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Red Lobster Closes Dozens of Locations Across the U.S., Including Colorado

NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of Red Lobster locations across the U.S. are on the chopping block.

Restaurant liquidator TAGeX Brands announced this week that it would be auctioning off the equipment of over 50 Red Lobster locations that were recently closed as part of the seafood chain’s “footprint rationalization.” The locations span across more than 20 states — cutting back on Red Lobster’s presence in cities like Denver, San Antonio, Indianapolis and Sacramento, California.

Restaurants in Lakewood, Lone Tree and Wheat Ridge were also among the Colorado closures.

It’s unclear if Red Lobster plans to shutter any additional restaurants in the near future. The Orlando, Florida-based company did not immediately respond to The Associated Press’ requests for comment.

On Red Lobster’s website, a handful of impacted locations were listed as “temporarily closed” or “unavailable” Tuesday morning.

Red Lobster has been struggling for some time. With lease and labor costs piling up in recent years, the chain is now reportedly considering filing for bankruptcy protection. A potential Chapter 11 filing could help Red Lobster exit from some long-term contracts and renegotiate many of its leases, unnamed sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News last month.

Maintaining stable management has also proven difficult, with the company seeing multiple ownership changes over its 56-year history. Earlier this year, Red Lobster co-owner Thai Union Group, one of the world’s largest seafood suppliers, announced its intention to exit its minority investment in the dining chain.

Thai Union first invested in Red Lobster in 2016 and upped its stake in 2020. At the time of the January announcement on its plans to divest, CEO Thiraphong Chansiri said the COVID-19 pandemic, industry headwinds and rising operating costs had impacted Red Lobster and resulted in “prolonged negative financial contributions to Thai Union and its shareholders.”

For the first nine months of 2023, the Thailand company reported a $19 million share of loss from Red Lobster.

And then there’s been the problem of endless shrimp. Last year, Red Lobster significantly expanded its iconic all-you-can-eat shrimp deal. But customer demand overwhelmed what the chain could afford, which also reportedly contributed to the millions in losses.

TAGeX Brands’ auctions for the more than 50 closing Red Lobster locations it’s handling liquidation for began Monday and will run through Thursday. The sales are “winner takes all” — meaning that one winner will receive the entirety of contents for each location. Images on TAGeX Brands’ website indicate that includes ovens, refrigerators, bar setups, dining furniture and more.

TAGeX Brands called the liquidation “the largest restaurant equipment auction event ever.” In a statement, founder and CEO Neal Sherman said that the goal of such online auctions was to “prevent high-quality items from being discarded in landfills” and instead promote sustainable reuse.

As of Tuesday morning, auctions for 48 locations were still live after another four sales closed Monday, TAGeX Brands said via email.

Red Lobster’s roots date back to 1968, when the first restaurant opened in Lakeland, Florida. In the decades following, the chain expanded rapidly. Red Lobster currently touts more than 700 locations worldwide.

Cultivating a Values-Driven Culture: How Neuro-Inclusion Enhances Business Success

In today’s fiercely competitive business landscape, success is often measured by financial metrics, market share and innovation.

These are necessary, for sure, but I’d like to dive into something that carries a little more weight, in my opinion. I’m talking about values.

Specifically how including neuro-inclusion into your values means better business.

What are your company’s values? Values often determine businesses’ long-term sustainability and impact beyond these tangible markers. And they’re often not recognized or included in growing an organization. Customers and the community often look to these when purchasing your product or hiring for services.

Every founder, business or organization has a different set of values. I’d like to share the ones we set up at TACT, why they’re important to me, and why we made them our cornerstone. I’d encourage you to do the same.

The values we use at TACT include inclusion, discipline, integrity, respect, grace and empowerment.

These serve as the foundation of our business; they not only shape our culture but also drive our decisions, relationships and overall trajectory. We use them in our staff evaluation, as the core for setting up partnerships and as the cornerstone for growth and development. TACT is a hub for the neurodiversity community in business.

READ: Building a Strong Foundation for Your Business — 6 Essential Values You Should Embrace

Inclusion

Inclusion is not merely a buzzword — it is a fundamental principle that fosters diversity, equity and belonging within an organization.

When businesses prioritize inclusion, they create environments where individuals from all backgrounds feel welcomed, respected and valued.

This diversity of perspectives, experiences and ideas fosters innovation, creativity and problem-solving. Inclusive businesses are better equipped to understand and cater to the needs of diverse customer bases, leading to enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Moreover, inclusive workplaces cultivate a sense of unity and camaraderie among employees, leading to higher morale, productivity and retention rates.

Discipline

Discipline serves as the backbone of operational excellence and organizational effectiveness.

Businesses that prioritize discipline adhere to rigorous standards, processes and timelines, ensuring consistency and reliability in their operations. Discipline instills a culture of accountability and responsibility, where individuals take ownership of their tasks and strive for continuous improvement.

Moreover, disciplined businesses are better equipped to navigate challenges and seize opportunities in a rapidly evolving marketplace. By fostering a culture of discipline, businesses lay the groundwork for sustained growth, efficiency, and resilience.

Integrity

Integrity is the cornerstone of trust and credibility in business.

It entails conducting operations with honesty, transparency and ethical behavior, even when faced with difficult decisions or temptations. Businesses built on a foundation of integrity earn the trust and loyalty of customers, employees and stakeholders. Moreover, integrity safeguards reputation and mitigates risks, enhancing resilience in the face of crises or controversies.

By prioritizing integrity, businesses not only uphold ethical standards but also differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, attracting discerning customers and investors who value authenticity and integrity.

READ: Want to Set your Business Apart From the Rest? Consider Apprenticeship

Respect

Respect forms the basis of healthy and harmonious relationships within and beyond the organization.

When businesses prioritize respect, they create environments where individuals feel valued, heard, and empowered to contribute their best. Respectful workplaces foster collaboration, communication and teamwork, leading to higher levels of engagement and productivity. Moreover, respect extends to interactions with customers, suppliers and the broader community, fostering goodwill and loyalty.

By prioritizing respect, businesses cultivate a positive reputation and brand image, enhancing their competitiveness and long-term success.

Grace

Grace encompasses empathy, compassion and humility in business interactions.

It involves extending kindness, understanding and support to others, even in challenging circumstances. Graceful leadership fosters a culture of psychological safety, where individuals feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas and learning from mistakes. In times of adversity or conflict, grace enables businesses to navigate challenges with resilience, empathy and integrity.

Moreover, grace fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among employees, leading to higher levels of trust, loyalty and collaboration.

Empowerment

Empowerment involves equipping individuals with the tools, resources and autonomy to unleash their full potential. When businesses prioritize empowerment, they create cultures of trust, innovation and accountability.

Empowered employees are more engaged, motivated and committed to driving organizational success. Moreover, empowerment fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth, where individuals are encouraged to take initiative, develop new skills and pursue their passions.

By prioritizing empowerment, businesses cultivate a pipeline of future leaders and innovators, ensuring continuity and sustainability in a rapidly changing world.

The bottom line

At TACT, these are the values we’ve picked. I hope you and your organization take a moment to dive into your values.

Ask yourself if your clients know them. Can they see your team live them? Values are the guiding principles that shape the culture, behavior and trajectory of businesses.

For us, when values such as inclusion, discipline, integrity, respect, grace and empowerment serve as the cornerstone of business, they foster a positive work environment and drive innovation, resilience and long-term success.

As your business navigates the complexities of the modern world, upholding these values becomes essential for fostering growth, sustainability and positive impact. By embracing values-driven leadership, businesses can create a better future for themselves, their employees, and society as a whole.

 

Danny Combs is a leading voice in creating equitable futures for neurodistinct individuals in business. Mr. Combs is the founder of TACT (Teaching the Autism Community Trades), the state of Colorado’s leading transition to employment and training organization, and the co-founder of the Colorado Neurodiversity Chamber of Commerce, the first neurodiverse chamber in the country. Danny has brought together almost 100 businesses to build better opportunities, pay, and career advancement for neurodistintic individuals. His organizations have raised over $5 million in funding to create scholarships to serve all socioeconomic classes.

Video Analytics: Leveraging Data to Optimize Your Video Marketing Strategy

No matter how good you think your video marketing strategy is, it’s not enough to rely on your intuition. Data and analytics are essential to make informed decisions, optimize your campaigns and ensure your videos are making an impact.

Whether your goal is to drive conversions, increase brand awareness or boost engagement, with video analytics, you can harness the power of data to see if your videos are performing and improve your future campaigns.

READ: Using Video in Email Marketing Campaigns — Best Practices and Benefits

What is video analytics?

Video analytics is the process of collecting, measuring, and analyzing data to assess the performance of a video campaign. With a data-driven approach, you can measure the effectiveness of your video content, see what’s working (and what isn’t) and optimize your strategies for future campaigns.

Video marketing objectives

Before you launch a video marketing campaign with brand videos or social media videos, you need clear objectives for what you hope to gain from the campaign. Some options include:

  • Brand awareness: Boosting the visibility and recognition of your brand with your target audience.
  • Audience engagement: Encouraging interaction and building relationships with viewers.
  • Lead generation: Attracting new leads and nurturing them through the sales funnel.
  • Sales conversions: Driving revenue by turning leads into loyal paying customers.
  • Customer retention: Strengthening the relationship with current customers and facilitating repeat business.

READ: Mastering Customer Retention Strategy — The Key to Sustainable Business Growth

key performance indicators (KPIs) for video marketing

Video key performance indicators (KPIs) offer crucial data to monitor your progress toward your goals. Here are some of the essential video KPIs and how to interpret them:

  • View count: The number of times your video has been viewed. This KPI helps you understand your video’s reach and visibility.
  • Engagement rate: The ratio of interactions to views, such as likes, shares and comments. This tells you how much your video is connecting with your audience.
  • Watch time: The total time viewers spend watching a video. This tells you if your video is holding your audience’s attention from start to finish.
  • Play rate: The percentage of viewers who clicked “play” on your video. This tells you if your video is appealing to audiences.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of viewers who clicked on the video after seeing a link or thumbnail. This KPI tells you if your video’s presentation encourages viewers to take action.
  • Conversion rate: The ratio of video viewers who completed a desired action, such as making a purchase or subscribing to a service. This KPI tells you if your video is persuasive and helping you reach your goals.

READ: Generating Leads on Instagram — 10 Proven Tactics to Enhance Your Social Media Reach

Video analytics tools

Analyzing data manually can be tedious and cumbersome. There are several video marketing analytics tools that can help you analyze your video performance efficiently for real-world decision-making, including:

  • Google Analytics: A popular web analytics tool that can be integrated with your video marketing campaigns for basic and advanced analytics, including tracking goals and events.
  • Vimeo: A video hosting platform that offers basic analytics features like geographic data, view count and engagement.
  • StoryXpress: A video hosting platform that offers detailed analytics features, including data visualization to put data into context.
  • Vidyard: A comprehensive video analytics platform that offers in-depth insights into engagement, conversion tracking and viewer behavior.
  • Native analytics: Major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube offer built-in analytics to help you track your video’s performance, such as watch time, traffic sources and demographics.

READ: 5 Ways User Behavior Analysis Drives User Engagement and Conversion Rates

Interpreting your data

With your goals, data and KPIs, you can make the most of your data and leverage it for improvements.

  • Identify patterns and trends: Look for patterns and trends in your video’s performance, such as topics that get more audience engagement or videos that have viewers dropping off at a certain point. When you see a clear trend, try to determine why it’s occurring and adapt your video content.
  • Understand audience demographics and behavior: You can learn more about your viewers’ demographics, interests, preferences and behavior using the data you get from your current video analytics, which will help you deliver better messaging in future campaigns.
  • Compare formats and channels: Always evaluate the performance of your video format, such as short-form, long-form or live videos, to see what holds the audience. You should also compare the performance across major channels like Facebook and YouTube to find out where your audience is interacting with your video.
  • Identify high-performing videos: Determine which videos perform best based on engagement and conversion, and why, and use those insights to develop your other video campaigns.
  • Improve video presentation: Analyze CTR and view counts, then make adjustments to titles, descriptions, thumbnails and distribution channels to improve performance.
  • Streamline call-to-action (CTA) phrases: Use your conversion rate data to improve your CTAs and encourage viewers to take the actions you want.

READ: Cracking the Code of Business Marketing — 10 Strategies for Success in a Dynamic Landscape

Embrace data-driven video marketing

Leveraging data and analytics for your video marketing campaign is essential to your success.

When you capture and analyze the data, you can rely on hard evidence that your strategy is working — or needs to be improved — and make smart, informed decisions for future campaigns that deliver results.  

 

Torrey Tayenaka is the co-founder and CEO at Sparkhouse, an Orange County based commercial video production company. He is often asked to contribute expertise in publications like Entrepreneur, Single Grain and Forbes. Sparkhouse is known for transforming video marketing and advertising into real conversations. Rather than hitting the consumer over the head with blatant ads, Sparkhouse creates interesting, entertaining and useful videos that enrich the lives of his clients’ customers. In addition to Sparkhouse, Torrey has also founded the companies Eva Smart Shower, Litehouse & Forge54.

 

How to Position Your Business for Sale: 6 Preemptive Exit Planning Strategies You Can Implement Today

One strategic imperative transcends the immediate plans for scaling a business: positioning the business to sell.

Importantly, this goes beyond the misconception that exit planning is solely about exiting or selling the business.

But here’s the truth: Exit planning isn’t solely reserved for those at the brink of departure. Even for business owners who may not currently have intentions of selling their business, or who feel that an exit is a distant consideration, the merits of early and long-term planning for exit position the business as a valuable asset in the long run.

The value of proactive planning — and implementing strategies to build a sellable asset — extends beyond an eventual sale. It creates a robust and future-ready business that can confidently navigate the dynamic landscapes of entrepreneurship.

Aside from starting your plan as early as possible, here are some strategies and considerations for business owners seeking to optimize their exit strategy.

READ: Exit Planning — New Study Shows Most Colorado Business Owners Are Not Ready to Sell Their Businesses

1. Optimize your finances

Optimizing your finances early on in your business journey is essential for setting a strong foundation and maximizing valuation potential for a potential exit.

Begin by conducting a meticulous financial analysis to identify areas for improvement, focusing on both cost reduction and revenue enhancement. Implement advanced financial systems and tools to ensure accurate reporting and forecasting, which is crucial for attracting investors and buyers.

Forge strong relationships with financial institutions to secure favorable terms on loans and other financial products, and focus on optimizing working capital to improve cash flow and liquidity. Prioritize profitability over revenue growth, and document financial processes to ensure consistency and transparency. Seeking professional advice from experienced financial professionals can provide valuable guidance on optimizing finances and preparing for a potential exit.

2. Build operational efficiency

Start by conducting a comprehensive operational audit to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies across all aspects of your business.

Once identified, streamline processes by eliminating unnecessary steps and standardizing procedures, leveraging automation and technology solutions wherever possible. Regularly update standard operating procedures to remain agile in response to changing market dynamics. Invest in employee training and development to ensure your team has the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their roles. 

READ: 3 Trends That Will Shape Business in 2024 — Digital Tools, Labor Markets and Strategic Partnerships

3. Grow your customer base and relationships

Growing your customer base and nurturing relationships early on in your business is crucial for long-term success and potential exit strategies. Start by defining your target audience and developing a strong brand identity that resonates with them. Implement targeted marketing strategies across various channels and prioritize exceptional customer service to ensure satisfaction. Track key metrics to measure the health of your customer base and stay agile by adapting strategies based on market trends and feedback. 

4. Build human capital

First and foremost, prioritize investing in comprehensive training and development programs to enhance the skills and expertise of your workforce. This not only improves productivity but also adds significant value to the business.

Secondly, foster a positive workplace culture characterized by collaboration, innovation and inclusivity. A positive environment boosts employee satisfaction and retention, which can positively impact the company’s valuation.

Thirdly, ensure that employees understand and align with the company’s goals and objectives. By linking individual goals to the overall business strategy, you maximize productivity and efficiency, making the business more attractive to investors or buyers.

Additionally, provide clear career progression paths within the organization to demonstrate a commitment to employee growth. Regular performance evaluations and feedback sessions help employees understand their potential and contribute to the company’s success.

READ: Navigating the New Era of Employee Engagement — Everything You Need to Know

5. Build a strong management team

Building a strong management team early in your business is crucial, even if you cannot afford top talent.

Start by identifying individuals with potential, passion and a willingness to learn, rather than solely focusing on high-profile candidates. Offer equity or performance-based compensation to align the interests of the management team with the company’s success. Invest in the development of less experienced candidates, providing training, mentorship and opportunities for growth within the company.

Leverage your professional network and seek referrals to find suitable candidates who may be a good fit for your business. Consider part-time or contract roles to access specialized skills and expertise without committing to full-time salaries. Emphasize the company’s mission, values and culture when recruiting, highlighting the opportunity to make a meaningful impact and be part of a dynamic team.

6. Double down on your marketing and positioning

Tailor your approach to your business’s unique needs and goals. Identify your target audience and focus on high-impact strategies that resonate with them, rather than trying to cover all possible marketing channels.

Analyze competitors to find gaps and opportunities in the market, and be willing to experiment with new approaches to stay ahead. Measure and iterate on your marketing efforts, using data to optimize your campaigns for better results.

Stay true to your brand and seek professional guidance if needed to ensure your marketing efforts align with your business objectives. By taking a strategic and selective approach, you can maximize the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and position your business for success.

While the prospect of exit planning may seem distant or unnecessary for some business owners, strategic preparation extends far beyond the eventual sale. Early planning fosters strategic decision-making, financial optimization, and organizational resilience, positioning your business as a valuable asset. 

 

Jill Simonds is the founder of Savvy Strategic Partners, a fractional C-suite specializing in propelling businesses — from early-stage startups to medium-sized enterprises — toward accelerated success. Jill serves businesses as a COO & Integrator (EOS®). Savvy Strategic Partners help business owners grow the value of their business, the power in their operational structure, and the health in their people and teams.

Navigating the Impact of Tip Inflation: The Rise of Gratuity Expectations in Colorado and Beyond

For all my life, what with all of the various jobs I have had over the decades, for whatever reason I have never had a job where I received tips, or gratuities, as part of my income.

I have been around tipping, of course, as I have had many friends over the years who were food servers, or caddies, or any number of service industry employees where tipping was not only a part of their income but essentially the core of their income. After all, there has always been a second, and lower minimum wage for people employed in classic tipped positions.

For instance, the current minimum wage in Colorado is $14.42 per hour for most positions, with an $11.40 per hour level set for positions considered a “tipped wage” position. In Colorado, a “tipped employee” is anyone who in the normal course of their job receives more than $30 in tips per month.

READ: Colorado Cities Soar in Milken Institute’s Best Performing Cities Report 2023

The “tipped employee” definition is key these days as the marketplace is undergoing an enormous shift in tipping behaviors, and is, at least in my estimation, heading into untenable territory.

I have had a lifetime of gladly offering gratuities in service situations, and I have never really given it a second thought. They live on tips, so tip them. But in the last several years the tipping environment has changed immensely, where we now routinely see tip jars and tip lines on credit card statements and iPad payment screens at establishments of every stripe. I call this the Starbucks Phenomenon, as the coffee house explosion brought about the first example of counter staff expecting tips that I recall.

Now it’s everywhere. Bakeries. Fast-food sandwich shops. Markets. Donut counters. Delivery services. Tradespeople.

The real explosion in tipping came along with the coronavirus pandemic where we all relied upon a myriad of service workers — “essential workers” — just to get our hands on the necessities of life.

It was a big Thank You for the risks they were taking on our behalf.

The pandemic is over, thank the Lord, but the ubiquity of the in-your-face guilt screens of tipping shame have only expanded. 15%. 20%. 25%. Custom Amount. Clerks at counters and workers nearly everywhere — places and people that never were included in the tipping atmosphere — are happily turning that screen around to you with their smiling face silently exhorting, or extorting, you to hit one of the buttons and pay more.

READ: In Fort Collins, Small-Box Mercantile is the Latest in One-Stop Shopping

I’ve even heard of food delivery services that ask for a tip in advance and clearly indicate that the tip will factor in the speed of the delivery. There are all kinds of news stories addressing the new “guilt tipping” and “tip-flation” instances, and there are plenty of reasons to explore.

The most interesting of these is the idea that the rise in tip screens on those check-out iPads is really a way for the establishments themselves to avoid or diminish raising the pay of the counter personnel. So in that regard we are not only tipping the worker behind the counter but also the company running the business as well.

I guess I would rather see the worker get the extra money directly right there and then, but it’s a little disingenuous. Rather, they could raise the worker pay, and increase the price of a sandwich by two bucks and attain the same outcome, but either way the net effect is that all kinds of things now cost 15% to 25% more than they did before and some people — no tippers — aren’t paying their share.

Many of these businesses are also raising prices and adding service fees and credit-card fee premiums on top of tips anyway.

I don’t really begrudge anyone in the service industry getting a tip; I just object to the method by which a broader gratuity economy has come into being. Tip creep, if you will.

In the end, however, it isn’t really the whole tip-flation thing that is the essential question.

A tip — and the amount of a tip — has traditionally been a reward, or a penalty, for the level of service received. So, with all of the added areas of tipping sprouting up all over the place ad nauseam, are we being served?

That’s debatable.

 

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Read this and Rundles’ blog, Executive Wheels, at cobizmag.com or email him at [email protected].

5 Essential Strategies to Enhance Digital Customer Experience for eCommerce Success

If you run an online store, you don’t have the face-to-face opportunity to engage your customers and sell products. Instead, you need to make transactions easy and frictionless. These five digital customer experience strategies will show you how.

READ: Unlocking Brand Loyalty — Enhancing Customer Experience in the Digital Age

What is digital customer experience?

Digital customer experience refers to the range of online interactions your customers have with your brand, from social media to online support chats. 

When it comes to improving your digital customer experience, you have to take everything into account — from minute details of your branding to the requirements for enterprise architecture. After all, your business goals need to be aligned with your technology capabilities. One of the key benefits of an improved digital customer experience is increased transactions. 

Streamline your online transactions with these 5 strategies

1. Optimize for mobile users

How many purchases have you made using your smartphone? Chances are, many of your website visitors are using their mobiles, and you need to cater to them as much as you do to desktop users. 

Some simple steps you can take to keep your mobile users happy and streamline transactions include:

  • Mobile-friendly navigation: That means easy-to-use search bars and menus set up specifically for mobile users.
  • Multiple communication channels: If a mobile user needs customer support, they may prefer to email or even use live chat. Integrating a cloud-based virtual telephone system into your customer support tech can help you do this.
  • Mobile payment options: Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as guest checkout options, are essential if you want to ensure mobile transactions are completed. 
  • Touch-friendly: Swipeable product carousels and tappable item customization are some simple ways you can make your website fun and engaging for smartphone users.

Ensuring intuitive website design and layout is crucial for mobile users. Incorporating touch-friendly features such as swipeable product carousels and tappable item customization can enhance the overall user experience, making your website more engaging and easier to navigate on smartphones.

READ: 11 Essential Questions to ask eCommerce Web Developers

2. Personalization

If a customer can find what they want or need right away, they’re more inclined to make a purchase.

We quickly get tired of searching for desired products. Personalization can help by allowing you to target products or services at customers based on their past behavior. This is also known as appealing to your target audience.Personalization tools and plugins for your website use data such as past purchases or browsing history to present relevant product recommendations or offers. 

Delivering personalized experiences not only simplifies the shopping process but also cultivates authentic connections with your customers. This personalized approach is at the heart of relationship selling, where understanding and meeting the individual needs of each customer builds trust and loyalty over time.

If you run a larger business, you might leverage customer data stored in your SAP systems or CRM (customer relationship management) software to implement targeted content on your website.  

READ: CRM-Metaverse Integration: What You Need to Know for 2024

3. Simplify the checkout process

We’ve already mentioned how guest check-out options and mobile payment can help streamline online transactions. But you should consider your checkout process as a whole and simplify it at every step. 

Some additional steps you can take to do this include:

  • Minimized forms: Customers don’t want to spend ages filling out forms, so simplify and minimize them as much as possible.
  • Progress indicators: We like to know when a dull task will end, so use an indicator to tell customers where they are in the checkout process (i.e. ‘review’, ‘address details’ and ‘payment’). 
  • One-click checkout: If customers can save their address and card details, give them the option to purchase with a single click. 

Rather than letting your customers abandon carts due to a frustrating checkout process, simplify it to increase online transactions to potentially increase your free cash flow by capturing more sales and minimizing costs associated with failed transactions. 

4. Provide real-time order tracking

Real-time order tracking offers customers visibility into their purchases from checkout to delivery, ensuring a smooth journey from start to finish.

Integrating a robust delivery management system can further enhance this feature, providing accurate updates on order status and delivery timelines.  Accurate updates on order status and delivery timelines can also help you reduce customer inquiries and mitigate potential issues. Consider implementing cloud-based solutions that improve the reliability of your order tracking and reduce IT costs associated with this service.

5. Optimize your online customer support

Optimizing online customer support is paramount for enhancing the overall shopping experience. You should implement live chat, chatbots and self-service options so your customers can resolve queries quickly. 

In addition to ensuring your online customer support is speedy and easy to use, consider leveraging analytics that can provide insights into support performance and improve your customer retention. Analytics can reveal patterns and trends in customer inquiries and help you anticipate common issues. For example, by tracking frequently asked questions or recurring support tickets, you can improve your self-service resources. 

Innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence can revolutionize online customer support by powering chatbots that provide instant assistance, anticipate customer needs and streamline query resolutions.

READ: AI for Customer Service — 5 Easy Ways to Help Your Customers

Make purchases simple

Simplicity is key to successful online transactions. Prioritizing streamlined processes and responsive support, so you can make purchases simple and enjoyable and ultimately improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

 

Diana Nechita is the Director of Product Marketing at Ardoq. Her passion lies in fostering a deep understanding of Ardoq’s value in delivering tangible results for organizations navigating the complexities of digital transformation. Find her on LinkedIn.

Elevate Your Online Brand: How Social Media Marketing Can Boost eCommerce Sales

For eCommerce business owners, mounting competition in the virtual retail space makes it increasingly challenging to boost their online sales. Do you struggle when it comes to winning a new customer and retaining your existing ones? If so, you’re not alone.

Forward-thinking entrepreneurs and digital marketers are already leveraging the power of social media marketing in the eCommerce space. With 5.17 billion users on social media, why not capitalize on the immense potential and build your online clientele?

Social media has emerged as a powerful tool for brands to connect with their target audience, driving engagement to boost sales. With raging competition in the online retail space, social media marketing is no longer an add-on for digital entrepreneurs.

Rather, it’s a strategic tool to gain an edge over your competitors. 

On average, individuals spend 143 minutes on social media per day, which comes to roughly 2.5 hours. So, why not streamline your social media marketing strategy to present your offerings at their fingertips?

READ: eCommerce SEO – 6 Easy Tips to Drive Organic Sales

How does social media marketing strengthen eCommerce?

One of the best perks of using social media for marketing eCommerce products is the ability to track your customers’ online journey. Successful marketers are leveraging the power of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat to understand their customers better. 

A recent study revealed that global eCommerce sales through social media marketing are projected to rise to $8.5 trillion in 2030 from just $992 billion in 2022. These numbers clearly define the tremendous potential of social media marketing for virtual retailers.

Benefits of social media marketing for online brands

Here’s how brand leaders leverage social media to boost online exposure and sales.

1. Enhancing brand awareness

As an active tool, social media engages millions of global users to enhance your brand awareness. As you interact with your target audience and discuss the launch of new products, the word spreads through likes, shares and comments. Social media marketers also create visually appealing graphics to narrate the story behind your brand.

Digital marketers also create content following popular social media trends that your followers find relatable. With increased brand awareness and recognition, traffic on your site gains traction, eventually leading to higher sales volumes.

2. Engaging your customers

Thanks to engagement metrics and data analytics tools, digital marketers can track social interactions and improve the overall virtual buying journey for their clients. 

Social media is one of the broadest platforms that connects eCommerce brands directly to potential buyers. Users can also raise queries about their grievances through social media channels for instant resolution.

Established virtual retailers like Ubuy also respond to customer inquiries on social media, review feedbac, and build brand loyalty. Eventually, this leads to better customer retention, as satisfied buyers tend to make repeat purchases from eCommerce websites.

A short response time on social media handles also creates a positive impression on your audience, reflecting agile customer service.

READ: How Brands Can Grow Customer Loyalty and Build a Positive Reputation

3. Targeted advertising

A wide range of advertising options is available on social media that help marketers target specific groups based on interests, online purchase behavior and demographics. Ecommerce brands, can, therefore, reach the right customers through advertisement for higher conversions and sales.

While potential customers use social media during their leisure hours, experienced marketers seize the opportunity to pitch their offerings informally through social media marketing.  That’s the reason users come across personalized recommendations of relevant products on their News Feed on Facebook.

This personalizes the user journey since these recommendations are based on their preferences and previous purchase history.

4. Social commerce

In the eCommerce domain, social commerce has turned out to be a popular trend.

Businesses sell their products directly on social media platforms. For instance, Facebook and Instagram allow virtual brands to create a shoppable feed of their merchandise. Followers can seamlessly access these products, leading to better sales and conversions. This innovative approach ensures that users need not leave social media platforms while making the purchase.

5. Online reputation management

As you try to gain traction in a competitive market, managing your online reputation is critical. Successful online brands showcase their reputation through social media marketing to build trust and instill confidence as they explore new shores.

Why not leverage positive feedback and testimonials of your existing customers on social media as you pitch your products to new ones? Words spread quickly through social media channels when your customers love your products!

The bottom line

Social media has evolved over the years, transforming from a mere platform for interacting with friends to a powerful tool to market your brand.

With new social media marketing strategies like influencer marketing, real-time streaming to sell products and personalization based on UGC (user-generated content) dominating recent trends, digital marketers have been proactive to spruce up sales. 

No wonder why established eCommerce brands and start-ups partner with professional social media marketing agencies to consolidate their position amidst raging competition. 

 

Fahad Khan is a Product Manager and digital marketing enthusiast at Ubuy Technologies.

What Do Stakeholders Really Want From Colorado Businesses? True Corporate Sustainability.

Coloradans care about the natural world and will support efforts to preserve the environment. This is exemplified by the recently passed state bill 23-016, which aims to cut economy-wide emissions by 65% by 2030 and 90% by 2045.

However, Coloradan firms that want to embrace corporate sustainability will need to go beyond greenwashing tactics to appease state-wide stakeholders. This means that many companies will need to embrace socially conscious business models while taking steps to reduce waste, minimize carbon emissions, and increase recycling rates. 

Companies that take these steps will appease demanding stakeholders and prove that they are authentically committed to combating climate change. 

READ: How to Embrace Socially Conscious Business Models (and Increase Your Profit Margin)

Carbon emissions

Capping carbon emissions should be a chief priority for firms that want to brand themselves as sustainable.

However, recent data published by the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) shows that Colorado is behind on its carbon targets. Today, EDF projections show that the state is set to exceed its emissions target by 153 million tons of carbon pollution.

Corporations can take their responsibility for climate change seriously by looking for alternatives to popular carbon credits. Carbon credits have gained a poor reputation recently due to fears about their ineffectiveness and rumors that some credits are overestimated, poorly tracked and double-counted. Rather than putting all their resources into carbon credits, firms can use tactics like: 

  • Improving supply chain sustainability by sourcing locally produced goods and sustainably sourced water or energy.
  • Purchasing more renewable energy systems, like solar panels, to power offices and mitigate energy waste.
  • Reducing the footprint of corporate buildings by using smart tools like automated temperature controls.
  • Embracing circular economy models to cut down on the carbon costs associated with production.

These steps authentically cut down on carbon emissions and help firms become more energy-efficient. Businesses that embrace these policy changes may benefit from cost reductions, too, as solar panels and recycled goods tend to cut down on operating overheads. 

READ: 4 Strategies for Corporate Social Responsibility in the Workplace

Improved reporting

Accurate reporting is essential for Colorado businesses that want to impress stakeholders with their sustainable policies.

Without accurate, reliable reporting measures folks will not be able to accurately assess whether or not a business is truly sustainable or simply greenwashing. Companies can improve their reporting by embracing corporate sustainability technology like: 

  • AI-driven ESG reporting that is capable of crunching huge data sets related to carbon emissions, water waste, recycling and environmental impact.
  • Impact Measurement and Management (IMM) software to track the progress of sustainability initiatives and measure the impact of ongoing initiatives.
  • Integrated data analysis programs that can collect data from external sources to improve impact monitoring and identify trends.
  • IoT sensors are capable of gathering data related to water mismanagement, temperature controls and machinery to better track key data points like energy consumption and waste production. 

These tech-driven tools are capable of analyzing huge data sets and can make sense of information that would otherwise be lost. This is key for firms that truly care about the wider impact of their business and want to stay accountable for their wider impact.

Utilizing these programs and devices can help companies make ESG a priority and may lead to enhanced operational efficiency. 

The bottom line

Stakeholders across the state are demanding that businesses take their commitments to climate change seriously. However, many firms do not know how to authentically reduce their impact or report the progress.

ESG technology can help by tracking key data points like carbon emissions and water waste. This can help companies make progressive decisions, like installing solar panels and recycling more waste materials, that improve operational efficiency and cut down emissions. This can be transformational for companies that have previously relied on carbon credits to offset their impact. 

 

Indiana Lee headshotIndiana Lee is a writer, reader, and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. An expert on business operations, leadership, marketing, and lifestyle, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Future-Proof Your Company: 5 Key Strategies for Business Success in 2024

The world and the economy never stop evolving, and in 2024, customers expect more than just great products.

Recent studies show that over 70% of consumers want to buy from companies that align with their values, especially in health, sustainability and digital innovation. This shows us the importance of understanding what people demand from the brands they support.

Business plans that fail to address the specifics of the post-pandemic world are likely to have a hard time convincing investors.

READ: Adapting to the New Norm — Post-Pandemic Work Culture and the Future of Remote Work

Prioritize health and wellness in your business model

Adding health and wellness into what you’re selling is more important today than it’s ever been.

People everywhere want to live healthier lives, and if your products or services can help them do that, you’re on the right track. This makes your brand more attractive and shows you’re serious about helping people live better. 

A health-focused workplace can boost productivity while seeing people as more than just workers. It creates a place where people feel valued and happy to come to work. Plus, it makes your company stand out to anyone looking for a job, attracting people who want to work in a place that cares about them.

It’s all about making your company not just a place to work, but a place where everyone feels they belong and are supported.

Leverage the gig economy for operational flexibility

Using gig workers lets your business adjust quickly when you need more hands on deck or when things slow down.

This approach is great for handling busy times or special projects without having to hire more full-time staff. It keeps your business flexible and able to react fast to whatever comes your way, making sure you can always meet demand without overextending.

Mixing permanent employees with gig workers gives your company the best of both worlds. You have the steady presence of your full-time team for the day-to-day operations, while gig workers can jump in for short-term needs or special tasks. This setup helps your business grow and adapt quickly, making it easier to take on new challenges or scale up without missing a beat.

It shows that your company is smart about how it operates, ready to change and grow in today’s market.

READ: Harnessing the Power of the Gig Economy — How Skilled Freelancers Can Boost Your Business Growth

Innovate for the remote-first world

Give your team the latest in cloud technology and project management tools. These are key for a smooth operation, making sure everyone, no matter where they are, can work together like they’re in the same room.

To keep the team spirit alive and everyone feeling connected, think creatively. Team-building in virtual reality (VR) offers an exciting way to bring everyone together, making it more engaging than traditional video calls. Create spaces on Slack or Discord for casual chats and celebrating small wins, which helps everyone feel like part of the team.

Use these strategies to enhance team morale and demonstrate that your company embraces innovation and is a place where top talent thrives. 

READ: 3 Trends That Will Shape Business in 2024 — Digital Tools, Labor Markets and Strategic Partnerships

Incorporate AI and machine learning for smarter operations

Start using AI and machine learning to enhance how your business operates.

These technologies can improve customer experiences, streamline operations and even lead to new product innovations. With the new set of tools at your disposal, consider making every part of your business smarter, faster and more intuitive for your team and customers.

For instance, you could use AI to analyze customer data and predict trends, helping you stay ahead of market demands. Or, employ machine learning to automate routine tasks, freeing up your team to focus on more strategic projects.

It shows you’re serious about staying competitive and future-proofing your operations and signals to potential investors and partners that your business is at the forefront of technological advancement, ready to capitalize on the benefits these tools bring.

READ: AI for Customer Service — 5 Easy Ways to Help Your Customers

Build resilience through supply chain innovation

Strengthen your supply chain with innovative strategies to make it more resilient.

Diversifying suppliers and investing in local sourcing are two main directions to follow. These approaches reduce risks, such as delays or disruptions, ensuring your business can always deliver to your customers.

Another key step is introducing real-time tracking and response systems. These systems allow you to monitor your supply chain closely and act quickly if issues arise. By innovating your supply chain, you’re setting your business up for smoother, more reliable operations. This demonstrates to your customers and partners that you’re committed to quality and reliability.

READ: Blockchain Development in Supply Chain Management — How it’s Changing the Game

The bottom line

The strategies we’ve discussed serve as the foundation for creating businesses with lasting impact and relevance.

Considering that only a small fraction of startups make a significant mark, it’s important to bulletproof your business plans and distinguish your idea in the crowded market.

Whether you’re already an experienced veteran or just looking at how to start a business in Colorado, the real challenge isn’t deciding whether to adopt these innovations but recognizing the risk of ignoring them. 

 

Chris Allen is the SVP of Marketing at Heartland, a people-centric fintech company helping over 1 Million entrepreneurs run and grow their businesses. He has 15+ years of executive Marketing leadership in B2B tech and SaaS.

The Art of Business Golf in Colorado: Turning Bogeys Into Birds on the Green, and in the Office

You can take clients to Elway’s for steaks and compete with the text notifications blinking on their cell phones, or to a Nuggets game and irritate the diehard fans all around you by discussing ROI and A/B testing. But there’s nothing like time on the golf course. Four hours walking or riding fairways together, with long leisurely gaps between shots and the timeless tradition of the 19th hole at the end.

“It is special,” says Ryan Smith, the Colorado Golf Association’s chief development officer.

“I think it’s a really great way to build trust and get to know someone, because ultimately a good business relationship is built around what they’re interested in and what they want to invest in, especially corporate partners and corporate dollars, whether it’s sponsorship or just investment in an event or a program, and also private donors.

READ: How to Do Business on the Golf Course — Counting Penalty Strokes

“And they get to see what I’m passionate about and what I’m excited to share, whether that’s playing really well, or playing poorly, which is more often the case.”

Smith has spent most of his career in fundraising, including with Habitat for Humanity before joining the non-profit CGA. He’s not a scratch golfer, and his handicap bears no relevance to the topic at hand. Just as some in sales excel at reading a room, Smith has honed his skills at figuring a foursome. Last year, the CGA tapped him to be executive director of its do-good department, the Colorado Golf Foundation.

I’ve played with Smith, and it was a pleasure. I’ve also spent years writing about golf, playing with colleagues and supervisors more powerful than me and with players much, much (and another much) better than I am. I’m convinced there’s no correlation between golf skills and success when it comes to the game of business golf.

Here’s how it works.

The venue

Golf courses are all over Colorado and a private club membership is not required for showing a client or colleague a good time. Smith uses the CGA’s CommonGround as a host venue with a special caddie program that turns into a talking point; see the sidebar for a list of more Colorado daily fee courses that are a cut above the local muni. Just be sure to secure a tee time far enough in advance to pin down your guests.

READ: Colorado Gold Guide — Top 7 Upscale Public Golf Courses

The invitation

The generous host goes beyond “be my guest.” Those buzzwords, of course, make it clear who’s paying. But, are there any rules the guest should know? Like, are cargo shorts prohibited, or does the club use rulers to ensure skirts are not too high above the knee? Is there a locker room, or is it OK to change shoes in the parking lot? If a group is playing, how will the foursomes be arranged?

The acceptance

It behooves the guest to ask the questions the host hasn’t thought to answer, or to call the course for answers to some of the thornier ones for hosted guests – like, for instance, “Is my money good in the clubhouse? Whom should I expect to tip?” Smith recalls neglecting to bring cash to his first round at Colorado Golf Club. “We had a caddie who worked his butt o ,” he says. “I was the one guy in the group who didn’t plan ahead. You don’t want to be running into the clubhouse asking for an ATM.”

Walking, riding, caddies

Most golfers expect to ride, so the kind host will talk to the grateful guest up front about how they will travel around the course. Does the guest have an injury, or inability to walk 18 holes?

If so, the host who always walks the course should plan to ride this time. If walking, are there push carts? Motorized caddies? Or, wow, real caddies?

Know that places like CommonGround, the Broadmoor, even famed Ballyneal host special programs designed to groom young people with life skills and the chance at an Evans Scholarship to CU. Unlike the career caddies to be found at some of Denver’s venerable golf clubs, the kids don’t necessarily know much about golf, which is all part of the fun.

Match ’em up

The appreciative guest will not decide which cart to jump into. It’s up to the host to pair up players who are riding, and, yes, it’s an art. One might check the GHIN app to find out a player’s handicap, or rely on other factors. Smith once hosted a VIP he would have liked to have ridden with but was wise enough to pair that player with another guest, who has since shown appreciation in many ways. But, he says, “If I’m trying to close a sale with someone, I want to be in their cart.”

Tee time: Men

Are we playing the blacks? The blues? The member tees?

Few decisions correlate to enjoyment the way this one does.

It used to be that if one guy said, “I want to play the whole course,” everyone went to the back tees with him. Now there’s more awareness of matching the length of the course to the length of your game. In business golf, though, it remains generally a group decision, so be prepared to roll with the flow.

READ: Revolutionizing Tee Time — GolfSnake App Offers Seamless Reservations for Denver Golfers

Tee time: Men and women

I checked in with Laura Robinson, former executive director of the Colorado Women’s Golf Association, about where the average woman golfer should tee up when playing a business round with three men.

The dilemma: play forward but miss the chitchat and camaraderie, or play back and suffer with your score.

“Always play from the right tee box,” Robinson declares. “I play with lots of guys and they are more impressed if I can get in par than which tee box I play from!”

And, for a man in the inverse situation: There is no rule against playing the forward tees. Smith does it!

Disguise your lack of skill

If you are a truly terrible golfer and cannot hope to finish out most holes with less than, say, a quadruple bogey, help the group move along quickly by pacing your play smartly. Lost two tee shots? “I’ll just drop my next one up there by (whomever hit it long and straight).” Just skulled your seventh shot over the green? “I’ll pick that up.” Then join the others on the green as they putt out, showing an interest in their games. There’s no need to apologize, ever: Golfers don’t care about your game, only their game. They might, however, watch to see how you handle adversity, so temper tantrums are not advised.

Don’t do the don’ts

Too many beers. Loud music. Slamming clubs, littering, cursing. Just don’t – you’re at a business meeting. Also, golfers will notice if you do not rake bunkers or ll divots or repair holes on the green. Score by cleaning up messes that aren’t even yours.

Know the rules of the game

No, not literally the Rules of Golf. Know which rules by which your group is playing. Are mulligans (aka do-overs) and gimmes encouraged? Is there any team game whereby you can pick up before holing out? If there’s a friendly wager, I strongly recommend participating with enthusiasm even if you are sure you are going to lose. This is a great opportunity to show sportsmanship and integrity.

If you’re playing by the Rules, count accordingly

Years ago I played with a woman who at the end of the day boasted of having broken 100. She’d taken so many mulligans and free drops, I could hardly keep from rolling my eyes. Ethics and integrity still have a place in the business world, don’t they? Well, they do on the golf course.

When to talk shop

On the golf course? Maybe. Over drinks and dinner at the 19th hole? Maybe. Some other day? Maybe. “I think that’s being sensitive to who you’re playing with,” Smith says. “I want to share about my background in golf and outside of golf and what my interests are. I think that’s just as important as it is to get to business. But sometimes four hours go by, and all you’ve done is talk business. I’ve also experienced the other side, where you conduct your business not even over a drink at the 19th hole but after the fact, because you’ve had that shared experience and now you can have a common language about what you’re trying to accomplish.” Of course, then there’s the matter of a tax deduction …

… Tax deductions? Forget about it!

Folks who actually work in golf might have the nerve to claim rounds or club memberships, but Congress did away with business entertainment, amusement and recreation deductions for most in 2017. What still works: As long as a business meal shows up separately on the tab, it’s a 50 percent deduction. However, remember to talk at least some “yadayada” to qualify your post-round drinks and dinner as a business meeting.

 

Susan Fornoff has covered golf for the San Francisco Chronicle, regional golf associations and her own GottaGoGolf.com. She is a member of the Overland Park Golf Course and Links at Highlands Ranch women’s clubs. This is her eighth Executive Golf Guide for ColoradoBiz