Are You Making These Retail Financial Compliance Mistakes?

As a rule of thumb, every business today is obligated to specific regulations in the sector in which they operate. Retail is no exception and is perhaps one of the more demanding business sectors due to the volume of work involved. Retailers must ensure they are fully in line with retail financial compliance standards to avoid numerous consequences such as fines and restrictions from regulatory bodies, damage to brand reputation, and so on.

However, many seem to be making critical mistakes. Running both an effective and a compliant business is a tough task. But you know what they say – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. That is why in this post, this time we’ll focus on the retail industry’s financial compliance aspect and the mistakes retail businesses make more often than not.

1. Not being PCI compliant

Is there a more vital aspect of a retail business than processing payments? Sure, you can argue that having a clear-cut supply line is crucial or that beating your competition in terms of price or offer is equally or more important, but at the end of the day, nothing quite matters at that last, final step – the purchase. As most of the payment transactions are card-based, accepting credit cards is a bare essential for every retailer, both online and brick-and-mortar type. Leaving holes in that system for others to exploit ultimately impacts everyone – the business, customers, financial institutions, software developers – everyone.

Thus, you might be surprised to know that a staggering 80 percent of retailers fail to pass interim PCI compliance assessments, according to Verizon’s 2015 PCI Compliance Report. Even more depressing read is the company’s 10th annual Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. Of the almost 2,000 breaches analyzed, 88 percent were accomplished using a familiar vulnerability or exploit, including PCI-related issues.

Percentage and count of breaches per pattern
Percentage and count of breaches per pattern

Image: Rapid7Community

Source: Verizon

Percentage and count of incidents per pattern
Percentage and count of incidents per pattern

Image: Rapid7Community

Source: Verizon

All card brands require companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information to maintain a secure environment and demonstrate compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This standard was designed with the sole mind of protecting payment card transactions and cardholder data from malicious activity and theft. This is a continuous and ongoing operation (something we’ll touch upon later) and is one of the best things a retail store can implement to protects itself in the long run

2. Not using proper technology

Over time, technology has advanced to the point that it even helps with financial services by addressing the heavy burden of compliance in rather innovative ways. In addition, this produced various other benefits that include significantly improved decision-making, better and clearer risk management through the use of artificial intelligence, as well as an enhanced user experience for the customers. To grapple with the increasing compliance requirements, retail businesses should implement systems that are up to the task. This means creating processes with specific requirements that lead to consistency for all customers.

The focus should be on implementing solutions that allow efficient management through mapping, dynamic modeling, and adequate qualitative and quantitative data (the more, the merrier). For instance, having a software suite that tracks your and competitor’s inventory spares you the unnecessary cost of absent-minded auto-renewing orders of items that don’t sell. That way, you can create more efficient pricing that best reflects your pricing margins. As such, the system in place should be replete with reports, alerts, analysis and dashboard tools that allow a proactive management of the entire process. This helps retailers target the problems before they create any sort of compliance issues with customers and lead to chargebacks.

3. Not having regularly scheduled compliance checks

Due to the fluctuating nature of the retail market, rules and regulations are constantly on the spin and you may not be aware and caught up with new disclaimers. Hence, it’s important to implement compliance checks every once in awhile to avoid being slapped on the wrist by a governing body. This especially holds true to your website which acts as a gateway to your business. Things like appropriately displaying business and application disclosures, disclosing the risks for non-deposit investment products (NDIPs) and a host of other disclaimers in an accurate matter sends a signal to your customers that your business is operating with the best intentions.

Example of a website disclosure for financial advisors
Example of a website disclosure for financial advisors

Image: Twenty Over Ten

Bonus: overlooking the security elements
In today’s online world, not paying attention to necessary safeguarding solutions and failing to implement them can be extremely harmful and significantly increase a company’s risk for breach, as well as non-compliance. Being apprised of the current threat environment helps you address and resolve potential threats and vulnerabilities in a swift fashion. This is paramount, end of discussion.

Well, just a bit more discussion. There are things every retail business can do to protect itself, like making sure that software has the latest patches, implementing a two-factor identity authentication feature, and encrypting sensitive data. These are all basic cyber security measures, the online equivalent of “locking our windows and doors, brushing our teeth and using our seat-belts,” as said by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, arguably a man who knows a thing or two about security. With retailers looking to protect a multitude of different resources like customer information, payment card details and such, it’s safe to say that it’s in their best interest to utilize these solutions to help prevent unauthorized access and a lasting damage to their business.

Conclusion

Non-compliance with an industry standard in the financial department can have severe consequences for a retail brand, most notably to its bottom line. Compliance is not easy and issues are poised to surface sometime. If a retailer has a continued history of compliance, it will be much easier to deal with any problem. That takes preparation and due diligence, from larger things like PCI compliance to using the right tech for assistance and a more streamlined operation to the smaller details like disclaimers on your website. Given the costs and charges that are incurred for being non-compliant, every retailer needs to be smart about this. It simply doesn’t pay off.

10 Startup Marketing Ideas to Bootstrap Your Ecommerce Store

In the world of eCommerce, many new stores struggle to get even a small piece of the market. When you are running an eCommerce store, marketing is the biggest part of your job, and it has the most direct impact on your bottom line. As any seasoned eCommerce veteran will tell you, your online store needs a sustainable, long-term marketing strategy in place, instead of short-term growth hacks. With this in mind, here are 10 solid startup marketing ideas to bootstrap your ecommerce store.

Marketing Ideas for Startups

1. Launch contextual marketing campaigns

Contextual marketing campaigns are aimed at nurturing prospect relationships, and making people more likely to buy. Any info that you gather about your customer’s profiles, behaviors, and context can help you deliver highly relevant, and personalized content to the right person at the right time.

You can gather this data by:

  • Setting up analytics on your online store and tracking user behavior
  • Asking your store visitors and customers to fill out a form/survey
  • Using a marketing automation system in the back end

2. Promote user-generated content

Online consumers tend to place more trust in reviews, ratings, photos and other forms of user-generated content than they do in the traditional modes of marketing and advertising like TV and radio. Shoppers want first-hand experiences of customers who’ve already purchased that product. This is primarily because they people believe user reviews are more authentic and credible than an ad-campaign.

3. Build more relationships and partnerships

Do you know any online store owner or offline business that sells a complementary product? Partnering with them to sell packages/bundles could help new customers gain awareness of your store, and drive new traffic to your site. It won’t cost you or your partner anything extra, and yet you will both benefit by bringing new customer awareness to each business’s online presence.

4. Create videos that show customers how to use your products

YouTube channels are certainly a fun way to connect with your potential customers. People love the interactiveness of how-to videos, tutorials, and glimpses behind the scenes. Peeking behind the curtain makes people feel like they are getting to know you, and therefore they’ll be more confident about buying from you.

5. Give away products, and create a buzz

You can offer your products for free or dirt cheap in exchange for a glowing testimonial or review. Think ‘review bloggers’! The more of a following these reviewers have, the better. For just the cost of your product, you’ll be able to reach a wide audience. You can also host giveaways on social media to generate buzz. Something as simple as asking people to share a photo of your product in exchange for an entry to win said product could create a pool of raving fans. Speaking of social media …

6. Drive engagement with your audience on social media

You don’t need to spend hours on end daily to promote your online store via social media channels. In fact, some of the best social media campaigns take less than an hour per day to execute. Keep it simple by beginning with the platform your target market is most likely to hang out on. The key is not to have a dormant site. Respond to inquiries, comments, and reviews.

7. Segment and target key audience personas

Identify who is visiting your online store, and then cater directly to them. You can then create ad campaigns that speak to this type of person, showing them relevant content that would make them more likely to buy.

8. Launch an affiliate program

Joint venture and affiliate marketing campaigns encourage other people to sell on your behalf. They take a commission and you get more customers. It’s a win-win. Some affiliate marketers have large email lists that you might not yet have. By giving them a portion of the proceeds, they are doing all the heavy lifting for you.

9. Build your own email list

Email marketing is one of the best marketing channels for driving targeted traffic to your store. For someone to give you their email address, they are likely already interested in your product, making it that much easier to convert them into customers. And, email gives you enough space to mention things that you just can’t fit into a post on social media.

10. Launch your store on multiple platforms

From Ebay to Amazon, Etsy to Shopify, there are many options for hosting an online store which can act as an extension to your main store. Large platforms such as these may make it easier to spread brand awareness, while allowing you the opportunity to drive traffic back to your personal website.

Final Thoughts

While running marketing campaigns isn’t the only way to guarantee your online store’s success, it’s a great way to put your brand name out in front of hordes of potential customers that are still out of your reach. If done correctly, you can leverage the store’s brand awareness by launching unique digital marketing campaigns. Always remember that ideas for marketing campaigns, especially for startups, should aim at inviting, encouraging, and rewarding customers for engaging with your business. Keep relationship building at the forefront and your marketing efforts will be rewarded in no time.

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How to Build a Retail Marketing Plan

With today’s crowded marketplace, it has never been more essential to ensure that you have a sound marketing strategy in place to foster the growth of your business. Modern consumers are so regularly overwhelmed with content coming from all angles, social media, email, commercial, billboard, all vying for their patronage and hard-earned dollars.

This challenge is especially true when it comes to the retail space, which has faced quite a bit of disruption over the last few years thanks to the rise of eCommerce businesses. But traditional brick-and-mortar or digital based — all eCommerce businesses need a retail marketing plan to reach their full potential.

Heading to Market

To set yourself apart from other eCommerce businesses takes more than just a cursory idea of what your customers want. Rather, you must develop a deeper understanding of your place in the market and devise a thorough strategy that is tailored specifically to your product and the users you hope to reach. Only then will you be able to tap into your business’s potential for growth and realize the most effective ways to engage your customers. Here are a few steps you can take to jumpstart your company’s retail marketing plan.

  • Identify your mission statement: Before you launch any kind of marketing effort, it’s absolutely imperative that you first establish a firm grasp of your business’s mission and objective in the marketplace. More specifically, you must know the need your business fulfills with customers. This understanding of your value will inform all subsequent decisions you make regarding how you market your product.
  • Know your target audience: Once you know enough about the role your business plays in the market, the next step is to establish a clear idea of your ideal customer profile. These two are, of course, inextricably linked, but many companies neglect to recognize that how your business is designed and marketed plays an integral role in determining your potential customer base upfront.
  • Decide on your branding: Now that you have defined your mission and audience, you need to then decide how to best connect the two. Everything from your logo to the outward messaging you send consumers shapes the specific branding of your business. Take a look at the competition for inspiration, and consider how you can distinguish yourself in the eyes of your prospects. What makes your approach different? For example, are you leading with price or quality? At this stage of your marketing strategy it’s critical to review your pricing and identify how it comes into play.
  • Establish a marketing presence online: Given the age of social media we live in, it should be no surprise to realize that your business should have a presence among leading sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, your online presence doesn’t extend solely to these. Sites like Yelp, YouTube and Google Plus can also help expose your business to new prospects and boost your search engine optimization (SEO) ranking.
  • Define yourself as an expert: In recent years, content marketing has become a more central way to gain awareness for your business, but it’s only one of many ways to establish the expertise your business brings to customers. You can also build upon this with partnerships with other companies, guest posts on popular sites (yes, even for free!) and events that position your business as a thought leader within your industry. This goes a long way toward building your credibility among prospects.
  • Monitor results and adjust accordingly: Even if you are actively marketing your business already, you need to be prepared to adjust your strategy when something isn’t working. This flexibility to recognize a failed effort and to switch things up is essential to develop the further growth of your business. To keep your company from staying stagnant, be sure to have analytics in place to monitor results and act quickly if changes are needed.

The Future Awaits

While the technology involved in eCommerce lends businesses a certain flexibility, this aspect alone is not enough to keep your business afloat. Every day, new challengers are entering the fray, and there’s never been a more critical time to review the marketing plan you have in place to reach your target audience.

These steps are simply the start of a grander, more effective approach to connecting with consumers. Endless possibilities await you, and you’ll truly need to stay vigilant with your retail marketing strategy to achieve the continuous improvement and forward growth your business deserves.

For more invaluable insights into how you should approach marketing your eCommerce business and use automation to drive future success, check out our new eBook, “Key Automated Marketing Strategies for eCommerce Store Success.”

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How to Maximize Direct-to-Customer Order Fulfillment

As technology has increased the capability for businesses to deliver orders to customers in a more and more timely fashion, so too have consumers come to expect their packages to arrive faster and for a lower shipping cost (or even free).

eCommerce businesses have felt the pressure to bolster their order fulfillment processes perhaps more than most other businesses. After all, online retailers need to compete not only with each other, but in many cases, with traditional brick-and-mortar stores as well. Direct-to-customer order fulfillment may be a complicated game, but luckily, more and more tools have become available to assist eCommerce businesses.

Strategies You Can Use

As always, the direct-to-customer sector brings with it a distinct set of challenges that must be overcome if you wish to maximize your order fulfillment success. How your system operates is key to the output your business will be able to handle and, by extension, how equipped your company will be when your marketing efforts pay off and your customer base explodes. In order to optimize your business, a few essential steps should first be taken. Here are some basic strategies you can start to implement into your business to streamline your direct-to-customer order fulfillment process.

  • Integration is a must: Before you can really make the most of your order fulfillment, you first need to introduce an integrated approach to your various systems, from order capture onward. Eliminating a segregated structure that keeps each element distinct and disconnected gives your business the ability to evaluate the order management and operations on a large scale, and this centralized view is absolutely essential to boost your order fulfillment.
  • Embrace automation to optimize: When it comes to order fulfillment, accuracy and timeliness is naturally paramount. That’s why your business needs to have a fully automated process in place for everything from pricing to fulfillment. This will lend you the competitive advantage you need to help your business soar and the precision to keep customer satisfaction sky-high. You’ll also be in far better shape when order demand requires a higher level of performance than you could previously manage to tackle.
  • Employ location-based strategies: Much of order fulfillment hinges on where your customer is based. Using location data as an integral part of your operation can guide you in deciding where to route deliveries, including local retailers who may be better positioned to meet faster delivery dates. In some cases, this might be a more efficient approach and maintains your platform’s status as the access point. Your customers will thank you for the improved service, and you might even be able to trim costs as a result.
  • Explore order streaming: Order streaming provides your business with the chance to adjust its workload to not only warehouse conditions but also high-priority orders. A tool that rightfully emphasizes customer expectations, order streaming manages equipment and other resources as well as streamlines the period between order capture and fulfillment. In that regard, it can be a tremendous way you can boost productivity and maximize efficiency within your business and provide a better service to your customer base.
  • Personalize to develop your brand: You wouldn’t automatically tie personalization and brand development to successful order fulfillment, but increased options and the ability to easily capture and employ data help you to boost brand loyalty and the likelihood of follow-up orders. Fulfillment starts with establishing a connection with customers that blossoms into a strong relationship. Never forget that your mission doesn’t begin or end with order fulfillment.

For more invaluable insights into how you should approach improving your eCommerce business with automation, check out our eBook, “Key Marketing Automation Strategies for Ecommerce Store Success.”

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