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Instant Gratification May Spell Trouble for your Personalized Marketing Efforts

Guest Blog By Genia Chechersky

They say that “good things come to those who wait”, and when it comes to managing a personalized marketing program, these simple words of wisdom ring loud and true.

Retailers that achieve the most impactful results from their marketing programs don’t base their success on the performance of an individual campaign, as a significant amount of the value created through such vehicles can only be realized longer-term, after a minimum of nine to twelve months of operation. Instead, they’re using consistent and meaningful communications to bolster their relationship with customers, increasing the likelihood that they will shop with them not just during campaigns, but are also maintaining loyalty every day.

Although effective one-off campaigns can yield strong participation rates and immediate gains, the long-term value generated through an established and well-executed program presents a greater return. That’s because the most accurate marketing programs are executed to align with consumer insights and data from loyalty programs, including consumer shopping habits and key product preferences.

Retailers today have failed to see the big picture and are still seeking instant gratification as they drive their marketing teams to deliver immediate results, without assessing the trends inherent in consumer data, which can hurt their finances in the long run. The following are a few signs your marketing efforts are headed in the wrong direction:

•          You’re Delivering an Inconsistent Customer Experience:  One of the cornerstones of a successful marketing program is consistency. Customers need to know what to expect from a retailers’ communications, as well as when to expect them.  This conditioning is imperative to the long-term success of a marketing program.

When the pressure for immediate results is high and focus is lacking, teams begin to inundate customers with inconsistent, one-off messages. Consequently, developing any sort of relationship with shoppers becomes much more difficult, and opportunities for long-term value creation are greatly reduced.

•          You’re Not Measuring Long-Term Program Performance: While campaign-level metrics are important, the true value created by a marketing program cannot be correctly evaluated sans a long-term measure. A long-term control group must be established to help you compare the behaviors of shoppers who receive communications with the behaviors of those who do not, over periods as long as twelve months.

Marketers are rarely willing to forgo the short-term gains associated with higher circulation numbers for the sake of this analysis. By only measuring campaign results in the short-term, teams are more likely to understate the value that their programs create for their organization in the long-term.

•          You’re Focusing Too Much on Winning Back Lost Customers: Another major marketing misstep is to focus too much on your lost customers at the expense of your most loyal ones. While sending a rich offer to a lapsed customer may drive an incremental trip in the short-term, doing so won’t create a lot value for your organization in the long-term.

Instead, a minimum of 60 to 70% of your budget should be allocated to your best customers – the ones who account for the majority of your sales. By rewarding this group with meaningful offers and communications, you will not only maintain their current engagement with you today but minimize the need to reactivate them down the road.

At the end of the day, organizations that are serious about generating the most value out of their marketing programs – and measuring that value correctly – must abandon their myopic mindsets. Teams would be well-advised to commit to developing long-term customer contact strategies; designing compelling and sustainable marketing programs; and investing in the necessary program measurements, even if it comes at the expense of immediate gains. After all, “patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Genia Chechersky is a Manager for emnos U.S. at the firm’s Chicago office, helping retail clients leverage their consumer behavior insights into actionable sales and revenue. Contact her at info@emnos.com.

The Art of Retailing in a Changing Economy

Decoding the Science Behind Consumer Motivations – Guest Blog By Brandon Hunt

After battling to stay afloat during the economic downturn, retailers are finally feeling optimistic again. According to The Commerce Department, Retail sales (which account for a third of consumer spending) are on the rise with March seeing the sharpest increase in nearly 2 years.

However, while spending is up consumers haven’t forgotten the recession and they are still being cautious with their purchase decisions. As the summer shopping season approaches, retailers who are aggressive with their promotional offers will be the ones to drive traffic both online and in stores.

The booming popularity of online deal sites is proof that shoppers are looking for a better way to save. In recent years we’ve seen a real shift in the retail industry. Merchants are recognizing that in order to spend, consumers need motivation and companies have become more committed to helping shoppers save money.

Consumers are taking the time to really do their research to find the best deals and make the best purchase decisions. Retailers would be wise to do the same, and many are. We’ve found that many retailers are using our site to research their competitors’ deals and promotions. Consumers have many choices when they shop, and for the most part they are not brand loyal. They are going to shop around, so it is a good idea to know what your competitors are offering and how your pricing and promotions compare. Taking it a step further, retailers have realized the benefit of technology that allows them to predict shopper behavior for individualized recommendations and promotional offers, and they are capitalizing on it.

Aggressive offers have multiple purposes. They drive new business, help retailers unload discontinued products, and convince consumers to act on purchases they’ve been contemplating.

Thanks to modern technologies, shoppers have more control than ever before over where they purchase goods, forcing retailers compete for their attention. Realizing that their survival depends on their ability to adapt to this customer-centric world, retailers are becoming masterful at keeping the attention of shoppers through aggressive offers.

Brandon Hunt is the co-founder of DealScience.com.

Retailers Must Be More Proactive Against Cyber Threats

Guest Blog by Charles Tendell

The retail sector has been targeted and damaged by high-profile cyber security incursions, resulting in a loss of customer confidence and a move by retailers to upgrade security measures in the constant battle against criminal hackers. Security threats exist at multiple points in the retail chain, from point-of-sale systems and online purchasing to employee access to sensitive information. It’s part of a dizzying trend including research by the Ponemon Institute showing that hackers have exposed personal information of nearly half of all Americans in the past year.

One important tool retailers must implement is penetration testing, conducting ongoing self-evaluation of systems, processes and policies in an effort to stay ahead of the curve. However, penetration testing is not enough to identify new threats ahead of time, as proactive threat intelligence is needed to fill the gaps in penetration testing and implement a truly dynamic and aggressive cyber security protocol. It’s often the case that companies do not notice retail hacks until weeks or months after the intrusion, creating far more damage.

Proactive Threat Intelligence

Retailers should monitor the ‘deep web’ to identify problems before they become implemented by criminal hackers, such as point-of-sale malware, the latest in credit card skimming capabilities and a wide range of Trojan Horses. Only by staying ahead of the curve on a constant basis can retailers have a chance to combat these and other nefarious activities. It’s similar to having a tornado warning; even a bit of notice can go a long way. Having time to understand each threat and prepare defenses is key.

This type of aggressive cyber security is not typically implemented by a traditional IT department, but by ethical hackers who work and lurk in the same places as criminal hackers, but use their knowledge to protect businesses and consumers instead of damaging them. Ethical hackers monitor and participate in message boards, chat rooms and other online sites, as well as hacking conferences, where the most current information on what’s coming next appears before techniques are implemented against businesses and consumers. This is how ethical hackers create the warning time needed to implement defenses.

It’s important for retailers to have an active program searching threats on a proactive basis, because hackers are always adjusting and updating tactics in the deep web.

Charles Tendell is a cyber security expert and founder of Azorian Cyber Security

The Future of Retail

RM Editor’s Note: Everyone in our industry is always looking for insight into the future of retail. We all know that the industry has seen many disruptive changes in the past decade, and the change trend is expected to continue. As luck would have it, Sean Mulroy from Ingram Micro Mobility and Christopher Landry from Colourfast Printing both had some thoughts to share with us on the future of retail. This blog post and infographic came to us separately, but we think each has an interesting take on retail’s future. Read on to take a look at both.

Buying Mobile Devices: Predictions for the Future Experience and What All Retailers Can Learn
Guest Blog by Sean Mulroy, Ingram Micro Mobility. Infographic supplied by Christopher Landry from Colourfast Printing.

The successful mobile store of the future will embrace the concept that phones are rapidly being replaced by handheld computers. Therefore, they will focus far less on “traditional” phone accessories and far more on the connectivity enabled by the computers in our hands.

Here are four ways I envision the mobile retail store of the future – and there are lessons learned here for retailers of all types:

How about a little mood music?
Prior to the introduction of the iPhone, the idea of an Apple phone was driven almost exclusively by the idea that phones would act as music players. While the overall mobility landscape has changed dramatically since 2007, music is still a key component for consumers. Embracing that role is vital to the mobile retailer – pull the high-end Bluetooth music speakers off the shelf and put them on the show floor to flaunt the level of audio quality that is now available for connected devices. Headsets designed for audio, such as those devised for use while exercising, should also be featured. Ask yourself this: do you get the same audio experience using a pack of earbuds that you do by cranking up the volume on the Bluetooth music controlled from the palm of your hand?

Consumers want to walk into a store and have the entire mobile experience at their fingertips. And this is true for any retailer. Regardless of the product you’re selling, retail stores of the future will make sure the consumer has hands-on interactions with the product from the moment they walk in the store.

Maxing out mobile device capabilities
You name it, and it’s guaranteed that consumers are buying it with their mobile devices: apps, content, the latest top 20 song, a pair of shoes, or concert tickets. As mobile retailers become the curators of all things mobile, we need to extend the device-purchasing conversation further into how consumers are using devices.

Options like offering app-store gift cards and direct-to-account billing help position the retailer as the guide in unlocking more of the device’s potential. Another example is to offer a subscription to a TV or video service to allow consumers to flex the ability of devices by serving as a content host for videos.  Retailers other than those focused on mobile devices also need to be creative by tapping all of the device’s capabilities

Using connectivity as a selling point
Connectivity is a mobile buzzword we hear daily. Aligning with that is only natural and a near-requirement for retailers of the future. How this connectivity will develop is already apparent: network-connected home security systems, smart thermostats and home appliances, Wi-Fi-enabled scales, and quantified-self health trackers all rely on the current generation of handsets as their brains expand the device’s capabilities exponentially. My imagined mobile retailer showcases these capabilities in an interactive way that allows shoppers to better visualize how the functionality is applicable to their own experiences (i.e. in the home, for work, or just for entertainment), as well as gives a taste of how easy it is to manage multiple tasks from a device. You don’t necessarily need to be in the technology industry to provide a connected experience.

Smart people, smart products
Lastly, the overall mobile retail experience needs to be tied together by a knowledgeable, engaged sales team who take care of customers’ needs, while demonstrating how connected products work. Some of us may talk about connected products ad nauseam, but there is still much consumer education to be had. From a technology standpoint, these teams will utilize mobile point of sale systems designed to make the purchasing process as painless as possible. All of the connected technology from the future – or now – will fall on deaf ears if the assisted sales portion of the experience is neglected.

In the competitive retail landscape, brands are fighting to unlock the formula for greater customer loyalty and success. If retailers consider some of the ways that the consumer imagines my future retail experience, they might stand a greater chance of pulling ahead of the herd.

Mother’s Day: Make it Meaningful

May 9, 2014 - By now, you’ve been reminded 10 million times that Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday. If you haven’t made plans by now, your shopping days are numbered. But before you go out and settle for the old standard fare of a card and some flowers, let me share with you a tale of an early Mother’s Day surprise.

Sundays tend to be extremely busy days for me, especially in the spring when I spend God knows how many hours driving all over New England coaching soccer. On Sunday, May 11th, instead of spending time with my mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, or any other mother, I’ll be coaching kids who are honoring their mothers by playing soccer in front of them.

Giving all the credit in the world to my wife for discovering this opportunity, we chose to take my mother and grandmother to a little place called the Wenham Tea House two weeks before Mother’s Day for a Downton Abbey themed event. I’ve never watched an episode of the show, and I thought it was called Downtown Abbey for the longest time. But the combination of cute hats, trivia, tea, sandwiches, pastries, scones and excellent company made for a memorable event.

So what does this have to do with retail? Well, the Wenham Tea House – in addition to being one of the oldest tea houses in the country – has a pretty interesting gift shop. But the main point is this: don’t waste your money on overpriced, last-minute gifts because the marketing machine tells you not to forget mommy. Take the time to come up with a meaningful and emotionally compelling way to honor your mother this Mother’s Day. And then go out and get your dad a tie and cologne for Father’s Day.

The Counterintuitive Truth: How Retailers Can Invest in Labor to Lower Costs and Improve Profits

Guest Blog by Matt Howard

Every once in a while you come across a simple idea that really forces you to stop and think…and then it makes you stop again and think some more.

For me that happened just the other day when I purchased and read a copy of Zeynep Ton’s new book entitled The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits.

Ms. Ton is an Associate Professor of Operations Management at MIT Sloan School of Management.  Over the past 10 years she’s conducted a vast amount of research focused on the critical role of store operations in retail supply chains and exploring how retailers can design and manage their operations in a way that satisfies employees, customers, and investors simultaneously.

Professor Ton’s simple, but powerful, idea is that retailers can invest heavily in store employees and simultaneously deliver lower prices, higher profits, and better customer service than their competitors.

Does that sound impossible to you?  Well, you’re not alone?

Conventional wisdom is that low cost retailers have no choice but to cut labor expense so they can attract customers with low prices and drive sales.

For most people, it’s simply counterintuitive to think that top performing low cost retailers are doing the exact opposite – choosing instead to invest heavily in labor.

But that is exactly what Professor Ton’s 10 years worth of retail research shows.  The presumed trade-off between investment in employees and low prices is a fallacy in certain situations.

The trade-off is specifically false for 4 low cost retailers – Costco, Trader Joes, Quicktrip, and Mercadona – each of which delivers superior financial performance by combining investment in labor with operational best practices including:

  • Offering less:  fewer products for sale reduces costs, improves labor productivity, increases category expertise and improves customer satisfaction.
  • Standardizing and empowering store staff:  non-selling tasks are completed efficiently and consistently plus employees make decisions that work best for local customers.
  • Cross train:  store employees are well-rounded athletes and remain productive doing different things.
  • Operate with slack:  stores are deliberately over-scheduled to ensure enough staff with positive attitudes are available to care for customers and complete critical non-selling tasks.

So, if increasing investment in store labor is such a good idea for low cost retailers, then why aren’t more doing it?  Professor Ton says the main reason is that labor is often a retailer’s largest controllable expense often accounting for 10% of revenues.  She also observes that many retailers see labor as a pure cost rather than a sales driver.  Finally, she notes that the financial benefits of cutting employees are immediate, direct, and easy to measure — whereas the downside of cutting labor is indirect, long term, and difficult to measure.

Now that I’ve read the book, and now that I’ve stopped and thought about it, it’s easy to see why certain retailers like Costco, Trader Joes, Quicktrip, and Mercadona do what they do.  It’s not because they are altruistic.  Rather it’s because they’re dedicated to operational excellence in retail, which leads to great experiences for consumers and superior returns for investors.

For me personally, the moral of the story is that retailers should avoid the familiar temptation to respond to short-term pressures by automatically cutting labor.  Instead, they should make the hard choices necessary to rededicate themselves to operational excellence and schedule sufficient staff to simultaneously care for customers and consistently tend to critical non-selling tasks.

Matt Howard leads global sales and corporate marketing for Natural Insight, a SaaS platform that provides workforce management and structured task management solutions to retailers.

Real-Time Shopper Data Takes the Guesswork out of Retail Planning

Guest Blog by Rich Scamehorn

Market research is a crucial part of a successful business venture. When you know what your customer is thinking and what drives consumer behavior, you can successfully target them and make your product a success. 6.7 billion dollars are spent on market research each year, and it’s an ever-growing business especially as technology and social media sites continue to spawn anew each day.

However, in the past, market research on shopping behavior has been very limited. For example, if a retailer or manufacturer wanted to monitor customer behavior, they would simply strive to track in-store behavior and purchases. Alternatively, companies could survey shoppers about their in-store behavior to try to understand why they bought (or didn’t buy) the products on the shelves.

For example, they might notice that shoppers appeared to prefer whole milk to skim milk, or that cereal on the middle shelf was more popular than cereal on the lower shelf – but it was difficult to understand why. Essentially, companies would try to make educated guesses about shopper behavior based on shopping trends, attitudinal surveys and tracking how people behaved while inside a supermarket.

Although such information was helpful, it was also very limited. The scope was narrow and results could be flawed.

However, thanks to advancements in virtual technology, manufacturers now have access to real, verifiable data that shows exactly how people shop and what leads them to make purchases. Shopper research can now be taken to the next level thanks to virtual simulations and 3D displays that allow manufacturers and retailers to try out store displays and packaging ideas before they invest time and money in them in the real world.

With these new technologies, the days of trial and error are over. And that’s great news, because in today’s world, stores are looking to do more than just offer the goods and services customers want. In order to compete in an over-saturated market (including online options), stores have to make sure that they offer a streamlined experience. That means that they have to make the shopping experience as seamless and smooth as possible. With the advent of simulations, stores can really put the needs and wants of their customers first and foremost.

With virtual store simulations, for the first time, we are able to see into the mind of consumers and actually predict their next moves. This means that we can help clients create in-store marketing plans accordingly and ensure that our clients don’t waste thousands of dollars on ineffective displays. From packaging to shelf arrangement, we provide data to ensure that every decision is made with real, first-hand knowledge and unquestionable statistics.

Virtual simulations are also invariably useful when it comes to working with manufacturers in different locations and perhaps even from different cultures. Unlike traditional in-person meetings that feature a Power Point presentation and plenty of talk, a virtual simulation allows clients to interact with the data no matter where they are on the globe. That means that even if your team is spread out across the country, they can still take part in the important process of shopper market research.

In particular, this is true for franchisees who come from different countries and might not be well-versed in English. With the simulations, it’s much easier to get the point across and bridge the language gap, which helps to ensure that everyone is included in the conversation and everyone’s voice gets heard.

We all know that the Internet has forever changed our society, and it has also forever changed the way that people shop and the way that people interact. In order to keep up with these trends, it’s time for market research itself to change. We have to continue to be innovative and progressive, and to change with the demands of the day as well as stay one step ahead of the curve. And, with virtual simulations and high-tech shopper research abilities, we can do exactly that.

Rich Scamehorn is CRO of InContext Solutions

Top 3 Driving Forces Behind Social Media’s Role in Retail Success

Guest Blog by Aneesh Reddy

Social media is entering an unusual phase in its life as a form of communication and potential business tactic. While marketers have been using social media for more than a decade and there is a growing array of diverging social media networks, its dynamics still change regularly, and what we come to learn about the field is still somewhat yet to be determined.

On the other hand, retailers have enough information about social media to take actionable measures that drive better customer engagement, improve satisfaction, increase loyalty, build purchase frequency and boost size of retail baskets. Social media serves as one of the most flexible ways to leverage classic marketing message strategies, including upselling, cross-selling and bundling for customers. Its speed and capability to create a prolific volume of communication remain unmatched. The Q4 2013 Social Media Intelligence Report from Adobe clearly demonstrates that website traffic by retail customers driven by social media use is rising across all major networks and that revenue per visit (RPV) from customers is on the rise in all networks, too.

In other words: Retail works. Well.

But what’s the actual reason behind social media’s role in retail success? Like most market dynamics, the forces driving social media’s connection to retail prosperity are multi-faceted and complex yet explainable. Furthermore, understanding those dynamics drives ROI for both short-term campaigns and long-term planning.

Force #1: Big Data
The amount of information yielded to companies in real-time through social media outpaces almost any other method of data collection. One of the biggest potential impacts social media brings to the table is its ability to both gather and unpack data. Given that customers may not have initially provided 100% of information in-store, on the phone or during an initial e-commerce transaction, social media can provide tremendous amounts of help in completing the picture of customers. Social media trumps previous electronic information-gathering methods such as email in that it creates a social realm that allows customers to engage the brand in a more comfortable digital environment. This leads to wave after wave of data for retail marketers and business development specialists, all of which requires analysis.

This need has opened up an extended B2B market, as solutions that provide customer insight have become a key part of the marketing toolbox. Those same solutions are then used to take immediate and impactful steps on performance.

Force #2: The Omni-Channel Exchange
Using multiple channels simply to gather information is not the only way to utilize the multi-dimensional communication network available to companies. Social media’s role in the larger ecosystem of customer communication makes it a cornerstone of what we might call “the omni-channel universe.”

In the omni-channel universe, customers can interact and engage, send and receive, and generally have a complete customer communication experience. Congruently, brands can engage customers on an open platform, monitor loyalty and customer churn, make timely offers and couple marketing channels to build better campaigns.

Social media is an excellent route to either establishing (hunting) or enhancing (harvesting) these campaigns, both of which are essential to better sales performance. Social media also allows for real-time customer feedback both positive and negative, and in combination with feedback from other channels, builds a richer and more textured set of customer touch points. Conversely, brands are capable of equally involved, high-speed engagement with customers, leading to better understanding and stronger relationships with the most important stakeholders of your business.

Force #3: Engagement in Over-Drive
Social media’s real differentiator as a potential retail business game-changer is in its ability to drive engagement tactics that haven’t previously existed. While customer feedback has been gathered for a long time via various innovative methodologies such as mystery shopping and surveys, social media allows for that feedback to be immediate. This same effect is at play in advanced gamification: check-ins, picture capabilities and comments on different social media channels open the door to a new world for retailers looking for inventive marketing tactics. Social media combined with in-store activity leads to fascinating instant offers tethered to movement as complex as in-store footfall and general purchase frequency. As social media and measurement tools simultaneously evolve, their complementary interaction becomes ever more powerful.

Implications for the Future
As social media continues to grow, shape and evolve, several major trends will likely occur. The popularity of certain networks will rise and fall according to user preference evolution, demographic and psychographic shifts, and other unforeseen variables. Retail brands will continue to provide real-time feedback, shortening the window between initial customer feedback and brand response. Brands will continue to investigate more and more powerful ways to engage the audience. Most importantly, social media use will continue to grow and continue to be effective.

Aneesh Reddy is Co-founder & CEO, Capillary Technologies

The ABC’s of Retail Safety: Keeping Kids Protected at the Store

Guest blog by Paul Giampavolo

More than 75 percent of shopping trips are taken by women, which means there’s a good chance that when many of them enter your establishment, they’re going to be accompanied by children.

The vast majority of us take great care to keep our stores safe, but when it comes to our most vulnerable customers, it’s always a good idea to go the extra mile. By implementing a few relatively minor but crucial steps, retail establishments can help ensure the well-being of their youngest customers.

Here are three tips to make your shopping environment safe and secure for children—and worry-free for parents.

Encourage shopping cart safety. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 16,000 children under the age of five fall out of shopping carts each year, resulting in thousands of injuries. Infant carriers falling from the cart account for as much as five percent of these incidents.

Customers should be discouraged from allowing their children to stand in shopping carts and climb or ride on the sides. Children should be secured with a seatbelt when riding in the seat, and should not be pushed in the cart by a sibling or another child.

Infant car seats should never be placed on top of a shopping cart seat. Though it may appear they were designed for that, this isn’t the case: car seat manufacturers have even warned against using their products on shopping carts. One option for retailers is offering docking stations: Safe- Dock is a universal infant carrier docking station that easily attaches to shopping carts and fits all infant carriers, safely securing babies to the cart and allowing parents to easily transition the carrier from the car to the cart.

Retailers can also ensure shopping cart safety by regularly checking the condition of the carts and quickly fixing any broken seat belts or replacing lost ones.

Keep bathrooms and changing tables clean, functioning and spill-free. Nobody likes a filthy bathroom, let alone a parent worried about their child getting sick from someone else’s germs. Make sure bathrooms are checked and cleaned regularly, and that there is an easy path to navigate when attempting to get there. Baby changing tables should also regularly be wiped down with disinfectant and checked for any cracks or broken parts.

Floor spills—in the bathroom or elsewhere—should be immediately wiped up or cordoned off with warning cones until they can be cleared. Employees should be made aware of where materials are located to clean up spills and debris.

If a spill or trip hazard cannot be immediately cleared, an employee should stay at the unsafe area while another obtains the proper help, cleaning materials or barriers to keep customers away.

Implement a Code Adam system. If your establishment hasn’t already, put into place a Code Adam system, a child safety program in the United States and Canada that is used when a child becomes lost or potentially abducted. The program—which trains employees on how to issue a special alert when a customer reports a missing child—is free and easy to use. You can read more about it here.

These measures don’t just offer an extra level of safety for children, they’re simply good customer service. If we want parents to continue seeing the value in shopping at our stores, we must help them to feel their children are in a safe and caring environment.

Paul Giampavolo is president of The Safe-Strap Company, and he is a leading expert on shopping cart safety and is chairman of the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) Shopping Cart Subcommittee.

Tips on How to Get Better Results with Scanners

Guest blog by Nicole Williams

Scanners are commonly found in offices where plenty of paperwork needs to be copied digitally for online sending, computer storing, or data manipulation. They are used to scan documents such as contracts, employee records, invoices, reports, and so forth. All these purposes have one thing in common: they need to have high-quality scans from the scanning machine.

High-quality scans possess the following characteristics:

-        Sharper images, which includes figures, lines, and messages

-        No discoloration in reference to the original photo

-        Clear and no blurs.

-        The image can be enlarged more than a little without compromising quality.

How does one achieve all these when scanning documents or pictures? The first thing that normally comes to mind is to purchase a scanner with new and sophisticated hardware and installed programs.

Having a very good machine alone is not always a guarantee that the resulting scans will be excellent, though. There are other factors as well that can influence the quality of the produced output. Users, for instance, can bungle a scan just as splendidly as a mediocre machine. Mishandling the scanner or not being careful before and during the scan procedure is going to affect the resulting image. So, here are some tips that will help minimize mistakes and improve the quality of your scans:

  1. Always clean the scanning bed before using. Check for smears, fingerprints, lint, and dust. These things can mar the digital image. Depending on how wide the blemish is, where, and over what colors or lines they appear over, it could be difficult to digitally remove them without compromising the color or sharpness of the entire picture.
  2. Don’t leave the scanner open when not in use. That’s what invites grease and dirt on the flatbed. More importantly, you don’t want the scanner screen to get scratched. Dirt you can clean and remove; scratches you can do nothing about.
  3. Adjusting the angle of the image when it’s already scanned deteriorates its quality. Hence, make sure the image is positioned as straight as possible when it’s still on the scanner. Align the picture or document flush on one side of the scanner bed. Don’t take chances keeping it straight right at the center of the bed.
  4. Preview the image before starting the scan.
  5. When scanning photos, choose a resolution from 75dpi to 300 dpi (or ppi). Choosing higher, like 2400 dpi, will not give you a very good image quality.
  6. Sometimes it’s better to choose a particular type of scan instead of editing the image later. Most scanners have the following Types of scan options:
    • Color (using 16.7 million colors)
    • Grayscale (uses 256 shades of gray)
    • Line art (literally black and white, uses black or white depending on the contrasting shadows and colors of the original image. This makes line art the most appropriate scan type for documents).
    • Halftones (appears gridlike and is used for images that are to be printed out on newspapers and magazines)
  7. Don’t hesitate to repeat the scan if the result is not what you were hoping for.
  8. Save the files in PNG and JPEG if you want to send the images via email or attach them on social media or file sharing platforms. These file types are the most recognized and widely accepted ones.
  9. If you intend to blow up an A4 photograph and other near sizes into one humongous poster, scanning the photograph and enlarging the digital image is no longer the best option. You can retain photo quality for such a huge image if you take the original slide or film and run it through a film scanner instead. This is rarer than your standard scanner, but you will get the best result.
  10. Scanner pros advice that scanning pictures should be done one at a time. Basic scanners will capture an image of the entire scanner bed. Scanning two or more pictures at a time will merge them into one digital image, so alterations on one image will be applied to the rest of the pictures.
  11. If it’s necessary to save time and scan many pictures at one time, make sure each photo is positioned flush along one side of the scanner (see #3). Make sure too that there is a little space between each photo so that it will be very easy to crop and separate them into different image files later. (You should know though that the quality of digital images, especially those in JPEG form, deteriorates for each successive copy, resize, and folder-to-folder transfer.)
  12. In deference to the side-note for the previous number, make a habit of downloading scanned images directly into the folders where they are meant to be placed. Also avoid compressing images as much as possible because that decreases the quality of the digital image.

Hopefully you’ll be able to apply these tips the next time you use a scanner. You’ll get better quality, not just on the monitor but also on print.

Nicole Williams is a professional blogger and keen technology enthusiast who enjoys writing about improving workplace efficiency using technology. She currently writes for Micro Com Systems.