Category Archives: Trends in Retail

Trade Shows – the good, the bad & the ugly

I recently attended the 2017 PRSM Mid-Year Conference in Indianapolis. The trade show PRSMwas over a 3 day period and there were a few things that caught my attention:

  1. False claims – Nearly every company used verbiage such as “the biggest”, “the leading”, “the most trusted”, “the most reliable” and of course “the best”.
  2. A lack of knowledgeable and passionate team members – Many of the booths were manned by salespeople, and some even had temporary workers who had just been brought into promote the company for the duration of the tradeshow. Although on the surface their performance was acceptable, they were found out when the tougher questions came out. We had the director of the department in question with us and this was hugely positive with great feedback received from many attendees about the knowledge and passion that she shared.
  3. Scanning your badge and collecting your contact details – many companies attend these events in an attempt to collect as many contacts as possible who they can then bug with marketing emails long after the show has ended. No effort is made to even make introductions and before you know it you find yourself being attacked by a badge scanning maniac.
  4. Receptions and happy hours – It’s always nice attending events such as this as they give you an opportunity to meet face to face with existing and potential clients, as well as meeting fellow trade professionals. It’s great to mingle and make introductions, and the food that is typically available isn’t too bad either!
  5. Education opportunities – These events are normally jam packed with hundreds of speakers-414562_960_720classes and workshops where you can learn about latest industry trends, new technologies, things that are in the pipeline and issues to be concerned about.
  6. Late starts/ missed seminars/ unmanned booths – This event was a little more challenging to evaluate attendance as the event was sandwiched in between the destructive hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, which prevented many people from making the trip to Indy. One thing that isn’t difficult to recognize is when groups of people arrive at the exhibit hall a couple of hours after everything started and spend most of their time sat down trying to drown themselves with black coffee. The biggest disappoint for me is when exhibitors just completely fail to turn up and leave their booths unmanned. This creates a very bad impression of the business in my opinion and definitely reduces the chance that I will work with them.
  7. Traffic Police – People stood out in the aisles essentially forcing you to move towards their booth where their colleague will go ahead and pounce on you. There are unfortunately many areas where companies will put the hard sale on you without even knowing what you are looking for. Again there is no attempt to find out what you need and provide potential solutions. They instead try to force their product/service down your throat.
  8. Awkward but useful – The most enjoyable, but slightly awkward, session is typically the buyer-supplier forums where both sides of the table get to drill each other with tough questions. These are very beneficial as both sides are typically closer in their opinions than many would think, and this leads to some great conversations.
  9. After the show is over – the follow up is crucial. I personally believe that the most important thing is to develop strong relationships and lay the foundation for more in depth conversations at a later date. The face to face time is a great opportunity to explore your counterparts problems and compile a way in which you can bring value to their business. I try to develop the relationship in person, and then talk more in depth in the follow up.
  10. Services vs. products – At most tradeshows there will be businesses selling both services and products. The challenge here is that many products can obviously be commoditized, but the same is not true for services, which is what my company provides. It makes the conversations a little more challenging to change your audience’s mindset, but this is something that we are expecting and have plenty of experience with!
  11. Useless junk – The marketing materials that people use to lure you into their booth vary substantially in quality and usefulness. The worst item that I saw at this show was a small booklet where you could store all of your online account details and pen-2532710_960_720passwords! This booklet was a godsend for identity thieves as there was room for the website, the username, associated email address, and of course the password! You can’t make these things up! I obviously did not take part in this offer and instead will continue to rely on my memory and the ability to make unlimited changes to my login details when I forget my credentials…. There were however some great takeaways available that I was able to load into bags and take home to my two sons. There were also some useful things for my wife and me including powerpacks, USB adapters, and of course THOUSANDS of pens!

Overall, this conference was a great experience and one where I gained some very useful information.  I learned a lot from other attendees, both what to do and what not to do and am truly looking forward to the next event!

What have you noticed about trade shows that you have found useful?  Is there anything that has worked especially well for you?  Please leave your ideas in the comments below, and as always, Expect the Exceptional every day!

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Pros and Cons of heightened technology

As technology has evolved over time, many businesses have sought to increase their profitability by automating many of their processes. In some areas, this has been hugely successful, leading to a greater experience for all involved. However, in others, the shift has not been well received and has caused businesses to shrink. The loss of a personal touch, the inability to speak to someone who can empathize with you, and the time spent crawling through a call tree can all be extremely frustrating.

A phone call earlier today prompted me to write this as my blood pressure was at an all time high after spending what seemed like 3 hours being passed around a directory and the magic pushing of 0 did nothing 😦

Today I am going to look at areas that have improved due to increased technology, and others that have gone in the opposite direction.

Improvements

Cashiers – automation has made lines move much more quickly, and the self-checkout self checkout.jpghas made purchasing items so much more convenient!

Retail – A blend of online shopping and the in-store experience seems to be the best way to go. This is exactly what we are looking for with our approach at Royal Services.

ATM – tellers can now focus on bigger items such as loans, home equity lines etc.

Surgery – robotics has made things happen that we never thought possible in the medical world.

Manufacturing and machinery 

Telephone book and yellow pages – I can’t even remember the last time I looked through a phone book, and am so thankful for the simplicity of looking up phone numbers online.

Maps and Google Maps – remember when you would print out directions?  Unfortunately, the printouts cannot take into consideration traffic issues and give you alternate routes!

Skype/ communication with loved ones – without Skype, my children may not know their grandparents in England at all.  Phone calls are great, but the face-to-face capabilities have made such a difference.

Financial tracking – budgeting tools are imperative for those who need help tracking their finances.

Steps back

Service providers – the frustration is endless when you are attempting to get a hold of a service provider and only get recordings.  It would be much more useful for the consumer to be able to speak to a real person.
Insurance providers – I’m sure many people have had fine experiences with insurance that they purchase online without contact with a person.  However, there is a reason Progressive set up brick and mortar stores – people need that human contact!  Especially with purchases as big and important as insurance.

WebMD and other online medical sites – while these do come in handy some of the time, I am the worst at hopping online when I see a little bump or bruise that looks funny and ending up with my head between my legs, hyperventilating and convinced I’m going to die within the next 30 minutes.  I cannot imagine the frustration doctors experience when people enter their offices acting as if they know more than the person who attended 12 years of schooling, just because they read something online.  Unfortunately these sites that are meant to help ease worries often tend to exacerbate them!

Social media – such a great way to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, but facebook-gymunfortunately they have their drawbacks as well.  As a mother, I try to stay off of facebook as much as possible to prevent feelings of inadequacy and failure.  While I am fully aware that the humble bragging I see on a daily basis is not painting the true picture of motherhood, I can’t help but feel I’m doing something wrong when I look at these seemingly perfect families!  There are also major problems with bullying and harassment, leading to horrible consequences.  PSA to please monitor your child’s Facebook page!!!

Online loan applications – again, this is a big deal and one that some people will feel more comfortable completing with a real person.  Not to mention, once you fill one out you are inundated with sales calls and emails for months!

Time wasted – you might just need to hop on real quick to check the weather, but you notice a new email which includes a link to a video with a cat on a skateboard, which in turn leads to many more hours of wasted time watching silly YouTube videos.

Driving dangers – some people are so addicted to technology that they are willing to put their lives and the lives of others in danger just to send a quick text or check email.

Scary stats about texting and driving

In most situations the best outcomes are experienced when there is a combination of technology and human to human interaction.  Some people see technology as a complete solution, whereas I see it as a tool that gives people the ability to spend more time on what really matters and where they can have more of an impact. What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of technology and look for the minimal human interaction or are you more traditional and appreciate the connection that you can have with a real person? I am interested to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comment box below.

 

Remaining loyal to local businesses

The company that my husband works for just participated in the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce small business of the year competition. 1600 nominations were whittled down to 110 applicants who took part in a showcase at Union Station two weeks kc-chamberago. From here, the top 10 businesses were announced, with the overall winner being named at a celebratory luncheon in Mid-May and then taking home the Mr. K. award.

This whole process has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved with Royal Services who are now hungry to go one step further next year.  Next year marks Royal’s 25th anniversary as well; what an achievement it would be to be recognized as one of this incredible city’s most respected small businesses in their anniversary year! The preparation has already begun, and I will provide updates on Royal’s progress over the next 12 months.

This celebration of small businesses throughout the Kansas City metro area really opened my eyes to the incredible individuals out there who have the entrepreneurial spirit, determination, and drive to overcome all obstacles in their way. Royal also started in humble surroundings. Back in 1993 Tom and Charlene Shyver founded Royal Services and ran the business out of their basement, moving on to share an office with a veterinarian, before relocating to their current location 13 years ago. This family-owned and operated business is one of only a handful of national facility maintenance and project management companies that remain privately held.

This week, I want to look at the many benefits of working with a small business.  The following list was taken from The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, who did a great job of explaining the benefits involved with shopping local!

1.  Local Character and Prosperity

In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.

2.  Community Well-Being

Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.

3. Local Decision-Making

Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

4.  Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy

Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

5.  Job and Wages

Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

6.  Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

7.  Public Benefits and Costs

Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

8.  Environmental Sustainability

Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

9.  Competition

A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10.  Product Diversity

A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

So there you have it, 10 great reasons for why you should support small businesses. If you need further convincing please check out this article from Forbes which goes into even more detail.

Why You Need to Support Small Businesses

Please take a moment to fill out the comment form below so that we can hear more about your business and what makes it special!

Honesty in sales SHOULD be the norm

When you work in retail, or any service industry, it is easy to forget why you are there.  In high school, I worked at Victoria’s Secret.  It was a fun job, but like most retail locations, it did become a little repetitive.  Day after day, I refolded the same table of underwear that people continuously destroyed.  Occasionally I had the pleasure of helping a man who was looking for – it pains me to even type this word – “panties” (ick!) for his wife.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved helping those men!  Especially the older ones; it made me feel happy that the love was still alive after many years of marriage.  But since I brought it up, here is a public service announcement: Men, please, I beg you – do NOT use the “p” word.  It is gross.  But I digress.  The point is, I would at times forget that the reason I was working there was to help people with their shopping and make sales.  I’ve never been great at sales; I actually realized that at VS when a young college student came in looking for a teddy for a gag gift.  I could not stomach selling him a $75 piece of lingerie for a GAG when the man could have gone to Walmart to get something for ten!  I also had the “pleasure” of working at a for-profit university as an admissions advisor, which can be translated into “high-pressure sales” advisor.  Once again, I found myself sending people away to the community college down the road to receive the same degree at a much, much, MUCH lower price.  Probably not what my employers were hoping for, but while my sales skills were lacking, at least I can sleep at night knowing that I was truly helping the customers.  That is not something that can be said for all sales associates.  Often, you will find someone utilizing hard-core sales techniques without the best interest of the customer in mind.  Think about your experiences at car dealerships – most of mine have involved this kind of salesman.

Many commission-based sales jobs will cause the salesmen and women to feel added pressure to seal the deal, which may in turn force them to lose sight of the full purpose, helping customers and making the sale.

Chances are, if you are looking out for the best interests of your customer, that sale will make itself because people are far more likely to purchase from someone they can trust.  And if they trust you, then they will most likely return again and again!  So remember your customers, and remember to do the best you can for them.  This is key to building a loyal client base!

 

The danger of casting judgement

As a retail owner, manager or employee you get to know the people who frequent your store, and the type of people you can expect to shop there.  If you work at Forever 21, you would not expect to see an elderly man browsing your racks, just like it would be surprising to see a teenage girl shopping at Brooks Brothers.  But is that to say they can’t, or should be looked upon differently for being there?  Maybe the man is looking for a shirt for his granddaughter; maybe the girl is shopping for a tie for Father’s Day.  I bring this up because when I occasionally have to make a visit to an atypical store, I sometimes feel uncomfortable upon walking in, but always appreciate when I am treated as though I belong there and am given the help that I so obviously need.  I recently painted a few rooms in my home and although I considered shopping for paint at a big box store, I remembered the last couple of times I looked for paint there and the negative experiences I had.  Somehow in the 21st century, the employees who “helped” me still acted as though a woman does not belong in a hardware store.  I was treated as though I were someone with silly requests, and they were too bored to bother fulfilling them.  So instead, I made the decision to pay a little extra and go to my favorite hardware store, Westlake Ace Hardware.  When I go into this store, I am immediately greeted and treated with respect.  When I select my paint color and inevitably have to return for adjustments to be made, the associates working with me have always been patient and made it very clear that they will go back as many times as I need to get the perfect color.  On the rare occasion I need to visit a hardware store for reasons other than painting or planting, I know that there is no way I will be left searching up and down aisles for what I need, which is what seems to happen at bigger stores.  At Ace, someone always finds me and offers to help.  When I leave, I feel satisfied and usually always have a smile on my face due to the friendly nature of the employees.

Next time you are at your retail location and someone walks in who doesn’t look like they belong, don’t let this happen to you:

Instead, treat everyone who walks in the door with respect, you never know how you can impact their day!

Traditions

Every April Fools Day as a child consisted of waking up to my mom and dad yelling, “There’s a firetruck outside!  Come look!  I wonder what’s going on??” And even after this had run its course, and my brothers and I knew that there was not in fact a state of emergency at the neighbor’s house, it was still fun to yell this each year and think back to the years when it actually worked. I’m looking forward to starting this same tradition with my family, although I think I’ll wait a few years as my son is very much into big trucks right now.  If I told him there was a fire truck outside and there wasn’t, I would be in for a rough day!  Traditions are an important part of my family, and as my husband will tell you, I love making new ones!  Even after we have only done something twice, it becomes a tradition in my mind and I begin to look forward to it each year.  However, getting hooked on traditions can have its downside.  For myself, once a tradition has been established in my mind, I feel almost guilty changing it in any way.  It worked so well every other year, so why try to do something different?  But this can obviously lead to boredom and possibly cause everyone involved to miss out on something new and amazing.

This problem can span across many aspects of life; maybe you have been to the same hair stylist for years, and although the rates keep going up and you aren’t loving what she is doing to your hair, you might feel it’s worth it to avoid the hassle of finding someone new.  I’m sure we all know someone who could use a new hairdresser!

trump hair

Or maybe your doctor isn’t giving you the care you need, however starting at square one and getting to know someone new just seems like too much work.  There are so many more examples I could give of the reasons we settle.  And these ruts are not limited to our personal lives either.

On the business side of things, there are clients, service providers, contractors, customers, etc. that keep things moving along the way they should. Depending on the business you are in, you might have dozens of different people to keep up with and when one is slacking, there is a good chance you will not have time to deal with it right away.  This often leads to poor output and loss of revenue.  For example, in one month, a retail store might require their locks changed, their air conditioner serviced, a toilet fixed, a glass door replaced, an LED light repaired and a new display case installed.  That is at least six different people that they will have to contact and arrange their schedule around.  And with that many people in the mix, chances are someone will cancel, or make a mistake and have to schedule a new time to come out and get the job done.  The time spent on all of this scheduling eats into the time the owner could be spending on growing their business!  So what if you could just have one point of contact?  It would mean only one person to handle the scheduling, and one person to get to know you and your business in order to ensure maximum quality is provided.  That is what Royal Services can do for you.  So next time your air conditioner serviceman shows up late, but you don’t want to spend the time finding a new one, check out what Royal Services can do to lighten your workload.

And next time you are looking for a new family tradition, check out this list of ideas for a great new tradition.  And even if they don’t all work out for your family, it will certainly be fun trying them out!  If your family has any great traditions, post them in the comments below!

Unwritten Rules

In business dealings, there are often unwritten rules that legally do not have to be followed, but ethically absolutely should be followed.  Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company, a small retail location or even are just selling items online, following a code of conduct helps to build a loyal client base and ensure your customers are satisfied.

unwritten_rules1.jpg

Recently, I was shopping for a train table for my son’s second birthday.  I did months of research and now know far more about toy trains than I care to admit.  I decided that rather than pay full price for a new table, I would prefer to find one on Craigslist in like-new condition.  Every day, I diligently got online and checked new listings, until I was sure I would have to bite the bullet and purchase new.  Just before I did this, I checked one last time and lo and behold!  A brand new, in the box table and train set for a low price and it was even the exact brand I was looking for!  I immediately sent a text to the seller and lucky me, it was still available!  I made plans for my husband to pick the table up the next day on his way home from his first job, before leaving for his second job.  Obviously, he had to make special arrangements, but it was worth it – he will do anything to put a smile on that little guy’s face!  I was feeling so accomplished and thrifty that evening when I received a text from the seller: “Someone just came by and got the table-sorry.”  Pure devastation.  And immediately after, pure anger.  Usually, I would have just wallowed in sorrow without saying a word, but this time I felt the need to speak up.  I responded that I thought it was horrible she would do that after promising it to me.  She responded with, “Those are the rules, first come first served.”  I don’t make many purchases on Craigslist, but I was fairly certain that by responding to the ad first, I was in fact first.  But I did not respond and ended up finding a much better deal, much to my delight.

This whole situation made me think about unwritten rules.  Could I sue that lady for selling my table to someone else?  Absolutely not.  It’s her table, and she can do with it what she wants.  But I left that situation feeling cheated and sad, and I don’t think any business would want their customers to leave feeling that way.  Therefore, following unwritten rules like keeping promises, honoring coupons and sale prices, sticking to the original quoted price, and finishing jobs in the time frame that was initially given are so important in business today.  At Royal Services, the unwritten rules are followed.  Businesses need not worry about a job taking twice as long as planned or paying twice as much as they were quoted.  Companies get away with this every day, and technically, they have the right to do this.  But good companies, like Royal, would never dream of it. We believe in the importance of following unwritten rules in order to create long-lasting relationships with our valued partners.