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10 ways big retailers track repeat customers (and your small biz can, too)

(MARKETING NEWS) Did you know that small business owners can use the same customer identification methods as larger counterparts—and potentially to greater effect?

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Earning repeat business

Since their inception, retail outlets have been tracking repeat customers. Some of their methods require large doses of patience on the part of the customer — something you can’t always count on — while others are as simple as entering a 10-digit number and looking for a match. Luckily, your small business can take advantage of these same techniques to ensure customer retention!

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Before delving into the “how”, however, consider a couple of things: the simple methods are often the best — especially in this context — and, similarly, the more effort your customers have to put into signing up for your tracking endeavors, the less likely they are to participate.

How to track your custies

With that in mind, here’s our guide on how to track your repeat customers in the least creepy ways possible!

1. Phone number
Exactly what it sounds like. This is probably the easiest (and most hassle-free) way to track your customers, since both you and the customer can enter it (via your computer or the card scanner, respectively) and pretty much anyone regardless of age has one.

You can also ask for a name along with the number to verify if you deem it necessary—doing so will make it easier to identify new members of a family shopping under the same 10 digits.

2. Email address
A safe alternative for those worried about ending up on a call list. While it takes longer to input and verify, the moral majority of customers will feel safe giving you their secondary email address. The impact on their personal life is minimal, and it’s easy to send a survey their way every once in a while to ensure retention.

Again, you can plug this into your computer or ask a customer to do so if you have one of those fancy touchscreen card readers (and if you don’t, treat yo’self—it’s time to upgrade).

3. Card number
A less-safe alternative for the technologically paranoid. While you can easily corroborate a card number and a customer purchase record, there are two glaring issues: one, your customers may pay cash, thereby negating your process; and two, tightening security restrictions and their accompanying liability risks make this an unattractive option.

Nevertheless, the right software should take care of this for you.

4. Geofencing apps
If your customers are willing to fulfill two bits of criteria — having a smartphone and downloading your app — then using a customized geofencing app is a quick and easy way to target your repeat customers. Keep in mind, though, that downloading an app may be too much effort for some people.

I’d love to tell you I’m joking.

5. Mobile apps
Kind of the same as the geofencing apps, except with a little more autonomy on the part of the customer. Make sure your app has a QR code and have your customers present said app at checkout.

Still not the best way to appeal to a large consumer base, but a store-specific app is a little less intrusive with push notifications than a geofencing app.

6. Loyalty cards
In a lot of ways, having a loyalty card is the best way to make this system work equally for you and the customer: you reap the financial benefits of customer retention, and your customers get special in-store deals and discounts.

Again, though, the initial sign-up process and the act of entering a number (or swiping the card) each time they hit the register might be too much of a hassle for some customers. Make sure your employees are really pushing the loyalty card at checkout, and be prepared to dish out some really sweet deals; if your business isn’t financially equipped to do so, you might want to stick to just taking down a phone number.

7. Voucher codes
Similar to the loyalty card approach. You might consider assigning a tag to each customer with a custom 6-digit number or a bar code, though—doing so will remove the annoying sign-up process, and frequent shoppers will likely memorize their respective codes after a couple of subsequent visits.

8. Wifi tracking
Providing your customers with free Wi-Fi accomplishes two goals: it makes you the coolest store on the block (like, soccer-mom-who-brought-Gushers cool), and it allows you to track your returning customers’ MAC addresses (less to do with Gushers, but equally cool).

If you’ve got the right software, you might even be able to broadcast deals or incentives on the wifi login page.

9. ZIP code
“Postcode” if you aren’t in the United States. Ask customers to give you their ZIP codes, then enter their answers into your work station — it’s as simple as that.

You can stop the buck there if you’re simply trying to gather regional statistics, or you can ask for their name (first and last would be preferable) to match it with their ZIP. Even though there’s an extra step here, asking for a ZIP code is arguably less personal than asking for a card number or the like.

10. Facial recognition
Not exactly the least obvious answer here, and definitely not the least expensive. If you want to go for facial recognition, you’ll need to fork out for the appropriate software and hardware. This approach will probably work better for small businesses with a few high-profile clients than it will for those with a steady daily stream of customers.

Accompanying 1984-themed “Big Brother is Watching” posters will likely be sold separately.

You’ve got options

The way you approach customer identification will depend on a variety of limiting factors — your budget, your desire to protect your customers’ privacy, your company culture — but at least one of these techniques should work for your business, regardless of size or technological limitations.

Best of luck to you in your omnipresent endeavors, everyone.

#TrackCustomers

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Business News

How to survive when you’re in between jobs (shame free)

(CAREER) It’s already stressful enough to find a job, but covering costs in between jobs can be scary, and downright traumatic. Let’s talk about your options – you HAVE options and there’s no shame in getting some wins right now. You deserve them!

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in between jobs

No matter how much we plan, life happens. People quit jobs, they get fired and everything in between. No matter what takes place in the grey areas of unemployment, there’s always the question of “what do I do now?”

It’s hard not to have a job. Like, really hard. People tie their identity to their work ethic, to how much they get done, how much they make. There are a lot of people in the world that shudder at the mere mention of retirement because they value their daily routine of getting up to pull on their work boots so much.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’re in between jobs?

You’ve got options. The sky isn’t officially falling. Right now, it’s a pretty manageable time to be unemployed. While yes, there is unemployment that you can collect, who wants to deal with that? There’s constant checking in, making sure no one is gaming the system, on top of it’s a fraction of what most people make. It’s a useful safety net to ensure that you’re able to eat and pay essential utilities, but collecting unemployment and not looking for a job shouldn’t be how you’re spending time.

There’s doing the temp agency thing, but that’s a total crapshoot. No one ever knows where they’ll end up. If you’re cool with rolling the dice and taking what you can get in terms of making money, then it works. If you don’t want to potentially be doing the worst work possible, then throwing your name into a temp worker pool might not be for you. Some jobs need sets of hands to haul boxes or help set up for an event, on the other hand, a temp agency might have you scrubbing a dead person’s house.

It really depends on what you’re willing and, more importantly, not willing to do. If you’re a little squeamish about making a buck cleaning up the dearly departed Aunt Abigail’s pee-scented cat mansion, proceed with caution.

Around cities like Austin and Houston, Rudy’s BBQ pays well above minimum wage if you can learn the art of exact meat cutting. Hardware stores need people to haul lumber, and help stock shelves. There are plenty of retail spaces that need people, and there’s always the service industry. Many people have waited tables and tended bar during a transitional period. Plus, the social landscape is different every night.

And there’s a lot of opportunities to make good money, depending on where you work. If you’re good with people and love chatting, the service industry might be for you. If you’re a little more buttoned-up and aren’t big on small talk with strangers, maybe not.

Impact your wallet immediately.

Probably the easiest way to make an impact while trying to figure out your next move is to utilize the gig economy. Applying, interviewing, silently sobbing in coffee shops, all of those things take a lot of time. The gig economy offers flexibility, which is enormous. There’s no shame in delivering food or picking up people who need a ride.
It’s money coming in and there’s always a demand. Right now, the gig economy is generating billions – with a B for companies. The workers are a massive slice of that pie.

I work at Adia, where we’ve found that most of our workers aren’t the pink haired folks’ social media would like us to believe, but instead, it’s a lot of people who are looking for extra cash or stuck between a job and needing to make sure the light bill is paid. Like Lyft, Uber, or Favor, we’ve made sure that our jobs are flexible, that people can live their lives, and keep hustling, no matter what their career demands. (We help people in every industry find gigs from the service industry, distro centers, and even worked a Rolling Stones show. There’s a lot to choose from.)

If you’re an immigrant who’s new to an area, the gig economy is even better – it’s a feet first way to make a splash into a local economy. There are a lot of people moving to cities like Austin and Houston, and because of that boom, some of those people aren’t native English speakers. Working short term gigs from driving to stocking shelves or cleaning hotel rooms allows for new residents of the country to get a feel for the speed of the city, but also develop core English competency, which will serve them in the long run.

Another perk of the gig economy while in between a job is the benefits. Let’s just be honest: Cobra sucks. No one in their right minds would ever want to willingly sign up for a program that can financially ruin you, only to have government-mandated health insurance you’re (hopefully) not using. And on top of that, if you use Cobra, it’s pretty terrible coverage. Adia offers insurance if a worker hits their minimum hours worked a week.

Plus, some companies (like us) offer a W-2 if a worker doesn’t want to deal with the hoops of 1099. A 1099 makes sense for some workers thanks to write off, but that’s only for certain contexts. We put people on a W2 so there’s no hoops of the 1099 – which, if you’ve been paying attention to what Uber and Lyft are fighting in courts across the country, is a way better arrangement.

So far, for workers, it’s been a choice between enjoying the flexibility of a 1099, or the employee benefits of W2 status, but we’re letting you have your cake and eat it too. Flexibility and benefits are no longer mutually exclusive – well, at least with us, it’s not.

That’s why having taxes taken out can be a big help when April comes around. No one wants to owe when they’re already working toward full employment. Cutting a check to the government hurts, especially when every dollar counts.

Some workers are embracing Amazon Flex, while others find luck in flipping goods from garage sales. (Gary Vee has a whole video of him flipping $40 of garage sale stuff and turning it into $430.) But, those both come with their challenges. If you want to flip old records or kid’s toys on eBay, you’re going to have to get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds.

For real, you can score some wins right now

Despite our political woes, the job market is healthy for both skilled and unskilled labor. In our home city of Austin, we’re sitting at a 3% unemployment rate across the board – in most cases, we’ve got more jobs than people. The Wall Street Journal has cited Austin as the number one job market, and Houston is also ranked high. There’s opportunity everywhere in Texas.

If you find yourself in a position of stocking shelves at Target, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re putting food on the table. If you’re lucky enough to work for HEB, they pay well, and they’ll put you through college. What matters is utilizing the time and energy to land a gig that makes you happy, but also finding one that moves your career upward. If you’re trying to land that dream graphic design job, but need the time to work on your craft, that’s cool – sign up with us. We’d love to help you level up.

Just remember, whatever you do, there’s no shame in survival.

The numbers are on your side. You’ll find that dream gig. It might take a little longer than you’d like, but you’re not alone. While the process can seem miserable when there’s a constant stream of NO hitting the inbox, there are most definitely companies out there who want you to win. We’re one of them.

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Business News

5 ways employers can avoid age discrimination when hiring

(BUSINESS) Sometimes intentional, sometimes not, age discrimination is costing businesses big these days – make sure you’re hiring fairly and not taking unnecessary risks.

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age discrimination settlement EEOC

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate against employees aged 40 and up. Federal law applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

In Texas, for example, it’s illegal for private employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate based on age. A Federal Court has ruled that age discrimination is only illegal against employees, but AARP has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in.

The EEOC received over 16,000 age discrimination complaints in 2018, which is lower than previous years, but it’s not something your business wants to deal with. Age discrimination just cost one Texas employer more than $85K for casting off an older worker. Avoid costly claims and fines by making sure that your workplace is discrimination-free.

1. Watch how you describe jobs.

Identifying a position for a “young” tech-savvy college student could be misconstrued as age discrimination. Avoid using terminology that makes indicates that a person must be younger to fit into your culture. Rather than try to find the right words to fit the person you’re looking for, describe the job itself.

2. What information do you really need on a job application?

It’s not illegal to ask a person’s age or when they graduated high school, but it is illegal to use that information in determining whether you’d hire them or not. Asking for that information could be used as evidence that age influenced a hiring decision. Choose questions carefully on your company’s job application. Talk to a good recruiting specialist or lawyer to help you stay out of trouble.

3. Watch what you say during interviews.

Collecting information about someone’s age during an interview could also get you into hot water. Don’t bring up children or grandchildren. It seems innocuous enough, but if the person makes a complaint to the EEOC, it could come up again.

Make sure interviewers know what types of questions could be inappropriate. Have a structured interview guide that provides consistency across applicants, regardless of age. It is also a good idea to keep good records about how decisions were made.

4. Be aware of diversity and implicit biases in the hiring process.

There’s plenty of research that demonstrates implicit bias in hiring. Implicit bias describes the attitudes we have toward others that we’re not really conscious about. This could include stereotypes about retirement or that an older person might be uncomfortable working for a younger manager. Implicit bias is what makes you choose someone based on a similarity to yourself, rather on their skills. Look around your office and see if you have a diverse workplace.

5. Avoiding age discrimination isn’t about quotas.

To fight age discrimination, you can’t just focus on how many people you employ of a certain age group. You have to really look at the overall culture of your organization. Telling hiring managers to hire someone over the age of 65 doesn’t change attitudes.

Educate your managers about age discrimination. Encourage your team to interact with people of all ages, whether through volunteerism, classes at the local college or book clubs. Eliminate biases that cause age discrimination by widening your social circles. Seniors bring a lot of experience and soft skills to the workplace that can benefit your business.

Bottom line: Don’t discount someone based on age.

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Business News

Mystery: Who is Henry Hawksberry, ghost author of ‘Is WeWork a Fraud?’

(BUSINESS NEWS) WeWork has been a hot mess lately, and the public got involved after a list of egregious infractions was published on Medium, but the author is a ghost and no one has noticed. Who the hell is Henry Hawksberry!?

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Who exactly is Henry Hawksberry? Are you ready for a good conspiracy theory? Oh good, me too – put on your tinfoil hat and buckle up, because it’s about that time!

Yesterday, in our real estate section, I broke down how the wild WeWork IPO withdrawal could impact the residential real estate industry. Part of that breakdown was referencing the WeWork drama involving made-up accounting practices, tax ducking, wild spending from deep pockets, shady business dealings, and a fleecing of historic proportions.

By now, we all know a lot of what happened, thanks to Henry Hawksberry who penned the viral “Is WeWork a Fraud?” scathing blog post illustrating point-by-point the “ponzi scheme.”

But something bugged me.

Who IS Henry Hawksberry? I started digging and no one has picked up on the fact that it’s a ghost. A shadow. A phantom. A specter. Yet this one blog post has been republished dozens of times, and referenced thousands of times.

Let’s dig into these breadcrumbs:

1. Henry Hawksberry’s original Medium post (which is what everyone linked to, retweeted, and republished) has been deleted. By Henry Hawksberry.

2. But not just the story, the entire Medium account that posted the one blog post has been deleted. No one seems to have noticed, given that it has been republished so widely.

So, I went to the Wayback Machine, and there is only one instance of that account ever being captured – on September 20th, there was one blog post, a profile picture of someone skiing, they followed one person (which is not clickable, so that doesn’t yield any clues) and were followed by 70 (no surprise there since his post was already viral by the 20th).

3. You are prompted to set up a Medium account with a Google or Facebook account, so we dug for both looking for “Henry Hawksberry,” yielding zero results. Same with LinkedIn. And Reddit.

And, although his name is mentioned on Twitter endlessly, every single instance (yes, I read every. single. tweet.) is in reference to this one blog post. There is no account under the name “Henry Hawksberry.”

4. But Twitter is where it gets slightly interesting. There are three tweets that noticed this person is a ghost.

One British fella took issue with Herny calling WeWork out for lack of transparency, but is non-transparent, one guy posits that it’s a pen name, and an Irish fella questions his identity but immediately moves on.

The very first perked ear was from Peter Yang:

Note that this tweet has two retweets and 7 likes. In case anyone unlikes it, here is a screenshot of all Likes:

Note that one of the likes is from @ProfGalloway himself. More on that soon…

“Motorman” has a quick conversation asking who Henry is, but mainly to point out that Henry criticizes WeWork’s refusal to be transparent while ironically, Henry is doing the same. But the topic dies quickly and no one else gets involved.

Here we go – finally someone saying the very thing that I’ve been digging into. But the conversation dies and no one else on the planet ever picks it back up. Bizarre.

5. So I emailed Professor Galloway, who in the first tweet above, was referenced as the potential ghost. He liked the tweet but didn’t comment or retweet. Scott Galloway did write a blog post that same day, entitled “WeWTF, Part Deux,” referencing Henry Hawksberry as a “pen name, I think.”

Last night, I emailed his NYU Stern address: “I *have* to know – are YOU Henry Hawksberry? Is it a pen name? I saw someone ask (potentially in jest) if you were Henry, and no one responded or noticed, but you were one of the 7 ‘Likes.’ Is it you? If not, any theories?”

He responded, minutes later, “Who is Henry Hawksberry?” and nothing more.

I wrote back, “LOL okay… He penned the original “Is WeWork a Fraud?” (republished here) and you referenced him in your “WeWTF” blog post…” and he went silent.

This is still of interest, so keep this point fresh in your mind, I’ll circle back to it.

6. An entrepreneur in Zurich calls Henry out on Medium for being potential fake news, asking who Henry is, and it has 33 “claps” which are similar to “Likes” on Facebook, but zero comments. It went nowhere.

7. Oddly enough, RealClearMarkets has a blank profile page. The site is a product of RealClearPolitics, which is an actual trusted publication, so that’s a strange question mark. They have not responded to our request for comment.

8. Google has indexed 0 incidents of the name “Henry Hawksberry” aside from this one story and references to it – I reviewed every single instance of his name as indexed by Google. Dead end.

9. No comments by “Henry Hawksberry” were found anywhere at all which is usually the giveaway. Even when using a pen name, people will accidentally say something in a forum under that name years ago, but not this ghost.

10. I had hoped that perhaps I could piece together the relevance of his name – maybe it’s a nod to a famous historical figure in tech or business that would unlock this person’s true identity or goals, but I didn’t get anywhere with that either.

Hawksberry is a place in Australia, maybe a body of water in Brooklyn, but other than that, it’s a mystery.

So who is Henry Hawksberry?

Reading this, you’ll imagine that it’s Professor Galloway, and there’s a fine possibility of this, given the immediate silence.

However, my instinct is that the person who penned the blog post in question is close to WeWork, likely a former employee. Not a receptionist or event coordinator or someone at that level, but someone with real insider knowledge, likely at a Director level. Higher than that, and there would probably be too much at risk with stock options.

The author is also extremely well informed and had a firm grasp on the historical context of the timeline, and the writer’s diction level indicates they’re likely well educated.

A tech insider opined to me privately that it could be someone that has had full access to everything at WeWork, like a sysadmin who is acting like some sort of whistleblower.

That could be possible, but it seems more likely to me that it’s someone who removed their original blog post (without anyone noticing), knowing that it could potentially be used to identify them by leadership at WeWork, which would again, put them probably below VP status, and probably not currently with the company.

I’ve been obsessed with the WeWork melodrama, and I’ve had plenty of private conversations about it. But this Henry Hawksberry is the part that has really gotten under my skin. I’ve tested my gut against others that I trust, and we all agree that this is a real head scratcher.

It could be Gwyneth Paltrow for all we know (if you read the original blog post, you’d get the relevance of this jab).

Perhaps the fact that this person left no breadcrumbs IS a clue in and of itself.

Feel free to share any insights in the comments – maybe you have the key to solving this mystery??

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