(BPT) - Over the past decade, technology has reshaped the retail industry in profound ways. Ninety-six percent of Americans are now shopping online, according to a recent study from CPC Strategy. Which means today’s business leaders face increasing pressure to keep retail spaces relevant and engaging for customers.
One solution to captivating today’s consumer is a simple one: Build meaningful connections with local communities, says Etienne Veber, president of Field Trip Factory, a firm that helps design, schedule and promote interactive learning experiences within retail environments.
“Technology provides greater convenience and lower prices,” Veber says, "but it is not a replacement for human interactions."
The increasing lack of human connections in our daily lives represents a unique opportunity for retailers to thrive in today's environment, he says, by identifying their core values and concerns, and then expressing them through meaningful learning experiences and a deeper sense of community.
"We learn by doing, and retail environments can be incredibly powerful as teaching platforms,” Veber says.
The value of purpose
When companies express a sense of purpose to their customers, it has a profound effect on the confidence in the brand. Eighty-five percent of companies with a strong sense of purpose say they are backed by their communities, because they are seen as “good and helpful corporate citizens,” according to a survey by Deloitte.
Furthermore, 89 percent of firms with a purpose say clients and customers trust the quality of their products and services — versus the 66 percent of firms that do not have this sense of purpose.
As a way to demonstrate its commitment to its local communities, multi-format food retailer Giant Eagle, Inc. developed an interactive program that connects with local school children. “Be A Smart Shopper” helps young students and their families learn about making healthy food choices.
Over the years, it has been a very effective way for Giant Eagle’s retail Team Members to uphold the company’s common purpose to improve people’s everyday lives and well-being in a community-centered way, and so far more than 600,000 families have been reached across Pennsylvania and Ohio. Educators love the program because it supplements the classroom curriculum and gets their students really engaged. Ninety-five percent of them are planning to come back with their students next year!
“Our Be A Smart Shopper program is an important part of how we fulfill our commitments to education and health and wellness,” says Giant Eagle CEO Laura Karet. “Through the program, our retail Team Members are able to meaningfully impact how the children in our communities think about the foods they eat, and encourage involvement from the children in family meal planning.”
Expressing purpose in the retail space
A retailer can build trust and loyalty by expressing their values in innovative ways. Their stores are more than places to shop. They can build opportunities right in the towns and cities in which they serve.
Host in-store classes and events: Business leaders, store managers and longtime employees, with their industry knowledge, are community gurus. With that mindset, what better way to connect with the community than to open the doors for an on-site event? Things like hands-on demonstrations, seminars, consultations and even heading up an ongoing club are all engaging ways to share knowledge and help people solve their most common pain points.
Champion local causes: Transform company values and industry knowledge into a community asset, and direct resources to solve problems in the community. Reaching out to local nonprofits, being a major sponsor to make a local event even bigger and better, or paying employees for their time to volunteer are all ways a brand can build a meaningful community presence.
Find a partner: Most businesses do not have the in-house expertise to organize, plan and publicize in-house events and initiatives, which is why some turn to a trusted partner for expertise in that field. For example, as Giant Eagle planned its Be A Smart Shopper Program, Field Trip Factory took the lead with the curriculum (with input from educators), and created the online tool that makes it easy for teachers to discover the program and sign up their class for an event. Each participating store can easily set its availability on the Field Trip Factory platform and these educational events take place without disrupting their day-to-day business activities.
Today’s retail climate is a uniquely challenging one, due to the rise in technology. To learn more about finding opportunities to engage with customers and communities, visit fieldtripfactory.com.
(BPT) - A hundred years ago, few thought that the clunky automobile that broke down so often would ever replace a horse. In the 1970s, people wondered if the personal computer that a few eccentrics were using would have any use beyond storing recipes. It’s safe to say that these innovations, along with many of the technologies we now use daily, were once considered impossible dreams.
Right now, the most-talked-about piece of technological innovation that is poised to transform our lives is the autonomous or self-driving car. As self-driving cars gain widespread adoption, analysts are predicting the rise of what is known as the passenger economy — a term coined by Intel — that is expected to be worth $7 trillion by 2050 as validated in a new report by analyst firm Strategy Analytics.
Seven trillion dollars is a lot of money! A decade ago, people couldn’t fully imagine the way smartphones would give rise to the app economy. Today we are at the threshold of something equally momentous — that’s why entrepreneurs and investors are now beginning to imagine the economic possibilities tied in with autonomous cars.
The following are five big areas of opportunity that will unfold in the passenger economy era.
The advent of the passenger economy will contribute to a safer and more efficient world. Those who can imagine and anticipate the coming changes will be in the best position to get the most out of it.
One of the challenges facing small businesses today is trying to deliver the same customer experience as larger competitors. As technology advances and takes on an ever-growing role, small businesses can tap new innovations to better communicate with customers, save money and simplify operations. These tips can help you establish a strategy that can benefit both your business performance and customer experience.
Digitally Transforming Your Business
(Family Features) One of the challenges facing small businesses today is trying to deliver the same customer experience as larger competitors. As technology advances and takes on an ever-growing role, small businesses can tap new innovations to better communicate with customers, save money and simplify operations.
As small business owners look to transform digitally, they face a number of options, from upgrading their technology to optimize shipping operations and decrease costs to adopting digital marketing tactics to better understand and target their customers. While it can be difficult for a small business that is well-established using analog processes to switch to digital, the key is to start with the final objective in mind; in other words, begin by defining your end goal. Once you’ve determined the desired outcome of digitizing your business, these tips can help you establish a strategy that can benefit both your business performance and customer experience.
Reach customers through digital marketing
Beyond the content, an effective strategy establishes connective links between all your marketing touchpoints, from email to blog and even to your traditional tactics, such as direct mail and more, all with the goal of boosting credibility and visibility via search engine optimization and foot traffic.
Optimize operations through the cloud
“The SendPro C-Series is designed to take the guesswork out of shipping and mailing,” said Jason Dies, executive vice president and president, Pitney Bowes SMB Solutions. “These digitally connected sending devices allow users to better manage their sending operations on one platform, providing the confidence that they selected the right carrier and class of service for each expedited envelope and package, track all shipments from one dashboard and provide consolidated visibility and control of postal and carrier expenses. Plus, the open platform allows developers to create new applications specific for the needs of small business owners.”
Make decisions based on analytics
Use mobile to communicate with customers
Find more tips for transforming your business for the digital age at pitneybowes.com/us/digital.
Elements of a Digital Transformation
Before diving head-first into a digital transformation, consider what aspects are most important to your business.
Boost Business Digitally
Google G Suite is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere, and on any device.
Yext puts businesses on the map by letting companies manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 maps, apps, search engines, GPS systems and social networks, as well as facilitating face-to-face and digital interactions that boost brand awareness, drive foot traffic and increase sales.
Promote by Acquisio is an advertising solution that helps businesses get new customers with zero expertise needed by creating tailored ads, providing optimization, on-the-go text notifications for incoming leads and tracking of all recorded incoming calls from ads.
Nimble is a simple social sales and marketing CRM that helps companies nurture relationships across email and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
DocuSign lets people sign, send and manage documents anytime, anywhere, on any device, replacing traditional methods that require printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting documents.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (two business owners)SOURCE:
Welcome to the era of the open workspace, where people can work and collaborate anywhere in the office, wherever they need to be. What do these modern workspaces look like? This article outlines the five traits they have in common.
(BPT) - Step into the office of the future on the first day of work, and the things that you expect in a traditional workplace are not going to happen here.
There’s no landline, no file cabinet, no bulletin board. The employee is never taken to an assigned cubicle. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that employees will spend much of their day in the same chair.
The forward-looking workplace design discards all the usual trappings of the traditional office that lock employees into physical departments with seating arrangements, moving toward an open design. While perks such as catered lunches and ping pong tables are getting attention for changing workplace culture, it's actually the power of technology that is quietly transforming the way we work. Technology is a tool that gives us a fluid and flexible use of time and space, changing how people get the job done.
“Eventually, the open digital workspace design will not be simply nice to have, it’s becoming more and more expected. It’s going to become mandatory if you want to attract top talent,” says Donna Kimmel, the senior vice president and chief people officer of Citrix.
Welcome to the era of the open workspace, where people can work and collaborate anywhere in the office, wherever they need to be. What do these modern workspaces look like? These are the five traits they have in common:
They ditch the cubicle farm: It’s no longer necessary to spend the day alone in a cubicle rooted to one spot for access to a desktop computer or landline phone. Today, you can easily and securely access, store and share your information from anywhere whether you’re on your laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Without the need for space-wasting cubicles, your building space needs are reduced, in some cases up to 50 percent. And a collaborative environment is created when walls are torn down and open seating arrangements invite conversation and brainstorming.
They accommodate work needs: Because technology frees knowledge workers from being rooted to a single cubicle, the new way is to offer an entire floor of flexible workspaces that accommodate various needs and styles. For example, one day an engineer could be working at a long table with fellow engineers, vendors and a project manager. The following week, that engineer might duck into a small privacy room for a marathon session of focused work.
They invite collaboration: Unlike the traditional cubicle farm, a flexible workspace sends a different message to the team. It invites conversation and innovative ideas by actively engaging with colleagues throughout the day, rather than rushing through a meeting agenda and hustling out.
They increase employee engagement and productivity: Flexible workspaces send a message that employees are entrusted to do their jobs wherever they feel most productive. Great leaders know and understand that their actions speak louder than words. Things like corporate policies and company culture send powerful messages to employees about how they are seen in the organization. With feelings of increased autonomy and trust often come increased levels of employee engagement. Once they have autonomy, the magic starts happening.
“… The data tells us — greater autonomy leads to better engagement, better engagement leads to greater productivity, which leads to better bottom-line results,” says Amy Haworth, director, organizational readiness at Citrix.
They embrace BYOD: That is, bring your own device. Sure, many employers may still provide hardware, but as workspaces become more flexible with a burgeoning work-anywhere ethos, employees simply wish to access their work platforms using their own laptops, tablets and mobile devices.
Luckily, it is now much easier to give employees seamless access to documents and networks safely — without draconian security measures to slow connections and processing speed. And as information, applications and work resources move to the cloud, businesses can securely deliver them to any device that has a secure network connection.
For example, Citrix offers a suite of solutions, including Citrix Cloud, XenApp, XenDesktop and ShareFile that makes BYOD secure without sacrificing user experience. If you are interested in learning more, visit citrix.com/products/.
The benefits of the redesigned workspace are numerous, says Kimmel.
"They break down barriers between managers, employees and departments. The increased, casual encounters make it easy to approach others to ask questions, make suggestions and solve problems," says Kimmel. "As a result, work gets done more quickly, and employees and managers alike report higher productivity.
"In the end, employees report greater satisfaction, which leads them to stay with a company longer."
(BPT) - The dollar, the euro, the pound, the yen… the currency people use around the world has many different names, but it all shares something in common. Paper forms of currency are out and digital payments are in. The security and convenience of card based electronic payments and digital payments are driving a global shift away from cash. As consumers and merchants around the world become more and more digitally connected this shift will continue to accelerate.
All over the world, the shift toward cashless payments is well underway. On the beaches of Cabo San Lucas, taco and tamale vendors are starting to offer their delicious food to customers with the swipe or tap of a card on a mobile phone. In Singapore, consumers can rent bikes, pay for their morning coffee and split their dinner bill without ever needing cash, and in Warsaw, as cashless payments are becoming increasingly accepted, tourists can start to tap and pay their way around the city without carrying cash.
Changes abroad, changes at home
The United States is seeing similar changes. Cash and checks are on their way out and swiping, dipping, tapping and clicking are filling the void — benefiting consumers and businesses alike.
A recent Cashless Cities study from Visa, set to be released later this year, finds that if businesses in the top 100 U.S. cities transitioned from cash to digital payments, those businesses and their cities would experience net benefits of $312 billion per year. Businesses in New York City alone would net $6.8 billion while saving more than 186 million hours in labor. But the benefits of taking checks and cash out of the system do not stop at labor cost efficiencies. They include:
* Convenience. Consumers and businesses alike benefit from the speed and convenience of electronic and digital payments. Faster checkout times mean more sales for businesses and more time to spend on the important things in life for consumers.
* Security. Accepting cash payments has always placed businesses in a bind; as their revenue increases, so does their risk of falling victim to theft. Transitioning to cashless payment options enhances security and reduces risk for businesses and their customers.
* Reduced costs. Cash payments must be counted, stored and transported. There are costs associated with all of these processes. Adopting cashless payments saves businesses time and money.
Moving forward to take advantage of cashless opportunities
Many businesses across the country are already benefiting from going cashless, but for companies — particularly small businesses that have yet to take the leap — now is the perfect time to make such a change.
Visa is announcing The Visa Cashless Challenge, a call to action for small business restaurants, cafés or food truck owners to describe what cashless means for them, their employees and customers. Visa will be awarding up to $500,000 to 50 eligible U.S.-based small business food service owners who commit to joining the 100 percent cashless quest.
Business owners can learn more about the challenge and the other benefits of going cashless at www.visa.com/cashless. Complete rules and information will be available on the website on Aug. 15.
(BPT) - Today’s business environment is characterized by excitement as much as it is by anxiety. As new technologies are constantly introduced into the workplace and transform how employees work, managers need to adjust in order to retain employees, streamline processes and stay competitive.
“Companies of all sizes are looking for solutions that allow them to work and collaborate seamlessly from anywhere, transforming their businesses to be more efficient and mobile,” says Nate Spilker, vice president of product management at Citrix.
Many see such rapid change as particularly challenging for small to mid-sized businesses, where limits of capital, personnel and other resources may prevent them from being able to fully adapt to changes and implement fixes.
In fact, the opposite may be true. Because small to mid-sized businesses have less red tape to get through, they may be in a better position to become early adopters and outpace the competition. With an entrepreneurial spirit, they can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth. Here are five way they are doing just that:
1. Growing IT budget. For all the promises that come with new software and hardware, there's also a price tag. Beyond implementing new technology, businesses need to grow their IT staff to ensure everything functions as it should. To combat these costs, many have adopted a bring your own device (BYOD) policy in which employees use their personal computer, laptop or tablet to work. According to Forbes, this policy can save companies as much as $3,150 per employee per year. The key to a successful BYOD policy is software that provides rigid security measures and allows individuals to access shared files and work with one another, whether on a Mac, Windows or other operating system.
2. Keeping ahead of administrative tasks. When Hope Blankenship’s business To the Rescue Bookkeeping was expanding from a single location to multiple offices in different states, she quickly realized her success also brought new challenges, namely, how to coordinate and manage multiple locations. Blankenship discovered that Citrix ShareFile, which provided an automated workflow, file sharing, remote desktop access and document signing, was the solution she needed to coordinate with several people in a number of locations and not get bogged down by administrative work.
3. Customer security and confidentiality. Despite living in a digital age, many small and medium-sized businesses still rely on printed materials and faxes when working with clients. In fact, 72 percent of business agree that improved document processing would improve customer relations and increase their brand value.
“Business leaders recognize the need to embrace a modern, digital workplace to drive greater efficiency in business processes. This means taking a close look at their document and information management workflows and embracing technologies to take the friction out of these processes while keeping data secure,” says Terri McClure, senior analyst, Cloud Infrastructure and File Sharing, ESG. “By using ShareFile’s collaborative workflow and security features, customers and their clients benefit from more streamlined and structured processes, less time to complete projects, deliver results and increase customer satisfaction, all while complying with stringent security requirements.”
4. Generational differences. It has often been said that there has never been a greater gap between generations than there is with millennials and older generations. Smart businesses use these differences to create a dynamic and diverse workplace. This is done through traditional mentoring programs in which older employees train younger ones on professional development, career advancement and numerous other soft and hard skills while the younger group can teach older workers how to efficiently use new technologies.
5. Lack of space. One of the biggest problems a growing business faces is in finding the space for an expanding staff, either in their home offices or in remote locations. By incorporating remote file sharing and workflow technology into their business plan, physical space has become less of an issue. This technology streamlines the workflow and allows people to collaborate from virtually anywhere in the world and in the process, saves on the cost of rent.
The driving force behind many of these solutions involves a cutting-edge file synch-and-sharing system, like Citrix ShareFile.
“Citrix is continuing to drive innovation in ShareFile beyond file sharing and storage to address the workflow needs of the modern worker. Now with a simpler user interface and use-case-specific solutions, ShareFile is helping its customers to increase productivity and collaboration,” Spilker says.
With more than 80,000 business customers and 20 million business users, Citrix has developed their systems to be easy to use and capable of handling all types of files, from sensitive legal briefs to 3D architectural designs. Combining user experience with security, ShareFile safeguards data through leading industrial security standards.
To learn more about small business technology solutions, visit www.sharefile.com.
(BPT) - As a small business owner, you do it all: the books, marketing, customer service, product, inventory and — oh yes — tech support. In fact, small and microbusiness owners are more likely to shoulder all tech tasks for their firms, according to a study by the National Small Business Association. Yet unless your business is IT, chances are you struggle to speak the language of business technology solutions.
“Small business owners need to be masters of virtually every aspect of their business, but they shouldn’t have to be translators, too,” says Nate Spilker, vice president of cloud services for Citrix. “Technology can help small businesses grow and stay ahead of the competition. Organizations of all sizes need the technology they use to be easy to adopt, improve efficiency, reduce costs and boost productivity, no matter what their industry.”
Microbusiness tech challenges
The 3.7 million microbusinesses (which the Small Business Administration defines as having fewer than nine employees) make up more than 75 percent of all private-sector employers, and provide nearly 11 percent of private sector jobs, according to the SBA. Their tech needs are significant, yet 40 percent of microbusiness owners handle all their company’s IT support, according to the National Small Business Association.
Additionally, 60 percent allow employees to telecommute, which can make sharing files and data problematic. Telecommuting employees may save documents and files on local hard drives, rather than centralized locations where others can securely access and collaborate on the documents. What's more, 57 percent don’t use cloud computing, a technology designed to enhance collaboration, the NSBA reports.
Technology can help microbusiness owners improve efficiency, reduce and control costs, provide superior customer service and satisfaction, and focus more time on activities that help the business prosper. Stephen L. Nelson, CPA, used Citrix ShareFile to securely, quickly and easily share documents and files with his clients.
Replacing the inefficient method of physically mailing documents with file sharing technology allowed his small team to get more done in less time, reduced the need for physical storage space for paper files, and increased productivity for his firm and his clients. Lowering overhead, paper and office space costs allowed Nelson to grow his business 10 percent.
Talking about solutions
The terminology that describes common tech tools can be mystifying to small business owners. Spilker and the small business technology professionals at Citrix offer explanations of some common terms and tools:
* Digital transformation — Technology is profoundly affecting how companies of all sizes do business. They are moving away from traditional, more labor-intensive processes in favor of digital tools, activities and processes.
* Cloud computing — Instead of storing, managing and processing data on an office computer or local server, cloud computing executes the same functions by using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet.
* File-sharing — Transferring files or documents via email or ftp servers has drawbacks, including potential security issues, version control challenges and slow speeds. File-sharing technology allows people using different devices to access, edit, change and otherwise use files, documents and other types of data stored in the cloud. Citrix ShareFile, for example, makes it easy for small business teams to securely share files and client data, collaborate on documents and obtain electronic signatures.
* Integrated document workflow — In order to keep work moving, small businesses require the ability to work with documents and move data between multiple kinds of software. For example, an accounting firm needs to be able to take data from W-2s (which might be stored in one format) and move that information to a tax form stored in a different format or “living” in a different system.
* Real time — When hardware or software does its job so quickly — in a matter of miliseconds — the user can immediately take entered data and put it to work.
* File sync — Storing files in multiple locations or having multiple users work with them on different devices can lead to discrepancies between versions. File synchronization technology basically compares these multiple versions to each other and allows users to update all versions with the most current changes, regardless of which user made the changes.
* Cyber security — Criminals who attempt to steal, manipulate, hack or otherwise illegally access a business’ proprietary computer systems and data are cyber criminals. All the steps a business takes to thwart these criminals — including anti-virus software and firewalls — are aspects of cyber security.
"ShareFile has really allowed my firm to digitally transform," says Nelson. "The addition of automated workflows and secure file-sharing has improved efficiencies, which allows my team to focus our attention on delivering the best client service possible, while ensuring vital company and client data remains safe. Adopting a safe and secure online portal for customer engagement has been essential for delivering on the bottom line."
To learn more about small business technology solutions, visit www.sharefile.com.
(BPT) - Think sales numbers trump customer service? Think again. Research shows companies focused on providing a superior experience across the customer journey realized a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction and 10-15 percent increase in revenue. Furthermore, 45 percent of people will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. And perhaps the most shocking of all: It costs six to seven times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing customer.
Given these factors many companies are taking a closer look at their customer retention rates and evaluating the customer experiences they provide. To meet customers on their terms and facilitate employee productivity, it’s critical to invest in new technology. However, not all businesses have the internal IT resources or expertise to efficiently implement technology and effectively manage it on a continuous basis.
For these businesses, working with a trusted technology partner provides an easier route to weather the changes and delight customers. Numerous companies have worked with Dell to ensure they don’t have to worry about downtime or system failure. Dell ProSupport Plus, for instance, provides these companies with the highest level of hardware and software support so they can deliver the best experience to their customers. Powered by Dell’s SupportAssist technology, this support program not only helps resolve issues quickly and proactively, but can also prevent issues before they happen through predictive capabilities. This means less effort by IT staff and more peace-of-mind for both the company and their customers. For example, Dell ProSupport Plus with SupportAssist users are able to spend up to 91 percent less time on resolution. Imagine what an IT staff could do when they’re able to shift that time away from maintenance.
Another time when a technology provider’s services become critical is when businesses implement new solutions. The continual evolution of technology such as cloud, converged datacenters and big data presents a world of new opportunities — and new challenges. Not only do businesses need to contemplate how to get their new technology up and running quickly, they also need to be able to maintain, refresh and address any issues that arise.
To sail over the many potential hurdles, the Dell ProDeploy Enterprise Suite is helping IT managers and business leaders navigate the growing complexity of multiple platforms and risk of transitioning to new technologies while minimizing any downtime, all within the confines of limited resources and budgets. Businesses can rely on Dell experts and partners to lead deployments from basic hardware installation through planning, configuration and complex integrations. Companies using Dell deployment services can reduce IT effort by 91 percent and deploy systems 39 percent faster.
With new technology solutions up and running, businesses should be positioned to provide the best customer service possible. However, without a properly trained crew there will be no one to sail the ship or right it when needed. In addition to investing in technology, organizations need to give their IT team the right training and tools to do their job well. Dell has addressed this critical need by introducing training and certification that gives a company’s IT staff access to the same resources as Dell engineers.
If the technology powering the business is running smoothly, it’s reflected in effortless and memorable interactions with customers that inspire loyalty and build revenue.
Customer service IT services and customer support will continue to evolve as new technologies are developed and customer expectations will continue to rise. By being proactive and partnering with a technology vendor who is intent on staying ahead of the curve, companies can gain an edge against the competition while building an unbreakable brand reputation.
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