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How “Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store” Gives Retailers an Edge

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The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the digital transformation of retail — but as lockdowns come to an end and the economy recovers, many firms are wondering what the future will hold. Customers are unlikely to go back to their old ways of shopping, and yet adapting to online options has posed serious challenges for retailers, many of whom viewed these services as merely stop-gap measures, not long-term solutions. What can retailers do to stay relevant in the post-pandemic world while still retaining the advantages of tried-and-true strategies? In this piece, the authors discuss forthcoming research that suggests that the “Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store” model may be the best option, as it provides many of the advantages of online shopping without many of the downsides of other types of digital shopping experiences. They go on to suggest that many companies could likely benefit from conducting analyses on their own data, similar to the analysis described in the authors’ research, in order to identify the best strategies for their unique contexts and business needs.

For all the talk of digital transformation in recent years, prior to the pandemic, many retailers continued to rely heavily on physical stores. In 2019, less than a third of U.S. retailers had implemented a digital transformation strategy, and just 4% of the 500 largest retailers offered online ordering with curbside pickup.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the American retail landscape transformed overnight. Major brands shuttered storefronts and dove headfirst into a variety of omnichannel experiments, including services like curbside pickup; same-day home delivery; and buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). By the end of last summer, the share of retailers offering curbside pickup jumped to 44%. Brands that had long avoided prioritizing ecommerce, such as Costco and TJ Maxx, scrambled to set up online stores. Walmart launched two-hour home delivery in April of 2020, and Walgreens pharmacies implemented a BOPIS option in May.

Now, as lockdowns come to an end and the economy thaws out, many retailers are wondering whether these changes will stick around post-pandemic. Over the past year, 40% of Americans tried a new shopping method, and nearly three-quarters of people who have tried curbside pickup, BOPIS, or delivery want to continue using these services after the pandemic ends — presenting a challenge for businesses that had envisioned the shift to omnichannel retailing as a stopgap measure to be used only until customers could return to stores. Many retailers rely on in-store traffic to drive sales, since getting a customer in the store both reduces the chances they will opt for a competitor and increases the chances they will make spur of the moment purchases.

Furthermore, many companies have found that services like curbside pickup and same-day delivery are expensive to operate. High delivery costs can reduce profitability, and online customers are much more likely than in-person ones to abandon their carts and exhibit lower levels of brand loyalty. So, what can retailers do to meet their customers’ rising expectations for flexible, digital shopping experiences while maintaining the profit margins they need to survive?

Answering this question starts with acknowledging that not all omnichannel strategies are created equal. Our forthcoming research, soon to be published in Management Science, suggests that BOPIS in particular can help retailers boost in-store sales while still providing the experience that today’s (and tomorrow’s) customers want. That is because unlike other digital channels, BOPIS both offers the advantages of digital shopping and encourages customers to continue to engage with brick-and-mortar stores.

To better understand the impact of a BOPIS omnichannel strategy, we analyzed 49 million online and in-store transactions from a national retail chain before and after a competitor launched a BOPIS service (this research was all conducted prior to the pandemic). We found that the company’s sales dropped by 4.7% online and 1.8% in-store, and the decline in in-store sales was greater the closer a store was to one of the competitor’s BOPIS locations. This suggests that by launching BOPIS, the competitor was not only stealing the company’s online sales, but also their in-store traffic.

In addition, we also found that in-store sales of more profitable, higher-priced items experienced a greater drop than sales of lower-priced products, suggesting that the competitor’s BOPIS program was particularly effective in attracting the high-quality foot traffic of customers purchasing more expensive items. This makes sense, because while customers are generally more uncertain about buying higher-priced items online, BOPIS alleviates some of this uncertainty by enabling free and effortless returns if the customer is dissatisfied with the product at the time of pickup.

These findings are consistent with our earlier research, in which we found that after introducing BOPIS, retailers would experience a drop in online sales and an increase in in-store sales that added up to a net increase in overall sales. But why is this? There are a number of important factors at play.

One of the main advantages of BOPIS is that it enables customers to research products online and then buy them in-store at their convenience, without delivery fees or inflexible pickup times — in fact, a 2019 survey found that 48% of people who used BOPIS did so because of the lack of shipping costs. BOPIS also gives customers visibility into which stores have a given product in stock, helping them avoid wasted trips and thus improving their overall shopping experience.

Moreover, BOPIS isn’t just good for customers. Eighty-five percent of consumers who have used BOPIS say that they have made additional unplanned in-store purchases when picking up an order placed online, which is one of the main reasons that traditional, in-store shopping is advantageous to retailers. In addition, because BOPIS is more profitable than other omnichannel services, it gives retailers the opportunity to offer a small discount or other incentives to encourage customers to opt for the BOPIS option, creating a win-win for both the customer and the business.

Ultimately, foot traffic is and will continue to be the lifeblood of retail, and BOPIS can bridge the gap between the convenience of ecommerce and the profitability of in-store shopping. Given its many advantages, retailers should consider focusing their marketing efforts on promoting their BOPIS services, and they should highlight the features that consumers appreciate, such as the lack of delivery fees and the guarantee that products will arrive in their hands safe and sound. In addition, because BOPIS enables customers to examine products before leaving the store, retailers should prioritize ensuring a returns process that is as smooth as possible. One of the greatest downsides of home delivery is its notoriously difficult returns process, and so offering quick, painless returns and exchanges is one of the best ways to differentiate BOPIS from delivery (and thus keep customers coming back to stores in person).

Digital shopping has been gaining traction for years. Now, after a year of massive investment into omnichannel infrastructure, we have reached a tipping point. Customers are accustomed to online and omnichannel shopping experiences, and they are not going to go back. The good news is, leveraging digital solutions does not have to mean foregoing the advantages (both to the customer and to the retailer) of in-store shopping. Rather than trying to fight against the tide of digital transformation, our research suggests that the BOPIS approach may be the key to helping retailers engage their customers — both online and in stores.

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How to Kick-Start Your Online Clothing Resale Gig

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With the recent rise of resale apps like Depop and Poshmark, the idea of selling old clothes online is becoming more fashionable. Many people have turned clothing resale into a lucrative side gig or even a full-time job, gaining thousands of followers and making dozens of sales per week.

The secondhand-clothing market is projected to more than triple by 2030, according to a 2021 study by reselling platform Mercari and research firm GlobalData, as more fashion enthusiasts clean out their closets and search thrift stores to find valuable pieces to resell.

But whether you have a collection of band T-shirts or office attire, finding success on these platforms takes time and effort. Before diving into your closet, there are a few things to know.

You set your prices

Unlike consignment and resale shops, you can price items yourself on an online platform. Before listing a piece of clothing, look it up on multiple platforms to find out what it’s currently selling for. Depending on age, condition and brand, prices can vary widely.

You can also take advantage of direct messaging to negotiate with buyers and use features on apps like Depop and Poshmark that let you accept offers and create multi-item discounts.

“Sales can be sporadic,” says Andres Castillo of Los Angeles, who sells rare designer pieces through Depop, eBay and Instagram under the name Debonair Vintage. With rare or high-value items, it may take a while to find the right buyer, especially if you’re looking to break even or make a profit.

There’s a big time commitment

“I treat [reselling clothes] like my job,” says Eve Perez, a full-time student in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who sells under the name Fitsfinesse and was featured in Teen Vogue in 2021 for her Depop success. She responds to messages daily, on top of taking product photos, sewing custom pieces, and packaging and shipping orders.

Communicating clearly with first-time buyers is essential: “If you don’t build that relationship, then you won’t get sales and returning customers,” she adds.

Although you have control over the prices, reselling online takes much more time and energy than selling to consignment stores. According to Depop, sellers who list consistently — around 15 items per week — sell more over time.

“It takes a lot of time and dedication,” says Castillo. Top-notch sellers have to learn to take eye-catching photos, understand shipping rates, negotiate over text, and research brands and trends to make the most of their inventory.

Overhead costs add up

Yes, you can set your prices — but there are a few overhead costs to factor in. Online resale platforms charge commission fees, plus additional fees for shipping through the platform or accepting payments through a processor like PayPal. Depop takes 10% of every sale and eBay takes 15%; Poshmark takes $2.95 for items under $15 and 20% for items over $15. PayPal, which integrates with Depop, Poshmark and eBay, charges another 3.49% plus 49 cents per transaction for payment processing.

On top of that, you’ll need to pay for packaging, label printing and possibly storing inventory including bins, hangers and shelves. Top sellers also recommend adding a personal touch in shipments, like free stickers, small accessories or a thank-you note. When all those costs add up, you may find that only higher-value items are worth listing.

You can cut costs by reusing shipping mailers and boxes, and printing labels at your local FedEx or UPS store instead of purchasing a label printer. Or, reduce shipping costs for buyers by bundling several items into a single shipment, which can motivate buyers to purchase more from your shop.

The social aspect is a priority

The most successful online resellers have one thing in common: a strong personal brand. Finding your niche and building a loyal following is essential to long-term success on a resale platform.

“It’s like Instagram, but for selling,” says Perez, who focuses on curating a consistent aesthetic and marketing her shop on social media platforms like TikTok.

Castillo grew his business by catering to a very specific market: vintage designer collectors, specifically for Moschino and Chanel. He sells across several platforms, using his Instagram to rent pieces out to stylists for photo shoots and red-carpet events. Though he targets a fairly small community, his narrow focus helps him reach his ideal buyers.

Other top sellers on resale platforms can be seen taking a similar approach, with shop themes ranging from band T-shirts to vintage gowns. “Lean into your personal taste,” says Castillo. Even if you don’t have a curated collection to sell, personalized packaging or a unique photo background can help your items stand out.

Both Perez and Castillo emphasize the importance of cross-linking social media platforms to reach as many potential customers as possible. Creating a dedicated Instagram Business account and following other online sellers and designers can help drive buyers to your shop. Check popular pages for trendy hashtags and add those to your posts. Making the time to promote on social media can help transform your closet into some serious income.

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Turning Your Hobby into a Business? Here is What You Need to Know

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Do you dream of one day quitting your job and following your passion in life? You can do it! Many successful entrepreneurs turned their hobbies into profitable businesses.

Do you have a hobby? Doing the things you love keeps you engaged with life, gives your mind a focus, and helps you enhance your concentration. Investing time in your hobby also provides you with a great way to relax, unwind, and relieve daily stress.

photo credit: Giulia Bertelli / Unsplash

You shouldn’t be ashamed of your hobby even if your friends and family don’t share it. Only because they find interest in something else doesn’t mean that no one in the world shares the same interests that you do. In fact, millions of people engage in the same hobby as you do daily.

So if you thought that no one shared your enthusiasm for this activity until now, think again. Whatever activity you can imagine, millions of other people on the planet are doing it as you read this article.

If you’re one of the individuals who wonder how they can transform their hobby into a successful venture, this article provides information on how to start a business based on the things you love.

Do a Self-assessment

Do you know what it takes to turn your hobby into a lucrative business? Do you have the required stamina and energy to take the necessary steps and transform it into a venture? Yes, it would be nice to spend your days doing what you love and making money, but make sure you don’t ruin your hobby by transforming it into a business. You started pursuing it to blow off some steam, but you could take its charm away if you add a lot of pressure on it to deliver money.

Research to understand what starting a business in this sector implies and make sure there’s a paying public before you bet the farm on it. Running a successful company requires plenty of work and responsibility, two things that could take the fun out of your hobby.

Plant hobby as a business

Test The Idea

If you decide that you have what it takes to turn your passion into a business, the next step is to test the concept by starting a side hustle. When the profits reach a level that allows you to cover monthly bills and support yourself, you can quit your job and pursue this venture.

However, don’t leave your present job if your side gig doesn’t make enough cash flow to last you at least two years. Be ready for the shock you’ll get when you turn from getting a monthly salary to having to pay taxes yourself. To make sure that you won’t worry about housing, food, or monthly bills, save up at least two years of living expenses.

Research

Before investing time, money, and effort into starting a business, take a look at the market and see what your future competitors are doing. Research the niche online, on social media and among the public to see what customers expect from you and what other companies provide.

You can research the market on your own or hire a professional company to do it for you. It’s recommended to work with specialists because they know the aspects that require extra attention and can help you determine if starting a business in this niche is worth it.

Make a list of your biggest 10 competitors and analyse their activity to figure out what they do to position themselves as leaders in the industry. Check their website, evaluate its functionality, and have a look at their Google ranking. Remember that people start searching for a product or service online in the present digital world, and it’s crucial to rank high in search engines to reach your ideal customer.

After doing research, you’ll have a clear idea of what you’re dealing with in terms of competition.

Reading small business plan

Write a Business Plan

The business plan serves as a blueprint for your company, and you’ll definitely need it if you want to apply for a loan. However, don’t skip creating a business plan because it’s quite useful in starting your venture, even if you don’t seek funding. Research shows that the business people who make a detailed business plan are 16% more likely to develop a profitable business.

Here are some elements your business plan should include:

  • Financial plan
  • Executive summary
  • Business overview
  • Management team
  • List of services and products
  • Marketing and sales plans
  • Marketing strategies
  • Metrics and milestones

If you want to transform your hobby into a profitable business, you need to take it seriously and write a complete business plan.

Build a Brand

Branding is essential when trying to build an easy-to-recognise business. It would help if you had a unique business name and logo that match your company’s personality and values. Pick brand colours that resonate best with your target audience, and craft a message they resonate with.

You can use free online tools to create a logo and elements for your business cards and advertising materials. Canva is such a solution that provides access to a huge library of elements.

Digital aisles

Establish a Strong Web Presence

In the digital era, all businesses need an online presence to attract attention and reach their target audience, no matter their size or specific. You should create a website that allows you to present the benefits your clients get if they purchase your products and even create a shop page that allows them to buy online. However, establishing a solid web presence extends beyond creating a website. It also implies creating and maintaining the page, connecting it to social media profiles, and posting regularly on the blog.

Your purpose is to brand your company as an authority in the industry that also provides valuable pieces of advice beyond selling products.

Try to be consistent in how you present yourself to your public because you need to establish an image. Your web presence and brand are the main elements that impact your company’s identity and help loyal clients differentiate your products from your competitors.

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Q&A With Dr Ryan Shelton on Starting Up a Natural Healthcare Business

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”Dr Ryan Shelton is the Medical Research Director For Zenith Labs. He believes that there is a way to help sick people with natural treatments complimenting the conventional pharmaceutical approach. He has created a regimen of natural treatments consisting of holistic and complementary medicine, and it’s all backed up by science-based research.

Dr Ryan Shelton had dreams about being a doctor from a young age. His love for helping people inspired him to study the human body and how its internal and external environments change it for the better or for the worse.

Dr Shelton’s path to becoming a doctor was anything but typical. His undergraduate education focused on biochemistry and genetics. After attending medical school for one year he withdrew to “think in slow motion” and received another degree in Philosophy. He left because he disagreed with the way doctors were being taught to practice medicine. Dr Shelton believed that the better way to treat his patients was to heal their whole bodies rather than just treating the symptoms.

After receiving his Philosophy degree, Dr Shelton understood how important it would be to be able to treat or prevent chronic diseases holistically. He returned to medical school, where he earned his Naturopathy Doctorate. Now, Dr Ryan Shelton gets to follow his passion by helping his patients achieve their best overall health through natural remedies.

With chronic disease being on the rise, Naturopaths like Dr Shelton want to do their best to try and stop it from spreading by treating patients holistically. He does this by turning their food into medicine first and using natural remedies to increase their overall health. His goal is to balance his patient’s systems, and he passionately believes that his ultimate goal is to help his patients achieve optimal health.

Dr. Ryan Shelton’s work with Zenith Labs has helped him attract patients interested in pursuing wellness rather than focusing solely on disease care. His successful medical practice complements this passion, as does the company he founded. Whether you’re looking to improve your overall wellness or just want an alternative to the traditional pharmacological regimen, Dr Ryan Shelton has a plan for how to help you.

Hello Dr. Shelton, can you briefly tell us who you are and what you do?

Currently, I’m the medical research director for Zenith Labs and a Naturopathic Doctor with a successful private practice. I am also the Wellness Director and on the admissions team for a behavioral therapeutic program.

For the last few years, I’ve been running an online supplement business where people outside of where I am can get the same kind of advice that I give to my in-person patients from anywhere in the world. I do my best to promote a concept of total wellness and natural health solutions.

I have developed several natural health regimens over the years based on my research. I’m working hard to teach people that everything else will follow if they improve their overall health.

Please describe your company in a few words

Yes, it is a company, but really what we’re trying to promote here is a culture. Sure, we could go online and sell supplements till the cows come home. Lots of people do that. This naturalistic approach has been my life’s work ever since I was in medical school. I initially left medical school because I felt that the traditional way medicine was practiced was to treat the symptoms rather than treat the whole person.

I’m working hard to use my company as a vehicle to teach my customers and patients that they can improve their total body health, which makes healing other symptoms easier.

What is your company’s biggest achievement in recent years?

The surge in online business, I would say, has been our best achievement in recent years. When we first moved into this space, I felt like the company wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. We did traditional promotions and bought advertising, but nothing was really getting us over that plateau.

Just when I thought I might have to just let it go, word of mouth started spreading, and it spread like crazy. Satisfied patients were telling other people about what they’d experienced by using these treatments, and those people turned out in droves to get these benefits for themselves.

In what direction do you see natural healthcare going?

The coolest thing I think I have seen recently is that natural medicine is becoming more and more mainstream all the time. For a long time, people who preferred natural remedies were seen as “uninformed” or “Weird.”

Nowadays, people are flocking to find out what natural remedies they can incorporate into their own life. We’ve all seen so many odd things come from big pharma over the past ten years, so is it any wonder people are looking for a way that they can take charge of their own health. It will become much more focused on environmental medicine, lifestyle medicine, and anti-aging medicine.

We will begin using natural treatments not in response to crises, but rather to promote a level of optimal health not yet seen in the general population.

Natural medicine
photo credit: PhotoMIX Company / Pexels

Which recent developments in your industry do you find exciting?

The way in which people seem to be flocking to natural medicine. It’s no longer on the fringes of people’s thoughts. I see people take a more open-minded approach to learn about things that natural healers from around the world have known for centuries.

The general attitude that people have, that they want to discover things for themselves rather than just taking the proscribed wisdom as gospel, is really exciting. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to being able to reach more people than ever before.

Again, environmental medicine and anti-aging, natural agents specifically targeting your unique specific genes and DNA to promote optimal health. The days of degeneration and disease are hopefully going away soon.

What keeps you motivated?

My vision. It’s been front and center in my mind since I was a child. I watched so many of my older relatives that suffered from chronic conditions just wither away with the traditional medical approaches. I knew there had to be a better way, and I feel like I’ve found it.

What keeps me motivated is the drive to bring what I’ve found to as many people as possible, so maybe they won’t have to watch their loved ones suffer as I did.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the health field?

Hang in there. It’s the best advice I could give anyone. Medical school is tough, and it should be. Then you’ll have your residency and boards, which are brutal. Becoming a doctor is a privilege that we, as a society, only bestow on those who have proven themselves to be the best at what they do.

If being a medical professional is your dream, then hang in there, and fight for it tooth and nail until you’ve achieved your dream.

Thanks for your time, Dr Shelton!

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