Challenge and Opportunity in Online Customer Experience

A recent study by Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retailing Center and WisePlum suggests rising consumer frustration with retail as shopping shifts online. The survey-based study, “The New Reality: Understanding the Retail Consumer Experience During a Pandemic,” finds mounting customer impatience and decreased loyalty. In a Knowledge@Wharton interview, the study’s co-author, Marketing Professor Thomas Robertson, says these findings are related to underprepared online shopping and loyalty program customer experience and the tech that underpins it.

The Challenge

We have written before about the importance of (and some ways to) deepen customer relations during this time. But Robertson raises an excellent point. “Loyalty programs will not compensate for poor service or a poor product. They will just add cost,” he says. “You have to have the IT in place. Point of sales data, for example, has to be in place for you to be able to use loyalty programs. And if you’re transitioning to online, you have to be ready for it. You have to design integrated online-offline programs.”

As health concerns ferry more and more commerce online, customers’ expectations for a positive virtual shopping experience are on the rise. But businesses have struggled to meet these expectation.

“It’s about a 10% increase in problems from before the pandemic to the middle of May, with some decrease in loyalty. And there is a difference,” says Robertson. “Before, when consumers had problems, the focus was in-store. They would have problems not being able to find things, or they would complain about the messiness of stores or that the salespeople were not helpful. As we got to May, all of this had changed, and what people were now sensitive about was having to pay for shipping to return things, that you needed a receipt to return things, and that the website was difficult to navigate. This seemed to suggest that as the percentage of online sales was going up, many retailers weren’t quite ready for the onslaught and had some trouble coping with it.”

The Opportunity

The takeaway, according to Robertson? “Service recovery is absolutely critical.”

There are some significant bright sides to this story. By smoothing out kinks in your online systems, you can really differentiate your business. There is also a tremendous opportunity in “transforming disappointment into delight.”

In Creating Great Online Customer Experience, a compilation of research by MIT Sloan Management Review (available for download here), Stefan Thomke writes about creating the kind of customer experience that stays with someone:

“When employees are taught to be in tune with the customer’s emotions, they can notice changes in emotional state and respond quickly. As their alacrity accelerates the shift from disappointment to delight, the intervention creates a sudden contrast that makes experiences sticky.  Magicians, who constantly think about the audience experience, understand the emotional value of rapid shifts from disappointment and confusion to happy resolution. They have developed techniques to change people’s emotional states. Momentary disappointment at failure to “catch” the magician quickly transforms into delight in his excellence. Disappointment to delight: Magicians know that this emotional transition will wow audiences more than a constant flow of technically perfect tricks. The former creates memorable moments, while the latter may cause eyes to glaze over.”

In upcoming posts, we’ll share more tips on online customer experience. Stay tuned!

Albuquerque’s Vibrant Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Hosts ESHIP 2020

This month, Albuquerque is hosting the 2020 ESHIP Summit, a gathering of “entrepreneurial ecosystem builders – leaders connecting communities together to accelerate entrepreneurship – who seek to build more inclusive, sustainable local economies.” This systems approach to fostering economic vibrancy connects people, resources, and institutions to foster collaborative growth and innovation.

“During the ESHIP Summit, we are featuring a round table of five ecosystem leaders from Albuquerque to tell the story of the development of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem over the last 10 years,” said Andy Stoll, senior program officer of entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “We looked across the country to see what cities we saw that have demonstrated a long-term, cross-sector commitment to entrepreneurship. We believe Albuquerque is an exemplary story of a community undertaking collaborative and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem building efforts.”

“While the pandemic has revealed many cracks in the system across the nation, here in Albuquerque it has also revealed our strengths. We have been in this fight together and we will recover together, as a united community building an economy that works for everyone. We have put millions of dollars directly in the hands of local businesses to help them through the pandemic,” said Mayor Keller. “The partnership program we are implementing with assistance from the National League of Cities is a strategic step toward making sure our city emerges from COVID with an economy that’s even more robust, inclusive, and representative of Albuquerque than when the pandemic started.”

“The City of Albuquerque is honored to be recognized by Kauffman for our past and current efforts to build a vibrant small business community that can serve as a model for cities around the world,” said Synthia Jaramillo, Director of the City’s Economic Development Department. “But we are equally eager to come away from these events with new ideas for shared growth and prosperity across our city, all through the lens of equity and inclusion.”

If you are interesting in joining this flourishing community of entrepreneurs, we can help! Check out these opportunities to buy an Albuquerque business and contact us to learn more.

Resilient Albuquerque Businesses Adapt and Thrive

Congratulations to Albuquerque small businesses! According to a recent study conducted by e-commerce company Square, Albuquerque’s Main Street businesses ranked Number 1 in increased rate of e-commerce adoption following the COVID-19 outbreak. The ranking signals Albuquerque businesses’ agility and grit.

“We’re inspired every day by the ingenuity of small businesses in the face of a rapidly evolving environment,” writes Square. “They’re pivoting business models, building online operations in days, and even selling completely new products to stay ahead.”

Albuquerque businesses saw an 800% increase in online sales. The study’s methodology states, “Increase in adoption is defined by the percent increase in sellers who took their first payment using Square Online Store during the given time period (January/February vs. March/April).”

“It represents resilience,” says David Rusenko, Square’s general manager of e-commerce in the Albuquerque Journal. “It shows that the Albuquerque business community exhibits significant nimbleness and resourcefulness when forced to adapt to new situations. When faced with the challenge (of the economic crisis), Albuquerque was the city where businesses stepped up to the challenge and did so at the highest rate, more so than any other city. People just didn’t roll over.”

“Upgrading to an online presence doesn’t mean eliminating brick-and-mortar operations; it supplements a brick-and-mortar and gives customers more options and more flexibility at a time of uncertainty,” he adds.

In the same article, City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department Director Synthia Jaramillo writes,

Mayor Tim Keller and the city of Albuquerque Economic Development Department leapt to action to support small businesses in March as COVID-19 began to majorly impact the operations of small businesses. EDD immediately developed and deployed the Micro-Business Relief Program, providing a diverse array of 150 qualifying micro-businesses with working capital grants of $5,000 each. Also, utilizing $200,000 in funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the city has been making grants available to restaurants, breweries and food trucks to support the set-up and operation of outdoor dining options, and it waived permitting and inspection fees for building out patios.

We’ve written before about Albuquerque’s tremendous entrepreneurship scene. If you would like to join this inspiring community of business owners, we can help! Check out these businesses for sale and contact us for more information how to buy a business in thriving Albuquerque.

Family Businesses – Resilience and Legacy

A recent white paper by Deloitte explores strengths intrinsic to family business that may give these enterprises a relative advantage during this unusual year. Interestingly, the subject of business culture is once again comes into focus. “Alongside the millions of healthcare professionals and volunteers, some family businesses are being branded as ‘heroes’ by their local and national communities in the current crisis,” the paper states. “This often comes down to the family values that have been instilled for generations across the business, in family members and employees, and then ultimately imparted to customers. It is these inherent values and solid organizational purpose that can secure loyalty far beyond the crisis.”

The paper also points out that this may be the perfect time to elevate the involvement of the next generation in your business’ succession plan. The up-and-coming entrepreneurs of the family may be “readily available “extra pair of hands” in a time when resources are either scarce or not available, as well as a valuable sounding board or source of fresh ideas.” Digital natives, they might also be poised to lead new and innovative efforts during a time when digital interfacing with clients and vendors is increasingly vital. “Not only does this give the next generation a chance to prove themselves, but their active engagement in the business at this time could be the difference between success or failure.

While resilience and core values are often inherent in family businesses, family tensions may also be built in. Generational differences in vision or priorities can be tricky to navigate. The current crisis has led many older business owners to weigh risks to their health and safety alongside normal cost-benefit considerations of doing business.  If you find yourself in this position, it may well be that now is the right time to officially pass the baton to your next-in-line.

Even when the sale is to a trusted family member who has grown up with the business, selling a family business can amplify all of the tensions that go along with running one. You may discover that the sale could be very disruptive for you personally.  All too often, people fail to recognize the emotional and mental stress that comes along with selling a business.  Many owners begin the selling process only to discover that they are not emotionally ready to do so.  While everyone wants to be unemotional in making their business decisions, this is not always the case.

For help navigating the challenges that come with this opportunity, contact us!

See the Deloitte infographic below for insights. Deloitte will be publishing a series of articles on this subject in the coming weeks. If this feels close to home, stay tuned!

Moving to New Mexico

A recent Wall Street Journal article raises the questions, where do you want to live, and why? As work life shifts to remote models, the need to live near hot job markets is challenged. People are reassessing living situations and moving to places that make them happy, both for improved quality of life and ability to save money.

“At one point in April people were relocating at twice the normal pace, according to data from Cuebiq,” writes Ben Eisen.

If you are among the many people seeking a change of scene, consider New Mexico! Beautiful mountains, fresh air, and stunning skyscapes (not to mention strong economic incentives) could be calling you home.

Albuquerque was recently ranked America’s ninth most affordable city by Move.org. The city’s low cost of living contributes to its also being ranked one of the top five cities in which to build wealth by pay experts Salary.com.

Albuquerque also ranks in the top ten large-size metro areas in the country for economic development potential, according to site selector publication Business Facilities. “‘Albuquerque has a foothold in very high-tech industries,’ including renewable energies, photonics, and information technology,’ said Business Facilities’ Editor in Chief Jack Rogers. ‘We think the up arrow is going to stay for a while.

Santa Fe was voted one of the Best Small Cities in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards last year. “There is a lot of sameness in cities around the world,” says Santa Fe mayor Alan Webber. “We remain unique.”

Learn about opportunities to own a business in beautiful New Mexico. We’re here to help!

 

 

 

 

New PPP Guidelines and Deadlines

The New Mexico Economic Development Department released this statement today concerning new guidelines and deadlines for Paycheck Protection Program loans:
Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced that new forgiveness and flexibility rules for the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will benefit more New Mexico businesses and she is urging those who have not yet applied to take another look at the program.
With the PPP deadline for loan funding on June 30, there are just a few days left for businesses still interested to receive funding from private lenders who are partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
As of this week, there is $129 billion left for PPP lending. The new forgiveness guidelines were presented by SBA leaders in New Mexico as part of an EDD webinar on June 17.
With the new PPP Flexibility Act, signed into law by President Trump on June 5, many more businesses in New Mexico who apply for forgiveness should be able to receive it. That means more of the money going to New Mexico businesses will stay in the state and not have to be repaid.
“The new guidelines mean that New Mexico businesses can reopen at their own pace and work toward a safer, stronger recovery,” Cabinet Secretary Keyes said. “The businesses can take more time to prepare and have until the end of the year hire back employees. The changes are a good thing for many small businesses in the state that are still under some health restrictions. I urge businesses who have not yet applied for PPP to take another look at this program before it closes for good on June 30.”
The biggest change allows PPP loan recipients until Dec. 31, 2020 to restore the employee headcount to pre-pandemic levels. The provision does not require hiring back a specific worker, just reaching the same headcount pre-pandemic in order to qualify for some loan forgiveness.
The new rules also reduce the percentage of PPP dollars required to be spent on payroll — to 60 percent from 75 percent. That change is particularly beneficial to galleries and specialty retailers with few employees but higher overhead in other areas such as rent, utilities, and mortgage interest.
The term for new loans is also extended from two to five years for any repayment amounts that would be due back to the lender, and the time period to use PPP money has been extended from 8 to 24 weeks.
“Small businesses are breathing a sigh of relief that they now have more time to bring back employees,” John Garcia, New Mexico SBA District Director, said on the EDD webinar.
“The changes are really important for hospitality businesses, gyms, and restaurants — many of the businesses that are still under COVID-19 restrictions,” Russell Wyrick, Executive State Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, said.
The SBDC centers provide guidance and technical assistance for all SBA loan services and applications in New Mexico. For more information, go to nmsbdc.org.
The SBA also reopened its application portal for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), a low-interest loan up to $2 million with payback periods of 20 to 30 years.
Wyrick emphasized on the webinar there are several other SBA loan options that might work for specific circumstances and his experts are available to advise business owners and nonprofit managers at no charge.
“The new guidance for PPP loan forgiveness is a welcomed action by the SBA. Many borrowers and lenders in New Mexico have been seeking clarification and a simplified process for asking for the intended forgiveness,” Jerry C. Walker, President & CEO Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico, said. “This is a positive action which moves us in that direction. Taken together, these actions benefit New Mexico’s small businesses who have been recipients of PPP loans.”
Some 650 New Mexico banks, credit unions, and community lenders have been active in SBA lending over the past several months with $2.2 billion in PPP money going to 20,431 New Mexico businesses and non-profits. Nationwide, $511 billion has been distributed under PPP.
The June 30 deadline for the program is fast approaching. “People often like to wait until the last minute,” Wyrick said on the EDD webinar. “Well, this is the last minute.”
For information on PPP and all the SBA loan programs go to SBA.GOV
For information on the state assistance, including the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Program and the No-interest LEDA loan program, go to the EDD website, GONM.BIZ
For technical help and advice on SBA programs and loan applications go to NMSBDC.org.
For a list of SBA lending partners go here.
For comprehensive information from the State of New Mexico on the COVID-19 health emergency, including data, testing, economic, and food assistance, go to NEWMEXICO.GOV.

Scenario Planning for Pandemic Outcomes

“Significant uncertainty surrounds what the ‘new normal’ could look like for firms beyond the COVID-19 crisis. But scenario thinking can help organizations better anticipate and adapt to dramatic changes, increase agility and resilience, and turn uncertainty into advantage,” according to this Knowledge@Whatron article.

Scenario planning is a powerful tool for developing strategy, especially given the complex web of unknowns in which we find ourselves. It leverages the cognitive, creative power of narrative to imagine and respond to possible futures. The thought experiment yields critical analysis, important insights, and the ability to innovate and prepare for a variety of eventualities.

For scenario planning to be as useful as possible, entire teams should be engaged and invested. If delegated to a small group as a fringe project, the resultant lessons will have diminished impact, cautions this piece by business consultancy McKinsey. The exercise works best when the narratives around each scenario are all deeply developed. The more information and connections a scenario involves, the more instructive its consideration will be.

Scenarios should represent a spectrum of good and bad situations. You can think of them as laying over a graph in which the x and y axes represent best and worst case predictions for key factors. For example, take economic recovery (weak to strong) and social/consumer behavior (scared to confident). Scenarios in that case might occupy quadrants such as “struggling economy and consumers are staying home,” “economy is picking up but consumers are avoiding public spaces,” “economy is still low but people are eager for new consumer experiences,” and “businesses are bouncing back and consumers are venturing out again.” Planning deeply for each scenario allows you to create a playbook and to better recognize patterns on the horizon. This Forbes piece outlines a step-by-step guide for applying scenario planning to your business.

One of the most useful and most challenging aspects of scenario planning is thinking beyond your own expectations in order to plan more comprehensively. McKinsey shares this advice (summed up concisely in this infographic) for navigating the perils of bias.

 

 

Opportunity: Sign of the Pampered Maiden

Sign of the Pampered Maiden in Santa Fe for SaleSign of the Pampered Maiden is an iconic, enduring brand and luxury fashion destination in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, and it could be yours. A dramatically reduced price and supportive SBA programs make this a perfect opportunity to become part of the Santa Fe retail and fashion identity.

Now listed at only $180,000, Pampered Maiden’s 2019 gross revenue was $615,266, with a cash flow of $74,417. Find more information about this exceptional opportunity here.

Pampered Maiden’s collection of organic, eco-sensitive and locally-sourced clothing has won it a loyal customer base. The classic sensibility and emphasis on quality has attracted women of multiple generations. Visitors and locals alike have made a regular habit of shopping at Pampered Maiden to seasonally refresh their wardrobe.

The shop’s reputation for customer service also sets it apart. Staff is skilled at providing a personalized shopping experience and expert at visual merchandising. Santa Feans consistently rank Pampered Maiden as one of the top stores for women’s clothing, jewelry, fashion accessories, and gifts. It has been featured in the pages of The Santa Fe Guide, The Essential Guide, Trend Magazine, In-Art Design Magazine, and other local publications.

Additionally, the current owner has invested in upgrading Sign of the Pampered Maiden’s online presence. A newly updated e-commerce site and enhanced social media are important adaptations and bring the brand great sustainability and growth potential.

To help secure a smooth transition, the Seller will make personal introductions between vendors and new owners. If desired, she will accompany new owners on the initial trade shows and major buying trips. A top-notch staff also helps make this business easy to operate.

 

 

 

 

Resource Roundup – PPP Loan Forgiveness Updates

The United States Chamber of Commerce has shared the following updates on PPP loan forgiveness amidst some confusion on the subject.

For employers whose employees have chosen not to return to work, the Treasury Department has clarified its position on loan forgiveness. Specifically, if you’re an employer and want to bring an employee back who had previously been laid off, you will not be penalized if the employee chooses not to return. If you issue a written invitation to invite the employee back to work and the employee declines your written offer, you will not be penalized in PPP loan forgiveness application.

There is still PPP loan money available and businesses should continue to apply.

It is not known yet whether the window for loan use and forgiveness will be expanded beyond June 30, 2020, or if terms will be extended to more non-payroll expenses. While some of these rules could change, businesses are advised to assume the current program guidelines will not change.

 

 

Note: This is a summary of aggregated information from other parties and does not express the direct advice of Sam Goldenberg & Associates.

De Facto Disruption and True Transformation

A Harvard Business Review article titled To See the Future of Competition, Look at Netflix resonates strongly just now. “As more and more of us turn to Netflix for entertainment, the company bears watching as a source of insights about the future of business and work,” writes author Bill Taylor. That seems to apply in the time of quarantine even more than when he wrote it. As the inventor of “binge watching,” Netflix has likely played a larger than usual role in many lives lately.

“Netflix could be the dictionary definition of a Silicon Valley disruptor, a new entrant that reshaped the logic of an entire industry,” says Taylor. “Yet what’s truly remarkable about the company’s trajectory over the last two decades is how dramatically it has disrupted itself in service of its mission.”

This is a time of de facto disruption, so why not use this moment to reflect intentionally and envision future courses of action that create and apply strategic change, not just forced adaptations?

Netflix regularly updates its manifesto on culture. The statement outlines the values to which people in the company are held to account. Taylor summarizes salient, inspiring points:

“Many companies have value statements,” it begins, “but often these written values are vague and ignored. The real values of a firm are shown by who gets rewarded or let go.” So what kind of people get rewarded at Netflix? “You say what you think, when it’s in the best interest of Netflix, even if it is uncomfortable,” the manifesto says. “You are willing to be critical of the status quo” and “You make tough decisions without agonizing.” Moreover, “You are able to be vulnerable, in search of truth.”

Now, while life and work is disrupted anyway, could be a great time to “hit pause” and ask the tough questions that lead to transformative innovation.