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How Shared Services Models Work for Retailers and Brands

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boardroomRetail businesses include many moving parts that must work together to meet customer demand and execute the duties of the business on a daily basis. While every business department faces its own share of unique challenges, the sales department has a direct impact on the bottom line every day.

Businesses can approach their sales departments in a couple of different ways. One method is becoming increasingly popular among brands that place their products in several different retail arenas: sales outsourcing with shared services.

Outsourcing sales companies like The Retail Outsource offer a significant, bottom line driving service to retail brands. These companies use industry knowledge and training programs to place sales representatives on the floor of big box stores. The sales representative wears multiple hats and may appear to the consumer as a general store clerk but actually has the training to push certain products or services on the floor.

There are many benefits to retailers who invest in this form of sales outsourcing shared services:

  • Cost effective.  One sales representative shared across brands costs less to employ than a company employed sales person. Two retail brands can share the costs of the sales professional, who will be trained to promote both brands on the floor, creating a streamlined sales process. Developing a highly skilled sales team internally means investing in expert infrastructure to meet and exceed business objectives. By investing in an outsourcing solution, companies can bypass that costly investment completely.
  • External management. The sales service is outsourced, so individual retail companies do not have to manage the representative at a micro-level. Instead, they will interface with a representative from the outsourcing company who will provide relevant sales information and project management for their end client company. Outsourcing companies can also provide consultation and make recommendations regarding a sales environment. They are experts in sales who specialize in promoting growth and increasing revenue for their clients.
  • Efficiency/Timeliness. When a company reaches out to an outsourcing agency that manages shared services programs, they no longer have to worry about the recruiting or training process. The entire sales process is left in the hands of the outsourcing company with the retailer providing insight as needed to personalize a sales program. Turnkey services mean retailers will enjoy the benefits of the shared services model in far less time than traditional recruiting and training processes would take.
  • Expertise. Sales outsourcing companies start every relationship by understanding a retail company inside and out. They use their sales expertise to create strategies that make sense to drive sales and promote growth.
  • Meaningful data analysis. In today’s market, it is nearly impossible for companies to maintain a steady growth pattern without meaningful data analysis. Evaluating data allows companies to remove strategies that are not providing results in favor of effective strategies. Outsourcing companies that employ shared services representatives can help retailers target solutions that work strategically to improve those processes over time.

For many retail companies, the shared services solution can decrease overhead while maximizing sales. This resource effectively allows companies to enter more markets without the costs associated with traditional sales models.

7 Reasons a Retail Franchise Needs Managed IT Services

ITservicesBringing IT services in house can be a time consuming and costly endeavor. Retail franchises are finding outsourcing IT services allows the franchise to focus on marketing and other day-to-day business interactions. Managed IT services can provide high quality solutions at a much lower rate to businesses than implementing an in house team could provide.

Retail franchises should invest in managed IT services for the following benefits:

  1. Take advantage of IT expertise. Building an in house IT department can be difficult for retail companies that are not extremely technologically savvy. Companies may find it difficult to hire people with the right experience and understanding of their company needs. Outsourced solutions personnel have experience in a variety of industries and are accustomed to working with companies to develop targeted IT solutions that make sense in the business context.
  2. The possibility for expansion. Scalable IT solutions can be difficult to determine when a retail franchise starts. Outsourced IT solutions have the capability to work with a company regardless of size and can accommodate their needs as they grow. This provides retailers with the opportunity to grow quickly and efficiently without losing costs associated with updating and constantly evaluating an in house team.
  3. Time management. Companies who employ in house IT departments often find that their IT personnel are overwhelmed at certain times or in the event of an emergency. Correcting processes and staying on top of updates and data security can become a demanding job. Outsourced companies have strategized structures in place to handle any situations in a timely and effective manner.
  4. Data storage. Many offsite IT service solutions also offer backup data storage. Knowing that a company’s data is backed up by dedicated servers provides peace of mind against any data maintenance concerns. Offsite IT solutions may also provide cloud capabilities allowing for retail franchises to take advantage of remote solutions regardless of location.
  5. Cost effectiveness. As opposed to an in house IT team that must be paid a salary or on an hourly basis, an outsourced solution allows retail franchises to only invest in the services needed to operate. Ultimately, retailers save money by not having to invest in infrastructure, dedicated employees, or other programs that would normally be part of an in house structure. The franchise can focus entirely on driving growth with a dedicated team of technology experts on its side.
  6. Amount of services provided. Retailers can choose exactly how many or how few IT services they require. Some retailers may have a small IT team in place to handle certain aspects of the day-to-day operations. They can supplement their team with the expertise of a dedicated managed IT services company to greatly enhance their processes at a significantly lower cost.
  7. Support. This is another area where in house teams can become overwhelmed. Managed IT services are available for support around the clock to provide retail franchises with troubleshooting, helpdesk, and security threat evaluation. The expert support of a managed service provides retailers with peace of mind that their IT departments are ready to face any number of obstacles and provide small and large scale support. In house IT departments may often suffer from understaffing or a lack of expertise needed to handle various problems.

Managed IT services can help retailers implement solutions that have proven effective on a large scale and offer peace of mind. They also provide retail franchises the opportunity to focus on what really matter to their businesses: customer interactions and product/service improvement.

Offsite vs. Onsite Data Storage

datastorageCompanies today have to address how they will store customer and business data. Some choose to use internal servers while others are moving entirely to cloud based solutions. The more cost effective solutions are cloud based (offsite), but some companies, such as law firms and banks, have data security requirements that call for onsite solutions.

Many startup businesses that offer marketing or advertising solutions can successfully be completely with cloud based solutions. The primary difference between choosing one solution over another is the level of security needed to protect consumer and company data. Cloud based technology is becoming more secure every day, but it is still a relatively new field that is more open to threats than internal servers that are carefully maintained for certain purposes.

Even though some companies choose to use entirely cloud based or entirely internal data storage solutions, the majority of companies are moving to a combination of the two data storage techniques to create the most secure data storage environment. Companies like SYMBITS offer outsourced IT solutions for both remote and onsite data storage needs.

Companies often have a dedicated server that is used for daily functions and where data is deposited first. Even consumers today use backup storage at home to protect personal information. Small, medium, and large businesses all use backup systems to protect their data in the event of a disaster. Now, businesses are going one step further and backing up their systems and data storage on a remote server or “in the cloud,” as well.

By housing data in three distinct repositories, business information is protected in the event of a large scale crash or other IT difficulty. Cloud based solutions also provide employees and consumers easier, remote access to the company information they need to work or make purchasing decisions from anywhere in the world.

RAIDs

In data storage, the different ways that data is housed in the servers are called RAIDs (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). The most common forms of RAIDs are known as RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5, and RAID 6. RAIDs are the building blocks of a data storage system. They allow for data to be stored reliably. A RAID 0 is never used for businesses. It affects computer performance and is normally used by gamers who need to store large quantities of data quickly.

RAID 1 provides mirror data storage so that if one hard drive in the system fails, another backup can maintain the information. In RAID 1 systems, if a hard drive fails, the system has to be shut down for a period of time. Higher levels of RAIDs can maintain functionality even in the event of a hard drive failure. Companies commonly use RAID 5 or RAID 6 storage systems that allow for multiple file backups in a data storage system. The redundancy of the RAID hard drives is how businesses protect their vital information. Both onsite and offsite storage systems use RAIDs, and will normally recommend using a RAID 5 or RAID 6 for original data storage and in backup systems. Look for data storage management solutions that focuses on higher levels of RAID configurations to determine the level of data protection provided.

Top 5 Things to Consider When Scouting a Retail Location

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Carefully selecting retail locations for your brand is integral to success. Store location largely affects brand accessibility, visibility, and overall ROI. Many companies, startups, and existing retail brands may not realize there are many resources online to expedite the process of finding a valuable retail location.

storefront3From services that do all the legwork to demographic data resources, here are some of the main considerations and resources companies can tap into when searching for great retail locations:

  1. Area demographics. Choosing a site based on appearance and proximity to company management can work occasionally, but the most successful retail locations are chosen based on demographics.A company’s product or service is usually targeted at a specific market. Look for area or location demographics that match up well with the target market for a better chance of sales. The area’s age of shoppers, income ranges, local attractions, and job sectors provide insight into whether an area will be a good candidate for a retail store. Consider these resources to learn more about demographics:
    • Census.gov. This site provides information about people, jobs, and general information about cities and states.
    • City-data.com. Some towns may not be listed through census.gov, but can be found on this website which aggregates data from a variety of sources. You’ll find information about weather and area crimes in this resource.
    • Chambers of Commerce. Look on a city’s chamber website to learn more about specific demographics and to get a feeling for the industries and people in the area.
  2. Competition. A rule of thumb for business placement is to locate a storefront in close proximity to competitors. Doing so provides opportunities for crossover marketing and beating out the competition in service, prices, and layout. Look directly at competitor locations on a map and cross reference the information with available real estate.
  3. Accessibility/Traffic. Some stores may have a great layout and sales structure, but lose out on important sales because their storefronts are difficult to access or there isn’t enough traffic through the area. Look at parking, delivery access, and the number of consumers in an area throughout the day. It may be beneficial to scope out the site in person and talk to local consumers before making decisions regarding a location.A company can learn a lot by scanning Google Maps in areas of interest for signs of heavy traffic and street views of an area. Aside from talking to individuals who know an area, the resource provides valuable information to determine the viability of a location.
  4. Regulations. Companies need to be aware of local ordinances, zoning regulations, and other area restrictions. Obstacles are much easier to address when evaluated before choosing a location. Failing to do so can delay a store opening or cause legal challenges in the location startup. Search online for “city of [insert name]” and access the local city site to learn more about local regulations and zoning restrictions.
  5. All-in-one planning services. Many startups and existing retailers are busy completing a variety of tasks from production to management. Choosing a location is a complex process that involves more than finding an attractive storefront. Full service retail outsourcing companies like The Retail Outsource provide integral consultation and launch solutions that can simplify the location startup process.

Ensure Your Data is Safe and Sound with These 4 Tips

Has your business been affected by data loss in the past, or are you fearful that it could negatively impact your organization in the future? If so, you aren’t alone. According to a 2011 survey conducted by Carbonite, 48 percent of small businesses in America (between 2 and 20 employees) experience some level of data loss on an annual basis.

ensure-your-data-secure-tipsAccording to the same study, the top causes of data loss are hardware and/or software failure (54 percent), accidental deletion (also 54 percent), viruses and malware (33 percent), and theft (10 percent). Despite these numbers, nearly one-third of all business owners say that backing up their computers and servers is a hassle and not always their first priority. Unless you want to fall into the 48 percent that will likely experience data loss in 2015, it’s important that you take heed to the following advice.

Invest in Physical Copies

One of the most practical actions you can take is invest in physical copies of your most important files. In the case of server failure or a loss of internet connection, a physical, local copy can ensure you have immediate access to the information and data you need. Physical copies should be stored in a room and/or building separate from the original copies in case of destruction caused by fire, flooding, or other natural disasters. While physical copies are advantageous, there are also some disadvantages. One disadvantage is that it can be expensive. Another issue is that it’s still subject to physical failure or damage.

Reach for the Cloud

The most popular and effective method of backing up your data and keeping it safe is through some sort of cloud application or program. Also known as virtual storage, cloud storage keeps your files safe by electronically storing them independently from your physical servers or computers. This provides you with safe keeping in the case of viruses, malware, theft, or physical destruction. The disadvantage of cloud storage is that it is often the most expensive method and carries ongoing costs that scale as your needs grow. On the other hand, positives include having virtual copies readily available and the peace of mind that files are safe and secure.

RAID Storage

RAID storage, also known as redundant array of independent disks, is a widely used data storage virtualization technology that uses multiple disk drives to create a data redundancy system that keeps data and files safe within your physical servers. While it is one of the simplest methods for creating failover disk storage, it can take up a large portion of your drive capacity.

Be Prepared for Everything

Realistically, it’s impossible to prepare for everything that could be thrown at you. However, you can certainly protect yourself by anticipating the most likely data issues your company could face. In addition to the tools, technologies, and tips mentioned here, your company should consider investing in firewalls, encryption services, secure passwords, and other preventative methods that allow you to rest easy at night. For example, if your office is in a hurricane prone area, you can prepare for physical damage by having virtual backup storage systems. If theft is a concern, ensure all server rooms are properly monitored and secured. Preparation can prevent data loss in many situations.

In the end, your ability to keep your data safe and sound depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into protecting your information. Whether it’s cloud storage, physical backups, or RAID storage, there is a solution for every business. In some cases, this may be a combination of multiple technologies. Regardless of which protection method you pursue, make sure your company is safe from potential danger in 2015.

Answers to Your Most Common Sales Objections

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For many small business owners, selling doesn’t come easy. In fact, for the majority of people, making sales calls and developing air-tight pitches is stressful and challenging. While there is a certain level of natural skill and personality at play, many shortcomings can be compensated for by understanding common sales objections and how to address them.

Businessman portraitAs a salesperson, it is your responsibility to uncover what is stopping a potential client from making a purchase decision. In most cases, this means answering the following objections with clarity, understanding, and patience:

  • Price. By far, the number one sales objection has to do with price. You will frequently hear something along the lines of, “Your products cost way too much and I can get the exact same service from someone else for much cheaper.” If that is a true statement, your best option is to justify the cost of your products or services. Try breaking costs down into smaller amounts and carefully explaining what they get for each dollar.
  • Lack of authority. The second most popular sales objection is, “I’ll have to discuss this after consulting my manager/boss/partner.” If you let them walk away from the table and consult other sources, you may lose a sale. Ideally, you should tell them to invite that person in or setup a joint meeting in which you can all discuss the sale together. You can usually accomplish this by claiming you have a special deal that can only be offered and signed off on if presented directly to the CEO or manager. This usually gets you in the door and allows you to present appropriate terms or discounts.
  • Complacency. Do you ever hear potential clients mention a fear of change? It’s usually guised in a statement like, “We’ve been doing it this way for 20 years and I don’t want to risk messing it up.” The best way to kill the complacency objection is to provide ample examples of when change has been good for your business, their business, or some other well-known company.
  • Bad timing. A classic objection is, “We’re too busy to get involved with this right now. Contact me next quarter.” This is often the easiest objection to overcome – if it’s actually true. Simply light a fire under them and make the offer so compelling they can’t wait any longer. It’s amazing how much time a customer will make for you when he or she has a clear understanding of how the sale will benefit them.
  • Trust. One of the most difficult objections to overcome is trust. In many cases, a new client will want proof that you can handle their sale. You can overcome this objection by presenting case studies, testimonials, and honest answers to tough questions.

Understanding Objections

While these are five examples of common objections, it’s equally important to understand the different types of objections. According to Brian Tracy of SuccessNet Online, there are 9 different types. From unspoken and excuse driven objections to honest and subjective objections, each person has a different way of objecting. Your success as a salesperson largely depends on your ability to decipher one from the other.