How Markets Can Evolve in a Digital World – A Roundtable Discussion

Retail is an evolving space, and some have questioned if retail is going away. If it is, how can small businesses stay relevant and draw customers? Recently, BoothBooks participated in a roundtable discussion on retail with renown retail expert Carol Spieckerman hosted by Off-Price (a must for any retailer and merchandiser), an industry leading publication on the retail industry.

Off-Price posed a series of questions on the retail industry that we parsed through and looked at how they apply to Flea Markets and Farmers’ Markets. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: What should small business owners focus on in 2017?

Everyone provided some great answers. There was much talk on staying true to your brand, and optimizing your store experience, as said by IndependentRetailer. “Knowing their brand & 100% committing to it (sic). A clear message seen in store layout, interactions, online…everywhere.”

Markets in particular can easily focus on what makes them “unique” and how they can better stand out from other markets. Perhaps a theme, or just shopping experience. A sentiment echoed by Carol, “Don’t get caught up in every trend and news cycle. Do what’s best for your customers and you’ll do whats right for your business.”

BoothBooks was quick to mention a high focus on data. Data gives you insight into your market: It can let you know who are your most valuable vendors, what days and times are most popular, or which products (or product categories) sell the best. Off-Price agreed, saying “Data & Content and King & Queen. Without data, how will you know what’s working?” Carol Spieckerman even called it a “match made in heaven ; )”.

Q: What can retailers learn from online retailers?

Once again, Carol provided some excellent insight. “Distinctions blurring, tho (sic) digital-to-physical is easiest play. Digital data makes physical forays pop.”

Another consensus was on the user experience in the store. A large reason for shopping online is pure convenience. Physical retailers need to try to increase their level of usability and ease. A great way to do that is to incorporate more technology.

BoothBooks always took this point to heart and worked to make it one of our core competencies. We worked hard to streamline the once laborious process of the vendor checkout. Billing, reports, maps, and more have all been streamlined to focus on speed, reliability, and the user experience.

We’ve also been making more information available to visitors, so they are able to find your market, discover its vendors, and learn what sets you apart. Carol agreed that bringing technology once exclusive to online retailers into the physical space was a crucial task to undertake.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for retail stores in the digital age?

Megan believes that it is “making yourself as accessible and convenient as digital competitors “ That’s similar to Carol’s sentiment, though she believes challenges are more like opportunities. “Nail customer experience & close sale while shoppers in store. Treat stores as experiential assets +Retail-tainment (sic). Ensure digital discoverability even if no Ecommerce.”

This is hyper-relevant to flea markets and farmers’ markets. Both are inherently sharable. Not only because #ShopLocal and #FreshProduce are popular, but because of the great finds that people love to boast about on social media. It is key to ensure a web presence to gain visibility and attract new shoppers. The same goes for customer experience. If the market looks dirty and uninviting, shoppers won’t return. For markets though, it’s not just shoppers, but vendors as well. You need to focus on their experience, and how they interact with your market.

Q: Who do you follow, or where do you find great insight for market and the retail experience?

There are so many places to get great ideas for small businesses. For markets, we humbly recommend our own BoothBooks blog (LINK) (shameless plug alert!) We here at BoothBooks are huge fans of podcasts, of which there is no shortage.

Carol pointed out a host of different twitter accounts, all of which are hugely popular and insightful. “retailwire I like aggregated perspectives: @wwd @adage @NRF @retailwire For creative thinking: @interviewmag @newyorker”

While its been widely reported that “Retail is Dying”, they couldn’t be more wrong. As Carol says “B&M (brick and mortar) never more relevant+enables digital. Hence clix-to-bricks Warby, Casper, Amazon. Different not ‘dead.’” Let us know your best small business tips down below in the comments, and stay tuned for more tips on how to rock your market.

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

6 Reasons to Visit Your Local Flea Market

You most likely don’t need another reason to visit your local flea market. There’s a whole host of them. We found 6 great reasons of why you should spend each weekend scouring the local swap meet for unique finds.

Community/local

Supporting your local community is one of those feel-good things anyone can do. Spending some time at markets is a great way to fulfill your sense of community, while still looking for great bargains.

Most vendors are your fellow townsfolk. Buying produce or odds and ends from them is going to help them out, as well as supporting the market as a whole.

Deals Galore

Like haggling? You will surely get your fill at the market! Vendors are almost always ready to barter on their wares. Score discounts for quantity, quality, or competing offers. With so much variability in the market, its easier than ever to score some quality discounts.

The Freshest Produce

As Chloe Biggs from Insider Monkey points out, flea markets are a great place to stock up on produce. If you’re interested in the freshest fruits and veggies, grocery stores or specialty stores can cost a pretty penny. Since a lot of vendors happen to grow their own, they are able to offer it at prices below what you’d find at your traditional retailer. Plus, its going to taste so much better!

Rare Finds

Shows like Pawn Stars and Storage Wars have given people the itch to go out and strike gold at pawn shops, garage sales, and storage lockers. Flea markets are a great place to score for rare finds too! Vanessa over at Mint Life put together a handy guide on how to be the ultimate “garage sale millionaire” so check it out to get started!

Meet New Friends

Some people hang out at bars. Others at the local park. Why not the flea market? Its got everything you need. Regulars, who come back week after week. Great food. And always the chance to find some great deals.

Come back to your local market a few times in a row and you could meet some great new friends that makes going to the flea market a much more social event.

Family Time

Markets are a great place to hang out as a family. Compared to tradition options like a movie or theme park, swap meets are super affordable, and have lots to explore. There will be new inventory available each and every week. Its also full of lessons like how to barter and the value of money.

Whatever your reason is, there is no bad one to pay a visit to your local flea market. Go explore, spend some time with your family, and discover the next lost work of great art.

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

Why Your Market Should Use Social Media

Lets chat about social media. There are endless articles focusing on why small-medium businesses should use social media, but does all of that apply to markets? Whether you run a farmers market, craft show, flea market, or swap meet, lets take a look at the top reasons YOU should be using social media to improve your business.

Vendors Support

Vendors are what drive customers to your market. You want outstanding vendors selling original artwork, the freshest produce, or the largest collection of vintage toys your shoppers have seen. We focus a lot of time on getting customers to come, but equal time should be spent on vendors. They are the ones who are paying to be there.
Using social media, you can drum up vendor support. You can get your market out there, for more vendors to see. If they see you are actively engaged in reaching new customers, they will be more likely to want to exhibit at your market.
On top of that, once you have a audience, you can use that audience to feature different vendors. Get vendors to agree to longer rentals in turn for promoting them on your social accounts. It doesn’t really cost you anything, but can be a benefit to them, and in turn, you. A little good will can go a long way.

More Customers

You already have an existing user base of shoppers who regularly visit your market. You don’t need to advertise at all to those people, as they should already be coming back. Using social media you can reach a new audience. If you are a farmers market and someone near you searches for fresh produce, your Facebook should come up. If you are a flea market and someone searches for vintage records, they should see you posting about that related content on Twitter.
Use content marketing across all these platforms to bring those keywords frequently into your feeds. Then when people search for those words and they are near your market, your content will start to rise to the top. Hashtags away!
Bonus tip! You can leverage your existing shopper and vendor customer base to help post on social. Ask them to post their finds which lets them have a sense of accomplishment, and advertises cool or delicious things real people were able to purchase at your market. Instagram is a great place to feature some of this stuff!

Promote Events

Events are a great way to bring an upswell of guests in a business that operates regularly. People may take breaks in coming to visit, but if you have regular events going on like live music, themes, or pet days, it gives them new reasons to get back in there, and hopefully buying from your vendors. If you just post on your website, you’d be taking a passive approach. People wouldn’t know unless they check out your site. If you try to take a more active approach by sending emails, it now requires you to get as many shoppers emails as possible to put onto an email list, then you need a campaign manger to send out all these emails.
Instead, try social media. Facebook has great tools for promoting events. You can even run ads with them! The idea here is that it is way cheaper to post to social media than send out an email campaign. It is also much easier to get people to follow you on social media than it is to get them to hand over a personal email address. This way you are still taking an active approach, but you are doing it for less, and getting a better response.

Affordable

Social media is really cheap and easy to get started with. There will be inevitable down time for employees, so have them update frequently throughout business days. They can even do it from their phone while they are walking the market. While they are out and about, it gives the great opportunities to see what is happening and capture some great pictures for twitter, Facebook, or instragram. The more stuff you share form your market, the more people may respond to it.
You can also sign up for things like Buffer, Hootsuite, and others for free to help manage social media channels. You shouldn’t have to pick and choose just Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You should be able to hit them all! Plus they have roles which allow you to see which employee is posting what.
Ads are also much more affordable and targetable on social than on larger platforms like google+. Share a post about an upcoming event for just a few dollars a day and you can get many new impressions.

Updates

If you want to update your customers on specific hours, those aforementioned events, or other applications to your business, you need an easy way to do so. If you try to do it through your website, you will a) need a website, and b) have one that is quickly and easily able to update.
Instead of investing all that time, money, and effort into a website, you can start our by using your social channel for these things. They are dead easy to update, even from your phone! Plus, people will check them more regularly than your website. Once your market grows, you can add a website too!

BoothBooks creates best-in-class market management software. Easily handleing payments, vendor registration, layouts, reporting, and more. To find out more visit our website, or check us out on social media.

How to Make Vendors Happy and Keep Them Coming Back

Vendors are the lifeblood of any market. Whether a flea market, farmers market, or swap meet. They keep you in business, and shoppers coming back week after week (or month after month). So one of the most important things you can do to keep your market running smoothly, is to take care of those vendors. Here are three ways to keep vendors happy, ensuring they keep coming back.

Keep Vendors Engaged

A lot of times we focus on how to make things easy for shoppers. But we need to spend time on the vendors as well. They are your customers! So think of ways to keep them engaged and happy.

You could try a vendor loyalty program. Where the more frequently they exhibit at your market, the different benefits they accrue. It could be as simple as food at the food court, though feel free to have fun with it. Maybe discounts on rent, or entered into regular drawings for prizes.

Using a tool like BoothBooks can help by seamlessly tracking who rented a booth that month, and how many times. If you are awarding a “cash” prize as a form of account credit, that can be handled as well which encourages them to stay with you in order to redeem it.

In the end, rewarding vendors for staying loyal to your market keeps them happy and coming back time after time.

Make Things Easy

Why make things overly complicated? Especially for vendors who constantly return, it doesn’t need to be a drawn out process. BoothBooks keeps a running history of each vendor, and with saved payment info, you can make the checkout process a breeze.

Its important to make things easy for new vendors as well. That first impression will help shape the opinion of your market and you want it to be a good one. If they require something specific like electricity or a covered booth, you want to make finding any acceptable booth locations or dates quick and easy. The easier it is to rent a booth, the more likely they will be willing to do so in the future.

Give them Options

Instead of just a carte blanche option of a flat fee for every booth, make pricing more dynamic and have vendors more engaged in choosing the perfect booth for them. BoothBooks offers a powerful rules engine that allows each booth to have a flat rate, but certain attributes will affect the price higher or lower.

This gives vendors more choices. If they want the bare minimum, you have now a cheaper option for them. But if they want that covered, corner booth by the food court that includes electricity, each of those attributes can increase the cost. That helps out vendors, but also can increase your bottom line.

You also want to offer options for payments and checkouts. Whether check, cash, or card, It is more accommodating to potential lessees, but you need to be able to track that intake clearly and report on it in the future.

Making the checkout process quick is also key. It allows you to process more transactions and lower wait times (which keeps vendors happy). You can even look at allowing vendors to check themselves out. An online vendor portal that allows them to choose the booth of their dreams from home makes it easier and thus increases the likelihood of getting them into your market.

Roundup

They key to a great market, is great vendors. Giving them options, making exhibiting easier, and rewarding them for coming back can help grow your vendor base, and in turn, your market.

4 Tips to Help Flea Markets Embrace Technology

Utilize technology to get the most out of your market.

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Flea Markets, while not alone in their intricacies, are still very much like other businesses. Large and small. Yet, many swap meet proprietors shun standards in technology that they really shouldn’t.
Technology has become an essential part of all businesses and it is important to break through the swell of companies fighting for your attention. So lets go back to basics and take a look at four tips every business should be aware of when considering technology.

1) Mobile is Important

It is crucial not to underestimate this tip. These days mobile is king and you have to be sure your business is ready to handle that. I don’t mean you need to rush out and have a mobile app created especially for your market, but there are easy and cheap ways to cater to todays consumer.
For instance, your website (you have a website, right?) should be responsive. That means it adjusts automatically based on the device people have. That way it fits on small phones, big phones, tablets, or computers. If you don’t have a mobile friendly site, users can’t access the information they need which can lead to frustration, the inability find your market, and a negative perception of your brand.
This isn’t a huge endeavor as a lot of the web design companies like GoDaddy, WIX, and others all now support responsive designs right out of the gate and are quite affordable.
With a mobile-optimized site your customers can find your market higher in search rankings, find operating hours and vendor information quickly and easily, or get directions. Alongside your website, take a look at your social media accounts, your Google Maps listing, and Yelp page.  These are crucial to improve your web presence.

2) Know your Data

Analytics are imperative and can help you really understand your flea market. You can get as fancy and sophisticated as you’d like. Want to know how many visitors you have each operating day? How many vendors you have? Which days are bringing in the most revenue? Which food items and your concessions are proving to be most popular? All can be tracked and reported on to help you make informed decisions and run your business more efficiently. Its important when looking at your software it isn’t just about functionality, but what data, insights, or reports you can glean from the system.

3) You don’t have to Break the Bank, but don’t be Cheap

It may be appealing to cheap out on technology, but in the long run, it isn’t worth it. Technology can really drive your flea market. Not just from the consumer side (where they can learn about your market, find hours, reviews, and directions), but from the vendor side as well. You are trying to attract two different groups of people and you want to remove any frustration for either of them.
For instance, without technology, when a vendor would like to reserve a booth for the weekend, it requires an employee to find available booths on those specific days, adjust the cost based on location and amenities, have the proper paperwork and contracts signed, all of which is cumbersome, time consuming, and error-prone. In today’s world, reservations can be made in advance online. Reducing mistakes, decreasing signup time, and freeing your employees to focus on other pressing matters.
If you choose cheap tech, that process won’t be smooth. Customers or vendors will be met with errors, long loading times, and often can cause more frustration than they are alleviating. Some good software, an iPad, and a few apps can be affordable and change the way you do business.

4) Its a Bird! Its a Plane! Its the Cloud!

Do you keep your data stored locally? Do you have a recent backup? Do you have an offsite backup? Data storage can be one of the most expensive and important parts of your markets tech arsenal. You need more than just an external hard drive, you need multiple backups on an offsite in case the worst should happen.
There is s bevy of information you should be retaining like transaction history, agreements/contracts, orders, and vendor rental history. An ideal solution would keep these all together, encrypted, and backed up.
Cloud solutions like BoothBooks help make that process easier, and more secure. All data is securely encrypted over SSL and backed up regularly. Ensuring if your hardware ever fails, the only thing you need to be back up and running is your closest web browser.

Get Going!

Embracing this list of technology basics for your flea market or swap meet can really modernize your business. Shoppers have a better experience, vendors have more customers and a speedier registration process, you are protecting your customers and vendors data, and you have new data insights to make informed decisions to help run your business. Combined, you will have a flourishing market and increasing profits while not having to break the bank.
BoothBooks is an affordable way to get started with technology. A clean and easy to use interface works across a variety of platforms like computers, tablets, and phones. Sign up to learn more and get started for free to see how easy you can integrate cutting edge technology into your flea market.