Why Amazon Isn’t the Reason You’re Losing Sales

Believe it or not, as successful as Amazon has been, and as disruptive as they have been, they’re not the largest reason retailers close their doors.

They certainly play a role. However, even the most generous of estimates of Amazon’s growth don’t account for the overall decline in sales many retailers experience. So, blaming Amazon for lower sales amounts to an excuse rather than a genuine reason for falling behind in the marketplace.

Besides Amazon, what else drives why the marketplace sees so many leading retailers belaboring declining sales, filing bankruptcy, and closing more physical locations?

These factors play a much larger role than Amazon does, according to Brendan Witcher, principal analyst at Forrester:

  • No Knowledge of Customer Pain Points

Customers want to buy what they need at a price that makes sense. They want to be able to return the item without any hassles.

Retailers complicate the real issues customers face. And as a result, their stores don’t offer experiences that solve customer’s problems.

  • Undifferentiated Store Experiences

Strange as it sounds, in-store experiences haven’t really changed for the past century.

A whole century!

If your store is just a building that houses your inventory, why go to it when you can simply order a product online?

Offer samples, smells, sights, sounds, demos, helpful (not pushy or salesy) store associates, or create a marketplace-like atmosphere like you get at the now-Amazon-owned Whole Foods.

That’s the key to winning the in-store shopping game.

  • Use Opinions Instead of Data to Drive Strategy

Because of the internet and mobile technology, customer expectations have shifted quickly. Without data, you have either an opinion or a guess. So whatever you decide to do, make sure you gather data and analyze what it means before you act.

Otherwise, you’re acting foolishly.

  • Focusing on Products, Rather than Experiences

Any consumer knows they can find the exact same thing somewhere else for a similar or lower price. Once you turn your products’ sales into a pricing game, you begin competing with Amazon, Target, and Walmart. In other words, you’re bound to lose.

Even if you’re a small company, focus on giving customers a reason to shop with you. These days, offering products only made in the USA could be a powerful reason for a niche market, for example.

You’ll have to discover this for yourself. But, it’s a key to long-term retail success.

  • You Have Too Much Bureaucracy

Your employees need freedom to make decisions, take risks, and fail. They can’t be faced with limitless rules that basically turn them into order-taking robots.

That keeps your business the same. In America, where innovation reigns supreme, stifling risk is the surest path to mediocrity – or even bankruptcy.

Amazon lost 15% of its stock value 107 different times. It fell from a high of $113 at the end of 1999 to $5.67 in September 2001. And it lost more than 50% of its share value on 3 occasions, including during the 2008 financial crisis.

Risk includes short-term failure. But it also makes your long-term success likely.

Is Amazon a reason for declining sales? Yes. But Brendan Witcher argues that, because of these factors, it’s a symptom, not a cause. Take an honest inventory of how you’re doing business to see if any of these factors may be holding you back.

What Makes Pactiv Advanced Packaging Solutions So Great?

You’ve probably read several of our President’s Club vendor profiles by now, where we feature our top vendors. You’ve learned why we like them so much and why they make an amazing addition to your company when their products make sense for your needs.

In continuing with that theme, today we’ll take a look at Pactiv Advanced Packaging Solutions and what makes them so awesome (and why you’ll think they’re pretty cool too).

Founded back in 1959, the Packaging Corporation of America (as it was called then) made one thing and one thing only: cardboard boxes. Purchased by Tenneco Inc. in 1965, the company subsequently made numerous additional acquisitions to transform itself into what it is today: packaging for all industries, with a growing focus on the foodservice industry.

  • An Unrelenting Focus on Core Principles Got Pactiv to Where It Is Today

You probably know many corporations who shift their identity to whatever the market happens to demand. It’s inauthentic, and actually turns many customers off.

This hasn’t happened with Pactiv. They’ve clung to their core ideology of doing the right thing in the right way, and they do not bend from it. Their core principles of customer service and being the only destination their customers need to purchase packaging materials from have helped them remain strong in the marketplace, despite numerous changes and acquisitions over the decades.

And in regard to ethics, for example, Pactiv requires all its own business practices, and those of its suppliers, to use services only from companies who show humans the respect they deserve. No one in their network can use forced, bonded, or child labor. And they even have a special page on their website where you can anonymously report violations of this policy. Then they cease doing business with that violator until they come into compliance.

  • And Pactiv Provides Their Products in a Sustainable Way

No modern packaging company is complete without sustainable production solutions. Pactiv produces all their packaging materials in a 100% sustainable way that focuses on these three key areas:
Energy-efficient buildings and production processes.

Use of alternative resources and recycle materials. Pactiv constantly explores new ways to produce their products.

Reducing waste reduction and management. Pactiv recycles around 90% of their manufacturing scrap.

Feel good about Pactiv? We certainly do. And that’s why we’ll happily recommend them when their products make sense for your business needs.

Why You’ll Love JRMI (Now AmerCare) Products

Mergers and acquisitions happen so frequently and rapidly they’re hard to keep up with. We’ve loved JRMI for many years. They’ve also been acquired by AmerCare, which happened May 6, 2016.

Today, AmerCare primarily focuses on paper disposable products for the foodservice and retail industries. They now have more than 1,200 products available.

Historically, AmerCare has been known for its service to the disposable glove industry. JRMI has had the greater focus on the foodservice industry. Today, they both operate together under the AmerCare Name with a warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina, Dallas, Texas, and one more in California.

When customers come to AmerCare today, they have one of the broadest portfolios of products in the industry available to them. And that’s what makes AmerCare so strong in the market.

AmerCare’s most popular product lines include:

  • Point-of-Sale Supplies

AmerCare has a massive selection of POS supplies available. Register rolls are available in thermal, bond, or carbonless paper in nearly every width, link, color, and configuration. Printer ribbons are available for almost every type of POS printer used today.

  • Straws

AmerCare’s one of the leading paper products suppliers to the restaurant industry. Customers can get straws in every color, length, and style, ranging from giant size sipsters to wrapped and unwrapped straws.

  • Kids Products

AmerCare makes colorful entertaining placemats to keep your kids busy while you wait to be served…and if they finish way before you. Customers can even customize their placements with their own logo. Recyclable plastic cups are shatterproof and can be given to kids as souvenirs.

  • Napkins and Bands

AmerCare has, as you guessed, a napkin for every situation – beverages, lunches, dinners, or dispensers. To accent your napkins, simply add a colored band of your choice.

  • Plastic Cutlery

Need to fill out a cafeteria, picnic, or simple event? AmerCare’s plastic cutlery comes in every weight, length, and color to match your event to perfection. Custom kits can be assembled per your requirements.

Notice a pattern here? If you need it, AmerCare has the product for it. That’s why we love them, and happily recommend their products when they make sense for you.

3 Simple Techniques to Increase Your Holiday Sales

Boosting your holiday sales doesn’t need to be a monumental task. You don’t have to spend months planning the greatest innovation your company has ever seen, with the risk that it could totally fail.

Increasing your holiday sales can actually be quite simple, and even easy. Have you tried any of the tactics or techniques below?

Consider each carefully:

  • Make Receiving Alerts Easy

Many e-commerce sites have “Wish Lists.” But here’s the problem with those: you have to create an account, which involves a few steps and memorizing yet another password.

Every extra step you add to any online process means customers drop off. So, why not make it super-simple for them to get exactly what they want?

For every item on your website, add a box where they can enter their email to get an in-stock alert, or notification of a sale price (and even both). Then, they simply enter their email, which is just a single step, and leave.

That’s easy and painless. And you’ll get more customers back as a result.

  • Offer a Discount for Signing Up to Your Email List

Have you ever browsed a few hundred e-commerce sites and looked only at the promos they use to get you to sign up to their list?

Clear out your browser’s cookies and do it. You’ll see a wide range of techniques. The most effective offer a tantalizing incentive for joining their email list.

Tactics include 10% or 20% off your first total purchase, free shipping on your first order, or a random mystery discount ranging from 10 – 40%. Then, some companies simply say,”Join our list to get the latest sales and promotions.”

Nothing’s a bigger turnoff than that last one. It’s vague, and offers no real motivation to join.

Customers on your email list spend the most with you over the long term. So it’s worth your time and money to test and improve your incentive for joining.

  • Consider Adding Live Chat

What customer doesn’t like to have help immediately available, should they need it?

Having the option for live chat can do wonders for sales. Your rep can clarify a question that helps a customer buy from you (and not someone else). They can upsell the customer by offering additional suggestions on what they might also be interested in. You could even empower each rep with a certain amount of special discounts they can offer customers.

Customers who don’t get an immediate solution to their question leave. They go and purchase what they need from one of the thousands of other e-commerce sites.

None of These Solutions are Groundbreaking

Adding one, or even all, of these features to your website doesn’t come with a huge time or capital investment. But they certainly can have a huge payoff.

Low risk? High reward? It just makes good sense to test each and see what results you get.

3 Common Challenges Retailers Face During the Holiday Season

Last holiday season, 2/3 of the nation’s leading 40 retailers missed their expected sales projections. This happened despite 2016-2017 being the biggest holiday shopping season since 2011.

Why would this happen? What’s going on? What can you learn from the struggles the largest retailers in the nation face?

Check out a few of the highlights below:

Online Purchases and Fulfillment Cost Far More than Expected

Some of these leading retailers notice much higher online sales than others. Despite their increased revenue, however, their net profit missed expectations.

Why?

They don’t have the behind-the-scenes logistical network in place to efficiently fulfill demand. This inability to manage online orders hurt market leaders so badly that, even though their online sales outpaced the competition by a wide margin, they still had an overall disappointing holiday sales season.

That’s the first major area to analyze both this year and going forward.

Personalizing Their Online Shopping Experience

Personalization is no secret. But doing it in a way that works for your shoppers remains a challenge.

For example, imagine you visit a leading retailer’s website, shopping for NFL gear for your favorite team. Your 7-year-old daughter uses your account to look for her favorite dolls a little while later.

When you use your account later on, you’re bombarded with ads for dolls for 7-year-old girls. And then later you see ads for NFL gear.

Isn’t this an excusable mistake?

Not anymore. Today, your website needs to understand the various contexts in which you, and others who use your account, might shop. It needs to then deliver a relevant shopping experience based on what you’re doing right now, even if multiple people use the same account for different reasons.

A Complex Online Check-Out Experience

Once customers have what they want online, they want to get through your check-out process as fast as possible.

They should only have to do these steps:

  • Give you their billing info
  • Have an option to pay with gift cards
  • Enter their shipping address (or simply check a box showing both are the same)
  • Purchase

That’s it. You can give them the option to create an account or join your email list. However, these should be options with checkboxes, and they shouldn’t require action before customers can advance. That makes them truly an option.

Some of these problems you can easily fix. Others are long-term projects. Regardless, they’re all important to your holiday sales season.

3 Ways You Can Improve Your Supply Chain’s Efficiency

In the aftermath of the chaotic holiday shopping season, you sometimes wonder how it all worked out. Market demand shifts so rapidly, and sometimes unexpectedly, you wonder how were you able to make the sales you did.

After every holiday season, you probably realize you did (admittedly) have some areas where you missed opportunities for additional sales. It happens. No company actually does the holiday season perfectly, and that even includes industry giants like Amazon.

How could you improve this holiday season, or even begin strategizing for the next? These ideas may help your supply chain efficiency:

Join A B2B E-Procurement Network

With a B2B e-procurement network, you understand what’s going on with your suppliers’ suppliers. Cloud-based technology means you get real-time updates on the status of your supply chain from your suppliers. Instead of passively reacting to changes in supply, you proactively address them and avoid costly supply shortage blunders.

Make Sure Marketing and Your Supply Team Are On the Same Page

Ever had a smash-hit marketing promotion, only to realize you didn’t have the necessary product available to fulfill demand? It happens. And, much of the time it happens simply because marketing and your supply team aren’t in close communication, and don’t understand what the other is doing.

So, make sure they work closely together. If it requires a meeting headed by someone with greater authority than both, then make it happen. It’s simply too large of an opportunity to overlook during the holiday sales season.

Consider Re-Evaluating Your Distribution Center Network

You won’t be able to complete this one during the current holiday season. However, it is a problem that even the nation’s leading retailers face. They simply don’t have their distribution center network optimized for fulfilling online orders. Even in 2017, it’s still set up for in-store sales by most retailers.

Some experts believe you can still greatly improve your supply chain efficiency with only minor changes to your distribution center network.

Per usual, Amazon has this model finely honed and optimized (though not perfected). Their fulfillment center locations can all be found online so you can study and learn why they might have their network setup as they do.

Can you improve your supply chain’s efficiency? You sure can. Every business has room for at least some improvement. And when you get that additional efficiency, you’ll notice fewer markdowns and more sales.

P&G Professional Creates Innovative Products that Offer Unmatched Benefits

Procter & Gamble dominates the consumer household essentials market with dozens of brand names. And they do the exact same when selling to businesses too.

You just can’t deny Procter & Gamble’s credibility. They’ve been around since, get this, 1837! That’s almost the 1700s. And today, their stock has a valuation of greater than 220 billion, making them one of the most valuable companies in the United States.

As a recent example of their success, the NFL has begun to adopt Tide Professional for cleaning game-worn uniforms. Grass stains were difficult to remove. Some teams even began painting their fields green to improve their appearance on TV, which made removing the stains all the more difficult. White parts of uniforms began looking yellow and worn, to the point where they began bothering head coaches, which included the Kansas City Chiefs’ Andy Reid. That in turn caused equipment managers to lose sleep, fearing loss of their jobs.

Tide Professional did what other detergents could not: it got yellowing and worn white colors (in both uniforms and towels) to turn back to the bright white color they used to be. Some linens became fluffier. Coaches, obviously, became happier. And equipment managers were glad they didn’t have an upset boss.

The teams even got a free 30-day trial of Tide Professional to test out its results. That’s just one powerful example of Procter & Gamble’s business line of products succeeding where others could not.

P&G’s Tide Professional Line Wins Awards

In professional cleaning, winning an “Edison Award” is the equivalent of winning the Super Bowl. The Tide Professional Coldwater Laundry System won this award in 2015.

This system isn’t just about being clean. In reality, it reduces the heat a commercial washer uses by as much as 75%. And to top that off, the water needed by a commercial washer also reduces by up to 40%. The “Edison Green Award,” which this system won, recognizes a product’s ability to reduce carbon footprint, in addition to providing the traditional results the market expects. Even further, the system reduces costs by up to $8,700 annually.

It’s These Qualities that Set P&G Apart

Procter & Gamble operates with the principles that led to the creation of the Tide Coldwater Laundry System throughout its entire organization. And that’s why we happily recommend their products, when they make sense, without any reservation.

Diversey Rocks as A Vendor

Diversey Corporation is yet another one of our recommended vendors whose history stretches back nearly a century. Recently, it’s undergone a number of purchases, and for a time settled in the hands of the Sealed Air company (as of 2011).

But, it’s now undergone even more changes. And this time, the company gets back its independence (for the second time). Today, it affects the lives of more than 800 million workers across the globe.

Diversey focuses on providing innovative research-driven building care solutions in the hospitality, healthcare, food service, retail, government, and education sectors. These solutions extend to all aspects of a physical facility, including offices, guest rooms, bathrooms, and food prep areas.

Some of its most popular brands include Suma, Clax, TASKI, Room Care, and Diversey Consulting. The company has partnerships with leading global organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the Global Food Safety Initiative.

If sensitive industries with far-reaching impact like that trust Diversey, you know businesses of all sizes can too.

Two of Diversey’s Global Successes

McDonald’s India, for example, called on Diversey. Diversey was well aware of the severe clean water shortages throughout the country with exploding population growth. It certainly wouldn’t be helpful for McDonald’s to use water in an irresponsible way. So, they hired Diversey to reduce water consumption company-wide.

Bathrooms were identified as a leading source of water use. So, Diversey recommended the “Flush-Me Not Program,” which provided waterless urinals for use. In addition, these urinals also offer odor and stain control.

This led to 1.7 million gallons of water saved, $48,000 saved on water sourcing costs, and more than 30,000 people being provided the water they need to live healthy lives.

A little closer to home, in Asheville, North Carolina, Highland Brewery needed to maintain the high reputation of its more than 20 styles of beer. So, Diversey helped Highland use the most efficient and environmentally sound cleaning chemicals possible. This also reduced the downtime needed for cleaning their brewing equipment, which produces 1,000 barrels of brews per week. Cleanliness also helps brewed beers keep their distinct flavor, which is of course essential to Highland Brewery’s success.

Finally, the company was also able to reduce their energy and water use, which supports their publicly-acknowledged adherence for sustainable business practices.

Diversey Is Simply an Awesome Vendor

We love all our vendors. And Diversey offers their own value where others cannot. So, we’re happy to recommend their products and services where they make sense.

When you hear “Diversey,” feel relaxed and comfortable – you’re in good hands!

SCA Cares for People, And the Earth Too

You’ve seen SCA’s products at home, on TV, the web, or at your company before. Did you know they’re a Swedish company and that “SCA” stands for “Svenska Cellulosa Akitebolaget?”

Founded in 1929, it’s yet another one of the vendors we love who has been around for nearly a century (or in some cases, longer). Originally, SCA was ten separate Swedish forest companies who merged into a single group. Back then, they focused on deforestation.

In 1975, SCA began its shift toward consumer goods. They acquired another Swedish company, which enabled SCA to offer tissue, diapers, feminine hygiene, and incontinence products.

In 2001, they acquired American companies Georgia-Pacific Tissue and Tuscarora (protective packaging).

Over the years, and despite its focus on products made from trees, SCA has managed to offer these products in an ethical way. The American Ethisphere Institute named SCA one of the world’s most ethical companies.

Why?

We don’t know all the reasons. But here’s at least four:

  • They teach young women across the globe about menstruation
  • They do the same for children and proper hand hygiene
  • They help nurses and nursing home managers improve continence care
  • Their 10,000-square-mile forest in Europe, nearly the size of Belgium, absorbs more than all the fossil fuel usage by SCA’s business processes worldwide

So not only do they offer amazing products, but they focus on much more than money with their great concern for the welfare of people and the earth. When you see companies with integrity like that, at that large of a scale, you know they do the right thing with their products too.

A Brief List of Some of SCA’s Products

SCA has a long, long list of products for consumers and businesses. Here’s just a few, some of which you may recognize:

  • Purex
  • Sorbent
  • Cushelle
  • Handee
  • Lady
  • Nebax
  • Orchid
  • Plenty
  • DryKids
  • Hey Baby!
  • Tork

You just don’t get it much better than you do with SCA. You can’t question the viability of their products. And you can’t argue with the integrity with which they conduct themselves behind the scenes.

Their history proves it. And their continued market leadership today continues to prove it.

And that’s why we have no problem offering SCA’s products when they make sense for you.

4 Ways to Prep for the Holiday Retail Season (And Beyond)

 

Q4 has begun. You will make a significant percentage of your sales this holiday season.

What can you do to ensure you reach or exceed your goals? Here’s a few ideas to prep yourself for success:

  1. Audit Your Shipping Processes

It’s much tougher to ship items and get them to your customers on-time during the holidays.

When was the last time you audited your shipping processes for maximum efficiency? Remember, a negative customer experience leads to a much higher likelihood your customer talks about your company to others in their social circles.

No company is perfect. But the fewer negative experiences you have, the better.

  1. Can Customer Service Make Decisions?

Customers will have need for returns. They get the wrong size. They don’t like the item for their own personal reasons.

That’s a bit of a negative mark against you, whether it was in your control or not. However, you can turn that negative into a big positive by ensuring your customer service team has the ability to make decisions that keep your customers happy.

Many customer service departments give the runaround. Or, team members have to say,”I’m sorry, but company policy says I can’t do that.”

‘Tis the season to be giving. That includes with your customer service too.

  1. Get Ready for Q1 2018

2018’s first quarter does not have to mean a massive sales dip for you (like it does for nearly everyone else).

We’re not saying to ignore Q4. But most companies will focus all their energy on the amazing Q4 profits. That’s their mistake.

On the other hand, you should focus most of your energy on the holiday season. But, you should spend at least some energy on having your sales strategies and inventory prepped and ready for Q1. Since practically no one else does, you’ll have a huge competitive edge.

  1. Give Your Online Customers a Buy-It-Later Option

You know your customers don’t always have the cash for what they want to purchase this moment. So, make it easy for them to come back and buy later on when they do have the cash.

All you need to do is add a button on your product pages. When customers click this button, then you get their email address and the product name, and then you send them an email at a later date reminding them they can buy it.

Follow those simple tips, and you’ll make your Q4 (and beyond) a smashing success.

The Mindset That Makes Amazon Ultra Successful (And How You Can Use This Too)

Why are you in business?

Focus on just one word for a second: why?

Companies who get the “why” right routinely end up leading their markets. This isn’t just something we’re saying. It’s not an opinion. It actually happens.

In the book “From Good to Great,” Jim Collins and his research team studied what made companies transition from being good in their markets to leading them for decades. They also learned why some companies faded into the background.

One of the many reasons some companies ended up winning was because they got their “why” right. They existed for more than just making money or growing bigger.

Nucor, for example, figured out it could be the best at using company culture and the latest technology to produce low-cost steel. Gillette could become the best at building global brands of daily necessities. And, Fannie Mae could become the best at helping people own their homes.

If you don’t have a stated reason as to why your company exists, you likely focus on money.

What’s Different about Amazon?

Amazon doesn’t see themselves as a retailer. They don’t exist just to make money. Rather, they see themselves as a tech company who happens to be in retail. They want to deliver goods to consumers and businesses faster than anyone else and at lower prices. Of course, the natural byproduct of doing so will be amazing profits and growth.

Do you understand this mindset shift, and how it impacts your business and its growth?

Your company may not be Amazon, or have the resources necessary to compete with retail giants. But, that doesn’t matter.

If you can find your why, a reason that you exist other than to profit, you can build a secure leading position in your niche. And, you can even stay safe from Amazon.

Finding your why isn’t easy or fast. The companies Good to Great studied took an average of four years or so to discover their “why.”

What Can Your Company Be the Best At?

Every company has something they can be the best at. It’s simply a matter of identifying that, and then mobilizing your employees and finances to support that vision. Amazon can’t be the best at everything (even though they might try).

So, what is it? Can you create your own line of products that give a better experience than any competing product? Can you hire and train employees who offer better customer service than anywhere else?

Those are just questions to stimulate your thinking. But, they’ll get you on the path toward leading your market for years to come.

Why Pollock Loves Clorox Products

You know Clorox as the maker of these brands and product lines:

  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Pine-Sol
  • Clorox Healthcare
  • Hidden Valley
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Brita
  • Glad
  • Kingsford
  • Liquid Plumr
  • Poett
  • Ayudin

Did you recognize all of those? Or were you surprised by a few?

Regardless, Clorox makes excellent products. And that’s why we’re excited to recommend them to you when they make sense for your business.

Clorox Has Been Around a Long, Long Time

Not too many companies can say they’ve been around for more than a century. But, Clorox can.

Founded in 1913, they’ve now grown to become a nearly $17 billion publicly-traded company. To stay in business that long, and to remain not just in business, but to thrive, takes dedication and quality products.

In 1913, Clorox actually began with bleach, but it was targeted only at institutions. The company’s original founders knew how to make it, but they weren’t sure how to market it.

William and Annie Murray were shareholders, and they didn’t want to see the company fail. Bill streamlined operations, landed new financing, and Annie came up with the idea to market Clorox to homemakers by giving away free samples. Later, Clorox was innovative enough to market across cultural lines and into French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish, and Yiddish languages for Americans.

Clorox’ products are so good, some food brokers have remained customers for…get this…(cue drum roll) more than 90 years!

Clorox Does an Amazing Job in the Healthcare Industry…And Several Others

For the healthcare industry, Clorox covers every last aspect of operations. This includes products for acute care, long-term care, outpatient care, and building maintenance services.

As advanced as healthcare technology is, it still needs help with cleanliness to keep patients healthy, and reduce their risk of catching disease or infection (called an “HAI”).

They also serve the hospitality industry, educational institutions of all kinds, food service companies, white-collar offices, and building maintenance contractors. So, there’s not an aspect of American commerce they don’t touch.

When it comes to cleaning and sanitation, we wholeheartedly recommend Clorox when it makes sense for your company’s needs. And now you know why you can place 100% confidence in Clorox, and why it doesn’t make sense to go with a cheaper brand you don’t know.