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5 Ways to Reduce eCommerce Shipping Costs

“Free shipping” — it’s what customers today expect to see when they shop online. So how can an eCommerce seller absorb those shipping costs without wreaking havoc on its profits? You could just raise your prices, but customers won’t like that either. Fortunately, you can change things about the way you ship to minimize the financial impact.

Decide how much you can absorb

You just may not be in a position to pay 100% of the shipping on every single order. But you could still favorably impress customers by offering it on orders over a certain dollar amount. Figure out what that amount is, taking into account average order value, surcharges for weight or size, and so on.

Downsize your packaging

Lose the habit of using the same size box for many different sizes of the product. Smaller boxes cost less to buy. Plus, many carriers calculate their shipping prices based on a combination of size and weight called “dimensional weight,” so a smaller box will cost less to ship even if it weighs the same as a bigger one. To make box selection easy, there is software that will do it for you based on each SKU’s measurements and weight.

Also, are you automatically using bubble wrap for every item, whether it needs it or not? Invest the time to analyze each SKU’s real protection needs, especially those that are already boxed by the manufacturer. Conversely, giving some products more protection can prevent damage in transit and reduce the number of returns.

Choose hybrid shipping options

In hybrid shipping, your carrier (such as FedEx) gets the package from you to its destination city, then hands it over to the U.S. Post Office for local delivery. This enables significant cost savings while keeping the customer happy with your speed and service.

Compare carriers

Look beyond UPS and FedEx. There are many other shipping services out there who can provide better prices and equal if not better service.

Automate shipping processes

Let shipping software save you time, manpower, and money in every step of the fulfillment process, from verifying address accuracy to printing labels to tracking deliveries.

These days, no eCommerce seller can afford to leave its shipping process on autopilot. Look for new solutions and strategies to minimize costs, and keep your net profits right where you want them.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

How Small Retailers Can Win Big Over Mega Stores

Cutthroat prices, huge inventory, massive advertising bucks — a small retailer is bound to feel like David going up against Goliath when competing with the big chains. But, like David, you can win the battle. The trick is to fight it on your ground, not theirs.

Leverage localness

We are located in South Florida and every winter we see our chain store branches offering cold-weather gear, even though it’s rarely needed in our climate. Large national chains are by their nature generic; it’s virtually impossible for them to offer any local flavor. You, on the other hand, can tailor your merchandise mix to the specific tastes and needs of the people in your area.

Stress quality and value

There’s no way you can beat the prices of your big-box competition. So go the opposite route and offer products that are made well and will serve a customer’s needs for years. They cost more but give greater value than an item that fails within a few months of purchase.

Promote uniqueness

Seek out products from smaller manufacturers that won’t be found in big box stores because they can’t meet such large orders. Customers love having alternatives to the mass-produced merchandise that’s the same from one chain to the next.

Help customers find you in local online searches

There’s no way you can top the search engine results page for nationwide searches. But you can use local SEO strategies successfully. They are actually weighted in your favor because Google will penalize any business that sets up multiple website pages for every one of its locations.

  • Create a Google Business page (or check the one you already have for completeness and accuracy)
  • Make sure your location appears on every page of your website
  • Direct inbound traffic from search engines to a location-centric landing page on your website (your address, phone number, store hours, location map)
  • Display links to other local businesses and organizations on your website

Connect with the community

Build customer awareness and loyalty by getting involved with them.

  • Host or participate in community events
  • Contribute to local charities
  • Sponsor a local sports team
  • Form strategic partnerships with complimentary local businesses
  • Invite local social media influencers to visit your store and sample your merchandise

Deliver superior customer service

You have the advantage of one-on-one relationships with your customers, which no big box store can equal. Provide a memorable experience by making them feel recognized, comfortable, and cared for where they shop.

Big stores will always be big players in the retail scene. But small retailers can reach local customers on a level above and beyond what national chains can do. Those are the ones that will survive and thrive.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

7 Steps for Retailers to Reduce Inventory Shrinkage

Inevitably, somewhere between the manufacturer and the cash register, some of your merchandise disappears. Every retailer has this problem; in fact, it adds up to more than $42 billion in annual losses nationwide. The three biggest causes of shrinkage are administrative errors, employee theft, and customer theft. Here’s how to counteract them.

1. Use a good inventory management system.

Wherever human beings are doing the counting, organizing, and recording, errors are sure to happen. Choose software that:

  • Organizes product and vendor information
  • Integrates with your POS system so that inventory data is automatically updated after every transaction
  • Generates accurate purchase orders

2. Tighten up your inventory receiving process.

To minimize mistakes:

  • Cross-check against the PO at the time of delivery
  • Call the vendor within 24 hours to resolve inconsistencies
  • Tag and label merchandise immediately

3. Record sales consistently.

Any currently available POS system will do this automatically.

4. Take physical inventory.

It’s the only way to reveal discrepancies between what your inventory software says you have and what you have. Cross-reference the manual counts against software records to see where shortages are occurring, for example with a particular cash register or employee, or during the same shift and day every week.

5. Train employees in loss prevention.

Letting everyone know that you have a strong plan to stop theft can deter both employees and customers.

6. Improve pre-employment screening.

The reality of retail is that employee turnover is high and company loyalty usually low. Besides, employees have less supervision and easy access to your valuables. Do your due diligence in hiring people with no history of dishonesty, including nationwide criminal background checks and verification that resumes are complete and truthful.

7. Install a security system.

Large, visible cameras act as warnings to thieves to pick an easier target. They also help catch and convict criminals after thefts occur.

Inventory shrinkage is a challenge that will never go away. And that means your efforts towards loss prevention can never stop either. Success lies in ongoing processes and continuous attention to keep your merchandise right where it belongs.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

3 Great Cash Flow Ideas for Retailers

What do a used book store, garden nursery, and boutique clothing shop all have in common?

No, this isn’t the set up to a joke. Unfortunately, all three types of businesses are at risk of failing if their cash flow isn’t in good shape. According to the Small Business Administration, “inadequate cash reserves” is a top reason small businesses close their doors for good.

So whether you sell novels, shovels, or dresses with ruffles — if you’re a retailer, cash flow is king.

What exactly is cash flow?

Think of it like a checking account. Cash flow looks at all the money coming in and out of your business each month. If there’s more coming in than going out, you’re in the green! If you’re spending more than comes in, read on. That means your cash flow is negative and your business could be in trouble

Here are three simple ways to get your cash flowing in the right direction.

1. Bundle products

If you sell several accessories apart from your core offering, try packaging them together with a small discount. This can also be an effective way of clearing out dead stock while creating goodwill with your customers, who feel like they’re walking away with a great deal.

2. Understand the risks of discounting

If you do decide to bundle products or offer another type of sale, make sure you know exactly how that will impact your bottom line. You should know the profit margins on every product you sell and your overall cost basis – it’s the only way to determine if you’ll break even with the sale or take a loss.

3. Encourage repeat business

Offering perks or freebies to returning customers helps create loyalty and makes it easier for them to choose you over other options. Go old school with a punch card, get creative with a contest, or print an offer on receipts that are good for a future purchase.

If you’re struggling to determine the state of your cash flow, it could be time to call in for some backup. With Xendoo’s suite of affordable bookkeeping and consulting services, you’ll be able to spend more time at the “cash-out” bringing the cash.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

Getting Back to Basics: 5 customer engagement strategies for health and wellness business owners

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2017 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

In the fitness world, it’s important to tackle the basics before you take on more challenging, complicated exercises. It’s the same in business. Building a strong foundation for your customer engagement strategies will provide you with the tools necessary to take on bigger, more ambitious efforts later on.

What is Customer Engagement?

Customer engagement is every touchpoint your business has with a customer, whether online or off. You can utilize both proactive and reactive customer engagement strategies to engage with your target market. The possibilities here are nearly endless and limited only by your creativity and the resources you have available.

As a franchise owner in the health and fitness space, how you engage with customers can make or break your business. Here are five simple ideas for customer engagement strategies that could help grow your business.

#1 – Keep everything simple

On the customer side, make it easy for them to contact you in a variety of ways. Some people will like to pick up the phone, while others will prefer to send an email. Don’t hide phone numbers or email addresses unless you have a very clear communication strategy pointing them in another direction. Also, make sure your contact info is consistent across all platforms.

Behind the scenes, keeping your business as simple as possible to run will help you save time and put more effort into the things that make you money. If you choose to outsource bookkeeping, for example, you can take that task off your plate and reallocate that time to core duties that will grow your business. These days, there are plenty of affordable bookkeeping services for small businesses, so delegating this piece of the puzzle is quick and easy. 

Three women gym staff members pose with medicine balls.

#2 – Let your staff exercise their voice

Empower your staff to truly serve your customers. When front-line staff, whether in-person or virtual, have the ability to address concerns and make good on mistakes, you decrease the chances of problems escalating and resulting in a bad review online.

It’s important to remember that people like to do business with other people, not cold corporations. If you can help your staff engage with each customer and get to know them personally, that connection will do wonders. Not only is that customer more likely to come back, but they are also more likely to tell friends and family about the great experience they had in your store.

#3 – Get results…and rewards!

One of our best customer loyalty tips is to reward loyal customers with perks and offers that make it easier for them to choose you over other competitors. Think about implementing a rewards program that keeps them coming back time and time again.

The power of offering rewards can be seen over the long run when your past customers continue to stick with your products and services. If they consider making a switch to another business, the loss of potential rewards may be all it takes to keep them in place. There is a momentum associated with accumulating rewards over time, and many customers won’t want to miss out once they’ve gotten started. 

A gym owner deals with a customer issue on the telephone.

#4 – Don’t be afraid of a bit of resistance

No matter how small an issue or how wrong you believe your customer to be, respond to every concern as quickly as possible. Whether the comment came in person, over the phone, via email, or through a scathing review—tackle the issue head-on fast. You’ll save a customer and likely gain more in the process.

To avoid having these responses take up too much of your time, consider establishing a schedule to deal with each concern. For instance, you could set aside a couple of hours each morning to start the day by responding to any complaints that have come in over the last 24 hours. This will ensure that no issue waits too long without a reply, and it will keep the rest of your day open to work on other projects. 

#5 – Keep up your (social) reps

There is no debate about the power and importance of social media in the modern business landscape. Carefully managing your online communities is no longer optional. Make sure you have staff dedicated to monitoring your social media channels and responding to positive and negative feedback. Responsiveness shows onlookers that you care about your customers and will go the extra mile.

To actually drive engagement on social media, it’s important to be as original and creative as possible. If you are simply looking around at other brands in your space and copying their ideas, you’ll never make much of an impact. Think about what it is that makes your brand unique and target those points with your social campaigns. In an extremely crowded digital landscape, you need something different to stand out from the crowd. 

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

Selling on Amazon: To FBA or Not to FBA?

Unless you’re living under a rock on the moon, you’re well aware that Amazon is the eCommerce success story of the century — not only for Amazon itself but for thousands of independent sellers who take advantage of its marketing reach and customer confidence. Amazon’s FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) program goes a step further: it gives smaller eCommerce businesses the clout and convenience of its warehousing, shipping, and customer service facilities.

So if you use FBA, you do less than half the work of the transaction: listing your product on Amazon and getting your merchandise shipped to an Amazon fulfillment center. They take care of the rest: merchandise storage, order processing, picking, packing, shipping, and shipment tracking.

A fundamental decision any third-party seller on Amazon must make is whether to use FBA or its fulfillment facility. Here are some things to consider:

Comparative costs.

Which will be more profitable: paying for your warehousing, packaging materials, and staff to do the picking, packing, and delivery to the shipper; or paying the FBA fee to have Amazon do all that for you?

Amazon makes it easy for you to compare the numbers with this Fulfillment by Amazon Revenue Calculator. Fill in the item price and your costs, then click “Calculate” to see the FBA costs for the same item, and which is your best option in terms of net profit and net margin.

Time investment.

The more you sell, the more time fulfillment takes out of your day. The time that should be spent on management and development, not putting items inboxes. This is often a major roadblock to scaling your business.

Sales tax obligations.

When some or all of your inventory is stored in and shipped from Amazon warehouses, you may be required to collect and remit sales tax in the states where those warehouses are located.

Amazon Prime eligibility.

Only third-party sellers who use FBA are Prime eligible, and many say that this is their number one reason for doing so. When customers see “Fulfilled by Amazon” on the product page, they have confidence that:

  • Their purchase will be delivered in just 2 days
  • They are getting a better deal because shipping is free
  • They will receive excellent shipment tracking and customer service

Even Amazon shoppers who are not Prime members often choose to buy from a seller who is Prime eligible rather than one who isn’t. This gives FBA sellers a huge advantage over those who do their fulfillment.

Each business must weigh the pros and cons of Amazon FBA concerning its needs and goals. But we think that in 99 cases out of 100, the advantages far outweigh the costs. It’s certainly worth a try.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

Increase Efficiency to Reduce Retail Labor Costs

While retailers struggle to maintain their profit margins, labor costs continue to rise. Check out these smart ways to keep them under control.

Fine-tune schedules.

This can be tricky in retail; there may be too many employees on the job when customer traffic is low, or not enough when the store is jammed. Analyze your POS sales data to more accurately schedule the right number of employees for each shift. (Or obtain scheduling software that will do it for you.)

Avoid overtime.

Instead of having your full-time employee work extra shifts at the time and a half, pay a part-time or temporary worker the base rate to cover the same hours.

Eliminate time theft.

A time and attendance app will ensure that employees are not being paid for the time they didn’t actually work: coming in late, leaving early, long breaks, rounding up hours or buddy clocking in/out.

Cross-train employees.

Most people are happy to learn new skills and take on new roles. And you’ll be happy that fewer people are needed to get the work done. Plus, if one employee quits, you’ll have another ready to step in without the costs of a new hire.

Reduce employee turnover.

Recruiting and hiring new employees is expensive; it’s much more cost-effective to keep the ones you have. That doesn’t mean you have to give them raises; the number one reason people leave a job is happiness, not money. Provide opportunities for engagement and career advancement to keep them on board.

Increase employee productivity.

Another benefit of keeping employees happy is that it also keeps them more productive and efficient — up to 20% more, according to some studies. That means you could get the same work out of fewer people.

Re-evaluate wages and pay structures.

  • Check whether your pay rates are consistent with industry norms at PayScale or Glassdoor. If they’re too high, bring them in line for new hires.
  • Convert sales roles to a commission-only pay structure.
  • Give pay raises based on performance, rather than an automatic annual increase.

The best way to reduce labor costs isn’t to reduce staff. It’s to increase efficiency in managing the human resources you already have. That’s how you have your cake and eat it too: keep customer satisfaction while taking a giant step toward improving profit margins.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

Just What the Doctor Ordered: 3 cash flow tips for medical practices

You don’t need a second opinion to know that the healthcare landscape is drastically changing. Insurance companies are paying less and patients are paying more — yet many medical practices continue to run their business the same way they did five years ago.

If that’s you, it’s time to make a change.

Your practice’s cash flow is a big indicator of its overall health. Considering that…

• insurance reimbursements are plummeting

• self-pay is the number three payer behind Medicare and Medicaid

• about 68% of patients with medical bills $500 or less didn’t pay in full in 2016

…it’s time to help educate patients about their financial responsibility and use tools that keep your cash flow and A/R healthy.

Now that we’ve diagnosed the problem, here are three ways to improve your practice’s cash flow!

Train your staff

Step one is making sure your staff understands your practice’s policies, which should be clearly defined and not vary by physician. Help them understand why healthcare changes may be one reason behind patients’ unwillingness to pay and show them how to make decisions based on aging reports, not feelings.

Send invoices promptly and statements regularly

Your A/R is your practice’s largest asset, so it should be a priority. Promptly sending invoices and regular statements (sooner than 90 days overdue) helps patients get into the habit of paying on time and understand that they do owe you money.

Tweak your statements

Small changes to your patient statements can help increase the urgency to pay. Try removing the:

Aging boxes – which subtly tell patients it’s ok to wait until the last box before there’s a consequence

Amount paid box – which sends the signal that patients have the option of how much to pay

Statement date – which can be confused with the due date

And remember, even after making these changes, your staff may still make mistakes when it comes to a patient’s billing. But the sooner you correct mistakes, the sooner your patients will pay their balance.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

Pricing Your Services: Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Does this sound like you? You offer great quality service, you have an excellent customer base, but you’re still making very little if any, profit. There could be many reasons for this, but one of the most frequent is that you’re not charging enough. Here’s how to stop undervaluing yourself and get the money you deserve.

Find out what’s behind your excuses.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking that you charge as much as your customers will tolerate. But if your competition is charging more, what’s the real reason for your low prices? Consider these possibilities:

  • You’re insecure about the quality of your skills or service
  • You haven’t added up all the benefits your client receives
  • You haven’t analyzed your competitive advantages and differentiators
  • You work extra long hours without getting paid extra

The vicious cycle of low pricing.

When you underprice your services, there are more consequences to your business than minimal profit margins. The more you lower prices, the worse your business gets, and the worse your business gets, the more you’re forced to lower prices.

  • You attract problem clients who will nitpick, disrespect your expertise and try to drive your prices even lower
  • Problem clients create an environment that repels good clients
  • You have no room in the budget for promotions and marketing, which attract more — and better — clients than low pricing does
  • Talented staff don’t want to work for you

6 steps to getting the prices right.

  • Work on your personal attitudes to self-worth and wealth acquisition, which may date back to childhood.
  • Do a competitive analysis: the benefits you bring to clients and ways that you’re different/better than competitors. If you can’t think of any, plan how you’re going to change that.
  • Immediately raise your prices to new clients by 20%. Transition existing clients more gradually. See how that works for a few months, then adjust as necessary.
  • Charge overtime for excessive demands for your time and talents, or just say no.
  • Make marketing and promotions plan to attract new, quality clients.
  • Bring in experts to support your weak areas, such as accounting or marketing.

Valuing yourself at your true worth isn’t just good for your soul, it’s good for your business. Get started on these tips today — you deserve it!

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

 

Social Proof: A Must-Have in Service Business Marketing

Testimonials from satisfied clients, positive reviews on Yelp, numbers data, professional association logos — these are all that marketing experts call social proof, and they are an excellent way to gain the trust of prospective clients. While they are successful in many industry sectors, they’re especially so for retail service businesses which rely heavily on reputation and word-of-mouth.

Here are a few tips for making social proof work for you.

Use effective testimonials.

A couple of sentences saying that everything was great aren’t very interesting — or convincing. Choose ones that:

  • Mention a specific benefit the client received. “I looked so good at the class reunion that my old crush never took his eyes off me.”
  • Answer a question or potential objection. “They really captured the spirit of my wedding with their candid photography. Worth every penny!”
  • Include keywords that people would put into Google when looking for businesses like yours.
  • Include the name and photo of the person commenting — much more credible than a stand-alone quote.

Monitor the review sites.

They are a great source of testimonials. Even more important, you need to stay current with what people are saying about your business — good and bad — so you can nip any problems in the bud.

Present numbers/data proof compellingly.

Unless yours is a volume- or speed-driven business, people won’t much care that you “served over 15,000 clients last year.” However, they will be intrigued to learn that “25 clients are getting a buff body right now.” This combines a benefit with the number, showing how your success empowers the client’s success.

Display professional recognitions.

The social proofs mentioned above all come from the client’s peers. This type of proof comes from a respected authority. You could use:

  • Logos of professional associations you belong to
  • Awards you’ve received
  • Media coverage you’ve received
  • Better Business Bureau logo

Social proofs in advertising and marketing are not just effective, they’re cost-effective. Many of them are even free. That’s great news for any business with a finite marketing budget. And what we’ve discussed here is just the tip of the iceberg. In future articles, we’ll cover how to obtain social proofs, how and where to use them, and how to measure their success in attracting new clients to your business.

 

This post is intended to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute as legal, business, or tax advice. Please consult your attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in our content. Xendoo assumes no liability for any actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.