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Preparing for Tax Season

Tax Season

Tax season is upon us. If you’ve already completed your taxes, great work. If you haven’t, check out some of these tips to tackle your taxes like a pro.

Tax Deductions on Travel Expenses

Many business owners aren’t aware they can deduct taxes from a business trip combined with a vacation. Outlined below are a few examples of deductible travel expenses.

  • New business: Looking for a new location? Travel to and from the location on days meetings happen are deductible.
  • Conferences: This is most often the work and play trip combined into one. Travel to and from the conference is deductible, but days that business doesn’t take place are not deductible.
  • Board meetings: For board meetings to be deducted, there must be a reason why the primary location is not suitable for the event. For example, to get more board members to attend the meeting would qualify.
  • Spouse/Children: Travel for children is typically non-deductible, unless there’s a reason. If your child is your videographer and attends the trip to work with you, then that would qualify as a deductible expense.

Home Office

If you have a home office, the home office deduction won’t cost any more than what you already pay. The home office turns a percentage of your personal home expenses into tax-deductible expenses. Speak with your tax person to calculate the amount of savings this deduction can influence the amount you may owe.

Follow these strategies to get your personal and business income taxes to the lowest legal amount. Stay tuned next week for more tax tips.

Inspiration for this post came from “Tackle Taxes Like a Pro” by Jacob Curtis, CPA, published in the February 2021 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Interactive Sales with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality

Getting a customer off the street is much different than getting a customer online. Many businesses are trying out augmented reality due to the conflict of in-person shopping during this global pandemic. Find out what AR is and how you can include augmented reality in your business.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality allows customers to try out products online. The most commonly used version of augmented reality is through online glasses companies; simply upload a photo of your face and you can “try on” glasses without leaving your home.

A growing segment of AR allows customers to try pieces at home. This can include seeing how a quilt would look on a bed, holding up patterns for curtains, or seeing the way fabric moves when styled as a skirt.

How to get AR

When it comes to implementing AR into your online presence, start small. Consider adding augmented reality to your business card, with a personal video from you, the owner, or a video highlighting a new product.

From there, start with one product (ideally one you’d like to create a campaign around) and test it. This means hiring someone to create a 3D model of the product and placing it in an augmented reality experience on whatever medium best meets your business goals (app, social media, website).

For more affordable options, check out if there’s an AR app already available. For example, InteriAR is an AR app that showcases furniture, AR-Watches lets customers try on watches, and Jarit allows patrons to preview dishes before ordering.

AR is likely to grow in the next few years. Jump on this train before it’s too late.

This concludes our tech savvy series, with inspiration from the article “Get Tech Savvy” by Sommer Leigh published in the December 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Omnichannel Marketing as a Quilt Retailer

Omnichannel Marketing

Continuing our series on tech savvy-ness, we thought we’d take a deep dive into omnichannel marketing. In this article, you’ll learn about this new marketing tactic and how your business can benefit.

Omnichannel vs. Multichannel

There are many differences between omnichannel marketing and multichannel marekting. Firstly, multichannel marketing casts as large of a net as possible to get customers. In comparison, omnichannel marketing caters to the customer. For example, omnichannel marketing’s goal is to create the most seamless shopping experince for the customer across all platforms.

This means that regardless if you have a customer walk into your store, stumble across your products on Instagram, comment on your Facebook page, or any of the other ways a customer can manage to contact you, you deliver the same quality service.

Moreover, the thought behind omnichannel marketing is novel. Essentially the thinking is you already have the customer, and you are guiding that customer through the most seamless shopping experience as possible. Interesting stuff, right?

What are the benefits?

Businesses who do omnichannel marketing see a 91% higher increase year-over-year in customer retention compared to those who don’t. In conclusion, omnichannel marketing gives you the extra push to develop your brand and keep it consistent across all your platforms. A great place to start is by having all your links redirect back to your website across all of your social media channels. As a result, your business will see the benefits of omnichannel marekting immediately.

Inspiration for this post came from “Get Tech Savvy” by Sommer Leigh published in the December 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer. Stay tuned to get more tidbits on how to stay tech savvy in our technology solution series.


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Personalize the Shopping Experience

Personalize with e-commerce

Nobody likes to feel like just another number. Personalize the shopping experience for your customers with these e-commerce tools

Personalize through data

The internet has brought everyone closer. But the internet has also given us the age-old realization that we are just one in a million. That’s why sales is moving to a more personalized method; every customer should feel noticed. Make sure you have methods in place to make that happen.

One such way is through e-commerce tools. E-commerce tools track and record your customers habits. Let’s say you have a customer who purchases the same product every three months. Your e-commerce tool can highlight this data point, and help you increase the likelihood of more sales through targeted outreach. A good place to start is by scheduling a coupon to send one week before the next deadline approaches.

E-commerce tools

Check out some of the e-commerce tools available to your business.

  • Google Optimize: This tool integrates best with Google Analytics, and offers A/B testing so if you’re struggling on how to best communicate with your customers, this may be the tool for you.
  • Personyze: Personyze offers personalized content across multiple channels (email, website, and app) so your message remains consistent. Small businesses can get a free version or you can pay a monthly fee for trafficked business.
  • Segment: Does data seem overwhelming? Segment tracks data and translates it into an easy-to-consume format. This platform starts free then changes to a monthly fee.
  • Apptus: Sell, baby, sell. Apptus does everything it can to get your customer to click that “checkout” button. This is also a good option to create personalized product, email recommendations, promotions, and banner ads as well.
  • Geo Targetly: If your audience is spread over a wide geographic region, this may be your best approach. It offers a great way to make your customer feel seen while offering the small business feel.
  • Qwardo: You know those chat robots that respond automatically? Well you can have one too thanks to Qwardo. This platform also offers A/B testing so you can also provide a tailored message to each customer.

Inspiration for this post came from “Get TECH Savvy,” by Sommer Leigh published in the December 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer. Stay tuned for more ways to remain tech savvy.


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Check in on those goals

Goals

Before we jump into today’s blog, we wanted to let you know about an event were throwing next Thursday, February 4th at noon CST.

The first AQR Academy will be a Zoom workshop dedicated to making social media work for you, including Creating Content to Sell and How to Get Your Social Media Moving.

Still not convinced to join? We forgot to mention the workshop will feature internationally sought out content strategist Kristy Honsvick and social media strategist, consultant, and trainer Hollie Clere.

Feel like you’re missing out? You can still purchase the recordings and digital recap from 2020 Academy events.

Now, on to those goals.

Goals, goals, goals

We’re already one month into 2021, which means it’s the perfect time to check in on how your goals are doing.

What was your focus for this year? Reducing expenses? Increasing efficiencies? Improving customer experiences? Whatever it is, know that if you don’t have a metric to measure progress, you’re going to want to find a way how.

As we know, data can be extremely helpful, but don’t get bogged down in having too much of it. Similarly, some employees can be extremely motivated by data. Find a way to publicly post metrics. Of course, you don’t want to make anyone feel bad about their performance, so encourage each employee to hit the same goal each week. If you have a weekly training, schedule time for questions so they can talk to each other about what works (or doesn’t).

Then, check in on the status. If you’re not on track to reach your goal, consider changing your performance (or even altering the goal itself).

Good luck from us friends at AQR! We know you can do it.


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No-Stress Notifications

notifications

Some days, technology feels like an added stress. If clearing out notifications is a trigger for you, check out these tips to manage that sense of urgency.

Turn off notifications

The best way to stay on task is to turn off notifications. If you have a schedule and stick to it, you don’t need to know every time a new email comes in or someone likes your photo.

If sticking to a schedule seems daunting at first, limit yourself to checking email and social media to every 15 minutes. Once that becomes easy, move it back to every 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and eventually to every hour.

Another healthy habit to get into is keeping devices away from your bed. Many of us are spending more time at home, and healthy boundaries are more important to keep than ever. Bedrooms are for sleeping, living rooms are for living, and the office is for working. Sticking to these rules and your life will improve in more ways than one.

Declutter

Sometimes apps that take us away from the task at hand. Clean out your apps periodically. Delete apps you don’t use anymore, but also consider deleting apps that are available online (Facebook, Pinterest, etc).

One great way to limit how often you pick up your phone is to invest in a smart speaker. This way you can set a timer, listen to podcast, or stream music without getting pulled into a phone blackhole.

Inspiration for this post came from “Digital Decluttering” by Beth Montpas published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Social Media Magic

Social Media Magic

If everyday tasks get in the way of daily social media posts, check out these tips and tricks.

Plan your posts

Choosing a topic is the hardest part of social media. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be; pick a theme, and post it. This could be a new line of fabric or an interesting tool. Some people prefer to post based off the day of the week, such as “Top Tool Tuesday,” “What’s New Wednesday,” and “Show and Share Sunday.”

Don’t be hesitant to repost the same topic again; in the world of marketing a consumer has to be exposed to a topic or product seven times before they’re compelled to take action.

Take the photo

Now that you know what you want to post about, take a photo. Use your phone and remember these three rules: lighting, background, and focal point.

Make sure your product is the focal point of the photo, there’s good lighting, and the background is not distracting. Be sure to take several photos at different views and angles. The more photos you post the better.

Write a caption

Writing a caption is the second hardest part of social media. If you’re struggling to come up with copy, answer these three questions:

  1. What is it?
  2. Why do customers need it?
  3. What do you want them to do? (Call to action.)

Simply answer these questions as if you were talking to a friend. If you’re posting a product, don’t forget to tag the company and add a hashtag so your image is exposed to as many customers as possible.

Keep a consistent social media schedule

Now that you’ve got content down, create a schedule so you can stay up to date. Google calendar offers an easy, color coded way to plan your social media posts. Make sure to display holidays, events, and classes, and fill in accordingly.

Inspiration for this post came from “Social Media Magic in 5 Minutes,” by Kate Colleran, Joanne Hillestad, and Kris Poor published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Ringing in the New Year

New Year

Everybody is ready to wish 2020 goodbye, but unfortunately some of last year’s problems are still with us. Check out these ideas for your business as we kick off the New Year.

Safety Matters

Continue to let shoppers know what you’re doing to ensure safety. Consider addressing the topic under your “FAQ” section on your website, and make sure to keep (or create) signage in and around your store. Include a snippet on each of your email blasts, and post reminders on social media as well.

Go back to the basics with good phone etiquette. Thankfully our phones do much more these days and some retailers have offered personal shopping via video. Not all of your customers are going to be tech savvy though so make sure you know product specifics (such as dimensions) and remain helpful throughout the conversation.

Another way to ensure safety is to take the product outside. Don’t bring out random merchandise, but plan your outdoor goods like you would an indoor display.

Other Ideas for the New Year

Fallen out of habit of offering a bag stuffer? Make one and train your floor clerks to say a 15 second pitch as they place one in a customer’s bag. If you don’t know what to put on the bag stuffer, brag about your store. Put every brand, item, service, or offering your business provides. Customers want to know what’s available so don’t take this as the time to be humble.

Hopefully by now you’ve gotten rid of most of your 2020 inventory and are ready to bring in new stock for the New Year. Show off this new merchandise by going Live with an unboxing video that you can later post on your social media platforms.

Inspiration for this post came from “Ring in the Season” by Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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Happy New Year from AQR

New Year

Happy New Year from your friends at American Quilt Retailer! Even though we’re all ready to say good riddance to 2020, now is a perfect time to reflect on some of the lessons we should take with us into 2021.

Lessons to take into the New Year

On a business level, 2020 showed the importance of digital media. Every aspect of your brick-and-mortar should have an online equivalent. Hopefully this year saw you try new mediums (anybody new to video? social media campaigns?) and expanded your horizons into trying more.

This year also highlighted how quilt retailers provide a source for community. Even though online content is important, it by no means replaces the real thing. Online options provide convenience, but brick-and-mortar stores are here to stay.

2020 has taken a lot, but it’s given as well. It’s given us time, even time to slow down. It highlighted priorities we have long been neglecting, and showed us our resilience with every punch we took. These may not be things we wanted, but they were given to us none the less.

And finally, as we say good bye to 2021, we would like thank you for sticking with American Quilt Retailer. Happy New Year and we wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2021.


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We Have More In Common Than We Have Different

Common problems

Businesses have more in common than you think. Often times, we get bogged down on the amount of resources another business has access to, or how different their products are.

This happens in the craft industry as well. Owners of a quilt shop think they have nothing in common with a needle shop, or (in some eyes, especially) a boutique.

Every business is unique, but our problems aren’t. Common problems, like dealing with landlords, insurance, inventory, etc. are problems every business faces.

Read on to discover what you can learn from the next guy.

Translate common ideas

Do you ever read business books about Nike or Coca-Cola and have a hard time translating the concepts into your own business? Even though our businesses operate on a much smaller scale, some of the common themes (such as consistent training, empowerment, etc) still apply.

This includes how other industries have learned to innovate as well. Instead of a wine tasting, have a fabric tasting. Instead of renting tools and equipment, rent out your long arm machine quilter. Simply ask yourself “how might that work for my business?”

Plan, evaluate, repeat

Once you start thinking of ideas, it can be easy to want to implement them all. Start with one to make sure you do it well. Evaluate the idea once it’s at its first evaluation stage to see if the idea is worth keeping in your store. If it’s not, scrap it and move to the next one.

Inspiration for this post came from “Play Big!” by Gwen Bortner published in the October 2020 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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