Sunday, March 3, 2013

Product idea: Solve one of retailer's problems

Over the weekend I flew down to southern California to help out my parents close their beauty supply store. They have been running the store for almost 16 years.  But slowing economy since 2008 financial crisis and online shopping have made it very difficult for them to keep the doors open.  They finally decided to switch out their light for good.


I have been watching how the store was run for the past two days, and I noticed there were many problems that my parents faced that they had to solve for themselves.  I want to capture a few of them here so that bright hackers can create tools for small retailers around the U.S.

1. Tracking customers, collecting data

There were no tracking of customers other than putting their names with their face.  All tracking, if any, would be done by saying hello to Mrs so and so, or Mr so and so.  Because there were no customer tracking data, there were no visitor data either.  Only metrics my parents had was daily revenue and what products were getting sold in anecdotal sense.  They couldn't easily keep track of who is buying what product, how often, and at what price (they had liquidation sales going on where they eventually discounted some products upto 70% over the weekend).

Imagine every small business had a tool like Google Analytics for all visitors to their stores.  Think of all the data and how useful they will be if all purchase records are kept and can be analyzed in its aggregate form.

2. Easy way of tracking the inventories

Tracking inventories is a problem that has been solved.  But small business owners like my parents want a no-frill inventory tracking software at almost no cost to them.  What they need is a system that is really easy to use, minimize the data entry process, yet allow them to access the all richness of data analysis).  Why not use mobile phone to scan all products sold, track what products need to be re-ordered, and backfills the missing inventories based on the past sales records?

3. Getting the foot traffic into the store

One of the toughest challenges is getting the foot traffic into the store.  This sounds easy, but as small business owners, they never have enough budget to market their stores among the locals.  Groupon solves this problem for one store per day, but the overhead is too steep, and it tends to be a flash in the pan, not lasting longer than the day when the store was featured on Groupon.

4. Finding out the price that market will bear

It's also difficult to find out what the right price ought to be for customers to buy.  Having the right price is important for obvious reasons.  If price is too high, customers don't buy.  If price is too low, owners are leaving their money on the table.  What if the owners can determine the right price point for the products by looking at the historical data and projections from pricepoints around the owner's store?

5. Easy way to liquidate products

When the time came to liquidate the inventories and close the store, it is difficult to sell products even at loss. Finding a non-profit organization to donate the products was not an easy task because there was no single place where all local charitable organizations that accepts product donations are listed in a single place.

Any taker to implement any of these ideas?

No comments:

Post a Comment