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The Ultimate Customer Experience: Balancing Online & In-Store Retail

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The Ultimate Customer Experience: Balancing Online & In-Store Retail

In recent years, retailers have altered to the needs of the consumer. As part of that transition, emphasis was placed on making shopping as convenient as possible for customers. Retailers today have harnessed services such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) or buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS) to help enable customers to shop however suits them best. 

The convenience of these channels caters to the increasing demands of consumers, who expect information and easy access to items at the click of a button. Yet, brick-and-mortar stores still hold a significant amount of value from an experiential perspective. While convenience is paramount in today’s environment, customers still have a significant amount of appetite for walking into a store and interacting directly with products and in-store associates. Moving forward, the in-store experience of customers will become critical to brand differentiation, while convenience remains preeminent online.

Clicks & Bricks: Balance Between Online and In-Store

In this new era, the challenge for retailers is to understand how they can provide a balanced omnichannel approach combining in-store and online shopping to optimize the customer experience. It has never been more important to provide seamless and convenient online shopping, while also delivering top-quality customer service in-store. With a plethora of alternative retailers only a search away, customers are ready to shop elsewhere if they do not feel that they are receiving the level of personalized service they expect. 

The question remains: how can retailers find this balance? For years now, many have answered that question with the implementation of an omnichannel approach, creating one seamless experience by utilizing all available sales channels. However, retailers are struggling to deploy this strategy effectively. According to SML’s latest State of Retail Insight Report, 93% of retailers claim that technology is important in facilitating a seamless in-store customer experience. Retailers can deploy the latest item-level RFID solutions that provide accurate inventory data in real-time, enabling them to provide a top-tier shopping experience for their customers.

Omnichannel is crucial. However, to execute the strategy effectively, retailers must improve their inventory accuracy and efficiency. Only then can they expect to find the balance between in-store and online.

Leveraging RFID for Smarter Logistics 

Through the use of item-level RFID, retailers can create efficient inventory management that streamlines online shopping channels. The industry standard of inventory accuracy sits approximately at 65%. By deploying item-level RFID, retailers can increase this to 93%-99% in the space of days and that level of accuracy can be maintained consistently, unlike annual physical counts that continue to deteriorate throughout the year until a new count is completed.

Enhanced inventory accuracy provides many benefits as retailers have complete visibility over where their stock is. From warehouse to storefronts, each business has an accurate view of inventory location down to specific items, allowing for improved organization and improved supply chain throughput to maximize the use of all existing inventory. With item-level RFID in place, retailers can create the foundation of a seamless omnichannel experience. An accurate view of inventory enables them to deploy strategies such as BOPIS and BORIS effectively, providing customers with the options and flexibility they demand while optimizing costs.

Crafting Valuable Experiences for Shoppers

In addition to supply chain operations, RFID also allows in-store staff to better serve customers on the shop floor. According to SML’s findings, 42% of retailers state they don’t have enough staff on the shop floor, while 30% agree that staff spends too much time completing mundane tasks. 

Item-level RFID allows staff to scan all in-store stock within minutes, significantly decreasing the amount of time spent trying to manually count inventory. This frees up the time of store associates to better serve customers on the shop floor and the use of dynamic Geiger search capabilities to quickly locate items further improves their overall experience as store staff can efficiently locate on-hand items for customers.

By leveraging the right technology, retailers can remain flexible to ever-changing customer needs. Retail continues to embrace digital. However, the high street is bouncing back as shoppers look to connect directly with store associates to gain product knowledge and experience customer service. Retailers must remain agile through both channels to remain competitive.

e-commerce online

Why and How Do Retail Businesses Include Online Shopping 

Online shopping is growing at a rather rapid rate. More people are ditching buying from physical stores and embracing the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their homes. As a retailer focused on taking your business to the next level, including an online shop could be all you need to do. Continuing to ignore the wave can only hurt the growth of your business. Here is why you should be seriously thinking about an online store as well as how to start one. 

Why include online retail

The benefits of online shopping aren’t only reserved for the customer. We highlight some top reasons why e-commerce is a good route for your retail business using Retail billing Software:

·         Wider coverage

The internet eliminates geographical limitations for your business. When you start selling online, you aren’t only limited to your locality. You can reach more customers from anywhere around the globe. If you are struggling to get a market for some of your products locally, an e-commerce store can open a new market in another geographical region.

·         Reduced costs

Running an online shop comes with reduced operating costs. Customers can buy without the assistance of a salesperson. This translates to reduced salaries. Also, with an e-commerce site, you don’t need a huge fancy outlet. You can find smaller premises if you want to retain an outlet or operate entirely online, saving you rent money.

·         Easy to scale

Operating in the online space makes scaling up simple and cheaper. Unlike in a physical store where you might need to hire additional staff and rent extra floor space, all you need to do is increase the product list in an online shop. A few digital changes here and there and you are good to go.

·         Access to customer data

Meeting customer needs is paramount for every business. With an online store, you can easily collect customer data. You can then gather insights into customer preferences, behaviors and buying patterns, and more. This allows you to make data-driven decisions that meet customer expectations, enhancing customer experience significantly.

·         Better marketing

You are likely to see better results from your marketing campaigns when selling online. The customer insights stated above allow you to target your customers better with your marketing. This means that you are able to market to people with a high potential of buying your products.

How to start retailing online

To start selling online, you can decide to build your own website or sell on popular e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Etsy, Shopify, Squarespace, and the like. You can also decide to do both.

Setting up your e-commerce store

After deciding on your sales channel, the next step is to build your online shop. Decide on your domain name and check its availability. After that, you can start building the online storefront. Start by adding your products then create compelling product titles, descriptions, images, and videos. Next is to set the prices and a way of tracking inventory. You also need to think of shipping costs – which criteria you are going to use to determine the shipping costs.  

The next step is to start designing the storefront. Choose a theme based on how you want your store to feel and look. Work on the navigation, colors, and typography. Set up the checkout page and customize it to offer the best experience.

Most importantly, figure out how you are going to be paid. This is where you add a payment gateway. Include different payment methods for customers to pay. Then complete the setup by entering your banking information. For your online shop, it would benefit you to consider a modern business banking alternative. This way, you can enjoy faster and more secure payments. You also get to manage your money from a single account.

Market your online shop

After setting up your store, it is important to make it known to your target customers. One of the ways you can market your online shop is through social media. Consider using influencers to reach more people and paid ads for better targeting.

In addition, think of how your online shop can easily be found on search engines. Create valuable content enriched with keywords. You can think of video demos, how-to guides and the like. Additionally, work on having your page optimized with SEO to help in rank higher on search engines.

Conclusion

Deciding to include online shopping can only set your retail business up for exponential growth. This is because you are opening it up to a wider customer base. You can start enjoying increased sales and profits. Take the plunge and design your online shop. Then put in marketing efforts to reach your target customers around the world.

online

Invest in New Technology to Handle the Surge in Online Fashion Purchases

Increase in online fashion purchases

To say that e-commerce has experienced a veritable explosion during the Covid-19 pandemic is nothing new. This is not limited to North America, countries all over the world are experiencing huge increases in online markets. According to a 2021 Spain online fashion report, the e-commerce channel has gained 2.7 million customers in Spain and penetration now reaches 43.4% of the resident population.

incremento compras online moda

Online fashion sales have risen from 9.3% in 2019 to 19.4% in 2020, while 13.6% of consumers have purchased online or plan to do so. This spectacular rise in a business segment, that had already been growing, does not mean that Spain will catch up with other more developed countries. On the contrary, all countries, even those that had advanced the most in e-commerce, have experienced spectacular growth. The case of the UK is a good example because it was already considered an advanced and mature market, nevertheless, it has experienced a boom during the pandemic. According to a recent survey conducted by McKinsey and Dynata, in the UK, fashion e-commerce is expected to represent 50% of the UK market by 2022, compared to the already very high 35% today. In the UK, online market penetration reached 75% in 2020 and is likely to rise to 85% next season.

It is not a narrowing of the gap that separated Spain from other fashion markets, but everything points to the fact that we are facing a real market transformation that affects all countries, regardless of their level before the pandemic. The new buying patterns of consumers, which were already apparent, have become a normalized preference in one year, and in some segments, even dominant.

71% of fashion executives worldwide expect their online business to grow by more than 20% this year. Industry players are therefore facing a decisive moment in which they will need to make important and relatively quick decisions if they want to stay on board a train shows no signs of stopping.

Invest in technology to respond to market demands

The online shopper has become accustomed to standards of excellence and values. Precisely those standards that make logistics management in the fashion sector more complex such as availability of sizes, safety and predictability of delivery, ease of return and omnichannel sales experience with stores. A whole range of requirements that are impossible to manage without the use of appropriate technological tools, both for warehouse management and for transport, integration with systems and logistics management in general.

Many retailers are already investing time and money to improve their digital platforms and develop their online strategies, such as the warehouse management system, or WMS, that even have specific packs to meet the needs of online commerce in which stock management, visibility, traceability, and real-time control are no longer very convenient options but unavoidable requirements.

As omnichannel driven demands become the norm, with resulting customer satisfaction harder to achieve, supply chain professionals need to leverage advanced WMS technology to keep their operations nimble, efficient, and scaling – especially in these volatile times. Given Generix Group’s completeness of vision and ability to execute, as recognized once again by the Gartner analyst community, their Solochain WMS is well-positioned to help companies needing a modern, flexible, and agile solution that can easily adapt to their changing needs. Contact us to learn more.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission.

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The Art of Successful Multi-Channeling in Retail Sector

Headlines seem to be nothing but doom and gloom for the retail industry. Footfall on the UK high street was down 40% in July. Thousands of staff have been laid off by companies many would have considered unbreakable. Major high street names are closing stores by the score, and many others have started administration procedures. And yet, in the worst retail crisis of a generation, there are those that see an opportunity for the future – and that opportunity is e-commerce. While it can be tempting to adopt a “wait until this is all over” attitude (particularly when it comes to investing in new projects when budgets are already tight) the businesses that are leading the field in these difficult times are those that are making the most of this time to rethink and reboot their online portfolio.

It’s clear that in the current climate it’s vital for any retailer to have their own online store, but with more than half of B2C e-commerce transactions taking place on marketplaces, any successful e-tail strategy will need to involve multi-channeling. But it’s not as simple as listing on as many marketplaces and possible and just expecting buyers to start appearing – in order to gain the most benefits, retailers need to dedicate as much time and effort to multi-channeling as they do with their own e-commerce store. This may seem like too much hard work, but when you look at the benefits of marketplaces you may want to re-evaluate your priorities.

No matter how high your website appears on Google rankings, if you don’t offer your products on marketplaces you may be missing out on potential customers. Based on a recent 2019 survey, up to 49% of users start their search for products on Amazon compared with just 22% on Google. Many of these go on to make their purchase straight away – even if they’ve never come across a brand before, the level off trust provided by the marketplace itself gives consumers the confidence to try brands that they may otherwise not have considered. Other users search for products on Amazon before researching brands off the platform and may often decide to purchase from the brand page directly, so this sense Amazon can also work as an extra marketing channel to raise awareness of your brand.

But despite its apparent monopoly over the e-commerce sector, it’s important to remember that Amazon may not be for everyone. Particularly in the fashion industry, many retailers believe selling on Amazon may cheapen their product image due to the fact that so many Amazon retailers are from the low cost, super-fast fashion sector. Which brings us to one of the most important parts of your e-commerce strategy – choosing the right marketplaces for you.

When sales are struggling it can be tempting to sign up to as many platforms as possible, to go for the most well-known sites or the largest potential audiences. However, this tactic will only result in spreading your portfolio too thin and it’s all too easy to neglect under-performing sites. More effective use of your time and effort is to first analyze which marketplaces are best for your brand. Think of them as a department store – your products might be a great fit for John Lewis, but you wouldn’t necessarily want them displayed in a Walmart. And vice versa – Walmart brands are unlikely to enjoy much success by stocking in John Lewis stores. There are also a number of niche marketplaces that might be a perfect fit for your brand and allow you to access your ideal audience without the excess competition of the major players. Research each platform, look at what type of brands use them, consider online reviews and check customer testimonials. Investigate their terms – are they compatible with your own? Do they offer advertising options and detailed analytics? Finally, if looking at the attractive expansion possibilities of the international market, bear in mind local legislation.

While it may be tempting to access the huge potential of the Chinese e-commerce scene (worth an estimated $1.94 trillion USD), export laws and duties are much more complicated (and regional rather than national in some cases), so unless you have a native Chinese speaking e-commerce expert on your team you may want to leave this on the back burner.

Once you’ve chosen your selected marketplaces it’s time to optimize your listings. Bear in mind that it shouldn’t be a case of simply copying and pasting the same product descriptions for every site – this can have a negative effect on your SEO and you’ll be competing against your own online store. While it’s time-consuming, it’s highly recommended to create SEO optimized product descriptions for each marketplace you use. Look at your top competitors – what keywords are they using? How are they pitching their product? Where can your products stand out from theirs? It’s not a case of simply listing as many keywords as you can, try to create an attractive product description that will entice potential customers, but also provide enough detailed information so that there are no unexpected surprises (this should also help you reduce the rate of returns).

Where possible, you may want to dedicate some of your marketing budgets to platform-specific advertising to make sure your products are seen first, particularly when you’re new and there is a lot of competition to deal with. Many of the larger marketplaces offer assistance in setting up campaigns to make sure that your advertising budget is well-targeted, so you may even see more success than with traditional SEM.

So you’ve set up your listings, created advertising campaigns and you’re waiting for orders to start flooding in. But that’s not the end of the story. Maintenance of your channels needs to be a top priority, and the ability to react quickly to trends is the key to success. You’re unlikely to create the perfect listing straight away, but by looking at trends and reviewing your search analytics you can make small amendments to increase visibility, bring more consumers to your products, and convert more sales.

Rather than attempting to improve all of your products at once, it may be worth testing an update on one or two products and checking it’s a success before moving onto the rest. You don’t want to waste time and energy updating your whole portfolio only to find that your update actually has a negative result! As with all marketing, it’s important to be open to trial and error and to stay abreast of changes in the market and how they may affect you.

With so much preparatory work involved, it may sometimes seem like an impossible task to keep your marketplace portfolio under control. But one of the benefits of working with marketplaces is that there are a number of time-saving services that they offer which can reduce your in-house logistics and offset the time you invest in your listings. Many of the major marketplaces offer warehousing and fulfillment options, while even low-cost marketplaces like eBay provide centralized shipping solutions that can take the hassle out of pricing, particularly for international orders. With logistics being one of the most time-consuming and costly parts of the e-commerce process, having access to some of the most advanced shipment and logistics solutions available can quickly improve your customer experience and protect your investment.

With an ever-growing proliferation of e-tail stores online, the centralized accessibility provided by marketplaces is gaining ever more traction and is estimated to grow to up to 65% of the e-commerce market by 2022. And with the simple set up and low investment required to start out, they provide an invaluable service to retailers of all types looking to expand their reach. The current crisis has adversely affected sales throughout the industry as never before, but perhaps we can use this lull to our advantage and give our retail businesses the opportunity to reach a wider audience than ever before?

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TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace has taken the user-friendly marketplace platform and reimagined it for the wholesale industry. Brands and retailers can now connect online with the same ease as ordering a weekly shop. TradeGala – the future of the wholesale fashion industry.

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Fashion Retailers & Brands will need to Adapt As the Industry Emerges from the Pandemic 

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the entire industry into crisis. Beyond its tragic human cost, the disruption inflicted on businesses has been unprecedented. Footfall has disappeared from the high street as people practice social distancing, while demand for non-essential products such as fashion has dwindled.

With international flights grounded and much of Europe and the United States on lockdown, boutiques are concerned about how they will shift this season’s summer dresses and beachwear. Likewise, small independent fashion brands are apprehensive about retail sell-through and how their stockist partners will be able to pay their invoices.

For many businesses, innovation will be key to getting through this extremely challenging time. The government has laid out plans to help businesses with schemes such as loans and grants. However, this type of aid will only stretch so far.

Some boutiques are taking drastic measures to reach their customers. Several closed their bricks-and-mortar stores early on, deciding to concentrate on their online offering to ride out the storm. Meanwhile, those retailers without an online presence have been thinking outside of the box. Some have locked their doors for one-to-one appointments while others are conducting telephone consultations on FaceTime and personal shopping sessions via WhatsApp.

But selling to customers is just one part of retailing. Buying for the store and its shoppers is just as critical for sustaining a profitable business. Trade shows, buying trips and fashion shows are a fundamental part of the chain – and we have already seen many cancellations since the outbreak began to take hold. Will the pandemic be over when brands re-open their order books for SS21?

Forward ordering is another concern for many small independent retailers right now. With sales of SS20 season stock now under threat, many are worried about AW20 orders written just weeks ago arriving in July and August. If they decide to cancel now, what happens if sales begin to pick up and they’re left with empty rails? Likewise, if they don’t cancel, will they end up with surplus stock that they can’t pay for?

For many, using budgets to buy in-season offers a straightforward solution. Because when the panic subsides and sales begin to pick up – which they inevitably will – ensuring that stores have the right stock in place for shoppers will once again be paramount.

B2B fashion marketplaces such as TradeGala will become increasingly important for retailers. Effectively removing the need to travel or visit trade shows and showrooms, buyers can browse multiple brands online and place orders directly. The brands on the site offer in-season delivery, meaning retailers can order what they need as and when they need it. Plus, it’s easy to check live stock at a glance so buyers can see exactly what’s available with just a few clicks – minimizing any concern surrounding supply chains.

For brands, TradeGala is offering free registration during this crisis period to offer time to prepare for when the market revives. The marketplace is also building its international following of buyers, allowing labels to reach buyers in markets that are less affected by the crisis to help minimize the drop in sales.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world and the retail sector needs to adapt in order to survive. There is a challenging time ahead, but retailers and brands are working together in new and effective ways. More than ever before, it’s time to support each other. And if there’s one thing this industry is good at it’s triumphing over adversity.

e-commerce

5 Must-Have Features of Enterprise E-Commerce

E-commerce is everywhere — unless, of course, you look in the B2B space. Unfortunately, one segment lags behind all the rest when it comes to online sales: manufacturers. Just 38% of manufacturers have e-commerce websites, and only 6% of all manufacturer sales come through this particular channel. 

Part of the reason manufacturers are so slow to adopt e-commerce can be traced back to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The traditional ways of doing business largely haven’t posed a problem yet, so many manufacturers don’t feel a real sense of urgency to explore the increasingly relevant direct-to-consumer model. 

It also has a lot to do with technical hurdles. For many manufacturers, moving to e-commerce involves taking on yet one more system to master — that or an expensive integration with their current enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. It’s nearly impossible to get an e-commerce platform to talk to an old “closed” mainframe, so plans to upgrade often involve a two-year timeframe or longer to get everything up and running. They might also involve a million-dollar price tag. Not surprisingly, this tends to put e-commerce on the back burner pretty quickly. 

And it’s important to note, too, that most manufacturers work through distributors and dealers, making e-commerce seem like nothing more than a mere alternative to their current traditional sales channels. 

A Missed Opportunity

What many manufacturers seem to be missing, though, is that B2B customers are also B2C customers. Chances are that they’re already shopping online for their personal needs, and not having a way to buy their business products and services online can have a hefty negative impact on the customer experience. If you’re manufacturing a commodity product and your sales process lacks the convenience of shopping for that product online, your customers might begin to look elsewhere. 

Remaining passive about e-commerce is simply the wrong approach, especially with B2B buyers moving more of their purchases online all the time. As it stands, nearly half of all companies utilize online channels for 50% to 74% of all their corporate purchases. Not being online just means you’ve missed out on an opportunity — not only to secure additional sales, but also to broaden your reach to a global level

Also, remember that it’s easier than ever for competition and new players in the market to get in front of your customers via Google, Facebook, and email. Not having an e-commerce site could easily cost you market share, even if the competition’s product isn’t as good as yours.

Beyond the Basics

Knowing that it isn’t enough to conduct all business offline, know, too, that it isn’t enough to just invest in getting an e-commerce platform, leave it there, and call it good. Your site has to offer the functionalities necessary to run an online business. If your system doesn’t support multiple pricing tiers, it probably also doesn’t mimic your current sales process. Clearly, that’s not a good thing. 

Your site needs to be able to support multiple buying options, such as “requests for quotes” as opposed to a shopping cart model. It can take time to arrive at a number in a complex B2B transaction, and the last thing you want is for a customer to have to take the interaction offline just to finalize scope and nail down specifics. 

This naturally leads to my next point. Assuming your e-commerce site comes equipped with all the basics like browse, add to cart, checkout, email confirmation, etc., there are a few features to look out for at the enterprise level. Those often include the following:

System integration options

In e-commerce, a certain amount of coordination is necessary between the website itself and your back-end system that you use for inventory and accounting purposes. Without proper integration, order fulfillment can easily get problematic. Focus on maintenance, data input, and offering a seamless user experience. Most of all, understand all the system integration options of your marketplace website before going with one provider over another.

Proper data to support search

Product information is important. It’s what consumers see prior to making a purchase decision. But it can sometimes pale in comparison to the product data used behind the scenes. A number of data fields and HTML tags enable your products and website to rank in both Google and on-site search results. Make sure your platform accommodates these options. Also, inquire about the tracking capabilities of your on-site search function. It can be useful to monitor what users found — and didn’t find — during a visit.

Customer tiers

At the enterprise level, you’ll likely run across different types of customers. Being able to segment these customers into various tiers can come in handy. Based on their purchase history, for example, you might determine that one tier would respond well to a certain promotion while another’s browsing behavior could inform subsequent product recommendations. In other words, segmenting tiers allows you to personalize your messaging, pricing, and other marketing efforts to fit the needs of your customers. So look into this functionality while reviewing your e-commerce options.

Analytics integration

Whether you’re looking at an off-the-shelf platform or a custom solution, reporting is very important. At a bare minimum, make sure a standard tool like Google Analytics can be integrated with your e-commerce system. You’ll also want to inquire about the setup of advanced features like e-commerce tracking.

Merchandising

Generally, any platform you go with will provide the functionality of assigning products to categories. This can help with on-site search and make it easier for visitors to browse your product line. Beyond that, you might wish to feature certain products. The question, then, is what ability do you have in the platform to create banner ads, highlight related products on a product page, create landing pages around a spotlight topic for the month, and feature products in other ways? 

Providing a good online experience naturally makes customers feel good about doing business with you. It also increases the likelihood of driving new customers to your business without needing to invest in additional resources. 

Ultimately, you can handle more transactions with an e-commerce site in your corner. Just make sure your site provides you with all of the functionalities you need to keep your business running smoothly and your customers happy. 

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Michael Bird is the CEO of Spindustry, a digital agency focused on e-commerce, SharePoint portals, and enterprise websites. He has almost 30 years of experience in interactive development, user behavior, and business solutions. His successful agency, Spindustry, puts these strategies into practice to help businesses grow.

Egrow Offers Online Retailers Amazon Insights

Online retailers and small businesses selling through Amazon’s marketplace are now offered an internationally available, web-based analytics platform called Egrow.

Egrow had current and future entrepreneurs in mind when creating the all-in-one solution, as it provides a more competitive approach in comparing Amazon sales data.

The platform is for both current and prospective Amazon sellers, providing a multitude of features including maximizing listings and increasing reliable, accurate visibility on sales data. Furthermore, Egrow offers a 90-day historical data memory to further increase product relativity for retailers seeking optimized product offerings while maintaining customer engagement.

“Amazon Marketplace is one of the most lucrative platforms for small businesses today, yet it’s also one of the largest which makes it challenging for budding entrepreneurs to not only identify profitable and in-demand products to sell, but also to price and promote these products in order to stand out from the crowd,” says Anton Lang, Egrow CEO.

Standard features of the platform include a product database, live scanner, saved searches, product tracker, keyword tool, reverse ASIN research, and rank tracker. Egrow sets itself apart from competitors due to its sizable product database and more accurate sales data.

“With Egrow, our aim is to bring simplicity back to selling, highlighting valuable data using charts and panels, all within a single user interface,” concluded Lang.