Retail businesses have been impacted by this year’s economic disruptions, but opportunities still exist for businesses to optimize, survive and thrive. Here are five strategies you can adopt today.
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4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
It has never been easier to start a retail business. Whatever your interests are or whatever the market you want to serve is, a wide range of developments have made it possible to launch a retail business much more efficiently than say, 10 years ago.
First, white label manufacturing has grown exponentially. You can get products of any type made and shipped to you without any branding so you can put your materials on them and sell as your own unique product. If you want to build a completely custom product, you can do that by outsourcing the manufacturing. You can also utilize drop shipping if you’d prefer to focus on marketing alone, which is something that social media and online e-commerce platforms have made very efficient.
But starting a retail business is completely different from growing and scaling one, and the truth is that most businesses will fail after only a short period. As the world economy enters a period of turbulence, that number will likely increase, but retail businesses that implement effective strategies will survive and even grow. Here are 5 tips to help you do just that:
Supply chain disruption has been a major issue for companies of all sizes since the beginning of this year, as a result of restrictions to transport locally and internationally. Despite that, businesses with more resilient supply chains have been able to remain operational and in stock. There are many aspects you can work to optimize, such as the location where you manufacture or purchase from, the amount of stock you keep on hand, and transportation methods. Review how the current situation has impacted you and figure out where you can make changes to improve your system.
Related: IoT Can Give Your Retail Business a Competitive Edge. Here’s What …
This applies primarily to your website, but it can also be extended to your physical space if you have a store. What is the user experience like when people get in touch with your brand for the first time? Is it easy to navigate your website, check through the products and place an order? Several studies have shown that the fewer steps needed to take an action, the higher the conversion rate will be. If you have to redesign your website or store (online or offline) to make it easy for people to find what they need and place an order quickly, get a professional to help you out. The results will be worth the expense.
Most businesses have terrible customer service, and most customers take the quality of service into consideration before purchasing from or recommending a store. That’s a clear opportunity to distinguish yourself from your competitors by offering the best customer service possible. The process begins from your hiring practices: Ill-mannered people cannot deliver consistently great customer service. Be sure you give your staff extensive training as well, and ask your customers for feedback so you can identify areas where improvement is needed quickly.
Related: How to Remain Competitive in a Saturated Online Retail Market
Every brand is on social media nowadays, and it remains a strong way to get the word out about your business and get traffic to your website. When it comes to actually converting people from visitors to customers though, the best options are e-mail and calls. Both of them have a personal element that is difficult to replicate on social media, especially if you utilize effective marketing techniques. For email, be sure to segment your email list and write highly targeted emails. Targeting is key with phone calls too.
Outdoing your competitors should be one of your goals, but you must not close your eyes to the opportunities that exist for collaboration with other brands. Brands that sell complementary products may find success in working together to cross-promote each other to their respective audiences. A tie brand and a sock brand, for instance, might send traffic to each other’s sites because people looking for one item may be interested in the other. Be sure to do this with caution, however, to ensure that you don’t unwittingly promote a potential competitor.
Related: Examples of Retail Business Ideas
It was devastating to see how quickly the American theater collapsed in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantine—and I say this as someone who lost both my jobs by March 24—but from a certain perspective it wasn’t exactly surprising.
Until this spring, our entire industry was built on an economy of scarcity. My fellow theater artists and I knew that movies and TV had a certain cultural advantage because they were available everywhere and to everyone, but we argued the essence of our work was in its fundamental ephemerality. Our performances only happened a certain number of times for the select number of people who could both get a ticket and travel to the lone venue where that particular cast was appearing on that particular day. We enacted rules that made it difficult or even impossible for our work to be recorded. We spent a lot of time affirming that productions gained an almost sacred worth because the intimate magic they created was unavailable to most people.
We weren’t entirely wrong. The unrepeatable “liveness” of the theater can indeed be exhilarating, and speaking for myself, it has often created an almost religious awe. But on some level my colleagues and I knew that we could use that ephemerality as an excuse to make our work as selectively accessible as a luxury good.
We didn’t feel great about that. We had many, many conferences about it, and every now and then, we’d shake things up a little so that our limited tickets were less expensive or our limited runs were indeed able to appear on TV. But mostly, we were just tweaking a system that relied on the elusive opportunity for people to share rooms with us.
And that system could not withstand quarantine. By banking on the limitless potential of scarcity, we allowed ourselves to ignore the potential for catastrophe, and now we find ourselves asking an existential question: How can we still be theater artists, since being theater artists means being live in a room with just a few other people?
But what if that question is flawed? What if our relationship to our audience—not to mention the expression of our craft—can still be inherently theatrical, even if we’re not on a traditional stage? What if we’re still theater people, even without the theater?
That’s not to say that a live performance with a live audience isn’t the bedrock of our artform. Of course it is. It always will be, since being in the room with the art creates such a potent form of communion. But even if we agree that we will always put the stage in the center, theater professionals can still allow ourselves to offer a continuum of access points.
The last three months have forced us to do that, and the range of projects we’ve created is astonishing. Live-streamed plays are being written and performed; older productions are being released online; virtual marketplaces are being created to support artists; and theater award shows are gamely moving to screens. Sometimes people pay for this content, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s…on its way to greatness. But no matter what, it doesn’t feel like TV or movies. It feels like theater, learning to make sense of itself on another platform.
Just look at the recent livestream of Michael Urie performing the play Buyer & Cellar, or the Public Theater’s online production of the play What Do We Need to Talk About?, which Richard Nelson explicitly wrote to be performed on Zoom. These pieces had “liveness.” They had spontaneity. And while they lacked certain things we can rightfully love about sharing space with performers, they still felt “theatrical.”
What else can we experiment with? Not just online, but in a variety of ways, how can we assert ourselves as theater artists outside the theater? How can we reach audiences who might never make it into our limited-run show in a 99-seat venue, and how can we then link that encounter with what we do on stage? How can we use the temporary absence of theaters as an opportunity to build bridges back to them?
I’ve been awakened to the possibilities by the pieces I’ve edited for The Flashpaper: Theatre’s Thoughts on Right Now. That’s the print-only journal I founded, which launches this week as a way to let theater artists respond to urgent current events, using any genre they choose. The Flashpaper also provides these artists a passive income stream that isn’t tied to having a show in production or even having access to a theater. They are all equally compensated for every issue sold, no matter when or where it is purchased.
Thanks to the contributors, the first issue of The Flashpaper is also a forum on how the industry can dismantle the worst parts of the old system and reinvigorate the best. With everything from original plays to manifestos to hand-drawn comics, they remind us that we have always had the capacity to reach people in multiple ways, through multiple channels, and with multiple points of view.
We can’t allow ourselves to forget that. We can’t allow ourselves to go back to the way it was before, because no industry that imploded as quickly as ours did was ever that stable to begin with. We don’t need to despair about that, or at least not only despair. We have the opportunity to reevaluate what theater is, what it means to be theater artists, and who it is that theater can reach. We have a chance to replace our sanctified scarcity with a sustainable and welcoming abundance.
Mark Blankenship is a theater journalist, editor, and podcaster. He is the founder and editor of The Flashpaper: Theatre’s Thoughts on Right Now, available at TheFlashpaper.com.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is certainly nothing new; it’s been around for decades. Essentially, small computer chips and antennae contained within tags are used to store and transmit data, making it the ideal solution for location tracking and information gathering.
Being the minimalists we are, a multi-functional product rarely goes unnoticed. Which is exactly what caught our eye about Mininch (“mini-inch”). They craft compact tools that have been designed down to the very last detail of efficiency and elegance, and the cherry on top is that they’re so small they’ll fit right inside your bag. Mininch has reinvented the screwdriver to handle all repairs with one tool, created a multi-functional portable wrench, and designed a mini tool pen with interchangeable bits that can be switched out like pen refills. Who knows what type of sophisticated tool with a tiny footprint they’ll come up with next?! We can’t wait to find out.
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5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The startup economy was valued at nearly $3 trillion worldwide in 2019. While it is still too early to determine where the valuation will land in 2020, the numbers are likely to look very different. The global economy is suffering, and experts predict a recession that will have lasting impacts across all industries. In past recessions, the total decrease in venture-capital investment was about 25 percent on average in 12 months, which would mean a loss of $86.4 billion in the current economic context. In the first two months of this year, venture capital deals in China alone decreased by more than 50 percent, indicating that the effects of this recession could be even greater globally.
The contagion timeline varies by region, and life in many countries is resuming some degree of normalcy. However, in Latin America, the rate of infection continues to rise. For entrepreneurs in emerging markets like Latin America, the continued rise of cases and subsequent economic impact is creating a challenging environment, and they are searching for strategies and support as they adapt to the “new normal.” Here’s a look at how company builders can help.
Related: Local Partnerships Will Be Crucial Amidst International Travel Restrictions
Heading into this year, the startup scene in Latin America was exploding. In just three years, investment in Latin American startups increased nearly tenfold, from $500 million in 2016 to $4.6 billion last year. Part of the record growth was due to a new $5 billion Softbank Innovation Fund, which focuses exclusively on the Latin American market. However, even without Softbank’s contribution, the region experienced a record increase in funding in 2019.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for startups to be impacted economic shutdowns. Between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020, the number of venture deals completed in Latin America decreased by 60 percent. As the contagion’s spread continues throughout the region, short-term opportunities like cash injections from investors and startup accelerators will be harder to come by. Entrepreneurs should instead consider alternatives, like working with company builders for long-term support and funding.
Company builders, also known as “venture studios,” bring together talent, investors and experienced entrepreneurs to build out many ideas simultaneously. Their approach combines the stability of an established company with the creativity and innovation of individual startups, developing ideas through a rigorous process, and then establishing the most successful as independent companies.
In many Latin American countries, setting up a new business is complicated, often requiring extensive paperwork and many appointments to meet all the legal requirements. And although some countries are beginning to ease their restrictions, the majority still have shelter-at-home mandates in place. These restrictions further complicate the process of legally registering a new company, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. Company builders, which work with many startup ideas simultaneously, are familiar with the necessary bureaucratic processes and can help navigate them with repeatable processes and their business branding. Additionally, they can draw upon industry experience and existing infrastructures to help stabilize and launch new businesses.
Most company builders also have established relationships with people who can help navigate local legal requirements. However, legally establishing a new company is not worth much if the business has no way to fund its operations. Investors in Latin America are known for being risk-averse, making it difficult for startups with innovative ideas to raise money. In times of crisis, this tendency to stick with the tried-and-tested only increases, leaving companies with less access to funding when they need it most.
Company builders help increase funding opportunities for startups because they lower the perceived risk for investors. The company-builder model is designed to create successful companies using a structured process to generate and test ideas that build upon past attempts. As part of a company builder, entrepreneurs work on multiple startup ideas and validate them before looking for outside funding. Furthermore, many startups incubated in company builders are led by experienced entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses in the past, which can be a reassuring indicator of success for cautious investors.
In addition to bringing together seasoned entrepreneurs, company builders often partner with industry experts and large corporations. These partnerships are mutually beneficial. Corporations can keep up with the latest tech developments by working with startups, and startup founders gain access to industry insights, new market opportunities and sometimes even funding.
By incorporating more established corporations into the process of building out startup ideas, company builders create lower-risk opportunities for regional corporate investors. Currently, only 16 percent of the large companies in Latin America partner with startups, and more than 80 percent of those collaborations are short-term opportunities like hackathons.
In the current climate, larger, more established companies have realized the importance of moving their operations online in order to survive in the new remote-work environment. Forming stable, lasting partnerships with startups can help bring large businesses firmly into the digital sphere for both the short- and long-term. In addition to modernizing traditional business approaches through tech, company builders can share their expertise and teach corporations how to be agile, innovative and flexible in response to new challenges.
Related: Company Builders Are the New Accelerator Programs
Worldwide lockdown measures have revealed serious flaws in important systems in emerging markets, highlighting healthcare deficits, global supply chain weaknesses and limited financial safety nets. These deeply rooted problems will only be resolved by innovative approaches designed to create disruptive, sustainable change. With their long-term approach to generating value, company builders create the ideal environment for pursuing that change.
The American Business Awards® are the premier business awards program in the U.S.A. All organizations – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small – may submit nominations.
Entries for the 2021 (11th) BAA’s will open this coming October. Get your entry kit!
Company of the Year – Cyber Security
GOLD BUSINESS ACHIEVEMENT AWARD® WINNER:
GridGain Systems, Foster City, CA