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2016

By Jennifer ShaheenMillenialBuyers_Body.jpg

 

In April, the Pew Research Center reported that millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest generation. There are 75.4 million millennials between the ages of 18 and 34, and their expectations are profoundly shaping the way small business owners promote their offerings and operate on a daily basis. While the millennial generation is incredibly diverse, they do have some traits in common that are important for small business owners to understand and act upon.

 

Instant accessibility is non-negotiable

The millennial generation is always connected, and they expect the brands they do business with to be as well. Even if your physical location is only open for a portion of the day, these shoppers want to be able to find out more information, research potential purchases, and even buy from you whenever they feel like it. Make sure your online presence is robust enough to meet and exceed these expectations by leveraging purchasing and customer service tools to automate processes as much as possible.

 

Kane Russell, head of marketing for Thanx, which builds apps for multi-location retailers, recommends a mobile first strategy. “Ninety percent of [millennials] have their mobile device in arm’s reach 24-7,” he says, adding that if you don’t have a mobile strategy in place, work to build one. Then make your content, including website, social media and emails, more entertaining.

 

Life cycles repeat themselves

Millennials are far more than “the young customer.”  More than half of millennials over the age of 25 are parents. The Zillow Housing Confidence Index, presented in partnership with USA Today, reveals that two-thirds of millennials are planning to purchase a home within the next five years. The pressures that come with parenthood and home ownership have shown to have some impact on millennials’ purchasing decisions.

 

MillenialBuyers_PQ.jpgJeff Fromm, president of FutureCast, a marketing agency focused on attracting millennials, characterizes these changes as pragmatic. Millennials seek deals, and make purchases that are useful and practical. When they do splurge, it’s on their children. There is less willingness among older millennials to pay premium prices for products that are environmentally friendly or socially conscious. Knowing this, as well as where your customers are in their life cycle and what events they’re currently navigating, will make it easier to craft marketing messages that really resonate.

 

Authenticity is everything

Millennials are notoriously resistant to hard-sell marketing. Instead, they’re seeking authentic, one-on-one connections with the brands they choose to do business with. Understand what makes your company unique in the marketplace, and communicate that consistently through all touch points. Follow through is absolutely essential. If your store positions itself as a fun, welcoming place to shop on social media, yet customers who come in find your staff to be hostile and snobby, this disconnect can be absolutely devastating for your brand.

 

Authenticity walks hand in hand with simplicity. A growing number of brands have had success reaching millennials with purely functional messaging. Busy millennials, perpetually overwhelmed by content, are seeking out low-stress shopping experiences. Make sure it’s easy for your customer to identify the path to purchase, particularly on mobile devices. Large buy buttons and smart page design are now more important than ever before.

 

Millennials are willing to share

Unlike previous generations, millennials are often willing to share significant amounts of personal data in exchange for perks, such as savings deals. Use this tendency to deepen your understanding of who your customers are. Going beyond generational traits into the nuances of what’s really driving your customers’ decisions right now means spending time looking at and understanding your data, but it’s time well spent. When millennials feel a brand really ”gets” them, they become loyal consumers and vocal advocates.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Robert LeroseFocusGroups_Body.jpg

 

The focus group is a venerable tool for getting into the minds of your target audience and using that knowledge to help your business make better marketing decisions. Essentially, it involves gathering your ideal prospects in a controlled setting to get their opinion of, and reaction to, a proposal, product, service, or initiative that your business is considering.

 

Patricia Lotich, founder of Thriving Small Business, a Bonita Springs, Florida-based business management consultancy, offers these perspectives on the uses and protocols of conducting an efficient and effective focus group session.

 

1. Have a clear objective for your focus group

Before you assemble consumers or prepare your questions, know why you're conducting the focus group in the first place. Is it to help you establish a new service? Discover what your target customer group thinks about a particular issue? Find ways to improve an existing product? Settling on one objective for the focus group should yield the best results.

 

2. Develop questions that fit the discussion

Start with an overview question to frame the discussion and then "drill down" for more granular details. For example, Lotich says, to find out why customers might not use a dry cleaner delivery service, you could ask: do you dry clean your clothes? How do you select a dry cleaner? What services do you look for in a dry cleaner? Have you ever used a dry cleaner delivery service? If no, why not? How much would you be willing to pay for this delivery service?

 

FocusGroups_PQ.jpg3. Keep the group to a manageable number

While it can be advantageous to hear from a wide number of viewpoints, too many participants in a focus group can result in an unwieldy session. Lotich says that eight to 10 people work best, allowing room and time for everyone to speak.

 

4. Choose a receptive group

You don't need participants to be devoted to your company, but you want consumers who possess a working understanding of the product or service under discussion. Also, try to find people with the same purchasing behaviors necessary for the product or service you're testing. Aim for holding three or four different focus group sessions with the same mix of people.

 

5. Decide on a moderator

It's certainly possible to conduct a focus group session yourself, but Lotich says that an outside professional facilitator could probably provide more objective results and perhaps add a fresh perspective in interpreting the findings.

 

The interactive nature of a focus group lets you collect the raw, first-hand reactions of consumers that can be used to help you develop or refine your product or service line.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

HolidayPrep_Body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Hot summer days may not bring the holiday season to mind, but this is exactly when you need to start preparing if you want your online store to be successful during this all-important time. Here are some tips on what to do now to get started:

 

Understand the e-commerce calendar

The holiday shopping season begins before Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and extends into the New Year. This year, cyber Monday is November 28th; on this date, online shoppers expect the most amazing deals and offers of the shopping season. However, not everybody starts shopping early. Last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s numbers, nine out of 10 shoppers were actively buying gifts, décor, and other holiday items throughout December. America’s Research Group reports that 2015 saw the numbers of last minute shoppers hit a 12-year high, with nearly half of their respondents still actively shopping on Christmas Eve.

 

Time promotions and offers carefully

Purchasing behavior varies throughout the holiday shopping season. Your promotions and offers should be tailored accordingly. On cyber Monday, it’s all about price, whereas more sentiment-driven messaging can be used effectively during the first 15 days of December. Appealing to a buyer’s sense of urgency becomes powerful after that point, and once the holidays are done? It’s time to give your bargain hunters what they’re looking for and slash prices on slow selling items and excess inventory.

 

HolidayPrep_PQ.jpgUpdate your return policy and FAQ pages now

Customers want easy access to critical shopping information while they’re on your website and social media. Make sure your return policy, sizing and shipping information, and other important information is accurate, up to date, and extremely easy to find. If you’re using chatbots to facilitate your customer service, make sure they’re prepared with text that addresses these common holiday season inquiries well in advance of the holiday buying rush.

 

Know and share critical cut-off shipping dates

Delivery companies make a valiant effort to scale up in order to meet the increased demands of the holiday shopping season, but there are limits to what can be done. Strongly encourage your customers to place their orders in time to ensure holiday delivery. UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Post Office all post the cut-off dates for their different shipping options. Share these with your customers regularly to help them avoid disappointment. Emphasizing early orders is a good best practice, as even one bad weather event can slow down the entire delivery chain.

 

Start generating creative materials

The graphics, language, and imagery you use to support your holiday promotions should be visually consistent across all of your messaging channels, while also tailored to play to the strengths of each platform. This means the beautiful product photos on Instagram one day should reflect what’s current on sale in your online store. Pinterest and Facebook posts should also be in alignment. Use one platform to reinforce the messaging and engagement on another. For instance, when highlighting a specific offer, drive traffic to the exact location—a website page or social media commerce ad—where the customer can actually make a purchase. Creating the sales materials in advance means that during the holiday season you’ll be able to focus on providing superior customer service.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

PopUpStores_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

For a small business that would like to open a new location without the heavy investment of a long-term commitment, pop-up stores provide a popular and practical solution. Essentially, a pop-up store is a temporary structure that can last from a few days to a few months. It can be set up in an empty neighborhood storefront, a parking lot, within the confines of your existing retail establishment—almost any space where your customers might be.

 

Shopify, which provides a platform to help businesses grow and manage their operations, gives these reasons to consider trying a pop-up store.

 

1. Find new sources of revenue

A pop-up store lets you test a new product or service to see whether it could become a significant source of additional revenue without the expense of establishing a permanent retail presence.

 

2. Reach out to offline customers

Studies show that customers who shop online still like to try or touch products before they buy. Pop-up stores help you connect with online shoppers for an offline buying experience.

 

3. Drive sales through exclusivity and scarcity

The temporary nature of a pop-up store lets you promote products for a limited time or products that can't be found anywhere else—spurring customers to buy immediately.

 

PopUpStores_PQ.jpg4. Tie in products with the season

Customers typically spend more money around the holidays or look for bargains during particular seasons. Putting up a pop-up store at strategic times of the year can capitalize on, and even amplify, that buying impulse.

 

5. Deepen customer awareness of your product line 

Some products need to be explained in detail before they catch on with the mass buying public. A dedicated pop-up store can provide demonstrations, gain customer attention, and lead to sales of these hard-to-understand products.

 

6. Show up where your customers shop

Do your best customers shop in a particular neighborhood or street? With a pop-up store, you can set up a place to sell your products in prime locations that your customers frequent and be wherever they are. 

 

7. Spread the word about your brand

A pop-up store lets you distinguish yourself from your online-only competition with a visible, tangible presence. Events and other promotions directly tied to your pop-up store can boost awareness of your brand.

 

The modest costs and low risks of a pop-store let small business owners earn extra dollars and forge stronger bonds with their customers.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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