidates that they know will do an excellent job, just like they do. Adding a small referral bonus can be a way to incentivize employees to refer people they know. Since the holiday rush will mainly occur over the course of a month or so, make sure you pay the bonus out to them once the seasonal employee completes the holiday season. This way, you get access to a high-quality pool of new candidates that are vetted by your top performers.

Make Sure Employees Are Aware of Schedules

To make the most out of the holiday rush, sometimes your business will need to open early and close late. Make it clear what days are required and what the potential hours will be. For example, many small businesses require seasonal employees to work weekends because that’s when foot traffic is highest.

Small Business Saturday, in particular, is when businesses should be prepared for an influx of customers, since consumers will have an extra reminder to visit their local businesses. Make these requirements front and center on applications and in training to avoid confusion as the holidays get closer.

On top of that, employee communication will be paramount to your success this holiday season. Beyond regular shifts that employees expect, shift swaps will likely become more common. Flu season is here and as some employees get sick, seasonal employees can be incredibly helpful in picking up those shifts to keep your business properly staffed. Put an employee-scheduling tool to work for you to centralize employee communication, automate scheduling based on robust demand forecasts, handle time tracking and facilitate easy shift swapping.

Hire Candidates with Permanent Potential

You wouldn’t want your star employees of several years to leave you, so why would you want that to happen with seasonal employees who prove to be great assets? If you have room on your team, make sure that you hire employees for the holidays who you would want to stick around after the New Year. After all, you’re pouring resources into training them, and they will have a crash course in what your business is all about over the busy holiday period, so why not get a full return on your investment and bring them on as a regular employee?

Ask in the interview process if candidates would be open to being a part of the team after the holidays. It doesn’t have to be a deal breaker if they aren’t interested, but keep track of sales numbers and other metrics for those seasonal employees who have expressed interest. The highest performers could be the newest members of your regular staff once the New Year arrives.

Hiring the right seasonal employees will impact your brand and sales. Following the above suggestions will go a long way to make your holidays a customer relations and sales success.

John Waldman is the co-founder and CEO of Homebase, which provides a new free real-time software solution that helps more than 60,000 small businesses eliminate the paperwork of managing their hourly employees, helps manage overtime and curbs absenteeism and turnover.

SENTELLRetailers have long struggled with increasing their customer base. Here are two key tips to solve this problem. 

 

Retailers, we know you are always asking this question. You have run countless sales promotions, marketing campaigns and other incentivizing activities, in the hopes of answering this question once and for all. Unfortunately, you’ve failed to find a simple solution up until this point.

At SailPlay, we have worked with hundreds of retailers across the world and through industry research; we have uncovered two key solutions that can help boost any retail customer base.

We’ve seen that many retailers are already running a customer loyalty program, which is great. However, their focus seems to be only on rewarding their current customers that have made purchases. While that is an essential component to a valuable customer loyalty program, it’s not incorporating the potential lifetime value of their loyal customers. These customers are likely to refer their friends and family to a business, plus they are more likely to share their positive experience over social media.

First Solution - Customer Referrals

Adding customer referral quests to your loyalty program is an important aspect many retailers fail to include in their campaigns. Most retailers we initially speak with assume that if a customer has a positive experience with their business, then they will most likely refer their friends and family. But, things are (unfortunately) not as simple as that. According to a study by Texas Tech University, 83 percent of consumers are actually willing to refer someone after a positive experience, but only 29 percent actually do.

What you can do to increase customer referrals is to offer a reward. According to Software Advice, offering a reward increases the likelihood of a referral by over 50 percent. By offering a reward, customers are more incentivized to spend their time referring their friends and family.

In addition to having your current customers refer their friends and family, referred customers are a great way to further grow your customer base. Referred customers are four times more likely to refer their friends and family, according to Annex Cloud. So, the benefits of customer referrals continue to be a fruitful long after the initial customer comes onboard.

Second Solution - Social Media Actions

Posting on social media is all the rage in today’s world, especially for Millennials. Most people nowadays are sharing everything on social media, whether it’s a birthday party they attended, what they just ate for lunch or what clothing they just bought. According to the Annex Cloud, 55 percent of consumers share their purchases socially on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites.

Retailers should capitalize on this trend, encouraging their customers to post about their business on social media and in return their customers will receive points, rewards or some sort of discount. Just like with referrals, a reward will incentivize customers to promote your business on social media.

And through social media, retailers can expect to reach thousands of new customers they could never get to so quickly before. Social media alone drove 31 percent of overall website traffic, according to Shareaholic. Now imagine if customers are incentivized to share about your business on social media. How many more customers would visit your business or website?

Plus, social media helps consumers make purchase decisions. Eighty-one percent of U.S. online consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts. You can see for yourself, social media promotions work. It’s time for you to start increasing your customer base.

These two easy-to-implement solutions will help your business continuously grow your customer base. With customer referral quests and social media actions running around the clock, you can now focus on more targeted and personalized campaigns, helping increase the lifetime value of each of your customers.

Arnab Mitra is a marketing strategist, experienced in working across various industries. Currently, he resides as the Marketing Manager at SailPlay, a customer loyalty platform. He can be reached at a.mitra@sailplay.com.

TinaMossWhy buy assets from a bankrupt company? How today’s retail scene presents potential business opportunities. By Tina Moss and Brian Audette

 

It would be an understatement to say that 2017 has been a difficult year for the retail sector. Store closings and bankruptcy filings punctuate the news almost daily. However, challenges beget opportunities, and this situation is no different. Here is why.

The bankruptcy process often presents an extraordinary opportunity to acquire the plum assets of the bankrupt company, known as the debtor. These assets can be very valuable to the debtor’s competitors and other strategic investors. Some of the potential items on the block may be the debtor’s accounts, inventory, customer lists, intellectual property, contracts, and real property and leasehold interests.

Why buy assets from a bankrupt company? Buying assets through bankruptcy is advantageous because, under most circumstances, a buyer may obtain a court order approving a sale free and clear of all liens, claims, interests and encumbrances. In other words, a sale without baggage. Tell me more!

Business, Not As Usual = An Opportunity

Section 363 of the Bankruptcy Code allows a debtor to use, sell or lease property of its bankruptcy estate outside the ordinary course of business. The 363-sale process can be a streamlined one and typically lasts a couple of months. There is also some sanctioned cherry picking that often occurs. The Bankruptcy Code allows a debtor to assume and assign most types of contracts and leases to a purchaser, i.e., you can acquire the favorable contracts and/or leases (as long as monetary defaults are cured and the buyer can provide adequate assurance of future performance), and leave behind the undesirable assets.

A benefit of participating in the process early is that a potential buyer can act as a “stalking horse bidder,” which is an interested purchaser selected by the debtor as the opening bidder in the sale process. A stalking horse is used to draw other bidders into the sale and typically enters into a full asset purchase agreement with the debtor conditioned on other parties having a chance to submit “higher and better” offers. Drop the gavel folks—we are having an auction!

Why Serve as a Stalking Horse Bidder?

Wondering what’s in it for you? A purchaser might be incentivized to volunteer to serve as a stalking horse for several reasons. First, the stalking horse will often have an exclusive opportunity to negotiate the terms and conditions of an asset purchase agreement with little to no initial competition.

Second, the stalking horse bidder is often offered financial incentives if it is ultimately out-bid for the assets, including reimbursement of its reasonable expenses and a “break-up fee” often in the range of 3% of the bid. Therefore, entering the process early can help you negotiate the most favorable terms from the debtor and its advisors.

Following an auction and the debtor’s selection of the winning bidder (generally in consultation with its stakeholders), the court conducts a sale hearing and says “yea” or “nay” to the sale. If approved, the bankruptcy court will enter an order authorizing the sale and transfer of the debtor’s assets “free and clear” of all liens, claims, encumbrances and other interests, and potentially free of successor liability claims as well. I’ve heard enough of that legal stuff, now give me some real world examples.

Retail 363 Sales That Paid Off

Buyers of assets out of bankruptcy can come in many different shapes and sizes. Take Sports Authority, for example. Although it was unable to find a buyer willing to take over its massive retail operations, one of its principal competitors, Dick’s Sporting Goods, scooped up certain intellectual property and 30 leasehold interests. Dick’s strategically acquired royalty-generating assets, including patents relating to sports equipment, trademarks relating to the Sports Authority brand and certain private label products. Dick’s also gained valuable customer information and control of Sports Authority’s e-commerce site.

Similar sales involving competitors that were able to selectively acquire assets out of bankruptcy include: (1) Gordmans Stores - Stage Stores acquired certain intellectual property, leasehold interests and a distribution center; and (2) Gander Mountain - Camping World Holdings acquired a wide range of assets, including leasehold interests, intellectual property rights, operating systems and platforms, and an e-commerce business.

It is not only a debtor’s competitors that have gotten in on the 363-sale action. In the Aeropostale bankruptcy proceeding, two landlords (Simon Property Group, Inc. and General Growth Properties Inc.) joined a successful bidding group that also included liquidators to save the fledgling brand by acquiring leasehold interests, inventory and certain intellectual property. Among other benefits of the acquisition, the landlords were able to strategically maintain occupancy in a number of their malls.

As you can see, opportunities abound when retailers enter Chapter 11. Starting to hear the sound of holiday bells? They could be heralding a great opportunity to build your business.

Tina Moss, partner in Perkins Coie’s New York office, has more than 20 years of experience in bankruptcy, corporate restructuring and related litigation. She represents clients in all aspects of Chapters 11, 7, and 15 bankruptcy proceedings.  

Brian Audette, partner in Perkins Coie’s Chicago office, concentrates his practice in the areas of bankruptcy, creditor's rights and general commercial litigation. He counsels clients on all aspects of Chapters 7 and 11 bankruptcy matters.

SGK econtent ipadYour brand can and should look as flawless on the digital shelf as it does on the physical shelf. By Bruce Miller

To gain brand share of a rapidly expanding e-commerce market, marketers need to provide customers with an experience online that’s as true as possible to the product they choose at the physical store shelf. It’s time to regain control of the way your brand is depicted on the digital shelf.

Your brand can and should look as flawless on the digital shelf as it does on the physical shelf. Are you ready to take control of your e-content supply chain? These are the top seven questions you need to be able to answer.

Does my organization have a unified supply chain strategy for managing the representation of our brands on digital shelves?

Brand managers have a clearly defined supply chain process to ensure the package on the shelf is right and ready on time. Without a similarly unified strategy for packaging e-content development, it’s difficult to control a brand’s timely and accurate representation across retail and product review websites.

Does my packaging look consistent across multiple online retailers?

Check your brand’s e-commerce images across online retailers and product review sites. If you’re seeing a mix of 2D and 3D images, different angles, different lighting and color, missing information, outdated images or any inconsistency at all, consider it an opportunity to improve the impression your brand makes on the digital shelf. You’ve earned your consumers’ trust. Continue to encourage them to buy with confidence.

Can I achieve a stronger brand presence and reduce costs at the same time?

By using final, approved artwork for both your printed and virtual package, you eliminate the need for photography thereby lowering supply chain cost. At the same time, you gain control of the presentation of your brand and consistency between packaging on the digital shelf and the physical shelf. It’s the easy way to administer e-content management.

How can the inaccurate representation of my brand online put my market share at risk?

You’ll lack the control to execute design changes simultaneously offline and online. Your current customers will expect to see the same package they buy on the physical shelf, on the digital shelf. If they don’t, they may question its authenticity or freshness. New customers who’ve never purchased your product on the physical shelf will expect to receive the package that they ordered online. Any difference between the two can create a brand disconnect. In either situation, you risk eroding consumer trust in the brand – the very trust that you’ve built over time at great expense. You could lose customers to a competitor who’s getting it right.

How does the inaccurate representation of my brand online put my business at regulatory risk?

EU Regulation 1169 requires clearer and more prominent display of allergen and other information on packaging and specifies that compliance include the digital shelf. Forthcoming FDA regulations will require changes to the Nutrition Facts label to emphasize calories, provide realistic serving sizes and align with the latest nutrition science. The FDA has not yet addressed images of packages online, but they may, and if they do, will you be compliant? And are you willing to risk that you won’t be?

How can I ensure that images of our packaging online adhere to brand standards?

If you haven’t already, you should consider specifying explicit standards for packaging on the digital shelf in your overall brand guidelines. A digital e-content solution that uses approved artwork final files and enforces GS1 standards for 3D images can go a long way to simplify compliance with your own standards for packaging images online.

How can I take control?

Commit to complete, correct and up-to-date packaging wherever your brand appears – on the digital shelf as well as on the physical shelf.

If brands are truly successful in creating a singular brand experience, the online experience must mirror the offline experience. ‘Getting to market’ on time is critical of course, but the best deployment processes will deliver far beyond that. They will protect a brand’s equities and the way it’s presented in all marketing mediums around the world.

As Vice President of Product Development for SGK, Bruce Miller leads the practical application of new technologies to the brand deployment requirements of SGK’s clients. 

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