Dan Goldman helped launch a successful furniture wrap business with no storefront presence at all. Who better to talk about innovation in an evolving marketplace?
For small businesses, coming up with new, useful ideas is essential for attracting customers and improving operations. Innovating day-to-day tasks can also carve out time for big-picture concerns, such as new products and new directions.
“The main thing that keeps us constantly innovating and looking for ways to do things better is this incredibly long list of projects we have,” says Dan Goldman, co-founder of Panyl, a DIY furniture coverings company. “Unless we’re on top of all our processes, we can’t free up time to innovate and change the business.”
External pressure is one way to get the creative juices moving. Another reliable yet underused source of inspiration is to look at sales numbers. Concrete facts are the foundation of idea generation.
Tracking daily and extended figures about what’s moving, what’s not, and how nearby competitors are doing can pinpoint problems and jumpstart thinking about solutions and opportunities.
Spot buying trends and accelerate the momentum.
Clover Insights collects real-time data and reformats it into easy-to-read charts and graphs. These visual snapshots—viewable on the Clover dashboard, or any smartphone or computer—show top-earning products, customers’ favorite items, and revenue over time.
A quick survey of customer buying habits can spark questions: Should popular items be moved to more visible locations? Are diners gravitating to new product categories? Is it time to come up with fresh menu items? What if you created your own version of a popular product and boosted profit margins?
Find gaps in the daily revenue picture and fix them.
The Insights app highlights the busiest hours and days of the week, as well as the slowest. Does revenue pick up in the afternoon when school lets out? Is the morning coffee rush the primary source of sales? How can you fill the gaps? Are there promotional offers you can create? Would gift cards work? Could you host events at your location and build word of mouth in the community?
Locate ways to lift sales during slumps.
Big sales slowdowns can wreck a business’s finances. Are seasonal slumps dragging down profits? Are there other recurring times of the year when traffic and sales dip? What can you do to combat it? What about going mobile with a food truck or pop up, offering online ordering, or shifting to the business to a web store? Dashboards help merchants focus on ongoing problems and troubleshoot solutions.
Find out what competitors are doing and improve on it.
Is the whole neighborhood slow, or just you? Heat maps offer answers. They show how a business is doing compared to others in the area, and clarify whether your revenue is growing and shrinking with the neighborhood—or not. What are competitors doing to bring customers in? Can you improve on their formula, while still maintaining your identity?
Identify customers’ pain points and find solutions.
Clover Insights tells you how many new and returning customers visit your business each week. Are there many who don’t come back? Are you losing customers too quickly? Think about why that might be happening. Maybe lines are too long, or the merchandise is losing its appeal? Is the customer experience lagging? How can you fix it?
Analyzing sales data provides hard evidence of where the weak spots are. By targeting problems, small business owners can innovate ways to improve and grow.
Featured image: Panyl’s Customer Service Lead Hedmanuel at work. Source: YouTube (Clover Innovation)
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