Posts

For Happy Online Customers, Deliver Meaningful Benefits

We recently wrote about customer frustrations with online shopping experiences and the related opportunity for businesses to foster delight. In a survey-based study titled “The New Reality: Understanding the Retail Consumer Experience During a Pandemic,” Wharton Marketing Professor Thomas Robertson finds “about a 10% increase in problems from before the pandemic to the middle of May, with some decrease in loyalty. As the percentage of online sales was going up, many retailers weren’t ready for the onslaught and had trouble coping with it.”

Actually Rewarding Rewards Programs

Specifically, Robertson identifies poorly executed customer loyalty programs as a source of annoyance. In another article titled “Why Personalization Matters for Consumer Privacy,” McKinsey partners Phyllis Rothschild, Julien Boudet, and Gadi BenMark take a deep look at customer attitudes towards data use and personalized reward programs. (That article is part of a compilation from MITSloan Management Review called Creating Great Online Customer Experience.)

Their main takeaway: “By understanding what people value, companies can do more to create trust.”

While privacy concerns are different than service concerns, there are instructive parallels for understanding how customers decide what is or isn’t worth their time and money. To find out, Rothschild, Boudet, and BenMark conducted a survey of 1,012 U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 and 70 who had made an online purchase in the last six months.

Levels of concern diminish as the benefits of personalization go up, the McKinsey researchers find. That might sound obvious, but personalization is hard to get right. You need to actually understand something about the person you’re rewarding. To deliver meaningful benefits, businesses need to make sure the advantages they’re offering are important to their customers.

What do online shoppers want?

“Not surprisingly, receiving individualized pricing in the form of discounts for a product or service that consumers really wanted was among the most favored benefits for data use, with 57% expressing excitement,” according to Rothschild, Boudet, and BenMark, “Coming in second, with 55% expressing excitement, was receiving a free product or service that consumers wanted but felt was too indulgent or not high enough in priority to purchase themselves. Interestingly, receiving dedicated concierge services and personalized advice came in at the bottom of the list of customer delights (less than 25% excitement each).”

Furthermore, younger shoppers, shoppers who live in urban areas, and shoppers who spend more time on social media were more comfortable with online purchasing and rewards programs. Depending on your business’ demographics, you may need a closer look to really know what your customers will appreciate in a loyalty program.

Understanding and Communication are Key

Rothschild, Boudet, and BenMark conclude with two pieces of advice:

  1. 1.Understand your consumers’ preferences “Companies need to analyze consumer preferences to develop a clear understanding of what benefits each demographic values the most. By delivering on those benefits through personalized offers, companies can mitigate some consumer concerns. This requires companies to invest in deep consumer research, ongoing testing of the effectiveness of offers, and advanced analytics to provide deeper levels of insight.”
  2. 2. Communicate and educate “Companies that do this best focus on communicating in simple terms, clearly defining the benefits, and being transparent about the types of data collected and how it is secured. They often communicate this information within the typical user’s onboarding or sign-up experience.”

 

 

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.

10 Tips for Safe Offices

As businesses re-open offices and welcome employees back from working from home, office safety is a huge concern for many business owners and HR leaders. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests these 10 practical and actionable ideas on how offices can adapt to the coronavirus era.

Capacity signage

Social distancing can be challenging in offices that previously packed in workers, but one important addition that can help control how many people are in various spaces is custom-made capacity signs. Offices may have had a single capacity sign before but now they could have many. Every space — whether it’s a conference room, lobby, elevator, kitchen or bathroom — could have a sign mandating the number of people that should use it to comply with state, local and other guidelines.

Check-in stations in lobbies

Whereas office lobbies may have been a place for groups to congregate before, no longer. Instead, some lobbies could be converted into health check-in stations to screen employees. If employees have a temperature or are showing visible signs of sickness, they’d then be asked to go home.

Flexible desk spaces

Shifting workers from dedicated desks to spaced out flexible desks may be one way to accommodate returning workers in some offices. As workers may not come in every day to meet occupancy requirements, this means more space can become general purpose. Flexible spaces could allow for easier cleaning, too.

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant stations

Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes have become much more popular since COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020. Many offices will likely invest in hand sanitizer and other disinfectant products and create stations around the office so people can get a quick squirt of sanitizer, get a wipe to use before a conference room meeting, or the like.

Improved air filtration

Research shows that one of the most prominent ways COVID-19 spreads is through “respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.” As such, excellent air filtration will be a priority for offices that are reopening. CBRE recommends that office buildings work to “increase outside air ventilation rates and filtration efficiency” or to install new filtration systems altogether when needed.

Plexiglass barriers

With open office spaces falling out of favor during COVID-19, a way businesses can help workers socially distance is through the addition of Plexiglass barriers. These large plastic sheets, which are now being used as sneeze guards in stores, can also be designed to block employees off from each other. The plus side to using the barriers is that employees can still see each other and be able to hear one another when speaking while also risking less exposure to the virus.

Social distancing floor indicators

One novel way to encourage social distancing, as outlined by Cushman & Wakefield’s Netherlands office, is to use floor stickers that show how far six feet actually is. Stickers (or custom carpets) can be placed underneath where employees sit in order to show exactly how far other employees should stay from that person when conversing.

Touchless everything

With COVID-19 able to spread on surfaces, offices will likely invest in touchless devices wherever they can reasonably be installed. For example, entry and exit doors can either automatically open or require key fobs to open doors instead of requiring door handles. And in bathrooms, a common place for germs to spread, offices can install automatic sinks, soap dispensers and dryers.

UV-C lamps

While UV-C lamps may have previously only been found in places like hospitals, these devices that disinfect air and surface particles could soon find a place in busy office spaces. While these lamps can be dangerous if people are too close to them while in use, they could be used after hours as part of a coronavirus-inspired deep cleaning routine.

Video chat rooms

With many employees working remotely and likely a smaller percentage planning to come in than normal, one smart way to redesign the office is to facilitate meetings in newly dedicated video call rooms. For example, design firm Bergmeyer told CityLab it planned to “turn all of its smaller conference rooms into video chat spaces” and is “experimenting with backgrounds that work well for remote meetings.”

Tips for Buying an Essential Business

“With the idea that essential businesses can be recession-proof and even boom during a public crisis, buying one is becoming a more attractive prospect,” says franchise expert Chris Buitron in a recent Milwaukee Community Journal article.

The thought piece, “4 Factors To Consider Before Buying An Essential Business In COVID Times,” discusses a rising interest among buyers in essential businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic has many buyers rethinking what type of business they might want to own, often turning to those deemed essential such as grocery, delivery, cleaning, and home services.

When looking into buying an essential business, Buitron recommends you consider the following:

  • Focus on successful types of essential businesses, those that are more likely to succeed even when economic conditions are poor.
  • Consider franchise opportunities which offer training and support.
  • Be able to decipher between a bargain and a bad investment.
  • Make sure that owning a business is right for you and that you are right for the business.

Focus on successful types of essential businesses. Among the essential businesses  that have the potential to succeed even during difficult economic times are: delivery services, grocery stores, convenience stores, e-commerce, gas stations, cleaning services, liquor stores, auto repair, lawn care, pest control, mailing/shipping services, and contracting. “The pandemic may be with us for a while,” Buitron says. “People will be home more often, and businesses that can service their needs while home will gain customers.”

Consider franchises as ownership opportunities. While some franchises are struggling during the pandemic, others are in a better position, Buitron says. “For franchises in general, much of the industry will be entering a buyer’s market, and those with the means will find some good opportunities,” he says. “People need jobs, and franchises annually employ 9 million people in the U.S. One benefit of buying a franchise is having an organizational and management team already in place to train you and help guide you. Reach out to other franchise owners to get a sense of the company’s commitment and support.”

Know a bargain vs. a bad investment. A relatively low sale price tempts some people into making a poor buying decision on a business. Buitron says it’s important to pore over the business’ financial numbers that it recorded before the pandemic and do all the research possible – especially of the market where the business is located – to determine if it was on a growth track and what the competition is like. “Two questions you need to ask yourself as a potential buyer of an essential business are: What can you bring new to the business to make it more successful, and why was or wasn’t it profitable?” he says.

Be sure you’re up to owning a business. “There are no guarantees with owning an essential business,” Buitron says. “The pandemic has put a spotlight on their importance, but they take lots of work and organizational skills to run. If you are someone who can’t deal well with uncertainty, buying a business any time, let alone during the most uncertain time in our history, isn’t the right choice. Buying a business and committing to it requires thorough research, a passion for the business, a solid financial foundation and a leap of faith.”

If you’re looking for the right business to buy, we can help navigate the complexities of this year’s unusual market and business environment. Check out our listings here and contact us for more information!

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!

Changing Careers and Forging Ahead

A popular article on LinkedIn this week addresses career change.  Personal growth sometimes requires new challenges. “There often comes a point in your career where it’s time to re-evaluate. Things change. You change,” writes  business podcaster Jessi Hempel.  “How do you screw up the courage to leave the safety and security of the subject you’ve mastered and start something new?” To examine this question, Hempel interviews Robin Arzon. Arzon left a secure career as a lawyer to affirm and cultivate a new version of herself: an athlete, who is now the head of fitness programming for Peleton.

Your path may take different turns, but Hempel is right–we change! Maybe you’re ready to be your own boss and embark on a career as an entrepreneur. We can help you find a business that resonates with your passions and values. Maybe you’ve been at the helm of a business for a long time and you’re ready for something new. We can help sell your business to the right buyer and set you up for your next adventure.

Here are some highlights from the interview, featuring some great insights and advice from Arzon.

On figuring out what you want to do: Intellectual folks often find that it’s simple to just dig in. But that doesn’t mean that [the work is] actually aligning with our values, with our goals, and with the happiness quotient.”

On beginning to think of herself as an athlete: ” I had to really recreate myself and start to write a different story once I realized that I was curious about what this running thing was.”

On leaving a predictable career path: “I bet on myself, and I still believe that I’m my greatest investment.”

On figuring out how to turn her fitness love into a career: “I wanted to somehow marry the business acumen that I had acquired as a lawyer with something that was forward-thinking and modern, marrying technology and entertainment. And I wanted to insert myself in that story, not telling other people’s stories, but telling my own.”

On how to tell if you’re on the right career path: “it’s just a quarterly, seasonal gut check: what am I doing? Where am I going? Have I been uncomfortable enough recently? And if the answer is no, I’m not on the right path.”

On moving forward: “In every area of our lives, we’re doing this delicate dance between tension and resistance that often creates momentum, and release from that tension so we can actually get things done.”

On building resiliency: “Willpower is a muscle. I believe that resiliency is like a muscle. The more that we visit those opportunities, the greater prepared we are for the next one.”

If any of this is sparking inspiration for you, contact us for experienced support as you take your next steps!

Tips to Achieve (the Elusive) Work-Life Balance

“What impact has working from home had on productivity and creativity?” A recent study conducted by researchers from Harvard Business School, MIT Media Lab, and McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin explored this question with more data than has historically been available.

The Study

The researchers state: We decided to explore how employees have fared since they began working virtually. To that end, we started surveying a diverse group of more than 600 U.S.-based white-collar employees during the second half of March and have continued to do so every two weeks since then. (This article is based on results collected through May.) Approximately half of our respondents are women, and half are men; they hail from 43 states; nearly half are married; and more than a third have children. About 40% hold management positions. We have been asking them about their job satisfaction, work engagement, perceptions of their own performance, conflicts with colleagues, stress, negative emotions, and current living situation, among other questions.

The results of this extensive study are fascinating. In general, they find that work is OK! The survey indicates that job satisfaction and engagement fell steeply during the first two months of the pandemic and shelter at home orders, but then recovered. Many respondents even report higher happiness and productivity working from home.

The Challenge

The transition involved leveling up communication skills, remote management strategies, adapting to some technology, and maintaining work- life balance. While we’re collectively figuring most of it out, work-life balance remains elusive (perhaps because it wasn’t a huge strong point under normal circumstances).

The workday significantly increased at the beginning of all-virtual work: In the weeks immediately after the lockdown began, only half of employees were able to maintain a 10-hour workday or less, whereas nearly 80% had been able to do so previously. These patterns have started to trend back to pre-lockdown levels, although the workdays are still 10% to 20% longer on average.

10% to 20% longer on average! If you are one of the many people struggling to keep work circumscribed, time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders suggests following these four steps.

Step 1: Define “After Hours”

Saunders suggests you do this by defining and thinking though the non-work goals you have for a daily and weekly basis. How much time do you want for family, friends, exercise, cleaning, sleeping, etc? Work that time into your schedule and protect it. Obviously, getting work done is important. But, if COB is kind of arbitrary these days, define it by when you want to start working on your other goals for the day.

Step 2: Have Mental Clarity

Be really clear on what needs to get done, when, and the steps required to succeed. Make use of project management apps, calendars, or your own system of sticky notes. The point is to avoid Middle of the Night Dread and start your days with organized purposiveness. Saunders suggests an end-of-day wrap up and plan of action for the day to come. Then leave it at that.

Step 3: Communicate with Your Colleagues

Even if your job requires more constant accessibility, you can communicate how you would like to be reached. Saunders suggests something like, “It’s fine to text me during the day with questions, but after 6:30 please send an email unless it’s urgent.” That way you’ll know only one channel of communication is worth fretting over “after work.”

Step 4: Get Work Done at Work

“It’s exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to not be distracted about work when you’re stressed out because you haven’t gotten your work done,” says Saunders. To avoid this vicious circle, guard your time. Saunders recommends timeboxing. Make (and keep) “meetings” with yourself when you can focus on getting things done. The time you spend organizing and prioritizing your projects from the mental clarity step will come in handy here. And communicating that you’re Do Not Disturb (unless it’s an emergency) helps your colleagues help you stay focused.

One interesting finding from the Work From Home study is that we’re all in this situation together. It’s not just a platitude.  If we’re all adapting to working from home, no one is at a special disadvantage because of working from home. While this doesn’t exactly imply equity, it might help you relax enough to take some care of yourself.

 

6 Tips for Managing a Positive Customer Experience

Customers are venturing back out to shop, dine, and feel a semblance of normalcy. However, the consumer experience has changed since the onset of stay at home orders. Social distancing requirements, masks, and ubiquitous hand sanitizer are reminders of why we need these precautions. We know that emotions strongly impact purchasing decisions. Anxiety and frustration are common, and disappointed expectations can make things worse. Make your business feel good. It will help customers be comfortable now and build loyalty that carries into the future. Here are six tips for welcoming your customers back into a positive experience, even if things are different.

Make sure your business looks and feels clean

Many people are still very worried about their and their family members’ health. You can cheerily model healthy behaviors at your business to help customers feel safe. Calmly make your efforts to protect customers visible. Employees can clean surfaces while customers are shopping. Anyone at a register can frequently use hand sanitizer. Friendly signage can even be an opportunity to deliver messages about your brand’s values and care for your community,

Remind customers the rules apply to everyone

New  Mexico currently requires masks to be worn in public. If you own or manage a business, you may have already observed that some customers resist this. Consistently insisting (politely, of course) that everyone in the store follows the rules helps communicate the fairness— and unavoidability— of your policy. Having signage may help to avoid extra conversations as well.

Be transparent about changes, challenges and delays

If your customers don’t know the rules — or the reasoning behind them — they’re less likely to follow those rules.  To cut out annoying surprises, use complete honesty and transparency with customers before they come into your store. This rule also goes for any potential delays or supply chain shortages you may be experiencing.

Train employees to be helpful and answer questions

Customers are still adjusting to the realities of post-pandemic retail shopping trips. To minimize anxiety, designate some employees to help shoppers navigate your store, in addition to posting clear signage throughout the premises. Businesses should  also tell customers how to best share their questions and concerns.

Set reasonable expectations

Even if your business has the resources to continue performing at the highest level, your vendors and suppliers may not have the same capacities. It’s important to be realistic about what’s possible and set customer expectations accordingly. It is better to under-promise and over-deliver than to inflate customer expectations and fall short. Here again, transparency helps!

Make it easy for customers to provide feedback

As the pandemic evolves, so must your business’s policies and procedures. Things may continue to change in the coming months, and while communicating these changes to your customers is essential, it’s equally critical to invite feedback.

6 Tips to Recession Proof Your Business

This year has thrown more than its share of curveballs at business owners. Changing guidelines and shifting consumer confidence make planning exceptionally challenging. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce shares these six tips to safeguard your business for potential difficulties ahead.

 

Embrace adaptability

The pandemic has given small businesses a crash course in adaptability. Businesses that weren’t operating online or remotely suddenly found themselves making huge changes to their business model on the fly. This willingness to pivot quickly and be flexible with your previous plans is the key to surviving the current recession.

Listen to your customers’ current needs

Understanding and serving your customers’ needs is important at any time, but it’s especially important to empathize with their current struggles and changing purchasing behaviors right now. By collecting insights from consumers and suppliers in the form of focus groups, surveys and one-on-one interviews, your business will be better able to adapt to rapidly-changing needs and behaviors.

Master the art of cash flow management

Keeping a close eye on expenses and cash flow can help you plan for your financial future and avoid overspending in certain areas of your business.

Negotiate new terms with your vendors

Vendor expenses can add up quickly, and during a financial crisis, discussing concessions or negotiating new terms with vendors and suppliers can be extremely helpful to all parties involved.

Diversify everything

Tyler Read, CEO of PTPioneer, said the best way to recession-proof your business plan is to diversify every element of your business, especially your income streams and the markets you serve. Read also recommended diversifying your staff to bring diverse perspectives to the table.

Keep investing in your business

Surviving the current economic downturn will be difficult for any business owner, but keep looking for opportunities, even when things feel bleak, said Vitale.

Despite the uncertainties, there are exciting opportunities in New Mexico to buy a business. If you’re thinking of relocating and becoming a New Mexico business owner, we can help. Learn more about businesses for sale and contact us for more information.

Who Might Buy Your Business?

When selling a business, you’ll want to consider the different buyer scenarios you’re presented carefully.  The buyer pool for most organizations can be very diverse, and different kinds of buyers pose different implications. It’s important to develop an understanding of the parties’ backgrounds and their intent to buy. Of course, will help you find the right fit, but it never hurts to be prepared. These are five of the more common types of prospective buyer profiles you may encounter.

  1. Individual Buyer

    These are individual buyers who aren’t affiliated with an external organization. This scenario can be advantageous for several reasons. For one, these parties have fewer strings attached, making them easier to work with than an existing business. They also typically have years of experience in their field. However, nearly 48% of small business buyers are also first-time buyers, according to this Market Pulse report. As a result, they may require additional training and assistance from the current business owner through the transition.

  2. Business Competitor

    Existing companies often buy out their competitors, which allows them to expand in their industry. This could be an excellent opportunity for a business owner looking to sell with little-to-no involvement following the transaction. These potential buyers usually already have an understanding of your general operations, so it takes much less time to get them up to speed. If you do pursue this arrangement, you will want to retain business broker services as many unique challenges can arise.

  3. Synergistic Buyer

    Synergistic parties are another type of buyer looking to expand their current operations. These buyers aren’t direct competitors, but more so companies in-line with your industry. They are interested in similar businesses that would be complementary to what they currently offer. A major plus of working with a synergistic buyer is that they are often more willing to pay a higher purchase price than other groups that need more financial backing. A possible disadvantage in this arrangement is that they typically don’t have the need to retain a lot of the seller’s current personnel, so downsizing is common.

  4. Financial Buyer

    Financial buyers are interested in the return they can receive by investing in a business. You may want to consider this arrangement if you are looking to maintain some involvement with your organization but do not have the capabilities, funds, or interests to continue serving as the business owner. You want to work with a business intermediary through these transactions, as they require a high level of detailed planning.

  5. Family Member

    Many small business owners choose to sell to a family member. Often, their successor is already involved with their operations and has received a great deal of training. Having this familiarity is of great benefit to a potential buyer, plus they can rely on their family member for support as time goes on. If this sounds ideal to you, our recommendation is to prepare this person as much as possible to minimize disruptions. If they aren’t ready for the responsibility, your business can suffer.

An experienced broker can help match you with the right buyer based on your personal needs. If you’re ready to sell, contact us for more information!