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3 Ways to Create an Immersive Shopping Experience Your Customers Will Love

When I first heard about Nordstrom’s NYC flagship store opening, I was curious to see what the company would do to take its in-store retail experience to the next level. Nordstrom didn’t disappoint.

When the company opened the seven-floor store at 57th Street and Broadway in Manhattan this October, it made sure service was at the forefront of the brick-and-mortar establishment. Though I don’t have any business ties to Nordstrom, I study retail markets and am always curious about how the latest brick-and-mortar store trends impact online shopping and e-commerce growth.

Here are some interesting retail innovations inspired by Nordstrom’s flagship store–and other retailers–that you can apply to help your brand.

1.  Create opportunities to spend time in the store.

The new Nordstrom location offers in-store spa services like blowout bars, facials, massages, waxing, manicures, and more. Offering services like these–and a martini bar and sit-down eateries–keeps customers in the store longer, making them likely to spend more money, according to a Journal of Marketing study.

Look for ways your company can create more in-store experiences that align with your brand, like how Lululemon’s new Mall of America megastore features workout studios, snack bars, and a 6,000-square-foot “experiential area.” Those could involve booking appointments online to try on clothes, providing an in-store café (à la Ikea), or hosting product demonstrations and interactive experiences, like Lush.

2. Create a seamless omni-channel experience and provide multiple ways to get products.

Nordstrom says its online sales jump about 20 percent in a local market when it opens a store there. That, in my opinion, is because of the company’s buy online, pick up in-store options, as well as its offering easy curbside pickup.

Online retailers are opening brick-and-mortar stores because they recognize that customers like to have an option of returning an online purchase in-store. If you’re an e-commerce company that isn’t ready to launch a retail store, consider offering an inventory-free showroom, which could equate to customers spending 60 percent more and buying more expensive items, according to research from the Wharton School and Harvard Business School. Or launch a temporary pop-up shop, like Adore Me’s invite for VIP shoppers.

3. Build smarter, tech-driven experiences.

Customers want a full-service experience from the moment they walk in the door. If you’re a clothing retailer, one way to do that is to create smart fitting rooms. That can be as simple as creating a button customers can push that calls a sales associate, or it can be as advanced as the smart-mirror fitting rooms at Ralph Lauren’s flagship store, which show various sizes and colors available for items. Luxury beauty companies are testing out AR in airport pop-up shops around the globe, enabling customers to play with virtual makeup in trials through virtual mirrors.

By Maria HaggertyCEO, Dotcom Distribution

Source: 3 Ways to Create an Immersive Shopping Experience Your Customers Will Love | Inc.com

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How to Position Your Business for a Strategic Acquisition – Mark Daoust

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In the past year, I’ve had multiple competitors approach me to acquire one of the businesses that I own.

Being approached by competitors — or anyone for that matter — is always flattering, but, more importantly, it opens a door for many business owners that they have not considered in the past: selling their business. If you’ve ever thought about selling your business, you likely thought about selling it to a strategic buyer — a larger company in your industry, a competitor or a business in a neighboring industry that could benefit from something you’ve buibuyers stlt.

While most acquisitions that occur are not strategic exits — most businesses are sold to financial buyers (i.e. buyers who like the financials of the business but do not necessarily gain a strategic advantage by acquiring that business) — there can be significant benefits for you if you are able to find a strategic buyer:

  1. More money. Strategic buyers often see stronger returns on their investment which allows them to pay more for your business. For example, an ecommerce business that has a large warehouse may be able to acquire a smaller, but similar ecommerce business without adding new warehouse and order fulfillment costs. Strategic acquisitions can often represent huge gains in the value you get for your business.
  2. Easier transitions. Because the buyers are already familiar with your industry, the transitions are often easier to manage — but not always.
  3. Strategic buyers can often do more with your business. Because strategic buyers know your industry, they can often build your business rapidly after the sale. If you are interested in seeing your business grow, strategic sales can be a great way to go.

But for all the benefits of strategic acquisitions, most small business owners who decide to sell their business will end up looking for a financial buyer. Why is this?

Why strategic exits are often difficult to pull off

While many business owners think that a strategic exit is the most natural or the easiest type of acquisition to complete, the truth is that it often has the lowest chance of success. Most acquisitions occur to financial buyers — acquiring companies who may not have specific industry knowledge, expertise or advantage when buying your business, but like the potential financial return on investment your business provides.

There are several reasons for this. First, if you are trying to sell your business to someone within your industry or marketplace, you often lack leverage. The reason for this is simple. Rather than having potential buyers line up to acquire your business, you are approaching potential acquirers with your business opportunity. Unless you can generate interest from multiple suitors, this approach tells potential acquirers that they have more leverage when dictating the terms of a potential deal. They know you are looking to sell, and they know that you prefer to sell to them.

Second, strategic exits often fail to materialize simply due to bad timing. Unless the company you are approaching to make a deal is a massive enterprise, most acquirers need to plan out their resources — both in capital and work requirements — in order to successfully complete a merger or acquisition. When you approach a potential strategic acquirer, even if there may be a good fit between your company and theirs, the timing might simply not be right.

Finally, the pool of strategic acquirers is usually quite small. How many companies would benefit from a strategic acquisition of your firm? Two? Five? Fifteen? The fact is, when selling any company, having a larger pool of buyers gives you better leverage and better chances of success.

Tips for planning and executing a strategic exit.Despite the obstacles above, planning a strategic exit is possible. This very publication is filled with tips on how to get your company acquired. However, too few business owners put any thought into what is actually needed in order to pull off a successful strategic exit. With that in mind, here are a few practical tips to prepare for a potential and hopeful strategic exit:

  1. Strategic exits usually start early. A strategic acquisition rarely happens as the result of picking up the phone, calling a competitor and asking if they want to buy your company. Sure, there are the rare cases where this approach succeeds, but most strategic exits happen more organically. The two companies know each other, have known each other for some time, and see that the acquisition would be good for both companies.
  2. Build your strengths to address other business’s weaknesses. If a wholesaler decides to enter into the direct to consumer market, they often do so by acquiring one of their clients. This is because they recognize that their weakness (direct to consumer) is their client’s strength. If you are hoping to be acquired by a larger competitor, get to know their relative weaknesses, and build your company to be strong in those areas. This isn’t just good acquisition advice, this will help you differentiate your business in the marketplace.
  3. Have more than one potential suitor in mind. Acquisitions work best for the selling company when they have the option to decline any particular offer. If you have multiple companies that could acquire your business, you not only increase your chances of a successful acquisition, you also set yourself up for potentially having leverage in a negotiation.
  4. Let potential acquirers know in advance that your business might be acquirable. In most strategic acquisitions that I’ve seen successfully completed, the company that is acquired had a previous relationship with the acquiring company and informed them that selling might be an option they would explore in the future. By letting your intentions be known early, you give potential acquirers the time and the ability to consider acquiring your business as a part of their strategic plans.
  5. Be patient. The strongest leverage any business owner has in an acquisition is the ability to walk away from the negotiation table. If the terms you are receiving aren’t right, walk away.

Finally, consider a non-strategic acquisition

When I started Quiet Light Brokerage, my very first client owned a business in an industry that had aggressive strategic acquisitions occurring on a weekly basis.

In this industry, valuations were mostly based on a simple monthly revenue valuation approach. Businesses in this vertical would sell for anywhere between 10-18 months worth of gross revenue. For my client, this translated into a valuation of roughly $500,000 for his business.

While we could have sold his business for that price and had a closed deal in just a few weeks, we decided to look for a financial buyer. Three months later, he closed on the sale of his business for $625,000 to a buyer who was not a part of his industry, but loved the opportunity he saw.

The fact is, while strategic acquisitions often result in higher — sometimes significantly higher — valuations, this isn’t always the case. The fact is, more deals are completed in a financial acquisition space simply due to the fact that there are so many more financial buyers looking for good investments.

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Step-by-Step You Can Turn Your Ecommerce Side Hustle Into a Real Company – William Harris

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The nature of work is evolving. To make a living and build a successful career for yourself, you no longer need to work a traditional 9-to-5 job, commute to a physical office or wait patiently for someone to finally hand you that promotion you’ve worked so hard to get.

You can create your own company, sell your own products and provide valuable services to your own customers — from anywhere in the world. It’s never been a better time to start an ecommerce business. There are plenty of tools, blog posts, podcasts and other resources to help you build an ecommerce shop while you hold on to your day job.

The question is, how do you take that ecommerce side hustle and scale it into a profitable, sustainable full-time gig? It’s not easy, but it is possible. To get on the right track, consider implementing the following tips and ideas from leaders in the ecommerce space.

Find the balance

To be a successful ecommerce entrepreneur, you must walk the line between being thoughtful and executing ideas before you feel completely ready.“You often hear really smart and successful people say you need to be perfect with every action and intention — be it brand, product, packaging, website, customer service, etc.,” Guided CEO David Stober says. “I think many of those big-brained and successful people quickly forgot their actual path to success.

Building a brand and business is about finding that perfect balance of just doing it at the risk of breaking stuff (workflows, technology, product, brand voice) and perfection. Neither extreme is ideal. One means you are going too fast; the other means you are going too slow. Each business has a perfect tempo.”

Striking this balance can be difficult, especially if you’re new to entrepreneurship. To get there, leverage advice and experience from seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors who’ve been in your shoes. Read their blog posts, engage with them on Twitter, join a group on Slack or reach out to someone on Clarity.

Be data-hungry

Scaling your ecommerce business so it can pay all your bills and allow you to live comfortably also requires an obsession with numbers.

“You need to have a detailed growth and profit plan in place,” Blue Stout CEO Allen Burt says. “I always recommend that entrepreneurs outline the financial road map for their business so they know the exact levels of traffic, conversions, average order value and repeat purchases they need to hit their revenue and profit goals.”

Burt recommends you start with an audit of your current website. Ask yourself questions such as, “What is my current conversion rate? What is my average order value? What is my profit margin on each order?” From there, work backward to map out how many monthly site visitors you need to generate enough profit to sustain you and your team.

Network and keep bridges intact

“Maintain positive relationships and try to never burn bridges,” says Kyle Eisenberg, a senior manager at Image Beauty. “You never know when someone that you’ve worked with in the past will be in a position to help you in the future.”

Friends, colleagues and family members can add huge value. They can help you raise money, give you much-needed advice and connect you with the right partners, vendors and industry influencers.

Lean heavy on your biggest fans. Make sure you keep relationships intact and be proactive about updating your network’s members on your projects and progress. Sometimes, it takes just one person to take your business to the next level.

Identify your needs

A successful, scalable ecommerce shop should run like a well-oiled machine even when you’re not the one moving the levers and steering the wheel.

“Figure out the seats you need filled to grow your company without your involvement,” GrocerKey CEO Jeremy Neren says. “If your business can’t function and grow without your involvement, you will have only created a more stressful job for yourself. Total up the cost associated with filling all necessary seats and put together a plan of how far you can scale with those seats filled.”

You have to spend money to make money, and that money ultimately must come from somewhere. Be realistic about your needs upfront so you can gain a better understanding of how it actually will look to scale your business. Identify what you need to do (or whom you need to talk to) during the next few months.

“Determine investors interested in your ecommerce industry and approach them with your plan to scale your business to see if you are able to fund your growth via investment,” Neren says. “If you aren’t able to attract investors, you’ll need to determine how you can bootstrap your growth by increasing revenue with positive unit economics (meaning every time you make a sale you make money).”

Think ahead

Ecommerce is a great growth industry, but it’s also extremely saturated and competitive. To survive, you need to think ahead and prepare for the inevitable.

“There’s no such thing as a sustainable competitive advantage anymore, as every successful and profitable niche or product will inevitably attract me-toos and competitors over time,” Edgacent Cofounder Linda Bustos says. “Ensure your plan and strategy can continually stay ahead of the curve, or plan for a quick exit strategy when your business is at its peak.”

Bustos also recommends you approach with a certain degree of wariness any business that relies entirely on a third-party platform. Think eBay, Amazon or Etsy. You can’t control these platforms, and that’s a problem because they’ll own your data.

“Build your own direct or alternative channels in conjunction,” Bustos says, “as you never know when these platforms will change their rules of play, search and merchandising algorithms, pricing and commission structures or even start directly competing against you.”

The ecommerce industry has more players and competition than ever before. To successfully scale your ecommerce shop into a thriving, full-time gig, you must know the game, be willing and able to quickly pivot and be both proactive and innovative in your strategy.

 

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