4 strategies to build your business' long-term health
By David Boone, EVP, U.S. card partnerships and shared services, TD Bank
Optimism has returned to the retail sector. A recent survey by TD Bank found nearly 75 percent of retailers expect sales to increase in 2017. That follows a strong 2016. More than eight in 10 retailers said they met or exceeded their sales goals last year. With a bit more cash on hand, this may be a good time for retailers to invest in the long-term health of their businesses.
While each business is unique, many retailers could benefit from new or expanded loyalty programs, improved technology, sprucing up brick-and-mortar stores and financing assistance. Retailers can build on what's working or branch out into new areas.
Keep customers coming back with loyalty programs
A repeat clientele is the lifeblood of any business. One way to encourage shoppers to return is to offer loyalty programs. A common type of program offers coupons, awards or specials to repeat customers. Retailers can also offer no- or low-cost financing deals that make it easier for customers to buy big-ticket items. Often, a bank or other financing partner can provide a white-label credit card program that includes financing.
Customers want flexibility and offering financing options can be an effective business builder. In the TD survey, 45 percent of retailers said a promotional finance program was either moderately or extremely important to their business.
Boost sales and marketing with omnichannel technology
Every business needs an omnichannel strategy to stay competitive. It's important for two reasons; customers can browse and buy with ease and it's a great marketing platform. With more technology options than ever before, even the smallest brick-and-mortar businesses can establish an online store. Just be sure the ecommerce program, including the ability to apply for a credit card, is optimized for every channel.
Even if retailers don't opt for ecommerce, a website, Facebook page or other digital property can be a great marketing tool. Build an online clientele and offer specials, helpful content and responsive service. It's a great way to keep a business top of mind.
Spruce up your brick-and mortar business
Many people still prefer to shop in retail outlets. They want to try on a shirt, test a couch or walk on a carpet. They may have questions that require a knowledgeable salesperson. Some people like to browse online but buy in person.
Visiting a store is an immersive experience. Take a fresh look at your business and be sure that's it's sending the right message to customers. Is it bright, clean and modern? If not, consider upgrades that make the shopping experience more pleasurable.
Consult financing experts
Whether you're expanding or simply looking for ways to manage your finances better, don't overlook the services of financing partners. If you're seeking a loan, for example, your financing partner may have industry-specific advice on trends or opportunities. If you've hit a bump in running the business or sales have slowed, a financing partner can provide an objective assessment and help develop solutions. Personal service is key. When evaluating a financing partner, survey respondents cited the ability to offer a customizable program and the quality of customer service as the top factors.
There's no better time to invest in your business than when sales are strong. The four strategies above can be used singly or in combination. For example, a retailer might want to improve their online presence to drive customers into a newly refurbished store. When the customer is ready to buy, the retailer can offer a financing deal. There are all kinds of possibilities. With their businesses on solid footing, retailers can savor the optimism they feel now and set themselves up for even more success in the future.