Six Ways Retailers Can Scale Their Business For The Holiday Shopping Season

Fang Cheng is the CEO of Linc Global, a customer experience automation platform delivering automated experiences at scale.

With no end to the coronavirus pandemic insight, the annual flu season about to kick off and even major players such as Walmart and Target opting to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day, it’s shaping up to be a holiday season unlike any other for retailers.

Brands can’t depend on the traditional massive influx of foot traffic to bolster their bottom lines. That doesn’t mean deal hunters won’t be online in full force looking to score Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains. Retailers need to be ready to scale their businesses for a different kind of holiday shopping season. 

Embrace An E-Commerce-First Mentality

More than ever, your e-commerce infrastructure should be bulletproof, and online orders should be the centerpiece of your holiday sales strategy. Embracing an e-commerce-first mentality begins with mapping the typical customer journey across all the various touch points your customers are exposed to when interacting with your brand. Then, you can align the behaviors you expect at these touch points – searching new products on your website, clicking on a digital ad, initiating a return, etc. – with the ways in which your e-commerce strategy and technology can better enable them. This may look like surfacing products based on past browsing, providing personalized landing pages or automating the return process to create a seamless path to purchase for your shoppers.

Make Returns Hassle-Free

Retailers should expect a higher volume of returns than usual this holiday season as shoppers make purchases online that they would previously have bought in person, but without the benefit of trying on items or a hands-on examination of the product. Your return process needs to be as seamless as possible for the customer.

One way to do that is to ensure constant communication, from return authorization to when the return arrives at the warehouse. You can allow your customers to initiate their returns on your website and collect all of the return data within a streamlined return workflow. You can also provide a printable return label at the end of the process and give an expected processing time. Give customers options on tracking their return via email or text – leveraging the shipper’s own delivery tracking infrastructure as needed – and offer a notification when the return has been received and when the refund has been processed. This closes the loop with the customer and provides peace of mind. 

Consider Implementing On-Site Chat

Beyond being a revenue generator and competitive differentiator, live chat is a key piece in successfully scaling to meet customer demand this holiday season. Shoppers are exploring every avenue to reduce the risk of an incorrect purchase. They want answers to their questions upfront and they are less willing to take a chance on a bargain – especially deals on impulse buys – than they were before the pandemic. Web chat driven by AI can allow for engagement before buying and

How Women Entrepreneurs Are Thriving In Their Business

Did you know that the Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to the impact the recession, per the “Women in the Workplace” report? These statistics will have more women considering their options and likely looking at the possibility of starting their own business. 

Women in business ownership is a viable option for many women because it allows for a more flexible schedule and allows them to be in charge of their careers.

How do you ensure success when you are setting up your own business?

Better financial management equals better business. The first goal of any organization would be to get revenue coming in the door. However, how you manage that money will be the difference in whether your business survives or thrives.

The top ways women thrive financially in their business:

1.    Charge what you’re worth

Women are often hesitant to charge what they are worth or premium prices for fear that nobody will want their offer. Traditionally, women undercharge for their services with the belief that they will attract more clients and gain more revenue from this practice. However, consider the type and quality of clients that you would attract if you were to do this, and the message that you would be sending. Would you be attracting the right clients if you charged less?

2.    Good business decision making

Women will thrive in their business when they make sound business decisions, and profitable business decisions are backed with a solid understanding of their business finances. Understanding your business finances means you know your profit margins and how your decisions affect your business’s profitability.  And higher profits means more money that goes back into the company or to the owners of that business.

3.    Effective cash management

Mapping out a good cash management system that considers the timing of cash inflow and outflow allows for planning and reduces the urgency and expense of cash shortages. Cash is the lifeline to a business to meet financial obligations and ensures the continuous flow of business operations.

4.    Planning ahead with finances

Having a business plan and ensuring you are working towards your goals and meeting them is essential. When you monitor your progress, it will give insight into where your business performs well and what you need to improve on. This feedback is critical to receive as it helps you to make adjustments to improve operations. It is common to plan ahead for one-year and up to five-years in business.

5.    Don’t forget to plan for your taxes

When you are managing your business finances well, you will have a clear understanding of your business’s income and how much you should put aside for taxes. A common complaint that business owners have is that their year-end tax bill

The pressing need for a business model transformation in banking

Most CEOs of the early 2000s bequeathed to their successors the same business model that they inherited from their predecessors. But when the CEOs of the following decade grappled with their biggest challenge – namely, how to stay relevant amid rapid change and uncertainty – the business model was often at the heart of the problem – and digitisation, invariably, at the heart of the solution.

Covid-19 has merely pushed this situation into overdrive. As the pandemic creates recessionary conditions with diving interest rates and rising credit losses, banks are searching for a model that will enable them to respond to the crisis today, recover from it in time, and build back a healthy business in the future. Evidence – such as the changing composition of the S&P 500 and similar leaderboards in recent years – strongly suggests that that model is overwhelmingly digital, and more often than not, is a digital platform. This is bad news for banks lagging on the digital front: not only have they already lost out, they’ll also find it extremely difficult to stage a comeback through the pandemic. On the other hand, the digitally evolved banks will widen the gap on competitors as they recover faster and better from the crisis.

Without exception, the banks we have spoken to say they are experiencing a sharp acceleration in digital adoption across customer segments. Customers are not only banking more on digital channels but also consuming more products digitally. Once the dust settles on Covid, customers may partially revert to physical banking, but a total return to how things were isn’t going to happen. In the meantime, the industry is responding to the demand for digital banking by digitising as much of the lifecycle, from onboarding to sales to service to engagement, as possible. The progressive banks are going a step further to recast their business into new digital models.

Banking business model options

A business model change may be approached at three levels – value creation, value delivery and value capture. By and large, the traditional universal bank is built on a pipeline model where the bank does everything, from manufacturing to selling to distributing, on its own, using in-house resources. This vertically integrated pipeline business model is breaking apart, giving way to fragmenting value chains and platform business models. Here, “business model” is an umbrella term covering customer focus or segment, distribution channels, products and services, ecosystem approach, the business applications landscape, operating models, and workforces (people and competencies). All of them are reshaping the banking business model to a greater or lesser extent.

Since the choices are finite, each bank needs to pick the one that is most relevant to its context and, importantly, that provides a clear point of differentiation in a commoditised market. Broadly, a traditional bank can choose to focus on a particular area within its existing model, or evolve the entire model into something new. Note that there would be some overlap between the two tracks.

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Thousands of Arizonans to get checks, gift cards under $5M Honda airbag settlement | Business News

Cash-equivalent gift cards of $150 or $50 will be mailed to about 40,000 Arizona consumers with defective Takata airbags, but the cards can be activated only after a consumer takes his or her vehicle to a Honda dealership for free airbag replacement.

Whether consumers get a $150 or $50 gift card depends on the specific type of inflator used in their airbags.

Honda previously reached a settlement with a multi-state group, but Arizona chose not to take part because the settlement did not provide any restitution or incentives to get dangerous airbags fixed, Brnovich said.

The Arizona attorney general alleged that Honda should have warned consumers purchasing its vehicles about the airbag issues by September 2012, but consumers did not receive notice until November 2015, when federal regulators fined Takata $200 million. Takata filed for bankruptcy in June 2017.

Besides the restitution and gift-card incentives, Honda agreed to pay $650,000 for outreach to inform consumers of the recall, $100,000 to the state for other consumer outreach efforts and a $500,000 payment to the state.

Honda also agreed to refrain from deceptive or misleading advertising and set up a system for employees to report safety concerns to management.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

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Google’s ‘free’ business model put to test in US antitrust suit

Google’s long-running business model based on free services and advertising will be put to the test in the landmark antitrust lawsuit filed this week by the US Justice Department.

But the government is likely to face challenges proving monopoly allegations against the tech firm which grew into one of the world’s most successful companies by leveraging its powerful search engine for a network of services such as maps, email, shopping and travel that feed its data-driven digital advertising.

Legal experts point to the fact that it may be difficult to show Google’s conduct was illegal under the longstanding “consumer welfare” standard in monopoly cases because its services are largely free.

Avery Gardiner, a former US antitrust enforcement lawyer who researches competition for the Center for Democracy & Technology, said the government appears to be skirting the question of whether Google benefits consumers by offering free services.

The lawsuit “basically ignores price and focuses on quality and innovation,” she said.

While not entirely a new strategy, “the antitrust agencies in the past have been reluctant to move forward without evidence of price effects,” Gardiner added.

Data provided by the Justice Department showed Google controls 88 percent of US search queries, with the share in the mobile market at 94 percent, and argued that  Google reinforces it monopoly with its “exclusionary” deals.

With a market value over $1 trillion, Google generated $161 billion in revenue last year, the bulk of which comes from digital advertising including messages linked to people’s search queries.

– ‘Not truly free’ –

Christopher Sagers,  a Cleveland State University law professor, said Google’s use of free services is unlikely to be a serious hurdle for the government.

Sagers said that Google’s search “is arguably not truly free, since every search can be conceived as a transaction in which the consumer gives their attention to advertisements in exchange for search results.”

A key element of the case will be internet advertising which “is a product that Google definitely does not give away for free,” Sagers said.

Maurice Stucke, a University of Tennessee law professor specializing in antitrust, said the case appears based not on prices but “the harm to privacy, data protection and the use of consumer data.”

This takes a broader view of antitrust by examining the competitive harms to the marketplace and not just prices to consumers, Stucke said.

He said government lawyers have evoked the Microsoft case from two decades earlier which, despite the failure to break up the company, resulted in a more open technology landscape.

“The perception is that the Microsoft case unleashed significant innovation, because competitors no longer operated in the shadow of Microsoft,” Stucke said.

The case joined by 11 states, all of which have Republican attorneys general, could take years to play out and comes against a backdrop of a fierce political backlash against Big Tech giants which have extended their dominance in recent years.

The Justice Department argues that Google has cemented its monopoly position using deals with

With $25m gift from ex-Tiger Cub Chris Shumway, Harvard creates MBA to link business and science

Former Tiger Cub Chris Shumway is helping Harvard University prepare a new breed of MBAs, equally at ease on Wall Street and in the laboratory.

With a $25 million gift, Shumway and his wife, Carrie Shumway, are supporting the joint life-sciences MS/MBA program at Harvard Business School, which took its first 11 students in August. Three-quarters of the class are women; all were life-sciences majors, and many have worked in the field.

Shumway said he couldn’t recall seeing a life-sciences case study during his time at the Business School in the early 1990s, after which he joined Julian Robertson’s Tiger Management. He became interested as he got involved with the startup Crestovo and saw it through a merger with Finch Therapeutics to develop microbiome-based drugs.

”We made significant investment in terms of capital and hiring that management team and growing that business,” Shumway said. ”It was easy for us to find amazing scientists, and there are terrific entrepreneurs. Finding the intersection of those two groups was very difficult.”

Some of the funds are for financial aid and creating case studies. This year’s focus is on the Cambridge biotech Moderna and what’s happening at the Food and Drug Administration regarding the novel coronavirus. About 15 to 20 others are in the works, on topics including pharmaceutical companies acquiring small biotech firms and cell manufacturing.

Shumway and Dean Nitin Nohria started talking about a way for Harvard to mint science-grounded business graduates about six years ago.

”Nitin is an entrepreneur himself,” said Shumway, 54, who shut his $8 billion hedge fund in 2011. ”He was open and already thinking about the connection points within Harvard that would allow this.”

The program was set up with Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. Its start during a global pandemic underscores the urgency of the gift’s objectives as the world ponders when safe vaccines and therapies will get to market and be in wide distribution.

The University of Virginia beat out Harvard for securing Shumway’s first $25 million gift in this area. Two years ago, Shumway donated to his undergraduate alma mater to help it start programs between the commerce school and the medical school.

”As I’ve gotten older, one of the things I’m thinking about is how do you have an impact,” he said.

”In the commercial space, you can invest in organizations that have tremendous potential to save lives. The whole view is how do you create social good and have a positive commerce ecosystem around it, so you can encourage all the people who need to, to take action.”

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Roxy Jacenko says business thriving despite being ‘sacked’ after SAS Australia

Her brief appearance on SAS Australia may have cost her a good friend and high-profile business client – but this photo proves resilient Roxy Jacenko is still on top.

Despite being “sacked” by professional ironwoman Candice Warner following their one-on-one boxing match during Monday’s premiere, the PR maven’s businesses are still flourishing.

As well as her Sweaty Betty public relations firm, the 40-year-old runs five other businesses – including two hair accessories brands Pixie’s Bows and Roxy Jacenko Accessories – and her newest venture, XRJCelebrations.

While the decorative candle business – which the mum-of-two launched with her first ever partner Jessica Ingham – is in its early days, Roxy’s accessories businesses have picked up memento in recent weeks despite a COVID-19 related setback.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about SAS Australia

Roxy told news.com.au she has seen a “solid improvement” in the past two months, which was a huge relief.

“We were hit from a Sweaty Betty PR perspective very hard. One of the first things to go is always marketing and PR services when things get tough,” she told news.com.au

She went on to say she was “lucky” she could rely on her other businesses explaining things picked up just after filming for SAS wrapped in August.

“Things are looking to be well on track for the next six months which is wonderful news,” she said.

Part of her return to the top was Roxy’s clever influencer marketing plan, where RJA worked with some well-known Australian Instagram star’s.

A collaboration with Byron Bay influencer Ruby Tuesday Matthews caused a frenzy for a $40 “knot” headband, with Roxy revealing it sold out in less than 24 hours recently.

“She sold out a headband in two colours – over 500 units – in less than 24 hours,” she explained.

Interest was sparked among Ruby’s 210,000 followers with a series of Instagram Stories that showed her wearing the headwear – the photo evidence of Roxy’s success.

She’s also partnered with Sydney influencer Oceana Strachan whose selfie wearing a wide gingham headband caused a similar effect among shoppers.

It’s not just homegrown talent that has helped boost sales, with Hollywood megastar Chrissy Teigen wearing a velvet bow last year, sending demand soaring.

“Chrissy wore the Velvet Natalie Anne Barette Bow and it was so exciting to see,” she said, adding “it did indeed sell out”.

The A-list spotting came after Roxy sent some of her pieces to a celebrity hairdresser in LA, admitting she had “no idea” it was going to end up on the supermodel mum’s head.

Roxy – who admitted earlier this year she was “stepping away” from Sweaty Betty – said she had no idea doing something so different would work but said once she commits to an idea, she’s all in.

“We could never have imagined how well it would be received,” she said. “The only aim was to make the brand affordable but still quality so that even if you had an outfit that wasn’t new, you

Wedding vendors expect more business with easing of restrictions, but not all couples scaling up receptions

SINGAPORE: Wedding planners, hotels and other venues are expecting a boost in business with the recent announcement that COVID-19 restrictions would be eased.

From Oct 3, up to 100 people – including the couple but excluding vendors and service providers – will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, double the current limit of 50.

The 100 attendees must be separated into multiple zones of up to 50 people each, or split by staggered timings with up to 50 people in each slot.

READ: COVID-19 restrictions eased further on worship services, wedding receptions; up to 100 attendees allowed

Wedding planners CNA spoke to said they expect to get more enquiries over the next few weeks, since couples have “a greater level of certainty” to proceed with their weddings. 

“Previously, many couples were in limbo on whether to proceed with their wedding planning as they are worried that new restrictions might be imposed against them,” said founder of Pei Weddings Chea Pui Yee. 

“With the announcement, they seem to have a clearer direction on where the wedding scene is paving towards and they feel more relieved proceeding with their wedding plans.”

During the “circuit breaker” period, many couples held off proposal plans and are only proposing now, said Ms Michelle Lau, founder of wedding planner company Arches and Co.

Noting that the second half of the year is usually associated with higher engagement rates, Ms Lau added that more couples are likely to book staycations in the next few months for their proposals, then start planning for their wedding.

As the number of community COVID-19 cases in Singapore remains low, more couples are also hopeful that the restrictions will be further eased in time to come, said wedding planners. 

While the number of enquiries has picked up since the circuit breaker period, it is still not as high as that of the same period last year, said Ms Lau. 

“For new enquiries, couples are still pretty much looking at Q2 2021 onwards, in hopes that they can have a bigger party with more guests allowed,” she added. 

HOTELS GETTING MORE ENQUIRIES

Hotels have also seen an uptick in enquiries from existing customers looking to increase the number of wedding guests, as well as couples who want to book a new package.

“Since the cap for weddings was increased to 100 pax, we have received numerous enquiries from couples who have already booked with us and want to increase the number of attendees and couples who had earlier postponed their wedding and now want to go ahead with it.

“We have also received new bookings as a result of this latest ruling,” said Mr Lee Richards, vice president of operations, South East Asia, Millennium Hotels and Resorts. 

The group owns six hotels in Singapore: Copthorne King’s Hotel, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Orchard Hotel, M Hotel, M Social and Studio M Hotel.

READ: Millennium Hotels and Resorts lays off 159 employees in Singapore amid COVID-19 impact

Adding

Here’s who made Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business list

Accenture CEO Julie Sweet and General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra top the new 2020 list of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business, which was released Monday.



Julie Sweet, Abigail Johnson, Gail Koziara Boudreaux, Mary Barra are posing for a picture


© Dia Dipasupil/Drew Angerer/Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Images/Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock


Because of the multiple crises marking this year — the pandemic, economic shocks, an overdue reckoning with racial injustice and climate change disasters — the criteria to determine who should make the top 50 list was expanded this year.

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“Simply put, 2020 is the year when we said a final goodbye to business as usual,” Fortune writers noted in their introduction to the list.

So, in addition to considering the size and health of a woman leader’s business in the global economy, her social and cultural influence, and the arc of her career, Fortune added a new element: how individual women leaders were using their power and influence to shape their companies and the world for the better.

Sweet takes the No. 1 spot for running a professional services firm with more than half a million employees in 51 countries who are helping clients figure out the “new world order.” The firm gets the majority of its revenue from clients in the cloud, digital and security businesses. And, as Covid-19 hit, “the company tapped into that expertise to help connect the UK’s 1.2 million National Health Service workers remotely and to partner with Salesforce on contact tracing and vaccine management technology,” Fortune noted.

GM’s Barra gets top marks in the No. 2 spot both for her role overseeing the automaker’s pivot to creating ventilators in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and for doubling down on her drive to invest in GM’s electric car manufacturing.

At No. 6, and topping the glass-ceiling-breaker category, is Citi Group’s Jane Fraser, who has become the first woman named to run a major US bank.

And among those on the list setting firsts in their industry, Simon & Schuster senior vice president and publisher Dana Canedy comes in at No. 50 as the first Black person to head a major publishing imprint.

Internationally, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley took top spot given her company’s global efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Below is the list of women leaders who ranked in the top 10 on Fortune’s US rankings this year. The full list of the top 50 can be found here.

1. Julie Sweet, CEO, Accenture

2. Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, General Motors

3. Abigail Johnson, Chairman and CEO, Fidelity Investments

4. Gail Boudreaux, President and CEO, Anthem

5. Carol Tomé, CEO, UPS

6. Jane Fraser, CEO of Global Consumer Banking; President, Citi

7. Ruth Porat, SVP and CFO, Google, Alphabet

8. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

9. Corie Barry, CEO, Best Buy

10. Judith McKenna, President and CEO, Walmart International, Walmart

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How Google’s ‘Hybrid’ Work Model Could Work For Your Business

According to CNBC, “Google is rethinking its long-term work options for employees, as most of them say they don’t want to come back to the office full-time.” According to a recent survey of Google employees, “sixty-two percent want to return to their offices at some point, but not every day”. For this reason, the company is working on “hybrid” models for future work. 

If you’re pondering the same in your organization, don’t be binary in your definition of hybrid.

It’s easy to assume a hybrid is a combination of only two things – a car engine with both internal combustion and electric power sources, plants and animals that are cross breeds of two different species, and golf clubs that combine the characteristics of both a wood and an iron.  But hybrids aren’t necessarily limited to combinations of two. According to Merriem-Webster, it can also mean: “having or produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements” and “of mixed character; composed of mixed parts”.

This is great news, because when it comes to hybrid work models, we’re going to need to think much more broadly than just two modes of work – in the office and at home. In fact, there’s a law from the systems sciences that applies.

Ashby’s Law and Hybrid Work Models

We love Ross Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, which states: “Only variety can destroy variety.”  We usually apply it to problem-solving, and specifically the need to seek out a variety of solvers to match the variety of the problem they’re trying to solve. In their new book Humanocracy,  Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini apply Ashby’s Law to organizations needing “a relentless pace of experimentation” to protect them “from a relentless pace of change”. 

And now, here’s another important implication of the very same law: Only a variety of work options can satisfy a variety of work preferences. That means leaders must work hard to offer a  variety of work models in order to attract and retain top talent.

The Pandemic Has Changed Preferences and Habits

Why are there so many work preferences among workers? In short: our habits changed almost overnight. Prior to the pandemic, some companies already offered flexible work options – both work-from-home and work-in-the-office – and others were exploring the possibility. Then, starting in March, if people could work from home, they had to work from home. New habits were formed. Daily commuters got used to not commuting. Office-dwellers got used to staying home. Face-to-face believers (like us) adapted to face-to-screen. And across the board, as Airbnb Advisor Chip Conley put it in our interview with him, “IRL (in real life)” was replaced by “URL (digital)”.

As top management thinker Roger L. Martin explained it to us: “Covid-19 has forced us to break our habits, and where they were habits we hated, we won’t be going back. For example, we won’t go back to commuting to work five days per week.” David Musto, president and