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handwritten tickets at grocery store
Historically, retail ticketing has been a 'push' activity. Retailers communicate their pricing and promotion information to shoppers using a one-way communication. But modern technology and changes in consumer behaviour requires new thinking around ticketing. Not only are tickets and store promotions responsible for sending your message out, they must also pull data back into the head office. If you're ticketing is not working as a two-way communication channel, you're probably missing vital opportunities to effectively manage your store network.

Push and print ticketing

The earliest examples of contemporary signs were handwritten. Many retail organisations still write some signs by hand every day. Sign making was assigned to the person with the best handwriting as an additional responsibility and developed in the store.
 
As retail organisations grew and the power of in-store promotions became widely accepted, ticketing was often organised at the head office and distributed to every store. Signs were developed by an art department or outsourced to an agency. This method incurred a lot of wastage and store managers still needed ad hoc tickets - up to 49% of all tickets, on average. These tickets were usually produced on site giving each store an interesting mix of ticketing styles.

Influence of technology on ticketing

The influx of technology into the retail sector and a move towards 'super' stores has led to a more complex operational environment and further inefficiencies in ticketing. Electronic point-of-sale (POS), sophisticated distribution systems, inventory control and manufacturer interfaces all add complexity to how a ticket is built. Factor in marketing promotions and seasonal events and one of the most powerful ways to influence purchases – promotional signage and shelf-edge ticketing - is mired in an expensive, disjointed and slow production process.
 
Technology has advanced signs and shelf labels, but it's often more trouble than it's worth. Specialist IT skills, expensive printers, and continual hardware and software upgrades render many signing solutions ineffective. Even now, store managers often assign a sales assistant the task of creating the signs needed to advertise specials at the store level. It's also common for retailers to develop their own home-grown technologies to support ticketing. These systems often become cumbersome to maintain and quickly become out-dated due to rapidly changing technology.

The problem with push ticketing

This also presents another problem. No one really owns the function of making signs and tickets. Everyone is involved but no one has complete control. In Signs That Sell: The Handbook of Successful Merchandise Signing, ticketing expert Sonja Larsen observed, "Signing is important yet the responsibility for signing is usually shared by several people – and typically signing is not anyone's primary job responsibility." Due to this lack of ownership, marketing is unable to fully exploit the potential sales environment and head office is exposed to compliance issues. The common ticketing environment, in other words, is hinged on a disaster in the making.

Introducing Push-Pull ticketing

Averting a ticketing disaster is a lot easier than you might think. Enterprise-wide retail ticketing links head office, the store network and suppliers by putting the marketing department in control of ticketing. All store systems are integrated into the ticketing process helping to ensure promotions and tickets are brand compliant and uphold consumer protection laws. While this is a big improvement on handwritten signs and ad hoc ticketing, the push and print method is only part of the solution.
 
To close the loop between head office and the stores, your ticketing system should 'pull' information about ticketing activity for analysis. Where electronic shelf edge labels (ESL) are used, the electronic ticket hardware must be capable of sending a two-way signal to acknowledge price changes. In all ticketing and promotions activity, business intelligence should be pulled back to the marketing department at head office to improve the effectiveness of each promotion.

Benefits of Push-Pull ticketing

Through reporting and analysis, retailers can realise improvements in:
 
  1. Ticketing process
  2. Ticketing effectiveness
  3. Ability to improve the offers to the shopper
  4. Measuring the results of those improvements

What this means for retailers

Leading retailers are increasingly analysing ticketing data to improve retail performance and the customer experience. While 'Big Data' has become a popular buzz phrase, effective ticketing systems will produce management reports which take the hard work out of data analysis. A modern ticketing system capable of producing business insights for the marketing department ensures compliance and provides valuable insight into shopper habits. Enterprise-wide retail ticketing systems provide retailers with bi-directional control and offer significant advantages over traditional 'push and print' ticketing.
 
If you'd like to implement a Push-Pull system of retail ticketing in your store, why not phone SignIQ? We can help you improve your push and print ticketing system in no time.

Have you implemented a Push-Pull retail ticketing system? 

Image credit: Shopping for yummy plums... by Ed Yourdon, on Flickr"