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Your retail store’s design is one of the most crucial elements of your success. The impact you make on your customer when they first walk in the door is what stays with them forever, so when they hear or see your name anywhere they think of the design. A lot of store owners, however, decide to focus on the interior more than the exterior. The walls, lighting, layout, and colors are all important elements of your design, but the real eye-catcher happens before the customer even walks in the door. The moment the potential customer sees your store, they immediately record this image in their mind because this design is how they’ll find you from now on. That image is their first impression.

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Gone are the days of clipping coupons and lugging around bulging coupon organizers. Our on-the-go culture doesn't allow for that kind of preparation for every shopping trip. To keep up with the evolving technology, you must think about what devices and programs your customers are using. To keep your customers coming back to your shop for the best deals, here are four apps to consider incorporating into your store.

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It’s never been easier for customers to get what they want: from the Internet to social media to mobile and, of course, in-store, shoppers can purchase virtually anything they want anytime from anywhere. As a result of this multichannel approach, retailers now have access to a vast pool of customer data that hasn’t existed until fairly recently.

By analyzing this data, retailers can better predict consumer behavior and respond in real-time to consumers’ individual needs.

To understand how the buyer expects to be “spoken to” in today’s omni-channel world, whether through a smartphone app, store associate or live chat online, retailers reach new depths in understanding customer shopping patterns and desires. Following are the types of analytics that retailers should be paying close attention to this holiday season, all of which could hold the key to not only improving the customer experience, but increasing operational efficiency and profits, as well.

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How Retailers Prep for Holiday Shopping

When something is so good, it is natural to try to relish in it as long as possible. This is especially true when it comes to shopping, specifically Black Friday shopping. In an effort to harvest as much of the holiday shopping revenue they can, businesses have been expanding Black Friday shopping hours, stretching it out over days, and even weeks, to where shoppers may start referring to it as "Black November."

One Day Becomes 30

Recent tradition has it that the biggest shopping day of the year is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Eager and well prepared shoppers pile up at the entrance, ready to enter stores like Wal-Mart on Black Friday to begin the frenzy of hunting down the best deals for Christmas gifts. For retail stores, this is the Super Bowl of shopping days. This year, however, things have changed. It's no longer just a big day of shopping.

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Protect Your Customers, Build Their Trust and Grow Your Business

When your customers come to your site to shop, they’re looking for convenience, ease of purchase and entertainment. They also are looking for protection from the online “bad guys.” Your customers trust you to automatically protect them from hackers, identity theft, phishing, malware, and the like. In light of some recent retail security breach fiascoes, however, a growing number of consumers are wary about shopping online.

How are you protecting your customer’s identities and profiles while they browse your site? What kinds of security policies do you have in place? Here are some ways to increase your security online so that your customers trust you implicitly.

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Injecting Financing and Streamlining the Procure-to-Pay Process

The saying “the only thing that is constant is change” couldn’t be more aptly suited to the retail industry. Retailers are striving to leap-frog one another and differentiate themselves on the front-end through marketing and advertising, yet their back end problems remain unresolved.

Global expansion and omni-channel are necessary to business growth, but if not done correctly, retailers often lose profits from high operational costs in areas such as the supply chain and supplier management. These costs often stem from lack of visibility in both the physical and financial supply chain. The latter has created such inefficiencies in operating models that the procure-to-pay process (P2P) has become a hot topic for retailers to master to mitigate financial risk and bring their costs down.

In fact, the entire P2P process was explored further in a survey of 83 retailers conducted by Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN) in June 2014, where it was revealed that a shocking 51% of retailers do not use integrated processes or systems when managing purchase orders, buying processes, trade documents, finance options and payment settlements in the supply chain. This article examines the gaps in the modern P2P process and ways to overcome them.

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Mars, Incorporated has announced that Todd Lachman, current President, Mars Global Petcare, decided to leave Mars at the end of 2014 to relocate his family to San Francisco, California. Todd has been with Mars for 8 years, first leading the Chocolate North America and Latin America business before moving into the lead role of the Mars Global Petcare business. Poul Weihrauch has been appointed as President Mars Global Petcare, effective Jan 1, 2015.

Read more: Leadership Changes at Mars Inc.

Since online fraud threatens the profitability of merchants, especially those that depend on card-not-present (CNP) revenues, it’s essential to use all your cross-channel data insights and intelligence wherever possible to deter it. It’s not just the fraud losses you need to avoid; it’s the associated expenses. According to the 2013 Lexis Nexis True Cost of Fraud Study, each dollar of fraudulent activity steals $3.10 from the bottom line of online-merchants.

There are, however, highly effective solutions you can put in place that give you the upper hand in fighting fraudsters and the specific threats and loop-holes they seek to exploit. Take these four steps to build your defenses and prevent criminals from sabotaging your bottom line.

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