Friday, May 24, 2019

In-Store Checkout Needs to Be Quick and Easy

Article by Lucy Koch

A simple and seamless checkout experience still tops shoppers’ list of in-store must-haves, because ain’t nobody got time ... to stand in long lines.

When location platform GroundTruth asked US consumers in June 2018 about what made in-store shopping better than digital, more pointed to a quick checkout experience than any other factor, at 81%.

But in-store shopping has its drawbacks—half of respondents to the GrouthTruth survey noted crowds and long lines as the biggest pain points. And these inconveniences can hinder consumers’ paths to purchase.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

WiFi Marketing Can Help Restaurants Boost Customer Loyalty

By Allen Graves
From Bplans

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, restaurants have the challenging and sometimes unenviable task of making their brand stand out from all the others. For newer businesses, it can be even more difficult due to a smaller budget and fewer loyal customers.

In comparison to online retailers, brick-and-mortar businesses are typically short on what has become the most important component of marketing today—actual customer data.

Customer data—the kind you get through market research—is essential to understanding who your customers really are, where their interests lie, and how they prefer to spend their money. It also helps businesses assess the feasibility of new products, services or menu items before putting them on the market.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Let's Not Kid Ourselves: The Real Reason for Employee Turnover

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson
From LinkedIn

I received a call last week from a CEO who was concerned about the sudden increase in employee turnover in his organization.

He couldn't understand why anyone would leave his firm. He then went down a laundry list of perks he recently added, that would have made even Google envious...

I see companies spending a ton of money trying to outdo one another in terms of perks and crazy office designs that few appreciate. Tales of kegs being opened at all hours of the day or exotic snacks that are making employees fat seem to be all the rage. Yet, here we are. Employees are less engaged today than back in the sixties when a steady job was the key to engagement.

You can access my employee turnover calculator for free. That's right. I won't see the results unless you decide to send them to me, nor will I hound you with follow up email automatically spewed out by some contact management system. All I'm asking here is for you to take an honest look at what it costs your company every time someone leaves your organization.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Here's Why Stores Still Matter in the Digital Age

Article by Caroline Cakebread
From eMarketer

With retail e-commerce sales growing rapidly in the US, it can feel like online buying is taking over the world. But for consumers, brick-and-mortar shopping is still important. They’ll spend almost 90% of their retail dollars in person this year, and a large portion of that foot traffic will come from webrooming.

Webrooming, or researching a product online before buying in a physical store, has helped boost in-store traffic for a few retailers in particular last year...

The Home Depot also saw increased in-store traffic last year, something CEO Craig Menear credited to BOPUS (buy online, pick up in-store). “These online shoppers see the relevance of our stores...” Like Ulta Beauty, the company plans to expand its footprint in 2019, something it hasn’t done in several years.

Image by Trang Le from Pixabay

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to Find Out if Your Password Has Been Stolen

By Eric Ravenscraft
From PC magazine

Data breaches are a regular occurrence these days, but have hackers been digging around in your personal information?

These tools will help you figure out if your online accounts have been hacked, and your email addresses and passwords stolen.

Large data breaches happen with uncomfortable frequency. It has never been more necessary to secure your online accounts with a password manager and two-factor authentication, where available.

But what if a service you use is hacked? The following tools can help you determine if your accounts were caught up in a breach.

Monday, May 13, 2019

How to Build Business Credit on a Shoestring Budget

By Marco Carbajo
From the US Small Business Administration

Many businesses start on a shoestring budget so it can be challenging to build the business credit you need to expand your business. But every business has to start somewhere and building your business credit can be done with the right action plan to guide you.

In this article we’ll cover how to build business credit without cash flow coming into your business.

The first place to start is with your existing operating expenses. Did you know the payments you already make on a monthly basis for expenses such as your business phone line, internet and utility accounts, can be reported to a business credit reporting agency? Unfortunately, many of these service providers do not report your company’s monthly payments to the business credit reporting agencies, so you don’t get the benefit of paying these bills on time. s

The good news is there are data reporting services that allow small business owners to link their eligible accounts and have the payment history automatically report to a business credit reporting agency. This allows you to have this information reported to one or more of the business credit agencies which will build and improve your business credit reports.

As you know an established business credit report and score may lead to better rates and terms for business credit cards, lines of credit or loans from banks, card issuers and lenders.

By starting with your operating expenses, you can start establishing business credit history for payments you’re already making every month but never get credit for. It’s alarming how many small business owners don’t realize that utility accounts and other operational expenses such as these never get reported.

It’s important to note that this can only be accomplished if the business phone line, internet and utility accounts are set up in the company’s name. This is obviously an essential part of establishing a separation between you and your business. As you know, keeping all aspects of how you structure and operate your business completely separate also helps you manage your taxes more efficiently.

Failing to separate your personal and business accounts leads to an accounting nightmare during tax time. To protect your personal assets, it’s critical to separate your personal accounts, funds, expenses, and debt from those of your business, or you may surrender the legal protection that an entity structure offers.

Here are several operating expenses that can help build business credit:

Business phone line – There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to setting up an ideal phone system for a business. Whether a mobile phone, VoIP or other type of phone service, be sure to establish the account in your company name.

Printing & Copying – Do you use print & copy services on a regular basis? Did you know you can set up a corporate account with a printing service provider? Many office supply companies offer net 30 accounts which can be a useful trade reference on future business credit applications.

Web hosting – Paying for web design, webhosting, domain names, and other services related to your company’s online presence should be purchased in the company’s name. Web hosting is an ongoing expense that can be used as a valuable trade reference.

Marketing & Advertising
– Promoting a company’s products and/or services via advertising is a sizable expense that is incurred by every business. Many advertising companies offer special financing terms for major promotions and monthly billing options.

Building business credit with low cash flow doesn’t have to be a difficult process if you take advantage of your existing expenses and ensure the business gets credit for it. It’s simply a matter of taking action, setting up accounts in the company’s name, and linking those accounts with a data reporting service.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Friday, May 10, 2019

What Is a Franchise?

By Joel Libava
From Bplans

A franchise is a type of business that is owned and operated by an individual (franchisee) but that is branded and overseen by a much larger—usually national or multinational—company (the franchisor). Many of the stores and restaurants that you see every day are franchises: Subway, 7-11, The UPS Store, Ace Hardware, Pizza Hut, Hilton Hotels, Molly Maid, and thousands more.

When you buy the rights to open this type of business, you’re buying the rights to use a proven business model and system, with proven prices, products, and marketing techniques. You’re also buying the rights to a brand: You get full access to the company’s trademarked materials including logos, slogans, and signage—anything that has to do with the brand...

In addition, you may be given an exclusive geographical territory to cover. Information about territory is always spelled out in your franchise agreement, as is the time period for which you own your franchise business. Typically, this sort of contract lasts between 5 to 10 years in length and you usually have the right to renew them.

From the FTC: A Consumer's Guide to Buying a Franchise

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Essential Ingredients for an Effective Onboarding Program

From Gallup

Unfortunately, a common, fatal flaw organizations tend to make is to treat onboarding as a "new employee orientation class" or "the first 30 days," rather than a year-long process that helps employees get up to speed in their job and integrated into their new team and organization.

In our experience, it takes 12+ months for most people to get "up to speed" in most jobs. This ramp-up time is when employees learn their role and with the intention of being fully capable of performing all critical functions at a high level...

Often, organizations lose one-third to two-thirds of new hires within their first 12 months on the job. Naturally, this varies by role, as about half of all hires for senior positions leave within 18 months, and half of all hourly workers last just four months.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Do People Actually Want Personalized Ads?

Article by Ross Benes
From eMarketer
The belief that consumers crave more targeted, personalized ads has become a digital advertising mantra. But it’s not entirely true...

Adlucent found that seven in 10 consumers yearn for personalized ads. IAB presentations state that consumers want fewer, but more personalized ads. Epsilon found that four-fifths of consumers are more likely to make purchases when a brand gives them a personalized experience. In a Segment survey, 71% of consumers were frustrated that their shopping experiences were too impersonal. The consumer demand for personalized content is at an all-time high, according to Adobe.

But when consumers are asked about the data collection practices that empower personalized ads, they tell a different story.

Friday, May 03, 2019

5 Myths About Payroll Taxes

By Barbara Weltman
From the Small Business Administration
If you want to grow your business, you probably need to hire employees to help you. Becoming an employer and expanding your staff entails many responsibilities, one of which is seeing to payroll taxes. Unfortunately, there are many myths about these taxes. Here is the reality:

1. Myth: Transforming employees into independent contractors to save on payroll taxes is easy

Reality: You probably know that it costs less to use an independent contractor than to have an employee on staff. The reason: the cost of payroll taxes, along with insurance and benefits apply only for employees. But don’t think you can simply reclassify a worker who’s been your employee as an independent contractor. The IRS, as well as other government agencies, are on the lookout for just such action.

The classification of a worker depends on many factors, most of which boil down to a matter of control. Essentially, if you have the right to say when, where, and how work gets done, you’re likely dealing with an employee. The IRS uses three categories of factors to assess the degree of control: behavioral, financial, and type of relationship. Many states, including California, use an ABC test:

The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with performing the work
The worker performs work outside of the usual course of the hiring entity’s business
The worker is usually engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity

2. Myth: All tax-free benefits are exempt from payroll taxes

Reality: Receiving tax-free fringe benefits means that employees do not have to pay income tax on what they receive. However, it does not mean that employers are off the hook for payroll taxes. For example, 401(k) contributions made by employees through salary reductions are still subject to FICA. And adoption assistance is exempt from income tax withholding because the benefit is tax free to employees but is still subject to FICA and FUTA taxes. You can find a list of various fringe benefits and their tax treatment for employment tax purposes in Table 2-1 in IRS Publication 15B.

3. Myth: You can pay employment taxes with your quarterly employer tax return

Reality: In general, you must deposit federal income taxes withheld and both the employer and employee share of FICA with the U.S. Treasury using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Also, deposits are required for FUTA tax for the quarter within which the tax due is more than $500.

4. Myth: Outsourcing to a payroll service provider relieves you of liability

Reality: Rather than handling payroll in-house, many businesses use an outside payroll service provider to handle the chore of computing payroll taxes, withholding them from employees’ paychecks, remitting payroll taxes to the government, and filing employment tax returns. What happens if a payroll provider fails to remit your money to the government? Or it fails to timely file employment tax returns? Unfortunately, you’re still on the hook for these obligations. You may have a lawsuit against the payroll service provider for theft, breach of contract, or other bad action. You can even file a complaint with the IRS on Form 14157Download Adobe Reader to read this link content if you suspect your payroll service provider of improper or fraudulent activities regarding the deposit of your taxes or the filing of your returns. But it doesn’t relieve you of your obligations to the government.

5. Myth: Incorporating relieves you of liability for unpaid employment taxes

Reality: You may think that having incorporated your business or formed a limited liability company (LLC), you have complete personal liability protection. You don’t. If you are a person responsible for withholding, accounting for, or depositing withheld employee taxes (their income tax withholding and their share of FICA) and you willfully fail to do so, you can be held personally liable for all of these taxes, plus interest. This is called a trust fund recovery penalty and it can be applied to business owners even if they have corporations or LLCs.

Final thought

In addition to any federal level payroll tax obligations, you may also have state-level employment taxes to consider. Find out more about federal employment taxes from the IRS. Check with your state tax or revenue department to learn about your obligations on the state and local levels.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion

From Gallup

Here's how it breaks down for an individual organization:
*The annual overall turnover rate in the U.S. in 2017 was 26.3%, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
*The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary -- and that's a conservative estimate.
*So, a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year.

Fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.

You may assume their manager did everything they could to make things right, but statistically, that's probably not the case. Over half of exiting employees (51%) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization.

Monday, April 29, 2019

US Household Spending Breakdown by Income Group

From Money magazine via Engaging Data

One of the key factors in the financial health of an individual or household is making sure that household spending is equal to or below household income. If your spending is higher than income, you will be drawing down your savings (if you have any) or borrowing money. If your spending is lower than your income, you will presumably be saving money which can provide flexibility in the future, fund your retirement (maybe even early) and generally give you peace of mind.

We can see that on average, those in the lowest quintiles may be borrowing or drawing down on savings to live, while those in the highest quintiles are saving money. This fairly high level of borrowing/drawing on savings from the lowest quintile households may be deceptive because it includes seniors who are drawing down savings that were built up specifically for this purpose, and college students who are borrowing to go to school. These groups generally don’t have significant incomes.

The main thing is to understand where your money is going. Once you’ve done this you can be more conscious of what you are spending your money on, and then decide if you are spending too much (or too little) in certain categories. Having context of what other people spend money on is helpful as well, and why it is useful to compare to these averages, even though the income level, regional cost of living, and household composition won’t look exactly the same as your household.

Friday, April 26, 2019

How to Hire for Diversity without Compromise

By Lou Adler
From LinkedIn

"When companies continue to use job descriptions listing skills and experiences surrounded by generic competencies and highfalutin statements about culture, diversity hiring implies making compromises."

I went on to say that this type of hiring process compromises more than diversity. It eliminates the most promising people from consideration before they even get a chance to be considered. These are the people who achieve more with a different mix of skills and experiences. These are people who get promoted more frequently.

These are the people who are assigned stretch projects early in their careers. These are the people who are assigned the toughest projects or volunteer for them at every stage of their career. These are people who are assigned to important multi-functional teams or volunteer to be part of them or are asked by other team members to join.

The sad part is that traditional job descriptions prevent these people from consideration unless they are referred or already known by the people making the hiring decisions.

However, there is one technique that opens up this diverse pool of high performing talent without making any compromises: Eliminate traditional job descriptions and shift to a performance-qualified approach for attracting and assessing talent.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Census Bureau Releases 2017 Census of Governments Data

The U.S. Census Bureau is releasing two products: the official count of state and local governments for the 2017 Census of Governments and the Individual State Descriptions report.
The 2017 Census of Governments release consists of data from the Organization component that reflects an enumeration of active, in-scope governments in the United States. These counts are presented by government type, state, population-size groups, function, and school systems.
The Individual State Descriptions report for the 2017 Census of Governments provides information about the legal organization of state and local governments. There is a separate summary for each state and the District of Columbia. The summaries cover authorized county, municipal, township, school district, and special district governments, as well as noteworthy state and local dependent governments.
The Census of Governments is a three-phased program that collects state and local government data every five years as a part of the Census of Governments in years ending in “2” and “7.” Between censuses, comparable employment and financial activity data are produced from intercensal quarterly and annual sample surveys.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

5 Things Startups Can Learn From Angel Investors

By Tim Berry
From Bplans

Startups and high-growth businesses can learn a lot from angel investors, regardless of whether you’re seeking funding to grow your business or not. And if you pitch and get turned down, their feedback can be really valuable in helping you think about what you need to do next to meet your funding goals.

I’ve seen this over and over in my dealings, both as an angel investor on my own and as a member of a local angel investment group. Most angel investors don’t just reject startups—we explain why. And we don’t just say yes either; we explain what else is needed...

Angel investors are individuals willing to invest their own money to fund new startups. Most of them have made money with startups; they’ve been through the wringer, they’ve succeeded, and they are in a position to share. They can teach you a lot. So if you’re a startup, always focus on listening first.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Are Advertisers Coming for Your Car?

By Anna Wells
From ThomasNet

There are some new car options that have been a little lumpy in their rollout – and none more so than the “infotainment system.” Car makers have been continuing their push towards the biggest and most functional dash screens, but a recent report in the Wall Street Journal asks us to pause and take stock of where we’re at with infotainment… and where we’re headed.

The Wall Street Journal is calling your car’s infotainment system “the last unconquered screen” and suggests a battle is brewing over how they can be used in the future to market new products and services.

Currently, this screen is considered to be the only one where advertisers can’t really reach out – but that, of course, is about to change. A January report on The Drive introduced us to Telenav, a wireless services provider, that’s launching a platform that can deliver location-based ads to a vehicle’s infotainment system. These can be tweaked based on time of day or route but might look like this: you’re approaching a fast food joint around lunchtime, and an ad with a coupon pops up.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Did 'Clicks' Really Surpass 'Bricks' for Share of US Retail Sales? Not Exactly

By Lucy Koch
From eMarketer

A couple weeks ago, headline after headline heralded the moment when US e-commerce (“clicks”) finally surpassed in-store sales (“bricks”), per slightly misconstrued data from the US Census Bureau.

This seemed to confirm what many perceive as reality: Brick-and-mortar stores struggle as e-commerce continues to grow at double-digit rates every year.

But the headlines didn’t tell the full story, and many people got the wrong impression as a result. What the stories should have clarified was that online sales across all categories accounted for 11.813% of retail spending in February, while sales from general merchandise retailers via their brick-and-mortar stores accounted for 11.807%.

(And while “general merchandise” sounds like it could account for everything, it actually represents a more specific segment of retail that excludes auto, food, beverage, apparel, and accessory sales.)

We forecast that retail e-commerce will account for 10.9% of total US retail spending across all merchants in 2019—about one-eighth the size of brick-and-mortar retail. Online sales will increase 14.8% year over year, compared with brick-and-mortar growth of 1.9%.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

How to Protect IP When Outsourcing Software Development

By Carly Klein
From Bplans

For a lot of non-technical founders—that is, entrepreneurs with a business idea but without technical expertise—sourcing software development talent is critical.

In many areas, however, the high demand for tech talent appears to be larger than the supply of qualified tech and software developers for hire.

As a result, a lot of founders are turning to international outsourcing. While this may be an innovative solution to your immediate need for tech talent needs, the question of how to protect your intellectual property when outsourcing software development has probably crossed your mind.

The last thing you want is to have simply handed your idea and your intellectual property over to a potential competitor. It’s a valid concern. The best thing you can do is create an IP protection strategy and document it in a business plan, so you’ve integrated it into your larger business strategy.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Good Local Business Listings Are Key

Written by Yext for eMarketing

Whether you own a local business or handle digital marketing for a brand which operates physical locations, the quality of your local business listings can either improve — or erode — your customer experience.

Local listings contain the public facts about each of your business locations, including store hours, contact information, holiday schedules, menu items, and people profiles, which are necessary for both search engines and consumers to make informed decisions about you.

Seventy-three-percent of high-intent consumers don't visit a brand’s website before making a decision, according to Yext research from April 2017. So even if the information on your website is accurate and up-to-date, any inconsistency across third-party services could prevent consumers from finding the information they’re looking for.

It might seem like the amount of facts about your business continually increases. It should! Specificity is critical when it comes to providing a good experience for searchers. But the number of AI-driven discovery services also continues to increase.

And though the effort to keep your business information up to date and consistent across all these maps, apps, search engines, voice assistants and chatbots can be time-consuming (at least, without the right tool to help you manage it all), it’s necessary work.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Is Everyone on Instagram an Influencer?

Article by Blake Droesch
From eMarketer

More than 500,000 active influencers are operating just on Instagram, according to a study by InfluencerDB.

That’s 39% of all Instagram accounts with more than 15,000 followers. And among this group of active Instagram influencers, 81% have followings between 15,000 and 100,000 users.

With so many options, marketers can find influencers who closely match their brand’s ethos. But it also means the influencer field is at risk of becoming oversaturated, which presents several challenges to marketers.

“While the increase has definitely led to more available influencers to work with, brands need to be careful,” said Jessica Dooley, US social practice lead at Mindshare.

“The emergence of influencer marketing into a scalable channel has increased a brand’s liability to fraud and potential controversy. Now more than ever, it is paramount that any influencer activation is rooted in a more rigorous evaluation process.”