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How to Survive the Off-Season Sales Slow-Down

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Vancouver’s Whistler resort, owned by Vail Resorts, is currently the most-visited ski venue in North America.

But as one of Vail’s 19 prestigious resorts, Whistler still deals with the reality of seasonal slumps. Part of Whistler’s off-season strategy includes summer activities like carnival games, ziplining, and bear-viewing.

Vail has recently taken a more aggressive ticketing strategy as CEO Rob Katz made the $899 “Epic Ski Pass” the centerpiece of its pricing structure. This upscale pass provides visitors unlimited skiing at Vail’s 19 resorts and partial access to dozens of resorts worldwide.

The effect has been substantial, with 2018 revenues rising 41.5% in just one quarter! With the Epic Ski Pass, Vail also removed discounts for skiers paying in advance on one- and three-day passes, instead limiting these discounts to early-season purchasing. While this has drawn criticism, county councilman Steve Anderson praised Katz’s bold move in incentivizing off-peak sales:

“For a company that runs a ski hill, that makes good sense because they get a lot of cash coming in when they are not in peak operating season, and as you get closer to the lifts opening, these bargains start to disappear,” Anderson told Business in Vancouver.

Strategic Sales Cycles

Every business has its slumps, and accounting for slow days is critical.

As you prepare your yearly budget, consider peaks and valleys in revenue and be creative in planning sales or service bundling options.

Resourceful entrepreneurs say it is helpful to break sales cycles into six seasons:

January-February

Post-holiday lulls may bring purchasing drop-offs, so smart businesses work to craft sales around health-related themes, branding or re-order opportunities, February holidays, bedding/linens/cozy comfort items, or electronic upgrades.

March-May

Spring is a time for renewing, cleaning out, or vacation planning.

Incorporate “think spring” themes like outdoor activities, Easter or gardening, trimming or tidying, tax-time incentives, or “going green” options. By April, finalize your summer sales campaigns and prepare to roll out hot new products or services.

Early June to July

Enjoy that summer freedom with longer days and lazy schedules.

People are spending plenty of time outside, so build your messages around recreation, refreshment, family, and everything that’s free and easy. Think weddings, outdoor gatherings, or strategic fall planning as you connect with your clients and plan your next move.

Mid-July to Early September

As vacations become memories, think ahead on school prep, fashion, fall landscaping, and new routines.

At this time, people are ready to stock up, plan ahead, or solidify year-end business goals. Also, a relatively new phenomenon is changing the second half of summer: Amazon Prime Day (mid-July).

As people take advantage of Amazon’s sales and free shipping that day, many online and e-commerce retailers also offer Back to School specials on this day. Even merchants who aren’t on Amazon tend to see a bump on Amazon Prime Day, so consider how you can grab this momentum and turn it your way!

Late September-October

Now those new rhythms are established, and the holidays are just ahead.

This season sees people finalizing home repairs or DIY projects, locking down system upgrades at work, and making major contacts before the holidays arrive. Find your client’s problems and find creative ways to help, because everyone likes a strong start to the fall season!

November-December

In this season retail sales explode and businesses plan for changes in the new year.

Whether this is your slow season or total survival mode, these months can make or break a business. Review data from previous years, tighten up shipping, or set aggressive agendas for the new year. Woo customers through holiday sales, Christmas greetings, or other incentives.

No matter when your slump hits, remember to push hard during the busy months and be strategic in the off-season. Set aside cash for slow months, plan for busy seasons in advance, and keep evolving in your skills. Your best years are still ahead!

Use Powerful Visualizations to Make Your Message Clear

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Use Powerful Visualizations to Make Your Message Clear

Communication is the key to human connection.

But adequately sharing information can be more difficult than you may think. George Bernard Shaw said the single biggest challenge in communication is the illusion that it has taken place!

Experts estimate that 65 percent of people are visual learners, so one of the easiest ways to communicate with people is with pictures. A well-structured chart, graph, or data visualization can do wonders for sharing your insights with customers, team members, or your superiors. And with easily accessible tools you can use illustrations to:

  • Get your message across quickly
  • Make complex data accessible to many
  • Make your report or presentation more visually appealing
  • Create a more memorable, lasting impression

Whether you’re reporting the household budget or spicing up slides for a presentation, stretch yourself to try one of these options this month.

Vertical Bar Charts

This is a simple option for comparing data grouped by distinct categories. Vertical bar charts are better when sharing 10 groups of data or less.

Horizontal Bar Charts

Typically, horizontal bar charts are effective when you have more than 10 groups of data or if you have long category labels to share.

This format makes labels easier to read because they are displayed in the proper orientation. Vertical and bar charts are excellent for comparing any sort of numeric value, including group sizes, inventories, ratings, and survey responses.

Pie Charts

Pie charts are fun to look at and helpful for understanding parts of a whole.

Remember to order the pieces of your pie according to size and to ensure the total of your pieces adds up to 100%.

Line Chart

Line charts are used to show data relative to a continuous variable: calendar months, years, budget allocations, etc.

Plotting data variables on line graphs makes it easier for readers to identify useful trends or to evaluate comparable products or challenges.

Bullet Chart

Bullet charts are typically used to display performance data relative to a goal.

A bullet graph reveals progress toward a goal, compares this to another measure, and provides context in the form of a rating or performance.

Flow Charts

Following the proper process is something that can make or break an organization or its employees.

Flow charts are used typically in medical, educational, or manufacturing fields to bring quality control and to ensure procedures are uniformly followed.

Pictographs

Here images and symbols are used to illustrate data.

For example, a basic pictograph might use a frowny face to signify sick days and a happy face to symbolize healthy days. Because images hold more emotional power than raw data, pictograms are often used to present medical data. An illustration that shades five out of 20 people has a much more significant impact in sharing a 20-percent death rate.

Sharpen Your Image

When finalizing your data visualization, here are ways to bring your best to the table:

Less is More.

When creating illustrations, consider which gridlines, borders, or numbers can be removed to make the essential parts speak for themselves.

Let White Space Shout.

Minimalist designs like this Congressional gender chart can highlight areas where a gross imbalance exists.

Interpret Data for Readers.

Viewers can understand data more easily when you offer compelling titles and well-placed labels.

Use a Call to Action.

To move your readers, encourage them to take action and make changes.

A great example of this comes from Sebastian Soto, who built a single-color pictograph about the decline of Zambian malaria. Using quotes from key research and health ministry directors on the poster, he closed the graphic with this phrase: “Let’s Collaborate. againstmalaria.com.”

If you need help creating visualizations for your next print project, give us a call today!

Grow Creativity with the Brainstorming Strategies of Walt Disney

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Grow Creativity with the Brainstorming Strategies of Walt Disney

From Tarzan’s treehouse to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Disney’s creative team has spent decades constructing fantasy lands depicted in Disney movies.

Bringing dreams to life is Disney’s business, and its empire spans 11 theme parks, a town, four cruise ships, dozens of hotels, and many waterparks and restaurants that help guests experience the happiest place on Earth.

The dreamers, or “Imagineers” at Disney are the brains behind the vision. Peter Rummell, who served as chairman of the Imagineers for 12 years, said creativity doesn’t just happen. It has to be engineered:

“It is a process and if you don’t understand that and if you sit around and wait for the lightning bolt, you’re not going to be very productive.”

Walt Disney himself was a master of creative thinking and brainstorming. Not only was he talented in discovering ideas, he knew how to convert possibilities into reality. One associate said this about Disney:

“There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.”

Disney’s Strategic Brainstorming Techniques

Over time, Walt’s team used his own attributes for guiding thoughts to build parallel thinking in groups, while at the same time generating concepts, critiquing ideas, and solving problems.

NLP expert Robert Dilts helped bring the technique to life, like this:

  • Four parts of a room were set up for different thinking methods: imagining, planning, critiquing, and for stepping outside the concept. Arranging a physical space for each mindset prepared teams to switch from one thinking mode to another.
  • Teams gathered with a target objective: an innovation to brainstorm, a problem to solve, or a process to improve. While dreamers practiced unhindered green light thinking, planners used red light critiques to define the how, the timeline, or the plan.
  • Meanwhile, critics and the concept overseers analyzed weaknesses of the plan, defining missing elements, gaps in the process, or obstacles to address.

Rotating between spaces allowed teams to transition from unhindered passion to logical plans. Impossible ideas weren’t immediately squashed. And through this defined creative process, teams could generate solid creative ideas with an action plan to apply it.

Unlock Creativity in Your Team

Though Peter Rummell has since moved on from the Imagineers, he says his time at Disney taught him three valuable lessons for guiding teams in creative thinking:

1. Entertain ideas from everyone.

“I think one of the major lessons I learned was that despite the hierarchy of an organization, an idea can come from anywhere.”

Top leaders should be willing to listen and younger team members should be encouraged that everyone has a voice.

2. Build an eclectic team.

“An accountant sitting next to a poet is a really good idea,” Rummell said.

High IQs are not pre-requisites to creative success. When teams are full of variety, often the least likely people can generate the best concepts. Varying skill sets help to energize the best ideas and to round out gaps in the plan.

3. Vet even the strangest ideas.

When Rummell’s team was brainstorming waterpark ideas, they were totally stalled.

“We didn’t want to do another Pirates of the Caribbean or some Caribbean island,” Rummell said. “We were trying to figure out what would be fun or different.”

Everything sounded silly until someone left for the bathroom and walked by a cubicle decorated in snowstorms. Though the idea of a freak Florida snowstorm sounded ridiculous, eventually the idea became “Blizzard Beach,” the theme of an entire waterpark in Orlando.

Creativity doesn’t just happen, so get resourceful and create some new brainstorming processes of your own. When you’re ready to roll out new concepts, we’ll help you bring them to life in print!

Go Off the Grid with Transparent or Overlay Design Options

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Want to stretch your designs or look your very best in print?

Consider the bold, creative flair overprinting or transparent layering can bring.

Typically, when you generate multi-layer designs your design software will cause one element to cover the artwork below it. Graphics obscure backgrounds, fonts cover image details, or text wraps around focal points as you format it to your preference. This layering process organizes your piece and prevents the muddy look that can occur when colors bleed together.

Overprinting allows you to use one color on top of another in a way that blends two colors to make a third. This is especially useful if you’re working with a limited selection of Pantone colors or to create a unique, funky feel when two pieces of artwork overlap.

Overprinting is an element that can be turned on and previewed in the attributes panel with your design software, and flattened (or exported) in the print settings.

Want to try it? Here are some basic examples to experiment with:

1. Blend text over images.

Start with a simple, uncomplicated photo like three bright citrus oranges.

Choose a photo with fewer details so your design isn’t too busy. Add text over the image in either a lighter shade of the same citrus hue or a totally contrasting color (white font on orange fruit, for example). Blending the words and image will create a new, third color where the font overlays the fruit.

2. Apply a typographic hierarchy.

Create order in the way your design is read by adjusting font transparency levels throughout the image.

For example, try a textured wood background but allow it to peek through your text by adding transparency to your type. Primary headlines should be less transparent for a bold, commanding presence. Secondary heads or copy text down the page can increase in transparency for a more faded, mysterious feel.

3. Overlay a graphic with a solid color.

Use color to make a statement with a solid color overlay over the whole page.

This means that you cover an image or page with a semi-transparent colored box. The effect can add meaning to an image, bring attention to a design, or help you get creative with limited image options. Another option is to use gradients or filters to fade a background image or bring a bright hue to give a boring image some spark. A neutral color or sepia overlay can add a rustic flavor, then be paired with a bright or transparent font that really pops out.

Transparent Layering in Print

Transparency is also a great layering option that can also be used in all kinds of designs to bring exquisite elegance or unforgettable flair.

Curious? Feel free to visit with us about outstanding options like these:

  • Clear frosted business cards
  • Arresting posters printed on translucent stock
  • Frosted tote bags with artwork or logos foil-stamped on the surface
  • Translucent vellum paper used in formal invitations
  • Oversized translucent stickers for windowfronts, clever displays, or sharp packaging
  • Catalogs or booklets featuring bold text overlaid by a simple, transparent cover

Transparency can be a great way to reveal what’s inside your package or under the project cover, letting the product inside sell itself! Use transparency and overlay techniques to give your project more depth, structure, or sophistication.

Use Game-Based Learning to Train Your Employees

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Use Game-Based Learning to Train Your Employees

Ethel Merman thought people should lighten up to really live, crooning these lyrics in 1931:

“Life is just a bowl of cherries: don’t take it serious, it’s too mysterious . . .

Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh at it all!”

Is life all fun and games? Definitely not.

But leadership experts are finding that one of the best ways to train people is by helping them laugh and compete as they learn through play.

United States… Gaming?

Recently, the US Army employed “serious gaming” to address challenges in their leadership training.

While soldiers were very capable in weapons and war strategies, the Army found its forces need to grow in their soft skills by increasing familiarity with the values, norms, and cultures where they were deployed.

First Person Cultural Trainer, a gaming simulation, was developed specifically to help junior leaders understand the consequences of their speech, body language, temperaments, and choices. Trainees used a 3D avatar to interact and work with individuals in a foreign community and to gain feedback on how their choices affected their ability to build rapport. Students progressed through four levels of gaming to build communication, interpersonal, and intelligence gathering skills.

Games for the Win

Advances in game-training strategies have steered many organizations toward a more recreational focus in their corporate cultures.

Games and stories are a fundamental part of human life: according to one study done by Essential Facts, in 2016 more than 60% of households in America had someone playing video games regularly. Humans excel in games because we love reward-based challenges, especially when objectives become progressively harder or more addictive!

To embed gaming in their corporate training culture Cisco used a “LiveOps” call center to challengecompeting agents, ultimately reducing call time by 15% and improving sales by an average of 10%.

A Colorado restaurant gamified its objective to increase sales of specific menu items. When they sold a 4-pack of cinnamon rolls, staff could play online “point-yielding games,” and reward points were redeemable for a branded debit card. One study estimated this restaurant realized a 66.2% ROI due to the increase in sales productivity.

Why do games work? Game training is effective because it:

  • Motivates employees to surpass expectations or to complete training exercises
  • Allows people to fail and try again without negative repercussions
  • Makes time for real-time reflection and feedback sessions
  • Grows individual confidence in carrying out tasks (as people practice, break challenges into micro-learning segments, and accurately perceive their ability to succeed)

Game Options of Your Own

Want to improve productivity or increase the cost-effectiveness of your team training?

Games offer hands-on, motivating opportunities that can be used over and over. Purchase simulations like GameLearn training platforms, or consider three hands-on options of your own:

1. New Hire Scavenger Hunt.

Whether it’s a physical or online hunt for facts, facilities, or people, get people competing and moving and calm their nerves in the process.

2. Product Knowledge Mix and Match.

Employees take turns being introduced to a variety of customers (including purchasing needs, budget, or personal background).

Players then compete to match the best product to each customer while negotiating a deal or completing the sale.

3. “What If” Training Simulations.

These games give teams the opportunity to explore hypothetical situations.

If they made XX decision, what would happen? Assign real-life tasks and challenges, allow teams to collaborate and present options, and process together about the benefits or consequences of the strategies they chose. Added bonus: supervisors learn alongside employees and gain hands-on experience in leading their teams!

The Best Form of Marketing is YOU

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If you could harness the most accessible, inexpensive form of marketing for your business, would you want it?

Everyone has it, but it’s easy to overlook.

The most authentic sales tool is one that’s always with you: yourself.

You are the face of your business. Marketing doesn’t sell, people sell! You are the vessel that carries your business brand to every prospect you meet. Are you making the most of own potential?

Being cheerful, confident, and courteous can go a long way toward making a stellar first impression.

Be Cheerful

People want to do business with people they enjoy, and a cheerful attitude can give you a winning edge in many situations.

Whether you are outgoing or more reserved, seek to be:

  • Positive: be optimistic and look on the bright side of life. Be a “green light” thinker and keep an open mind to new ideas.
  • Polite: whether you’re running errands or talking on the phone: be polite. You never know who’s listening.
  • Persistent: when things don’t succeed, don’t give up. Be intentional to build relationships or follow up on leads. Make the first move and don’t take rejection personally. As millionaire businessman Bo Bennett says, “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”

Be Confident

When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, your confidence is high and you are more likely to perform well.

Your mindset has incredible power to shape your circumstances and help you achieve your goals, so start each day on your toes:

Take care of yourself: Brush your teeth, get regular haircuts, and keep your clothes and accessories in good condition.

Dress professionally: When you dress well, people will respect you. Put time and thought into your choices to communicate that you care about what you do.

Respect your culture: Every company has different expectations for appropriate dress. While you may have the freedom to choose, it’s best to lean on the simple, conservative side with accessories, necklines, or fit of your clothing.

Dress “Up”: If you are attending an important event or meeting, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. A polished look lets people know you are serious and capable. If you feel overly formal when you arrive, you can always roll up your sleeves, ditch your blazer, or loosen your collar.

Be Courteous

Mark Twain said that action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often.

People will judge you by your behavior, not by your good intentions! How consistently do your actions reveal a positive view of your character or business? Challenge yourself to:

1. Reach out to others. Be the first to say thank you, congratulate others, or start a conversation with someone who is standing alone. Be proactive, intentional, and kind. Do nice things at unexpected moments.

2. Live consistently. What are the mission and the brand values of your company? Do you represent these in both your professional and personal life? If your company exalts community investment, seek to volunteer and invest during your personal life as well.

3. Be prepared for anything. Rehearse your personal introduction and have conversational icebreakers ready for unexpected moments. Have a product testimonial in your back pocket. Keep breath mints, business cards, or a portable phone charger ready. Think of yourself as a friendly, roaming billboard. Everywhere you go you can sell yourself and market your business.

Finally, remember to smile: a friendly smile makes everyone more inclined to like – and do business – with you.

If you need help marketing yourself on paper, give us a call and we’ll make you look your best.

How Emotions Win Customers

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Cassell’s Hamburgers is something of a Cinderella story.

Founder Al Cassell launched the iconic lunch counter in Los Angeles in 1948. Famous for grinding beef daily, Al’s passion for great burgers and homemade mayonnaise lived for years. But by 2012, struggling owners decided to sell off Cassell’s rights, recipes, and equipment. It seems there was no magic touch that could save this beauty.

Jingbo Lou had other ideas.

As a Chinese exchange student, Lou came to the U.S. to study at the University of Southern California and developed a passion for architectural restoration that grew out curiosity for American culture:

“As an immigrant to this country, my very big task is to learn the culture,” Lou says. “I really fell in love with the history.”

J Lou put this love to work bringing Cassell’s back to life in a salvaged, crumbling 1920s inn called the Hotel Normandie. J Lou recognized a hotel/restaurant combo was a chance to cater to the nostalgia of many Californians.

And he was spot on.

Since Cassell’s reopening in 2014, the business has topped many “best of” lists and expanded into Downtown LA and a LAX location in Terminal 1.

Why such phenomenal success? Because emotions sell.

Emotions Win Customers

Brands build loyalty because emotions win customers!

While you may believe your decisions are rational, most choices are actually controlled by your intuitive (emotional) mind. Studies show that people rely on the heart, rather than on logic, to make decisions. Douglass Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, says this:

“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”

Brands put emotional marketing in play by focusing more on the needs and passions of customers instead of on the unique product benefits their products bring.

For example, Pampers exalts healthy, well-rested infants instead of dry baby bottoms. Nike inspires people to overcome limitations instead of highlighting superior shoe quality. Harley sells people freedom without limits rather than offering a mode of transportation. And Cassell’s Hamburgers offers people a return to simpler days, including original chairs, tables, signage, and original menus hanging on the wall.

Want to enhance the emotional message your brand brings? Brand marketers suggest starting with steps like these:

  • Treat prospects as people rather than buyers
  • Give people multiple chances or channels to try or become familiar with your products
  • Use ads with identity messages that motivate or move people
  • Create a shared community among purchasers
  • Inspire users to have dreams
  • Offer messages that give people an experience, not just information

Create stories that allow your company to be part of people’s lives and appeal to every aspect of your customers’ personalities: their ego, needs, dreams, or general emotional state.

These connections can happen through music, artworks, logos, signage, slogans, sport, or anything that really ‘speaks to your customers.

Above all, emotional branding seeks to build lifelong partnerships between a business and its customers. Once someone is emotionally captured by a brand, they are more likely to stay loyal for decades.

Expert Advice for Classy Custom Labels

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In today’s visually-oriented market, brand persona is everything.

Strong, simple visuals go a long way toward giving you a rock-solid image to stand tall above competitors and to capture customer attention.

While companies work hard to shape outbound marketing, they can easily overlook options for the packaging and presentation of their products. Even simple tweaks can go a long way in making your brand shine!

Custom printed labels can offer a durable, stunning accent to your product or printing. But there are many variables when it comes to printing labels. From the right materials to laminate finishing, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Here are a few tricks we’ve learned over the years to help you craft labels to heighten brand appeal.

Less is More.

When it comes to labels, it’s important for your message to connect immediately.

When a label has complex fonts or busy designs, it can be difficult for readers to engage with your product. Keep your designs, images, and borders clean and simple for maximum user experience. If you post nutrition facts, make them as concise and reader-friendly as possible. Non-standard shapes or labels that match your package size are a great way to bring precision and flair.

Color is King.

Want to stop them in their tracks?

Colors command attention and make your message sing.

Try splashes of color against neutral backgrounds, or complementary colors that bring depth and warmth. If your label intends to communicate flavors, seek to pair colors that carry these natural associates (like greens for lime or orange for citrus).

As you design label colors, your goal is to help users find or associate with your product more easily. If you already have a branded color scheme, use this as your prominent theme. Colors help customers recognize your product and feel secure when they purchase in the future.

Fonts Rule.

Nothing says sleek like a perfectly sketched font.

Work to find the right balance of clean and clever. If a font is too generic, it will be easily missed. If it’s too wild, it may be hard to read or seem silly. Stick to a font you’ve branded your company with, or use two fonts (max) to keep your label coherent and easy to read.

Experiment with font pairings: consider a headline that’s bold and condensed with a copy that’s light or vertically stretched. Or try an all-caps serif with an italicized sans serif to compliment. Test your font pairings on volunteers or gather feedback from artistic friends before finalizing a design.

Consistency Counts.

Labels help you build a personality.

What message will you send? What ideas do you hope to convey?

Keep your labels consistent with your brand identity, looking for distinct features you can highlight or graphics that illustrate your story. 19 Crimes Wines uses an interactive “Living Labels” app to allow each wine to unveil a mystery. Fieldwork Brewing uses blown up oceanside photos for its Island Time Sour Ales. Fit Buns High Protein Bread comes in a box that makes the pastries look like a ripped dude’s abdominal “6-pack.” The label also conveniently features a free fitness center coupon inside. Also, remember to keep your contact information accessible so customers can visit your website or contact you with feedback.

Let’s face it: in the marketplace, beauty is often skin deep.

Your label is a representation of the things you’ve worked hard to build, so go the distance to make your brand stick. Need ideas to get you started? From hangtags to custom adhesives, we’re your one-stop shop for creative label options!

What the Amazon Effect Means for Your Small Business

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When Josh Silverman took over Etsy (an e-commerce website focused on handmade and vintage items), he faced immense pressure to revive the company financially.

He didn’t disappoint. While shedding jobs and increasing holiday promotions, Etsy swung from a $29.9 million loss (in 2016) to an $81.8 million net income in 2017.

Managing this feat in the face of Amazon’s competition was impressive. Amazon notched $51 billion in net sales in the first quarter of 2018, recently confirming it has exceeded 100 million Prime members globally. In contrast, Etsy has 1.9 active sellers and 33.4 million active buyers.

Amazon is everywhere: delivering groceries, storing music, and putting items at your doorstep in two days or less. Amazon has been so present that it has become a verb: as in, “I Amazoned it.” While Amazon brings smiles to many, it brings tremors to some small businesses. Many are outraged at the demise of mom-and-pop shops, and even large-scale retailers have taken hits.

What It Means For Small Business

The Amazon effect is a catchphrase used to describe how Amazon has influenced our interactions with other businesses.

Because so many people are Amazon subscribers, this platform has raised expectations for shopping experiences. As writer Corey Pemberton notes,

“Because the vast majority of us use Amazon regularly, we’re well aware of a new kind of customer experience. We used to drive to the shopping mall, painstakingly search for items, and wait in long lines with little complaint. But now that we’ve experienced the joy of picking out things in our pajamas and clicking to have them shipped straight to us, the alternative seems substantially less desirable.”

Subsequently, expectations of all businesses have increased.

How Your Business Can Adapt

Here are four ways small businesses can adapt in the wake of Amazon’s influence.

1. Work to develop distinct, personalized products.

Part of what makes your business irreplaceable is the individual products only you can produce.

While resellers can undercut some sales, a small business with a unique, quality product can’t easily be replicated.

2. Partner with e-commerce platforms.

A recent Insureon insurance company poll of 2,400 business owners showed 68 percent of businesses surveyed said that online retailers had a positive impact on their business:

"[Online retailers] have forced small businesses to embrace e-commerce as a critical route to reach their consumers and revenue source," said Jeff Somers, president of Insureon.

Businesses that don’t sell online will struggle to stay relevant in the modern age, but e-commerce doesn’t just mean partnering with Amazon. Typically, a small business’s website is the most common place to sell.

3. Feature customer ratings and reviews.

When buying online, people need extra input to tip toward commitment.

When you’re looking to buy, who do you trust more: a long-time neighbor or a sophisticated salesperson? Obviously, humans are biased toward “ordinary people.” One of Amazon’s best features in their abundance of ratings and reviews. Capitalize on this yourself and allow the words of others to convince your prospects.

4. Become a destination.

Amazon is convenient, so make your business experience, not just an errand. Change your product mix regularly and make it enjoyable for people to physically “discover.” Add entertainment with lessons, parties, samples, or anything to engage families. Tell your story and give people pride in doing business with you.

An Enhanced Customer Experience

Amazon isn’t killing small business, but it is changing the way we buy and sell.

Payoneer e-commerce manager Iain McNicoll says Amazon has given entrepreneurs a chance to create customer experiences they might have otherwise been overlooked:

"People see Amazon as crushing small business," McNicoll said. "Really, I think it opens up a door for small business, allowing them to now reach new customers that they wouldn’t have been able to reach in the past."

Four Exercises to Fuel Your Design Innovation

Even the most brilliant creators need new fuel from time to time.

If you’re feeling stifled or uninspired (or you just want to have fun!) consider some of these creative “sparks” from designer Jim Krause to ignite fresh perspective in your monthly routine.

Exercise: Make a puddle of ink. Blow the ink around using a straw. Consider layering different colors of ink and using different kinds of paper. To mix things up, repeat this exercise but start the puddle of ink on an existing picture—a landscape, a silhouette, a cultural icon.

Takeaway: Creating things that create themselves reminds us that art is fun and beauty can arise from unexpected places.

Exercise: Choose a subject and create 25 thumbnail icons that depict its message and its meaning. If that’s too easy, try 50 or 100. Start with basic sketches and transition into graphic design or photos. Consider different line weights, shaded and filled areas, or combinations of geometric shapes.

Takeaway: Forcing yourself to sketch the same thing in different ways can build and broaden your artistic muscle. The next time you work on a concept, fill a full page with icon sketch versions of it before you settle on your design of choice.

Exercise: When was the last time you took out a paintbrush? Still-life portraits are a tangible way to sharpen your skills, especially when you combine objects of various shapes and textures in interesting arrangements (think eggs in a bowl surrounded by glass spice bottles on a bustled cloth napkin).

Takeaway: Still-life paintings are like eating your carrots: they’re good for you and increase your appreciation of texture. Painting helps you learn to see forms and colors, which makes you a more effective artist in any field.

Exercise: Begin with a blank piece of paper. Make a mark using the media of your choice (India ink, acrylic paint, and toothbrush, sketching pencils, chalk). The next mark you make will be a reaction to the first mark. This can be a new mark, a line, shading, fillers, or finishes. The goal here is not to “plan” what you’re going to draw but to practice progressive art by following one element to another (like a group of people taking turns adding sentences to a narrative). Your goal is not to create a thing of beauty, but simply to flow. If the results are pleasing, that’s fine. If not, that’ s ok too.

Takeaway: This exercise teaches the artist to rely on instinct: to react or flow rather than to plan and control. The best art can be born out of spontaneity.

Tend Your Roots

Creating is like breathing: it brings energy and life! If you only create what you’re “told” to do, you will stagnate. Tend your roots by cultivating the passions and interests that nourish your artistic core. As you pursue creative expressions outside your job or career, originality will flow in your profession as well.

Now that your designs are really singing, find high impact print options that won’t shock your budget. Want to talk cost-effective wow factors like thermography, high shine coatings, or alternative bleed options? Give us a call!

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